John Doris

​Professor of Philosophy and Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology
PhD, University of Michigan
research interests:
  • Cognitive Science
  • Moral Psychology
  • Philosophical Ethics
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contact info:

mailing address:

  • Washington University
  • CB 1073
  • One Brookings Drive
  • St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
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Professor Doris works at the intersection of cognitive science, moral psychology, and philosophical ethics.

Professor Doris has been awarded fellowships from Michigan’s Institute for the Humanities; Princeton’s University Center for Human Values; the National Humanities Center; the American Council of Learned Societies; the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences; the National Endowment for the Humanities; and is a winner of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology’s Stanton Prize for excellence in interdisciplinary research.

He authored Lack of Character: Personality and Moral Behavior (Cambridge, 2002) and Talking to Our Selves: Reflection, Ignorance, and Agency (Oxford, 2015). With his colleagues in the Moral Psychology Research Group, he wrote and edited The Moral Psychology Handbook (Oxford, 2010). He is currently working on a collection of his papers, Character Trouble: Undisciplined Essays on Personality and Agency, for Oxford University Press.

Doris’s pedagogy has been recognized with an Outstanding Mentor Award from the Graduate Student Senate and the David Hadas Teaching Award for excellence in the instruction of first-year undergraduates.

Selected Publications

  • Doris, J. M. forthcoming. “Précis.” Target article on Talking to Our Selves: Reflection, Ignorance and Agency (Doris 2015). Behavioral and Brain Sciences
  • Doris, J. M. forthcoming. “Précis” and “Replies.” Author Meets Critics Session on Talking to Our Selves: Reflection, Ignorance and Agency (Doris 2015). Commentators: N. Arpaly, R. Kane, V. Tiberius. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research
  • Doris, J. M. forthcoming. “Ironic Deliberations: A (Regrettably Incomplete) Response to Fischer, Nelkin, and Vargas” Author Meets Critics Session on Talking to Our Selves: Reflection, Ignorance and Agency (Doris 2015). Commentators: J. M. Fischer, D. Nelkin, M. Vargas. Social Theory and Practice
  • Machery, E. and Doris, J. M. forthcoming. “An Open Letter to Our Students: Going Interdisciplinary” In B. G. Voyer and T. Tarantola (eds.), Moral Psychology: A Multidisciplinary Guide. Springer
  • Doris, J. M. and Machery, E. forthcoming. “A Conversation on Moral Psychology.” In B. G. Voyer and T. Tarantola (eds.), Moral Psychology: A Multidisciplinary Guide. Springer
  • Mooijman, M., Meindl, P., Oyserman, D., Dehghani, M., Monteresso, J., Doris, J. M., and Graham, J. forthcoming. “Resisting Temptation for the Good of the Group: Binding Moral Values and the Moralization of Self-Control.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
  • Doris, J. M., Machery, E., and Stich, S. 2017. “Can Psychologists Tell Us Anything about Morality?” The Philosopher’s Magazine. April
  • Bollich, K. L., Doris, J. M., Vazire, S., Raison, C. L., Jackson, J. J., and Mehl, M. R., 2016. “Eavesdropping on Character: Testing the Stability of Naturalistically Observed Daily Moral Behavior.” Journal pf Research in Personality, doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2015.12.003
  • Doris, J. M. 2015. “Doing Without (Arguing about) Desert.” Contribution to book symposium on Manuel Vargas’ Building Better Beings. Philosophical Studies 172:2625-2643
  • Mehl, M. R., Bollich, K. L., Doris, J. M., Vazire, S. 2015. “Character and Coherence: Testing the Stability of Naturalistically Observed Daily Moral Behavior.” In C. Miller, M. R. Furr, A. Knobel, and W. Fleeson, W. (eds.), Character: New Directions from Philosophy, Psychology, and Theology, pp. 640-51. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Amaya, S., and Doris, J. M. 2015. “No Excuses.” In J. Clausen and N. Levy (ed.), Handbook of Neuroethics. New York: Springer
  • Olin, L., and Doris, J. M. 2014. “Vicious Minds: Virtue Epistemology, Cognition, and Skepticism.” Philosophical Studies
  • Cameron, C. D., Payne, B. K., and Doris, J. M. 2013. “Morality in High Definition: Emotion Differentiation Calibrates the Influence of Incidental Disgust on Moral Judgments.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 49: 719-725.
  • Mallon, R., and Doris, J. M. 2013. “The Science of Ethics.” In H. LaFollette and I Person (eds.), Blackwell Guide to Ethical Theory (2nd edn.). Wiley-Blackwell
  • Doris, J. M., and Nichols, S. 2012. “Broadminded: Sociality and the Cognitive Science of Morality.” In E. Margolis, R. Samuels, and S. Stich (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Cognitive Science. Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Doris, J. M. 2010. “Forward.” In S. Waller (ed.), Serial Killers and Philosophy. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell
  • Doris, J. M. 2010. “Heated Agreement: Lack of Character as Being for the Good.” (Contribution to book symposium on Robert Adams, A Theory of Virtue: Excellence in Being for the Good) Philosophical Studies 148: 135-46
  • Knobe, J. and Doris, J. M. 2010. “Responsibility.” In J. M. Doris and The Moral Psychology Research Group (eds.), The Moral Psychology Handbook. Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Meritt, M., Doris, J. M., and Harman, G. 2010. “Character.” In J. M. Doris and The Moral Psychology Research Group (eds.), The Moral Psychology Handbook. Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Stich, S. P., Doris, J. M., and Roedder, E. 2010. “Altruism.” In J. M. Doris and The Moral Psychology Research Group (eds.), The Moral Psychology Handbook. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Talking to Our Selves: Reflection, Ignorance, and Agency

Talking to Our Selves: Reflection, Ignorance, and Agency

The unconscious, according to contemporary psychology, determines much of our lives: very often, we don't know why we do what we do, or even exactly what we are doing. This realization undermines the philosophical-and common sense-picture of human beings as rational, responsible, agents whose behavior is ordered by their deliberations and decisions. Drawing on the latest scientific psychology and philosophical ethics, Talking to Our Selves develops a philosophically viable theory of agency and moral responsibility that fully accounts for the unsettling challenges posed by the sciences of mind.

Lack of Character: Personality and Moral Behavior

Lack of Character: Personality and Moral Behavior

This book is a provocative contribution to contemporary ethics and moral psychology, challenging fundamental assumptions about character dating to Aristotle. John Doris draws on an array of social scientific research, especially experimental social psychology, to argue that people often grossly overestimate the behavioral impact of character and grossly underestimate the behavioral impact of situations. Circumstance, Doris concludes, often has extraordinary influence on what people do, whatever sort of character they may appear to have. He then considers the implications of this observation for a range of issues in ethics, arguing that with more realistic picture effect, cognition, and motivation, moral psychology can support more compelling ethical theories and more humane ethical practices.