George Sher

Faculty Affiliate

Professor of Philosophy

George Sher's early essays dealt mainly with topics in action theory, philosophy of mind, and some questions of applied ethics. His first book, Desert, was published by Princeton University Press in 1987, and since then, his interests have zigzagged back and forth between political philosophy and some of the more individual-oriented questions of ethics and moral psychology. Within political philosophy, he's written books on the thesis that government shouldn't attempt to promote any particular conception of the good life (Beyond Neutrality: Perfectionism and Politics, Cambridge 1997) and on the role that choice should play in determining the distribution of goods within a society (Equality for Inegalitarians, Cambridge 2014). Within moral psychology, he's written a book about the nature and importance of blame (In Praise of Blame, Oxford 2006) and another about the relation between what we know and what we're responsible for (Who Knew? Responsibility Without Awareness, Oxford 2009). Two collections of his essays have also been published.

His most recent book, A Wild West of the Mind (Oxford 2021), is about freedom of mind. Unlike most treatments of that subject, which center on external threats such as censorship and thought control, this book focuses on the threats that are posed by internalized moral restrictions. Unlike those who believe that many nasty beliefs, attitudes and fantasies are morally off limits, Sher argues that thought is a morality-free zone-- that within the confines of our own minds, we are morally permitted to think absolutely anything. After completing A Wild West, whose publication was delayed by Covid, he's gone on to write essays on: the suppression of offensive speech, trying as hard as one can, culpable moral ignorance, adaptive preference formation, the rationality of resisting change, the case for living in the moment, whether morality requires ineffective gestures, and, most recently, the relative moral standing of humans and animals.