PhD Dissertation (Binghamton University): [in progress]


My dissertation concerns an investigation of conscientious refusal, exploring how and when people feel morally compelled to engage in conscientious refusal, and the political role that this conscientious refusal can sometimes play. A brief overview of my dissertation is as follows: In the first chapter, I will give a definition of conscientious refusal, and will explain how conscientious refusal connects to or is distinguished from other related types of conscientious actions such as conscientious evasion and civil disobedience. The second chapter involves the justification of conscientious refusal, an issue that is often ignored or taken for granted in the literature on conscientious refusal. The third chapter will discuss the duty to engage in conscientious refusal. The question is: What kind of duty is this, and what is the source of this duty? I will show in this chapter is that the duty to engage in conscientious refusal is a different type of duty than other typical duties (e.g., the duty to care for one's children). Finally, in Chapter 4 I will examine the political role that conscientious refusal sometimes plays, in much the same way as civil disobedience is generally credited with doing. I will argue that the political role that conscientious refusal can and sometimes has played has been overlooked because conscientious refusal is viewed primarily or exclusively as a private action, rather than as a public action in the sense of making a public statement about what is unjust in our society.

Masters Thesis (Carnegie Mellon University): [January 2011]


For my Master's Thesis I conducted an experimental study modeled on Geurts & Pouscoulous' 2009 study of embedded scalar implicatures; however, my study focuses on scalar implicatures in the antecedent of conditionals, which Geurts & Pouscoulous do not examine. This experiment compares the interpretation of conditionals whose antecedents contain scalar items with the interpretation of unembedded clauses containing scalars. Participants in the experiment were asked for judgments about the interpretations of sentences, while a think-aloud protocol was used to investigate their reasoning about plausible interpretations. The results show contextual effects on strengthening in antecedents which differ from those seen in unembedded cases. In addition, the think-aloud portion suggests that participants carry out strengthening in the unembedded case with familiar Gricean reasoning, but in the embedded case, reason instead about the real-world consequences of alternative situations.


Powerpoint Slides

Thesis Handout

Conference Presentations

  • Howe, K. “Is there a Rawlsian duty to engage in civil disobedience?” Paper to be presented at: 2014 31st International Social Philosophy Conference (NASSP), Ashland, OR. (upcoming: July 2014)
  • Howe, K. and Simons, M. “An investigation of scalars in the antecedents of conditionals.” Poster session presented at: 2013 Linguistics Society of America Annual Meeting, Boston MA.
  • Howe, K. “The ethical treatment of animals from a nonviolent perspective.” Paper presented at: 2007 CNY Peace Studies Consortium Conference at State University of New York College at Cortland, Cortland, NY.
  • Howe, K. “Capital punishment and violence.” Paper presented at: 2006 CNY Peace Studies Consortium Conference at State University of New York College at Cortland, Cortland, NY.
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