Research

History of Philosophy:

1. A common criticism of ancient ethical theories is that they are not sufficiently action-guiding. Henry Sidgwick felt this was particularly true of ancient Stoicism, whose ethical principles form “a complicated enchainment of circular reasonings, by which the inquirer is continually deluded with an apparent approach to practical conclusion.” My dissertation vindicates the Stoics from this charge. By foregrounding issues in Stoic axiology I am able to provide a novel account of Stoic practical reasoning and deliberation that links up with all aspects of their philosophy, including their providential and physicalist picture of the world. On my interpretation, the Stoics offer a sophisticated view about the shifting valence of an agent’s normative reasons across deliberative contexts. 

2. The Stoics are often singled out as transitional figures in the history of ethics, marking a departure away from Greco-Roman virtue ethics towards a modern juridical conception of ethics. On my view, the Stoics are thoroughgoing eudaimonists, but their pessimism about our ability to reach perfection results in a novel conception of happiness and the dictates of natural law.

3. As a historian of philosophy I am interested in the genealogy of supposedly perennial notions like natural law and duty. In a paper in progress I trace the reception of the Stoic doctrine of appropriate action (‘καθῆκον’) in Roman philosophy as ‘officium’ and in modernity as ‘Pflicht’ and ‘duty’. One upshot is that Cicero’s anti-Epicurean polemics shape his transmission of this Stoic notion in such a way that the concept beings to take on the overtly deontological connotations familiar to us today. 

Contemporary Philosophy:

1. Under the auspices of the Inaugural Provost’s Graduate Academic Engagement Fellowship I am conducting collaborative research on the moral hazards of public engagement and the history of philosophical practice. I have also been thinking about the underappreciated connections between recent work on philosophy for children and debates about moral education in normative ethics and philosophy of education.

2. In a paper in progress I defend the existence of a moral duty to adopt, rooted in a  general duty of beneficence, against Williams-style integrity objections. I consider the stringency of the duty from within a variety of ethical frameworks, including consequentialism, deontology, Rossian pluralism, and Christian ethics. 

3. I am collaborating with Scott Weinstein and Brian Reese on a paper centered around Zeno’s Paradox of Measure. In a paper entitled “How can a line segment with extension be composed of extensionless points? From Aristotle to Borel, and Beyond,” we provide a novel exposition of the modern mathematical resolution of Zeno’s paradox. We also show that the modern resolution of the paradox has nothing to do with Cantor’s proof that the linear continuum is uncountably infinite, as is widely believed.