Luke Robinson

Associate Professor Director of the Minor in Ethics


Office Location

Hyer Hall 211A




Ph.D., University of California San Diego; J.D., University of Pennsylvania Law School

curriculum vitae


My research is in metaethics and normative ethics. I am writing a book defending a dispositional (or powers) metaphysics for morality. Dispositional metaphysics for various subjects (e.g., causation, modality, and properties) are increasingly common in metaphysics and philosophy of science. And my own work — culminating in this book — is the first to develop and defend such a metaphysics for morality.

My research has focused primarily on the nature of the moral principles that ground our moral obligations, the nature of our moral obligations and conflicts between them, and the nature of morally relevant circumstances and how they combine and interact to determine what we ought to do in particular cases. I have also contributed to the generalism-particularism debate in ethics and published on the question of whether there are moral prohibitions or rules that admit of no exceptions (i.e., moral absolutes).

I hold a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of California San Diego and a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, as well as a B.A. in history from Auburn University. Before entering academia, I was an associate at the law firm of Drinker, Biddle & Reath (now Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath) in its Philadelphia office. I joined the SMU Philosophy Department in 2006.

I serve as director of the Philosophy Department’s minor in ethics and teach courses on topics in moral philosophy, the philosophy of well-being, legal philosophy, and political philosophy. I also serve on the Faculty Advisory Board for SMU’s Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility.

Publications (Selected)

“Moral Absolutes,” in The International Encyclopedia of Ethics, 2nd ed., ed. Hugh LaFollette (New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2021).

“Cartwright, Nancy,” in The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, 3rd ed., ed. Robert Audi (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

“Obligating Reasons, Moral Laws, and Moral Dispositions,” Journal of Moral Philosophy 11 (2014): 1–34.

“A Dispositional Account of Conflicts of Obligation,” Noûs 47 (2013): 203–28.

“Exploring Alternatives to the Simple Model: Is There an Atomistic Option?,” in Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics, ed. Mark Timmons, vol. 2 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 262–88.

“Moral Principles as Moral Dispositions,” Philosophical Studies 156 (2011): 289–309.

“Moral Principles Are Not Moral Laws,” Journal of Ethics & Social Philosophy 2, no. 3 (November 2008): 1–22.

“Moral Holism, Moral Generalism, and Moral Dispositionalism,” Mind 82 (2006): 331–60.

Courses Taught

PHIL 3380 – Ethics: Morality, Self-Interest, and Justice
PHIL 3375 – Topics in Moral Philosophy: The Ethics of Pleasure and Pain
PHIL 3374 – Philosophy of Law
PHIL 1316 – Introduction to Ethics

Luke Robinson