Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Simply Good: A Defense of the Principia. Utilitas (2018)
Moore's moral program is increasingly unpopular. Judith Jarvis Thomson's attack has been especially influential; she says the Moorean project fails because ‘there is no such thing as goodness’. I argue that her objection does not succeed: while Thomson is correct that the kind of generic goodness she targets is incoherent, it is not, I believe, the kind of goodness central to the Principia.
The Pen, the Dress and the Coat: A Confusion in Goodness. Philosophical Studies (2016)
Conditionalists say that the value something has as an end—its final value—may be conditional on its extrinsic features. They support this claim by appealing to examples: Kagan points to Abraham Lincoln’s pen, Rabinowicz and Rønnow-Rasmussen to Lady Diana’s dress, and Korsgaard to a mink coat. They contend that these things may have final value in virtue of their historical or societal roles. These three examples have become familiar: many now merely mention them to establish the conditionalist position. But the widespread faith in such cases is, I believe, unjustified. This is because, surprisingly, the pen, the dress, and the coat cannot have final value. I argue that the problem is internal: these cases are ruled out by every conditionalist account of final value. I suggest a kind of diagnosis: I claim that these examples are best seen as instances of sentimental value, rather than final value.
Two Kinds of Value Pluralism. Utilitas (2016)
I argue that there are two distinct views called ‘value pluralism’ in contemporary axiology, but that these positions have not been properly stated or distinguished. I separate and elucidate these views, and show how the distinction between them affects the contemporary debate about value pluralism.
This course will provide an introduction to advanced theories of right action. Our focus will be the debate between the consequentialist and the deontologist. The former believes that the ends justify the means; the latter denies this. We will begin by examining the utilitarian program; we will attempt to discover, formulate, and defend the best form of consequentialism. Next, we will turn to the deontologist. We’ll first attend to naive interpretations of the Kantian system; after, we will evaluate some of the most attractive contemporary variants of the Kantian program.
How should we live our lives? What do we owe to each other? And how might we answer such questions? This course will provide an introduction to moral reasoning. We will first learn about basic logic and the nature of arguments. After, we will try to determine whether there might be some overriding principle that we can rely on to specify our obligations and resolve our moral disputes. Finally, if time permits, we will turn to topics in applied ethics, and employ the skills we have acquired over the semester to extract and evaluate arguments from popular philosophical papers. Our investigations will be rigorous: in each case, we will attempt to provide careful formulations of the relevant doctrines, methods, and arguments.
Do works of art have some particular function or purpose? Must they be beautiful, expressive, or engender a certain kind of experience? Or is something a work of art simply because it is deemed so by artists and critics? This course will provide an introduction to aesthetics by way of fundamental puzzles in the philosophy of art. Our primary focus will be the nature of art: we will examine and evaluate views about what makes something an artwork. Our secondary focus will be the value of art: we will attempt to explain why art is important and to understand how we should respond to works of art.
Ph.d. Philosophy (2017)
Dissertation: "The Concept of Intrinsic Goodness: Essays in Moorean Moral Philosophy"
Director: Fred Feldman.
Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Starke House, #304
915 W. Franklin St.
Richmond, VA 23284