Walter Sinnott-Armstrong

Chauncey Stillman Professor of Practical Ethics

Contact Information
Duke University Box 90432, 203B West Duke Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
Duke Box 90743, Durham, NC 27708-0743
(919) 660-3172


Walter Sinnott-Armstrong is Chauncey Stillman Professor of Practical Ethics in the Department of Philosophy and the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University. He is core faculty in the Duke Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences, and the Duke Center for Interdisciplinary Decision Sciences. He serves as Resource Faculty in the Philosophy Department of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Partner Investigator at the Oxford Centre for Neuroethics, and Research Scientist with The Mind Research Network in New Mexico. He has visited at National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan (2010), the Macquarie Research Center for Agency, Values, and Ethics in Australia (2011), and the National Institutes of Health in Washington (2011). He has received fellowships from the Harvard Program in Ethics and the Professions, the Princeton Center for Human Values, the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, the Center for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the Australian National University, and the Sage Center for the Study of the Mind at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has served as co-chair of the Board of Officers of the American Philosophical Association and co-director of the MacArthur Law and Neuroscience Project. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Amherst College and his doctorate from Yale University. He has published widely on ethics (theoretical and applied as well as meta-ethics), empirical moral psychology and neuroscience, philosophy of law, epistemology, philosophy of religion, and informal logic. Most recently, he is the author of Morality Without God?, Moral Skepticisms, and Understanding Arguments as well as editor of Moral Psychology, volumes I-IV. His articles have appeared in a variety of philosophical, scientific, and popular journals and collections.  His current work is on moral psychology and brain science as well as uses of neuroscience in legal systems. He is also working on one book on Scrupulosity and another book that will develop a contrastivist view of freedom and responsibility. And he teaches a popular MOOC, Think Again, on the Coursera website.

Education & Training

  • Ph.D., Yale University 1982

  • A.B., Amherst College 1977

Towards a Culture of Questioning: Accountability, Humility, and Public Discourse awarded by University of Connecticut (Principal Investigator). 2017 - 2019

Summer Seminars in Neuroscience and Philosophy (SSNAP) awarded by John Templeton Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2016 - 2018

How to Build Ethics into Robust Artificial Intelligence awarded by Future of Life Institute (Co-Principal Investigator). 2015 - 2017

MAD Lab (Moral Attitudes and Decisions Laboratory) awarded by New Hampshire Charitable Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2016

Moral Disagreements. Edited by A Ancell and W Sinnott-Armstrong. LuLu Press, 2015. (Edited Book)

Drugs and Addiction. Edited by J Summers and W Sinnott-Armstrong. Lulu Press, 2015. (Edited Book)

Sinnott-Armstrong, W, and Fogelin, RJ. Understanding Arguments, Ninth Edition, Complete Version. Cengage, January 2014.

Nadel, L, and Sinnott-Armstrong, WP. Memory and Law. January 24, 2013. Full Text

The Ethics of War and Terrorism. Edited by W Sinnott-Armstrong and S Sullivan. Lulu Press, 2013. (Edited Book)

Oxford Handbook of Psychopathy and Law. Edited by K Kiehl and W Sinnott-Armstrong. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. (Edited Book)

Bioprediction, Biomarkers, and Bad Behavior. Edited by I Singh, W Sinnott-Armstrong, and J Savulescu. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. (Edited Book)

Mental Illness and Ethical Responsibility. Edited by W Sinnott-Armstrong and D Fishman. Lulu Press, 2012. (Edited Book)

Conscious Will and Responsibility. Edited by W Sinott-Armstrong and L Nadel. Oxford University Press (OUP), 2010.


Sinnott-Armstrong, W. "Inside Jokes Using Humor to Reverse-Engineer the Mind." SCIENCE 332, no. 6035 (June 10, 2011): 1265-1265. Full Text

Sinnott-Armstrong, W, and Roskies, A. "Alfred R. Mele’s Effective Intentions: The Power of Conscious Will." Philosophical Books 51 (2010): 127-143.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. "Responsibility and fault." LAW AND PHILOSOPHY 20, no. 1 (January 2001): 103-106.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. "Value judgment: Improving our ethical beliefs." PHILOSOPHY AND PHENOMENOLOGICAL RESEARCH 60, no. 1 (January 2000): 237-240.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. "Incommensurability, incomparability, and practical reason." ETHICS 110, no. 1 (October 1999): 190-192.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. "Moral Knowledge and Ethical Character." Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 2 (1999): 191-193.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. "Morality, Normativity, and Society." The Philosophical Review 105, no. 4 (October 1996): 552-554.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. "Morality and Action." International Journal of Philosophical Studies 4, no. 1 (1996): 193-196.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. "The Structure of Justification." The Philosophical Quarterly 45, no. 180 (July 1995): 394-397.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. "Moral Imagination." Mind 103, no. 411 (July 1994): 381-384.


Collier, JH. "Introduction." 131-132. March 3, 2016. Full Text

Izatt, JA, Fujimoto, JG, and Tuchin, VV. "Introduction."xi-xii. January 1, 2016. Full Text

De Figueiredo, JM, Lenox, M, Oberholzer-Gee, F, and Vanden Bergh, RG. "Introduction." xiii-xxiv. January 1, 2016.

Kinghorn, W, Summers, JS, and Sinnott-Armstrong, W. "The political science of psychiatric diagnosis: A moral defense of the DSMScrupulous treatment (PublishedPublished)." In Philosophy and Psychiatry: Problems, Intersections and New Perspectives, 60-79. September 16, 2015. Full Text

Strohminger, N, Caldwell, B, Cameron, D, Borg, JS, and Sinnott-Armstrong, W. "Implicit morality: A methodological survey." In Experimental Ethics: Toward an Empirical Moral Philosophy, 133-156. September 23, 2014. Full Text

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. "Introduction." xiii-xviii. January 1, 2014.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. "Do Psychopaths Refute Internalism?." In Being Amoral: Psychopathy and Moral Incapacity,edited by T Schramme. MIT Press, 2014.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. "Moral Disagreements with Psychopaths." In Challenges to Moral and Religious Belief: Disagreement and Evolution,edited by M Bergmann. Oxford University Press, 2014.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W, and Roskies, A. "Introduction to Neuroscience and Society." In The Cognitive Neurosciences V,edited by M Gazzaniga and R Mangum. MIT Press, 2014.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. "Are Addicts Responsible?." In Addiction and Self-Control: Perspectives from Philosophy, Psychology, and Neuroscience,edited by N Levy. Oxford University Press, 2014.


Cameron, CD, Payne, BK, Sinnott-Armstrong, W, Scheffer, JA, and Inzlicht, M. "Implicit moral evaluations: A multinomial modeling approach." Cognition 158 (January 2017): 224-241. Full Text

Ancell, A, and Sinnott-Armstrong, W. "How to Allow Conscientious Objection in Medicine While Protecting Patient Rights." Cambridge quarterly of healthcare ethics : CQ : the international journal of healthcare ethics committees 26, no. 1 (January 2017): 120-131.

Fede, SJ, Borg, JS, Nyalakanti, PK, Harenski, CL, Cope, LM, Sinnott-Armstrong, W, Koenigs, M, Calhoun, VD, and Kiehl, KA. "Distinct neuronal patterns of positive and negative moral processing in psychopathy." Cognitive, affective & behavioral neuroscience 16, no. 6 (December 2016): 1074-1085.

Fede, SJ, Harenski, CL, Schaich Borg, J, Sinnott-Armstrong, W, Rao, V, Caldwell, BM, Nyalakanti, PK, Koenigs, MR, Decety, J, Calhoun, VD, and Kiehl, KA. "Abnormal fronto-limbic engagement in incarcerated stimulant users during moral processing." Psychopharmacology 233, no. 17 (September 2016): 3077-3087. Full Text

Henne, P, Chituc, V, De Brigard, F, and Sinnott-Armstrong, W. "An Empirical Refutation of ‘Ought’ Implies ‘Can’." Analysis 76, no. 3 (July 2016): 283-290. Full Text

Chituc, V, Henne, P, Sinnott-Armstrong, W, and De Brigard, F. "Blame, not ability, impacts moral "ought" judgments for impossible actions: Toward an empirical refutation of "ought" implies "can"." Cognition 150 (May 2016): 20-25. Full Text

Alexander, P, Schlegel, A, Sinnott-Armstrong, W, Roskies, AL, Wheatley, T, and Tse, PU. "Readiness potentials driven by non-motoric processes." Consciousness and cognition 39 (January 2016): 38-47. Full Text

Ngo, L, Kelly, M, Coutlee, CG, Carter, RM, Sinnott-Armstrong, W, and Huettel, SA. "Two Distinct Moral Mechanisms for Ascribing and Denying Intentionality." Scientific reports 5 (December 4, 2015): 17390-. Full Text Open Access Copy

Clifford, S, Iyengar, V, Cabeza, R, and Sinnott-Armstrong, W. "Moral foundations vignettes: a standardized stimulus database of scenarios based on moral foundations theory." Behavior research methods 47, no. 4 (December 2015): 1178-1198. Full Text

Summers, JS, and Sinnott-Armstrong, W. "Scrupulous agents." Philosophical Psychology 28, no. 7 (October 3, 2015): 947-966. Full Text


Sinnott-Armstrong, W. "Special Issue: Pardo and Patterson on Neuroscience and the Law." Neuroethics 4 (2011): 179-222.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. "Section B: Ethics." Interdisciplinary Core Philosophy, Philosophical Issues 18 (2008): 143-293. (Special issue)

Sinnott-Armstrong, W, and Schauer, F. "Introduction." Episteme: A Journal of Social Philosophy 5, no. 3 (2008): 251-252. (Special issue)

., . "Evidence and Law." Edited by W Sinnott-Armstrong and F Schauer. Episteme: A Journal of Social Philosophy 5, no. 3 (2008). (Special issue)

., . "Contemporary Perspectives on Constitutional Interpretation." Edited by S Brison and W Sinnott-Armstrong. Boston University law review. Boston University. School of Law 72, no. 4 (September 1992): 681-799. (Special issue)

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. "My Brain Made Me Do It — So What?." (March 2015).

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. "Does Philosophy Matter?." (March 2015).

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. "My Brain Made Me Do It, but Does that Matter?." (December 2014).

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. "Moral Skepticism." (2004).

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. "Consequentialism." (2003).

Roskies, A, and Sinnott-Armstrong, W. "Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Thinking about Morality."

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. "What is Philosophy?."

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. "Induction vs. Deduction."


Sinnott-Armstrong, W, and Moor, J. "Turning the Tables."

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. "Pollsters with Dirty Tricks." Valley News (September 25, 2008): A9-A9. (Letter)

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. "Can You Believe It?." Dartmouth Alumni Magazine (2004): 30-33. (Scholarly Commentary)

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. "The Ethics of the Bomb." Dartmouth Alumni Magazine (February 1990): 14-15. (Scholarly Commentary)

Not in Vain. Musician. (2005)

4’33’ . Musician. (2005)


Composed by John Cage

Tom Thumb. Musician. (2005)


Composed by Ruth Seeger

A 60-Limerick Canon. Musician. (2015)