Research

Overview:

My primary aims are threefold. First, to provide a normative framework for understanding how to bridge social divides---such as those due to gender, race, socio-economic status, and political differences. Second, to offer a moral and empirically plausible account of the cognitive-emotional social skills required for acting in light of this normative framework. Third, to defend the widespread adoption of evidence-based strategies, as well as the role of social institutions (such as schools), and new technologies (such as AI) for cultivating the equitable development of these skills.

 

Under this umbrella, I am currently developing projects along roughy the following four lines of inquiry:

  • The Nature of Cognitive-Emotional Moral Skills. What sorts of cognitive-emotional capacities are needed for successfully navigating complex and morally and politically charged social interactions? Empathy and perspective taking are widely cited as examples of such capacities, but how exactly should we understand what they involve? To what extent and in what ways are these important mental capacities trainable? Do they meet the criteria for counting as skills, and if so under what conditions is this so?

  • The Moral, Social, and Political Importance of Cognitive-Emotional Skills. What role do cognitive-emotional skills, such as empathy, perspective taking, and curiosity play in helping us navigate complex social interactions, ranging from those between social and political outgroup members to those in intimate partner relationships, and under what conditions do they do so? How might these skills facilitate moral perceptiveness and responsiveness? Are these skills themselves moral virtues? And if so, on what understandings are they so? 

  • Moral Education and Cognitive-Emotional Skill Development. On what grounds can we justify the widespread implementation of moral education and cognitive-emotional skill training in pluralistic contexts? How exactly can we implement equitable versions of such education and training given the widespread lack of racial and socio-economic diversity in schools and other widely accessible social institutions? To what extent are training strategies that require non-transparency and various forms of arational influence justified in the name of moral education and enhancement? 

  • The Ethical, Social, and Political Implications of AI. What role do new technologies, such as virtual personal assistants, play in exacerbating social power asymmetries, including those between different gender and racial groups? To what extent does engaging with stereotypically feminized (as opposed to masculinized or gender neutral) AIs create additional opportunities to dehumanize and objectify feminine agents, and what are the ethical, social, and political consequences of this? Does offloading tasks that require cognitive-emotional skills onto feminine agents (e.g., feminine human women and feminized AIs) de-skill individuals with respect to those skills, and what are the moral consequences of this? How might the harms of such effects be mitigated?

Please feel free to reach out to find out more about my current projects in these areas. Drafts of several papers in these areas are available upon request. 

Publications:

  • Read, H. (forthcoming). When and why to empathize with political opponents. Philosophical Studies.

  • Spaulding, S., Svetlova, R., & Read, H. (forthcoming). The nature of empathy, in De Brigard, F. & Sinnott-Armstrong, W. (Eds.), Philosophy of Neuroscience. Cambridge: MIT Press.

  • Read, H. (2021). Empathy and common ground. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 1-15.

  • Read, H. (2021). Institutionalized Empathy. The Journal of Moral Education, 1-20.

  • Read, H. (2021). Cognitive-Emotional Skills and Democratic Education: A Purposeful Interaction Approach. Theory and Research in Education, 19(2), 168-184. 

  • Read, H. (2019). A typology of empathy and its many moral forms. Philosophy Compass, 14(10), e12623.