My research is in ethics, practical ethics (especially bioethics and the ethics of technology), and the philosophy of action. Broadly, I am interested in the question of how we can permissibly influence other people's behavior and the role that concepts from action theory should play in answering that question.
In my dissertation, "Ethics and the Limits of Autonomy," I challenge the pervasive idea that wrongful forms of influence are wrong when and because they co-opt our agency, or make our actions less our own. In my view, wrongful influence is wrong not because it reduces how autonomous our actions are, but because it threatens our autonomy in a different sense: it threatens the rights that secure our discretionary sphere, or the domain in which we’re entitled to control what happens—sometimes called our “autonomy rights.” The upshots are radically new accounts of manipulation and paternalism on which our rights against these forms of influence depend entirely on what other rights we have.
You can read more about my dissertation here.
Sophie Gibert, "The Wrong of Wrongful Manipulation," Philosophy & Public Affairs, 2023.
In which I argue against the widespread view that manipulation is wrong when and because it alters someone's practical reasoning in a certain way - either subverts it, circumvents it, or affects it non-rationally. Instead I defend the Reductive View, according to which manipulating someone is wrong when and because it infringes one or more of their other rights. The wrong of wrongful manipulation is therefore non-basic: it cannot be identified without pointing to some other wrong that's involved.
Leah Pierson, Sophie Gibert, Leila Orszag, Rachel Fei, Haley Sullivan, Emily Largent, and Govind Persad, “Bioethicists Today: Results of the Views in Bioethics Survey.” Conditionally accepted to The American Journal of Bioethics.
In which we present findings from a survey of American bioethicists on major issues in bioethics.
Leah Pierson, Sophie Gibert (co first authors), Benjamin Berkman, Marion Danis, and Joseph Millum, "Allocation of Scarce Biospecimens for Use in Research," Journal of Medical Ethics, 2021. Penultimate draft.
In which we argue that scientists and researchers should aim to maximize the social value of the research enterprise as a whole when allocating scarce biospecimen samples, provide an ethical framework for assessing the contributions that proposed research projects would make to the social value of the research enterprise, and describe how the framework can be implemented.
Sophie Gibert, David DeGrazia, and Marion Danis, "The Ethics of Patient Activation," Journal of Medical Ethics, 2017. Penultimate draft.
In which we consider the ethics of measuring and aiming to improve "patient activation" - that is, the extent to which patients with chronic medical conditions feel responsible for, and in control of, their own health outcomes - and describe how clinicians can increase the sense of agency that such patients have with respect to their health without exposing them to blame, stigma, and other harms.
Sophie Gibert, “Closed-Loop Deep Brain Stimulation and its Compatibility with Autonomous Agency,” Open Peer Commentary, American Journal of Bioethics Neuroscience, 2017.
In which I argue that closed-loop deep brain stimulation (DBS) does not threaten agency more than do other treatments, substances, and modes of influence, simply because it reduces the individual’s degree of local control and conscious awareness; and that allowing individuals a higher degree of local control does not necessarily mitigate concerns about their agency.