Upon Reflection Podcast, Ep. 3: Causal Network Accounts of Ill-being: Depression & Digital Well-being

Welcome to the third episode of Upon Reflection, a podcast about what we think as well as how and why we think it.

In this podcast, I read my chapter, “Causal Network Accounts of Ill-being: Depression & Digital Well-being” from Ethics of Digital Well-being: A Multidisciplinary Approach. In this chapter, I review how well-being and ill-being can be understood in terms of the causal networks studied by economists, neuroscientists, psychologists, and other scientists. As with all of my writing, the free preprint can be found on my CV at byrdnick.com/cv under “Publications“.

If you want to hear more, you can subscribe wherever you find podcasts. You can also find out more about me and my research on Twitter via @byrd_nick, or on Facebook via @byrdnick. If you end up enjoying the Upon Reflection podcast, then feel free to tell people about it, online, in person, or in your ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review.

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Upon Reflection Podcast, Ep. 2: Not All Who Ponder Count Costs – Reflection & Moral Dilemmas

Welcome to the second episode of Upon Reflection, a podcast about what we think as well as how and why we think it.

A screen shot of Nick Byrd and Paul Conway's 2019 paper "Not All Who Ponder Count Costs"

In this podcast, I’ll be reading Paul Conway’s and my paper about moral dilemmas entitled, “Not all who ponder count costs: Arithmetic reflection predicts utilitarian tendencies, but logical reflection predicts both deontological and utilitarian tendencies“. In this paper we find that—contrary to some dual process theories’ claims—consequentialist responses to moral dilemmas may not be more reflective per se, but rather more influenced by mathematical information. As with all of my papers, the free preprint of the paper can be found on my CV at byrdnick.com/cv under “Publications“.

If this sounds like the kind of research that you want to hear more about, you can subscribe to Upon Reflection wherever you find podcasts. You can also find out more about me and my research on Twitter via @byrd_nick, or on Facebook via @byrdnick. If you end up enjoying the Upon Reflection podcast, then feel free to tell people about it, online, in person, or in your ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review.

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Introduction to Philosophy: A Free Course


Below are the syllabus and materials for my Introduction to Philosophy course. You are welcome to use any of the material as a student or as an instructor. The usual creative commons license applies to my portion of this—i.e., only the stuff to which I would have a copyright. (If you are my student, remember that you can be quizzed on the contents of the syllabus.)

I. Introduction to Philosophy

Did you know that people who study philosophy make significantly fewer reasoning errors than others? (See Livengood et al 2010 and Byrd 2014). And did you know that philosophy majors outperform basically everyone else on the GRE? And did you know that the median mid-career salary for people who major in philosophy is $81,000? And did you know that philosophy majors were projected to be the top-paid humanities major in 2016? Find out more about philosophy majors here. And if you’ve never taken a philosophy class, you might want to read this 3-4 page intro. Continue reading Introduction to Philosophy: A Free Course

3 Obstacles For Research About Cheating & Morality


What if traveling abroad were somehow bad for you? Well, a series of studies seem to find that “[traveling abroad] can lead to [lying and cheating] by increasing moral relativism” (Lu et al 2017, 1, 3). This finding has just the right combination of intuitive plausibility and surprise for us to want to share it uncritically. So, instead, let’s take a look at the methods, measures, and philosophical nuances of the topic. As usual, a bit of reflection makes the finding a bit less exciting and it reveals a need for follow-up research.

Continue reading 3 Obstacles For Research About Cheating & Morality

The Moral Argument Against Footnotes and PDF


Once upon a time, I loved footnotes and PDF documents. Now I don’t. I prefer eBook format and endnotes. I admit that footnotes are handy sometimes. For example, when I read visually, it’s nice to have the notes on the same page as the body text. However, footnotes are not so handy for auditory reading. Neither are PDF documents. For instance, footnotes wreak havoc on auditory reading. They interrupt the audio stream of the main body of text — sometimes mid-sentence. And since many people have to rely on auditory reading to consume academic research, this means that PDF documents and footnotes decrease the accessibility of research. That’s bad. If we can avoid this bad, we should. And we can avoid it. So we should.

1.  Books vs. Articles

Sometimes academic books are available in an eBook version that is amenable to auditory reading — e.g., Amazon’s Kindle format and Apple’s iBook format. And some academic books have a proper audiobook version — e..g, Amazon’s audiobooks. This is great, but… Continue reading The Moral Argument Against Footnotes and PDF

Does Ethics Rest On A Mistake? Three Arguments That It Does 


There are at least three philosophy papers whose titles ask this question. They all argue that ethics does rest on a mistake. However, they disagree about the mistake and, therefore, about the solution. Below I’ll give a very brief overview of each paper.

Prichard, H. A. (1912). Does Moral Philosophy Rest on a Mistake? Mind, 21(81), 21–37. [HTML, open access]

  • Answer: yes.
  • The mistake: thinking that philosophical reasoning confers the motivating force of moral obligation.
  • Solution: intuitionism — in the same way that we “know” or “have access” to the deductive force of logical entailment or mathematical proof, we have the ability to “know” or “have access” to motivational force of moral obligation.

Gettner, Alan. (1976). “Does moral philosophy rest on a mistake?” The Journal of Value Inquiry, 10(4), 241–252. [Online, behind paywall] 

  • Answer: yes.
  • The mistake: the method of trying to find moral laws (or treating ethics as a science).
  • The solution: challenge and supplant this method.

Jones, William Thomas. (1988, March). Does moral philosophy rest on a mistake? Humanities Working Paper, 132. California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA [Online, open access]

  • Answer: yes.
  • The mistake: thinking that ethics is not fundamentally different from psychology, economics, and anthropology. (Error theory: our philosophical vocabulary led us to make this mistake.)
  • Solution: treat ethics as co-extensive with psychology, economics, and anthropology.
What Do you think?
  1. Does ethics rest on a mistake? If not, then where did these papers go wrong?
  2. If ethics rests on a mistake, what is the mistake?
  3. Is there a solution? If so, what is it?

Quote: Why consequentialists probably care about virtue and character.


… people who knowingly delight in the product of abject misery are worse people. People who can take no pleasure in such things are clearly better people. To the extent that we must partake in necessary evils (if it’s true that we must) then we are clearly better people when we emphasize their necessity, rather than rejoicing in their benefits to us. For example, if I really did have to murder two people to spare a thousand, it would certainly be the right thing to do. But if I rejoiced in the act, anticipated and looked forward to it, licked my lips and drooled at the thought of it, I would be worse than if I bore the deed in unwilling, solemn discontent. Whatever is left of ethics by denying this bears so little resemblance to our moral intuitions, we may as well abandon it all together.

Joseph Fraley