Research

History of Philosophy:

1. The aim of Stoic practical wisdom is to live in agreement with nature. That is the goal, but how does a Stoic get there? That is, how does a Stoic figure out what she ought to do? Deliberative guidance is one of the most fundamental aims of ethical theory, but the deeper we look at core Stoic doctrines—about virtue, selection, value, and appropriate action—the further we seem to get from satisfying this desideratum. In my dissertation I address this problem. By foregrounding issues in Stoic axiology, I offer a novel interpretation of Stoic practical reasoning that links up with all aspects of their philosophy, including their providential and physicalist picture of the world. What emerges is an unparalleled view in the history of ethics that is instructive both for our understanding of ancient eudaimonism and for contemporary debates in ethical theory.

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 ‘duty’. In a work in progress I trace the reception of the Stoic doctrine of appropriate action (‘καθῆκον’) in Roman philosophy as ‘officium’ and in modernity as ‘Pflicht’. 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 Provost’s Graduate Academic Engagement Fellowship I am conducting collaborative research on a cluster of issues related to outreach and public philosophy. First, I think philosophers should theorize more explicitly about the moral hazards of public engagement. Second, I have been thinking about the history of philosophical practice (especially the variety of genres and modes of communication used by philosophers) in order to enrich our understanding of public-facing philosophy. Third, I have been working to systematically connect disparate strands in the literature on philosophy for children, moral education, perfectionist & political brands of liberalism, and service-learning.

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.