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Laura Specker Sullivan

Assistant Professor

Address: 16 Glebe, Room 300
Phone: 843-953-5687
Personal Website:

Narrative: Laura Specker Sullivan is a graduate of Williams College (B.A. in Philosophy) and the University of Hawaii at Manoa (Ph.D. and Certificate in Japanese Studies). Before coming to Charleston she completed postdoctoral fellowships at the Center for Bioethics, Harvard Medical School, at the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering, University of Washington, and at the National Core for Neuroethics, University of British Columbia. She also lived in Kyoto, Japan for two years where she was a visiting international researcher at the Kokoro Research Center, Kyoto University. Her research focuses on cross-cultural and applied ethics, especially issues in medicine and clinical research. She is currently working on projects on trust in medicine and moral rationalization of problematic behavior. She teaches courses on ethical theory, bioethics, aesthetics, technology, and Japanese philosophy.


B.A., Philosophy, Williams College

Ph.D. Philosophy and Japanese Studies, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Research Interests

Ethical theory (normative and metaethics)


Japanese Philosophy

Honors and Awards

Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship



Specker Sullivan L. “Insight and the No-Self in Deep Brain Stimulation.” Bioethics: Online First.

Specker Sullivan L and Niker F. “Relational Autonomy, Paternalism, and Maternalism.” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice: 21(3): 649-667

*Specker Sullivan L. “Pure Experience and Disorders of Consciousness.” American Journal of Bioethics Neuroscience: 9(2): 107-114.

*Specker Sullivan L. “What Does a Definition of Death Do?” Diametros 55: 63-67.

 *Niker F and Specker Sullivan L. “Trusting Relationships and the Ethics of Interpersonal Action.” International Journal of Philosophical Studies 26(2): 173-186. Runner-up for the 2017 Robert Papazian Prize.

 Specker Sullivan L. “Have Your Momos and Eat Them, Too.” Science 359(6373): 284.

 Specker Sullivan L and Illes J. “Ethics in Published Brain Computer Interface Research.” Journal of Neural Engineering 15(1): 013001.


Yuste R. Goering S., … Specker Sullivan L, et al. “Four Ethical Priorities for Neurotechnologies and AI.” Nature 551: 159-163.

Lazaridis C, Kothari S, Specker Sullivan L and Koch P. “Focusing and Expanding on Consciousness: A Capabilities Approach” (Open Peer Commentary). AJOB Neuroscience 8(3): 149-151.

Specker Sullivan L, Klein E, Brown T, Sample M, Pham M, Tubig P, Folland R, and Goering S. “Keeping Disability in Mind: A Case Study in Implantable Brain-Computer Interface Research.” Science and Engineering Ethics: Online First.

Specker Sullivan L and Niker F. “Relational Autonomy, Maternalism, and the Nocebo Effect” (Open Peer Commentary). American Journal of Bioethics 17(6): 52-54.

Specker Sullivan L. “Dynamic Axes of Informed Consent in Japan.” Social Science and Medicine 174: 159-168.


Specker Sullivan L and Illes J. “Beyond ‘Communication and Control’: Towards Ethically Complete Rationales for Brain Computer Interface Research.” Brain-Computer Interfaces (3)3: 156-163.

Specker Sullivan L. “Medical Maternalism: Beyond Paternalism and Antipaternalism.” Journal of Medical Ethics 42(7): 439-444. 

Specker Sullivan L. “Uncovering Metaethical Assumptions in Bioethics Across Cultures.” Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 26(1): 47-78.


Specker Sullivan L. “Do Implanted Brain Devices Threaten Autonomy or the ‘Sense’ of Autonomy?” (Open Peer Commentary), American Journal of Bioethics – Neuroscience 6(4): 24-26.


Specker Sullivan L. “The Self-Contradictory Identity of the Personal Self: Nishida’s Argument Against Kantian Pure Practical Reason.” Journal of Japanese Philosophy 2(1): 33-56.


Specker Sullivan L. “Dogen and Wittgenstein: Transcending Language Through Ethical Practice.” Asian Philosophy 23(3): 221-235.