St. Bonaventure University


Setman, Stephen A.

Stephen Setman, St. Bonaventure University

School of Arts and Sciences

Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Francis Hall 250
  • PHIL 102. Introduction to Philosophy
  • PHIL 104. Introduction to Ethics
  • PHIL 332. Social & Economic Justice
  • Ph.D. in Philosophy, Purdue University, 2021
  • B.A. in Philosophy and German Studies, Gettysburg College, 2014

Dr. Setman earned his Ph.D. from Purdue University, where he studied ethics, moral psychology, philosophy of mind, and social and political philosophy. He wrote a dissertation on responsible agency under the supervision of Daniel Kelly, with whom he also co-authored the entry on normative cognition for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. He then came to St. Bonaventure University as a visiting assistant professor, where he teaches Introduction to Ethics, Introduction to Philosophy, and Social & Economic Justice.



  • Setman, S. (forthcoming). “A Willingness to Be Vulnerable: Norm Psychology and Human-Robot Relationships”, Ethics and Information Technology.
  • Setman, S. (forthcoming). “Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks: Intuition, Reason, and Responsibility”, in “Connections between Ethics and Moral Psychology”, Humanities Journal of Valparaiso (Revista de Humanidades de Valparaiso).
  • Setman, S., and D. Kelly (2021). “Socializing Willpower: Resolve from the Outside In”, commentary on George Ainslie, “Willpower With and Without Effort”, Behavioral and Brain Sciences 44, e53.
  • Kelly, D., & S. Setman (2020). “The Psychology of Normative Cognition”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Edward N. Zalta (ed.).
  • Setman, S. (2018). Book Review of Candice L. Shelby, Addiction: A Philosophical Perspective, in Philosophical Psychology 31, no. 7.
Honors & Awards:
  • Bilsland Dissertation Fellowship, the College of Liberal Arts and the Graduate School, Purdue University
  • Graduate School Excellence in Teaching Award Nominee, Department of Philosophy, Purdue University
  • Board Chair Award, United Way of Greater Lafayette & the Indiana House of Representatives (Rep. Sheila J. Klinker)
  • Mahan Fellowship, the Department of Philosophy, Gettysburg College

As an instructor of philosophy my goal is to guide students through the major texts and ideas of a particular course, and to do so in a way that fosters their ability to think critically and disagree respectfully. To this end, I teach students the major questions and debates that have shaped philosophy, either in general or in specific areas, and then ask students to take up and defend various positions within that dialectic. In the process, students come to more deeply appreciate the perplexity of the questions at hand, and they develop cognitive and social skills that will help them well beyond the classroom.

I believe instructors are example-setters for student engagement. When I interact with my students and guide their discussions, I strive to model an inquisitive and collaborative attitude toward learning. In introductory courses we emphasize that “argument” means something very different in philosophy from what it means in everyday life, but we must also demonstrate for students how to argue in ways that support rather than detract from the cooperative goals of a classroom. My experiences teaching controversial or deeply personal topics, such as abortion or the meaning of life, have taught me that student engagement and outcomes are best when an understanding and respectful example is set for them by their instructor.


My primary research interest is in the nature and ethics of responsibility. My work argues that humans are responsible for what they do because they are uniquely capable social learners. Humans evolved to be exquisitely sensitive to—and, in many ways, to depend upon—the feedback they receive from others, such as that provided by expressions of praise and blame. This social corrective feedback, as I call it, alerts individuals to a wide range of normative considerations and attunes them to the social rules—or norms—which govern what is expected, allowed, required, or forbidden in different situations, for different members of the community, and in different relationships. Part of what justifies our holding one another accountable to these norms, I argue, is our psychological capacity to learn and live up to them, and to do so precisely through being held responsible by others.

I also write on a number of applied ethical issues—including artificial intelligence, addiction, and political extremism—and I have a growing interest in Eastern Philosophy, especially Daoism and Buddhism.


In my free time I enjoy watching comedy, playing table-top role-playing games, kayaking, and going hiking with my dog, Sage. When I was living in Indiana I volunteered with the United Way. I look forward to seeking new opportunities for community involvement in Olean.