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Research Areas

I direct the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study, a university-wide interdisciplinary research institute. Information about all of those programs is available on the NDIAS page. I love working with teams of colleagues and students to understand and unravel complex ethical problems.

Below you can find mostly non-specialist descriptions of the questions I pursue in my individual research. For a more comprehensive list, see my CV, articles page or email me for available drafts.

For AY 2023-24, my ongoing research projects are: an article on time biases for the upcoming Routledge Companion to Time, which will focus on moral vs prudential time biases and the extent to which agents are responsible for their temporal attitudes. I am continuing to develop a book on love and moral responsibility, focusing on ethical debates about Samaritanism and applying the theory to debates about creating lives, migration, and philanthropy. I have a recent piece on Philosophy as a Way of Life as a research program in ethics, coming out in Ethics. I am also initiating a major grant on interdisciplinary approaches to education and the good life, through the NDIAS.

I direct Philosophy PhDs related to any of these topics, but at the moment my graduate advising projects skew toward value theory and interdisciplinary programs run through NDIAS. I’ve recently directed three dissertations:

  • Ting Cho Lau (PhD June 2019), who wrote on normative powers and rationality — Title: The Reasons Management Framework.
  • Ross Jensen (PhD 2021), who has developed a framework for environmental ethics based in Aristotelian virtue ethics and bioregionalism — Title: Love and the Politics of Place.
  • Haley Dutmer (PhD 2023), who works on the philosophy of education and ethics of care — Title: Teaching with and for Virtue.

I am currently advising Sara Chan (ABD 2022) who is working on the philosophy of disability.

Here are the overarching themes of my research:

(1) Philosophy as a Way of Life

What does it mean to organize one’s life around a set of philosophical commitments? And to what extent does philosophical integrity require specific forms of interpersonal and institutional commitment? In current research, I weigh answers to these questions and develop a methodology for work in ethics and philosophy of religion. “Philosophy as a Way of Life” (2023) lays out the approach. Both The Good Life Method (2022) and Samaritanism (MS) show aspects of this approach in action.

(2) Time, Value and Rationality

The passage of time plays a crucial role in how we organize our beliefs, how we model the exchange of information, and how we form and evaluate our preferences. I’m interested in connections between the objective nature of time and different standards of rationality. I defend a temporally neutral theory of prudential rationality and diachronic identity. And I connect both contemporary and historical philosophical work on these questions with current debates in psychology and economics.

(3) Time, Change, and Tense Logic

There are considerable puzzles for how we reason about time and change, both in natural languages and in formal logic. I think the best unified response to these puzzles is to treat all forms of change as property change. The resulting theory raises interesting questions about persistence through time, about the nature of properties, and about the ways logical formalism can and cannot constrain theories of time. I’m also interested in arguments for presentism and ways of connecting abstract questions about the nature of time to more practical questions like how to understand prudential and moral discounting behaviors.

(4) Essentialism, Conventions, and Modal Logic

Theories of essential properties play a starring role in contemporary debates about modality and methodology.  I investigate potential anti-essentialist arguments.  I am also interested in novel approaches to modal conventionalism—in particular, I’m interested in the view that modal truths may depend on objectively knowable explanatory norms. I am perpetually interested in methodological debates at the intersection of modal logic and other branches of philosophy, and I am interested in debates about the uses and misuses of modal logics.

(5) Religious Pluralism, Religious Language and Moral Dimensions of Faith

Religious disagreement is often thought to pose a particular epistemic challenge for theists and atheists alike – namely, does the mere fact that there is pervasive disagreement among peers about religious matters provide evidence that undermines justification for holding the relevant beliefs?  Some say it does, others say it doesn’t, and still others deny that peer disagreement is possible on religious matters. (These puzzles can further generalize to other philosophical, ethical, political and aesthetic disagreements.)   I’ve argued that related forms of disagreement also pose a unique semantic challenge, because certain kinds of disagreement can undermine the potential for terms in a shared language to refer. Despite the challenge, I’m interested in potential epistemic, ethical and semantic benefits of religious pluralism.

I’m also interested in strategies for addressing the Argument(s) from Evil. And I am interested in “exoteric” philosophy of religion — philosophical arguments which involve distinctively religious premises but are nevertheless rationally accessible to pluralist audiences. Lately this has taken the form of more public-facing writing.

(6) Encyclopedia Articles and Miscellaneous

Sometimes I also work on topics that defy characterization, like the “Metaphysics” and “Time” entries for the SEP. And now with NDIAS, I work on a fair number of projects that stray outside the boundaries of philosophy. I’m particularly interested in areas where philosophical methods interact with evidence from psychology, political theory, and economics.

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