Laura Fearnley

Research title: What would have been and what should have been: The interdependence of counterfactuals and morality

Research Summary

My research explores the connection between counterfactuals and morality. I’m particularly interested in the role counterfactuals play in our ascriptions of moral praise and blame. And how we might appeal to norms, especially moral norms, to better understand a counterfactual analysis of causation.

Popular ethical theories claim that counterfactuals are irrelevant to our moral evaluations. For instance, surely the fact that you would have jumped into the sea to save your drowning friend (had it been necessary) does not make your act of throwing the life-vest to save your friend any more, or less, praiseworthy? In metaphysics, some are interested in the idea that a counterfactual theory of causation may depend upon norms, but little attention has been paid to the possibility that the relevant norms might be moral in nature.  My project brings these hitherto disconnected arms of research together to explore the notion that counterfactuals ground truths about moral worth, and that a counterfactuals analysis of causation is sometimes dependent upon moral norms.



  • AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership. Fees & Stipend
  • UKRI Policy internship
  • Visiting Doctoral Research Scheme
  • Coulter Prize (2016) for excellence in philosophy
  • Holt Prize (2016) for distinction in written work
  • Santander Mobility Exchange Scholarship (2015) fees and stipend to attend philosophy summer school at Antwerp University.
  • MacLagan Prize (2015) for distinguished academic performance in moral philosophy.
  • Lorimer Bursary (2013-2014) for excellence in moral philosophy