Recently posted to SSRN (and published in Ethics, Vol. 124, 2014):
Part I outlines the main elements of the prima facie case of harmful battery, including voluntary act, harmful or offensive intent, and harmful contact, as they are generally conceived by the common law of torts. Unlike a typical legal commentary, however, these elements are examined here with an eye toward what they might reveal to us about the rich internal structure of human — and perhaps also nonhuman — moral psychology. Part II adds more texture to the inquiry by considering the primary defenses to battery in both morality and law, with special emphasis on different types of consent. The guiding idea of Parts I and II is that, unlike the prima facie case of harmful battery, which implicates aspects of moral judgment that might plausibly be shared with nonhuman animals, the mental operations presupposed by these affirmative defenses point us toward elements of moral cognition that may be distinctively human. In Part III, I examine eight prominent research endeavors in ethics and cognitive science — including influential work by Philippa Foot, James Rachels, Thomas Nagel, Christopher Boorse and Ray Sorenson, Fiery Cushman, Liane Young and Rebecca Saxe, Eliot Turiel, and Kiley Hamlin — and argue that all of these inquiries appear to rely on harmful battery scenarios without explicitly acknowledging this fact or considering what it might suggest for issues of experimental design, data interpretation, or theory construction. In Part IV, I conclude by considering how the main arguments of the paper might bear on Darwin’s idea that "any animal whatever" would acquire a moral sense or conscience under the right circumstances.