Published: Dec. 31, 2019

PhD candidates Alexandra Lloyd and Maggie Taylor have received University fellowships for AY20-21. Alexandra Lloyd has received a Dissertation Completion Fellowship from the Graduate School, and Maggie Taylor the CHA Fellowship from the Center for Humanities and the Arts.

The abstract for Alex Lloyd's dissertation is as follows: "My dissertation investigates a set of issues at the intersection of ethics and epistemology. Traditional epistemology has long held that our beliefs are governed by purely evidential norms, such as whether the belief is responsive to evidence, whether it aims at truth and avoiding error, among others. I challenge this conventional picture and argue that what we ought to believe is a function not only of whether that belief fits with the available evidence, but is also a function of the moral features of the situation in which the belief is embedded. For example, even if we have good evidence to the effect that black men are statistically more likely to be attendants at a country club than guests at that club, it seems wrong to believe of a particular black man that he is an attendant and not a guest on the basis of his race. To that end, my dissertation will investigate epistemic issues across various areas in applied ethics and political philosophy and ask: when, if ever, is it wrong to form certain beliefs? Is the wrong in question moral or epistemic? And to the extent that our beliefs are justified, in what circumstances is it nevertheless wrong to act on them?”

The title of Maggie Taylor's dissertation is "The Harm Threshold, Parental Duty, and Pediatric Healthcare Decision Making". Abstract: Medical decisions parents make on behalf of their children often conflict with children’s objective welfare (as is the case when Christian Scientists refuse blood transfusions on the basis of faith; or when parents refuse vaccinations in light of beliefs about what counts as healthy). Yet it is often presumed that society ought to respect such decisions. A popular approach to resolving this conflict is to protect parental decisions unless they harm children. This is the standard for intervention advanced under the Harm Threshold (HT), which establishes a protected domain of parental discretion wherever significant harm to children’s vital interests is not at issue.  But such a domain is at odds with collective commitments to public welfare, and society’s positive obligations to benefit children. In my work, I resolve this potential deadlock both conceptually and practically. I argue that the HT, when grounded in the philosophical traditions on which it draws, does not establish a substantial, rigidly-protected sphere of parental choice. Instead, I show that the HT is best understood precisely in terms of parental duty, and that intervention by non-parental parties is fully justified when the harm caused by parental decisions stems from a violation of parental obligation.