Associate Professor of Philosophy
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- Tel: 778-782-6647
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- Office: WMC 4627
- B.A. 1995, Philosophy and Physics, Albion College.
- Ph.D. 2000, Philosophy, University of California, San Diego
Areas of Interest
Moral Psychology, esp. Practical Reason
Philosophy of Mind and Language
Philosophy in Film
Current Research Projects
My current research centres on issues in practical reason and moral agency. Regarding the former, I am specifically interested in the nature and ground of normative force, both from a historical and contemporary perspective. It is increasingly common in the contemporary literature to treat reasons as normatively and conceptually primitive. But even if this kind of primitivism is true, there remain important and interesting questions concerning the kind of normative force that reasons are supposed to have. Here I think it is instructive to look to the early modern natural lawyers such as Suarez, Hobbes, Pufendorf, and Locke, and the way in which they succeed or fail to distinguish the special normative force of Law as opposed to counsel. Locke’s view, for example, is deflationary relative to Suarez, in that Locke reduces all normativity to the force of Recommendation, giving up entirely on the distinctive force of Demand central to scholastic natural law. My own view of normative force is even more deflationary in that genuine reasons are not characterized by a higher-order property of normative authority, but by their existential significance to our deliberative and emotional lives.
In the area of moral agency, I defend a kind of Kantian-cum-Strawsonian view of moral responsibility. The view is (neo-)Kantian in that I take responsibility to require a commitment to libertarian freedom, not because of worries about the ability to do otherwise (leeway libertarianism) or ultimacy (source libertarianism), but because the right kind of normative responsiveness to reasons is incompatible with a naturalistic explanation of action. The view is Strawsonian insofar as I take this commitment itself to be ultimately grounded in our social natures. Contrary to other neo-Kantians, I think the move to a “standpoint” justification of freedom – i.e. thinking of one’s commitment to freedom as justified from the practical or second-personal point of view – creates a special justificatory problem, for we need to know if we are morally justified in taking up the second-personal stance toward a specific person in a specific set of circumstances. In answering this justificatory challenge, I see these ascriptions of blame as essentially practical choices that we make in dialogue with others as we navigate our shared social space of personal relationships; and I am hoping that a virtue ethics of blame can provide the right kind of criterion of correctness for these choices.
- "Choosing Freedom: basic desert and the standpoint of blame", Philosophical Explorations: An International Journal for the Philosophy of Mind and Action, Volume 16, Issue 2 (2013): 195-211.
- "Deflationary Normative Pluralism", Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Supplementary Volume 33, pp. 231-262.
- "Why Be an Agent?" Australasia Journal of Philosophy, Volume 90, Issue 2 (2012): 1-11.
- Reasons to be Moral Revisited, supplementary volume of the Canadian Journal of Philosophy, co-edited with Sam Black, forthcoming.
- "Deflationary Normative Relativism,” forthcoming in Reasons to be Moral Revisited.
- “How Kantian Must Kantian Constructivists Be?” Inquiry 49 (December, 2006): 524-546.
- “Can Humans Ask, ‘Why Be Rational?’” American Philosophical Quarterly 43 (April 2006): 133-145.
- “Alienation and Internal Reasons for Action,” Social Theory and Practice 29 (July 2003): 387-418.
- “A Functional Account of Moral Motivation,” Southern Journal of Philosophy 41 (Winter 2003): 601-625.
- "Alienation and Internal Reasons for Action" Social Theory and Practice 29 (July 2003): 387-418.
- "The Rational Character of Belief and the Argument for Anomalous Monism" Philosophical Studies 103 (April 2001): 285-314.
- "What's Essential About Indexicals?" Philosophical Studies 100 (July 2000): 35-50.
- "Semantics San Diego Style," Journal of Philosophy 96 (Aug 1999): 416-429.