It seems to me that we are driven to this, that logicality inexorably requires that our interests shall not be limited. They must not stop at our own fate, but must embrace the whole community. ~ Charles Sanders Peirce
The core of my research program is the question of what it means to inquire into moral life, and how such inquiry can improve our practices. I develop a practice-first approach that focuses on the epistemic position and epistemic limitations of moral agents, who are not solitary deliberators but rather members of communities operating against a background of shared moral architecture. From this core, my work unfolds in different directions, such that at any time I am typically working on projects in metaethics, history of philosophy (especially American pragmatism, but also history of ethical theory), applied ethics (especially ethics of mental health care), and epistemology.
The projects currently at the top of my queue are two papers and a book-length project. Here are brief descriptions:
“Mental Disorder as a Puzzle for Constitutivism”
I’ll be presenting this at the Pacific APA Division Meeting in the spring. In the paper, I generate a challenge for the framework of constitutivism with respect to accommodating the prevalence of mental disorder, understood as a disorder in or of rationality, and explore possible solutions.
“Mental Disorder and the Shape of a Life”
I presented this paper in September at the Young Philosopher Lecture Series at the Prindle Institute for Ethics at DePauw University, and I’m working on expanding it to include deeper connections with the ‘shape of a life’ literature. In its current form, it focuses on both epistemic and metaphysical reasons for thinking that we can never close off the possibility that a person with mental disorder can come to live a well-shaped life (on whatever ‘shapes’ are counted best).
(m/s) Ethical Theory in Classical American Pragmatism
This project is the ‘prequel’ to my 2016 book. Here is the abstract:
This book is designed as a thematic exploration between historical bookends. It begins with the intellectual soil in which pragmatism grew and ends with connections to contemporary moral theory, which the pragmatists argue needs to be focused on moral life. In the thematic portion, I explore pragmatist views on naturalism, moral metaphysics, moral epistemology, practice-first philosophy, the role of communities, ideal and non-ideal theory, and the summum bonum – the highest good – of moral life. The animating idea of this book, and its key distinguishing feature, is that it treats the classical American pragmatist in their approaches to ethical theory as a collective. Classical pragmatists are writing at a pivotal moment in the history of ethical theory, as they grapple with the nature of value and with the reinvigoration of empiricism in the wake of Darwin. I argue that one unifying feature of this collective is engagement with ideas of truth and objectivity that can support a non-reductive form of naturalism. Although the pragmatists whose work I consider and develop are not unified at every moment, there is a recognizable “school” of moral thought here that has not yet been adequately explored as a movement, and which offers promising ways forward in contemporary ethical theory.
In the interest of honouring blind review processes, I do not post details about work that is currently under review.