Research areas and topics
I work in several different areas. My main current research project is a book tentatively titled Moral Reasoning in a Pluralistic World. Central to many views of moral reasoning is the idea of moral coherence. But the way we value seems more “pluralistic” than coherent — we care about various things, in various ways, to varying degrees. This pluralism gives rise to moral diversity: while people care about similar kinds of things all over the world — harm prevention, fairness, loyalty, etc. — they care about these things to varying degrees and direct their cares at various objects.
This book asks how we should understand moral coherence and thus moral reasoning in a context of such pluralism. I argue against “rich” interpretations of coherence, which require us to seek out as few, simple, unconflicting principles as possible. I develop and defend a “pluralist” coherence, based on judging like cases alike, taking dilemmas to be real and significant, and expanding our circle of concern.
I am also working on sexual objectification and sexual autonomy. It is now a near-platitude that sexual objectification is wrong. As is often pointed out, however, the situation is complex: much sexual activity seems to involve some kind of objectification or use of another, sometimes in ways that seem morally permissible and even quite appealing — as when lovers are so inflamed by passion that they temporarily fail to attend to the complexity and humanity of their partners. But the platitude figures in many discussions about the wrongs of pornography, prostitution, and some kinds of casual sex. The question, then, is when sexual objectification is ethically benign, and when it isn’t.
I believe the answer to this question can be partly found in respect for autonomy: it is when a person chooses to be used that objectification is ethical. But respect for autonomy requires more than mere consent, since autonomous choices must be those that are freely made in some appropriate sense.
I’ve also written on the correspondence theory of truth and expressivism in metaethics.
Links below marked “link” are to online journal sites, and are usually accessible only with permission, for example, through a university connection. Those marked “post-print” are to pdfs of (post-refereeing) drafts, downloadable from ssrn.com. If you are planning to use or cite the article, please do consult the published version one way or another or get in touch with me.
“Moral Coherence and Value Pluralism,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy, forthcoming
“Moral Coherence and Principle Pluralism,” Journal of Moral Philosophy, forthcoming
“Representation-Friendly Deflationism vs. Modest Correspondence” in Cory Wright and Nikolaj Pedersen, eds., New Waves in Philosophy: Truth (New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2010), 218-231 [post-print].
Review of Laurie Shrage, You’ve Changed”: Sex Reassignment and Personal Identity, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, January 8, 2010 [link to review at NDPR site]
Review of Mario Perniola, The Sex Appeal of the Inorganic: Philosophies of Desire in the Modern World (Massimo Verdicchio, translator), Journal of the History of Philosophy 19 (2010), pp. 179-182 [link], [post-print]
Review of Monique Canto-Sperber, Moral Disquiet and Human Life (Silvia Pavel, translator), Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, October 4, 2008 [link to review at NDPR site]
Review of Anne Dufourmantelle, Blind Date: Sex and Philosophy (Catherine Porter, translator), APA Newsletter on Feminism and Philosophy, 8 (2008), 23-24 [post-print]
“Prostitution,” forthcoming in Hugh LaFollette, ed., The International Encyclopedia of Ethics (Blackwell).
Selected recent talks and conference presentations
“Sexual Use, Sexual Autonomy, and Adaptive Preferences,” McMaster University, September 2012
“Philosophy Is Not a Social Science: Value Neutrality, the Humanistic Method, and the Ethical Point of View” Philosophy in the Twenty-First Century Conference, University of Pittsburgh, May 2012
“Moral Coherence and Value Pluralism,” University of Guelph, September 2011
“Sexual Autonomy and Sexual Choices,” North American Society for Social Philosophy Twenty-Eighth International Social Philosophy Conference, July 2011
“On Tom Hurka’s The Best Things in Life,” part of an author-meets-critics session, Canadian Philosophical Association, May 2010
“Thinking about People: Humanists, Social Scientists, Ethics and Democracy,” Humanities Forum, Southern Illinois University, December 2009; North American Society for Social Philosophy, Twenty-Seventh International Social Philosophy Conference, July 2010
“Moral Coherence, Value Fragmentation, and Epistemic Justification,” American Philosophical Association Pacific Division Meeting, April 2010, Canadian Philosophical Association Annual Meeting, May 2010
“Comments on Leonard Kahn’s ‘Conflict, Regret, and Morality,’”American Philosophical Association Central Division Meeting, February 2010
“Moral Coherence and the Fragmentation of Value,” University of Waterloo, September 2009; Wilfred Laurier University, October 2009; Southern Illinois University, December 2009; American Philosophical Association Eastern Division Meeting, December 2009
“Moral Reasoning in a Pluralistic World,” North American Society for Social Philosophy, Twenty-Sixth International Social Philosophy Conference, July 2009
“Comments on Paul Hurley’s ‘What Lurks Beneath the Integrity Objection,’” Northwestern University Society for Ethical Theory and Political Philosophy, Third Annual Conference, April 2009
Page last updated January 12, 2012