I have a range of research interests, though I see relationships between each.
Ethics of the Self and Technology Ethics
I'm interested in a pair of overlapping ethical issues.
First, how can both technology and techniques developed in scientific contexts help or hinder us in living ethically? As to technologies, I'm interested in how AI, and other emerging technologies, will change us as ethical agents. As to techniques, I'm interested in techniques championed by the self-care movement and cognitive behavioural therapy. What does it take for these techniques to promote, rather than interfere, with our living a morally admiral life.
Second, how should we balance our own needs and the needs of others? We need to care for ourselves without being selfish. We need to care for others without losing ourselves (to echo Jean Hampton). This question also feeds into my interest in the self-care movement and cognitive behavioural therapy.
Further, this motivates work, carried out with the superb Claire Benn, in which I've explored the supererogatory, the notion of actions that go above and beyond the call of duty. Such actions often involve self-sacrifice. How then is balance to be found? Can we ever go above and beyond the call of self-interested duty?
Utopias and the Long Now
I'm also interested in how amazing humanity's future could be. In difficult times, utopias are hard to picture and easy to dismiss, but for just a moment, think of the best person you know. Now imagine a society made up of people, all different but each as virtuous and excellent as your friend. Such reflection might suggest that there's nothing fundamental to humanity that makes it impossible for us to achieve a world that would look utopian to our current eyes.
This raises a plethora of questions, about how we should think about our relationship to the future and about our ethical duties to our descendants.
Finally, I'm interested in choice.
Every day we make a multitude of small choices. Many days, I choose not to go for a jog (despite knowing I should) and choose to eat chocolate (despite knowing I shouldn't). Then every now and then we make larger choices. We might choose a romantic partner, decide whether to have children, or deciding whether to buy a front-loader or top-loader washing machine. And from these small choices and these large choices, we construct a life. Choice is kind of a big deal.
In my PhD thesis, I reflected on formal theories of choice. In particular, I explored the debate between proponents of causal decision theory and proponents of evidential decision theory. Here, I argued for a pluralist view, according to which both sides of this debate capture part of the truth about rational choice. In fact, rational permissibility is sometimes indeterminate (or so say I), with the causal and evidential perspectives each representing one sharpening of this vague concept.
Jenna Kapaun (Home Page and Header)
Shyane Siriwardena (Above Photo)