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Research Overview

I direct the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study, a university-wide interdisciplinary research institute. Check out the NDIAS page for more information on the fantastic projects we’re running, including our 2020-21 Nature of Trust fellowship program. I love working with teams of colleagues to unravel complex ethical problems.

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

For AY 2019-2020, my ongoing research projects are:

  • Two articles extending the theory of temporal neutrality in Time Biases (one on shared methodology in psychology and value theory, another on a puzzle for scheduling deliberation);
  • A research monograph on ethical commitment, intellectual commitment and rational faith — Agapism: A Theory of Our Inner Lives and Outer Commitments;
  • A public-facing book based on the God and the Good Life project (with Paul Blaschko), under contact with Penguin Press (Penguin Random House);
  • A standalone article about love and the foundations of moral reasoning;
  • Several public-facing articles and talks on how we live out our philosophical commitments;
  • An article on abductive methodology in modal and temporal ontology; and
  • Research related to ongoing EPG grant projects.

I advise PhDs related to any of these topics, but at the moment my advising projects skew toward value theory. I recently directed the dissertation for Ting Cho Lau (PhD June 2019), who wrote on normative powers and rationality — Title: The Reasons Management Framework. I’m directing the dissertation for Ross Jensen (ABD 2020), who is developing an original framework for environmental ethics based in virtue ethics. The Engaged Philosophy Group welcomes inquiries from PhD students interested in our work — meetings are weekly on Tuesdays.

(1) 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 preferences. I’m interested in connections between the nature of time and different standards of rationality. And I defend a temporally neutral theory of prudential rationality and diachronic identity. [Click for more…]

(2) Time, Change and Existence

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. [Click for more…]

(3) Essentialism and Modal Conventions

Do some objects have essential properties—properties that they could not lack and which play some role in characterizing their nature? Essences play a starring role in recent debates about metaphysical modality and methodology.  In recent work, I investigate potential anti-essentialist arguments.  I am also interested in novel approaches to modal conventionalism—in particular, the view that modal truths depend on objectively knowable explanatory norms. [Click for more…]

(4) 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 develop an intellectualist approach to these questions and a related methodology for work in philosophy of religion. This work is partially tied to the standards of rationality research in Time Biases and will (ultimately) be part of a new research-oriented book on intellectual and ethical commitment — Agapism: A Theory of Inner Lives and Outer Commitments. Paul Blaschko and I are also writing a general-audience book on the God and the Good Life project. And the EPG team and I are running multi-year summer conferences and a network for faculty interested in research and teaching on philosophy as a way of life. [Site coming soon…]

(5) Religious Pluralism, Religious Language and Rational 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, political and aesthetic disagreements.)  The EPG’s 2019 PREP pilot grant brings together scholars working in epistemology and theories of rationality to explore the consequences of disagreement and belief polarization more generally, with important consequences for these debates in philosophy of religion. In recent work, I argue 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. [Click for more…]

(6) Encyclopedia Articles and Miscellaneous

Sometimes I work on topics that defy characterization. [Click for more…]

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