Samuel C. Rickless

Professor of Philosophy






About Me


                                                                                                      [updated: 08/28/2023]


If you would like to learn more about me and my work, please choose among the links on the left side of this webpage.

My research interests include the history of European philosophy (with emphasis on Plato, Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Shepherd), moral philosophy (particularly non-consequentialist ethics based on the doctrine of doing and allowing and a secular version of the doctrine of double effect), legal philosophy (including issues of legal interpretation and problems related to the right to privacy, as well as due process and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution), and the philosophy of language.  I am a member of the Moral Judgments Project, working with professors and graduate students in philosophy and psychology on research in experimental philosophy.  

The courses I teach regularly include symbolic logic (Phil 120), the history of early modern European philosophy (Phil 111), Plato (Phil 100), freedom, equality, and the law (Phil 165), and more recently the meaning of life (Phil 141).

I started the UC San Diego Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl team in 2018.  In 2018, the team won three out of four rounds at the California Regional Tournament, and narrowly missed out on an invitation to the National Tournament.  In 2019, one of our two teams earned second place in the California Regional, and participated in the National Tournament in Atlanta in February 2020. Because of the pandemic, I took a hiatus in 2020-21. In fall 2021, the team again earned second place in the California Regional, participated in the National Tournament (online), and made it to the quarter-finals before losing to the eventual winners, Macalester College. UC San Diego fielded a new team (with two members of the Fall 2021-Spring 2022 team returning) in Fall 2022, and earned third place in the California Regional, thereby receiving another invitation to the National Tournament, which was held in March 2023 in Portland, OR. The team did not make it past the preliminary rounds at the National Tournament, but it did lose very narrowly to the eventual tournament winners, the United States Naval Academy.

There will be a call for interviews for the 2023-24 UC San Diego Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl team. The interviews will be held on September 28, 2023. If you do not receive an invitation to interview before September 21, 2023, please contact me ahead of time (srickless[at]ucsd[dot]edu) to schedule an interview. All UC San Diego undergraduate students who are registered for classes in Fall 2023 are eligible to join the team. Students who interview for the team must commit (without fail, except for illness or emergency) to participate in the regional tournament at Cal State San Luis Obispo on December 2, 2023 (and so must also be available to travel with the team to the tournament on December 1 and then back to San Diego on December 3), and must also (without fail, except for illness or emergency) attend every Tuesday and Thursday evening prep session from October 3 until November 30.  


Recently published

"Locke on the Probability of the Mind's Immateriality," Locke Studies 20 (2021): 1-28.

"Sensitivity to Shifts in Probability of Harm and Benefit in Moral Dilemmas," (with Arseny A. Ryazanov, Shawn Tinghao Wang, Craig R. M. McKenzie, and Dana Kay Nelkin), Cognition 209 (2021): 104548. 

Non-Consequentialist Principles Under Conditions of Uncertainty: A Framework” (with Dana Kay Nelkin). In The Trolley Problem, edited by Hallvard Lillehammer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2023), pp. 79-100.

"Beyond Killing One to Save Five: Sensitivity to Ratio and Probability in Moral Judgment" (with Arseny A. Ryazanov, Shawn Tinghao Wang, Dana Kay Nelkin, and Craig R. M. McKenzie), Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 108 (2023): 104499.

Recently completed

"Locke on Free Will and Epistemic Responsibility." To appear in  Argumenta (journal of the Italian Society for Analytic Philosophy).

 "Trolley Problems Reimagined: Sensitivity to Ratio, Risk, and Comparisons" (with Craig R. M. McKenzie, Dana Kay Nelkin, and Arseny A. Ryazanov). To appear in Issues in Experimental Moral Philosophy, edited by Fernando Aguiar, Antonio Gaitan, and Hugo Viciana.

 "Conscience or Disobedience? Comments on Dov Fox, 'Refusing and Providing Health Care in the Name of Conscience," Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues, in press.

 "Locke in the Context of Early Modern Philosophy." To appear in The Oxford Handbook of Locke, edited by Patrick Connolly.

 "Locke on Morality and Religion." To appear in Studi Lockiani, guest edited by Diego Lucci.

"Shepherd's Argument for the Causal Maxim: 'There is no Object Which Begins to Exist, but Must Owe its Existence to Some Cause.'"  To appear in a collection of essays on Mary Shepherd, edited by Keota Fields.     

Draft of a paper on legal adjudication, "A Theory of Legal Adjudication," which was the subject of a workshop at UCLA Law School in November 2021.      


You can find a podcast in which I discuss my meaning of life course here.