Placement Candidates

Michael Barnes

michael barnes profile photoAreas of Specialization: Social & Political Philosophy, Philosophy of Language (esp. speech act theory), Applied
Ethics (esp. Bioethics and Business Ethics)

Areas of Competence: Social Epistemology, Ethics, Feminist Philosophy, Philosophy of Education

Dissertation: Subordinating Speech and the Construction of Social Hierarchies

My main research is on philosophical accounts of subordinating speech—that is, speech acts that establish unjust hierarchies and contribute to oppression. As I approach it, this area sits at the intersection of social & political philosophy and philosophy of language, with healthy doses of ethics, feminist theory, and legal philosophy found there as well. In addition to social philosophy of language, I also work on topics in applied ethics (mainly bioethics and business ethics) and political philosophy.

I defended my dissertation, Subordinating Speech and the Construction of Social Hierarchies, in August 2019. There, I developed a pluralist, structural account of the mechanisms and harms of subordinating speech—which I defined as a broad category, including utterances such as hate speech, propaganda, bigoted slurs, microaggressions, and more. I combined recent work in oppression theory with philosophy of language to argue for a more expansive conception of subordinating speech that more accurately captures the lived realities of this problem. I developed a novel conception of speaker authority—that is, the conditions that enable certain speakers to perform specific speech acts—taking it to be a richly contextual social fact, as well as an account of collective authority that explains how a group of speakers can join together to subordinate in a way that no individual speaker is capable of doing. My dissertation was supervised by Rebecca Kukla, with Alisa Carse, Madison Powers, and Lynne Tirrell on my committee.

I have published articles in Social Theory and Practice and Ethics and Economics, and I am contributing a chapter to the upcoming anthology The Movement for Black Lives: Philosophical Perspectives (Oxford University Press).

My current research expands on my dissertation and has shifted to focus on hate as it occurs online. The horrific murders in Québec City and Christchurch (and many more cases) offer clear proof of the grave importance of addressing the worrying trend of online hate spilling into the ‘real’ world. We are quickly coming to understand that “self-radicalization” is a growing problem that demands our attention. I began some of this research in my dissertation, where I examined online abuse as a revealing type of subordinating speech, and I intend to make this—along with other ethical issues raised by emerging technologies like AI, machine learning, and massive data collection—my focus going forward.

At Georgetown I designed and taught several undergraduate philosophy courses in a variety of subject areas. These include Bioethics, Intro to Philosophy, Ethics of Speech, Philosophy of Education, and others. I worked for the Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal and served as both its Book Review Editor (Sept. 2014–Aug. 2017) and the Managing Editor of the (Aug. 2017–2019). I continue to work for the KIEJ as its copyeditor since returning to Toronto, where I am also an Instructional Assistant at Ryerson University.

paul cudney profile picPaul Cudney

Areas of Specialization: Moral Psychology, Philosophy of Mind

Areas of Concentration: Ethics, Bioethics, Philosophy of Language, Wittgenstein

Dissertation: A Propositional Attitude Approach to Emotions

I am primarily interested in moral judgment. In my dissertation, directed by Nancy Sherman, I explain how one can develop a propositional attitude account of emotions. If emotions are propositional attitudes, then they are poised to play a role in moral judgment because propositional attitudes bear inferential connections to facts and other mental states. If I feel guilty about my behavior and the content of that state is that I have failed to live up to my moral obligations, then the guilt: can be an appropriate response to the fact that I behaved badly, can support the belief that I have behaved badly, and can support the desire to behave differently in the future and/or the desire to redress the harm I caused.

Despite the benefits of the propositional attitude view, theorists have been wary of endorsing it. Three main difficulties have caused theorists to be wary of the view. First, theorists worry that if emotions have propositional content, then organisms without linguistic capacities, such as beasts and babies, cannot have emotions. Second, the phenomenological properties of emotions are critical aspects of these mental states. Many worry, however, that this is false of
propositional attitudes. Third, some claim that proponents of propositional attitude views fail to consider the empirical data coming from the cognitive sciences. I argue that none of these worries are well-motivated and provide a schema for a view that avoids them.

I also concentrate on issues in bioethics. In my paper, “What really separates casuistry from principlism in biomedical ethics” I argue that casuistry and principlism are not substantially distinct moral methodologies. There are metaethical differences between the two views, such as their respective accounts of the semantics of moral principles, but these differences do not affect how casuists and principlists handle cases.

I have designed and taught ten courses: Critical Thinking, Beginning Logic, Introduction to Logic, Introduction to Philosophy, Introduction to Ethics, Moral Epistemology, Bioethics, Emotions, Philosophy of Language, and Philosophy of Mind.

megan dean profile photoMegan A. Dean

Areas of Specialization: Bioethics, Feminist Philosophy, Science and Values

Areas of Competence: Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Food, Phenomenology, Foucault, Fat Studies

Dissertation: Eating, Agency, and Healthism

My research focuses on ethical issues relating to eating. In my work, I argue that the ways we practice and understand eating shape important parts of ourselves, including agency, capacities, and self-understandings. This “self-shaping” feature of eating is un- or under-acknowledged in most conversations about food ethics. My research aims to articulate how eating shapes the self and to identify the ethical implications of these self-shaping effects for clinical ethics, diet research, food policy, and personal food choice. I draw on a range of philosophical traditions, including phenomenology, bioethics, philosophy of science, and feminist philosophy, as well as interdisciplinary work on food and eating.

I defended my dissertation, Eating, Agency, and Healthism, in April 2019. There, I offer an account of eating as a self-shaping activity. To develop this account, I analyze and critique the view that good eating is healthy eating and good eaters eat for health above all else. Current bioethical critiques of such ‘healthism’ do not account for the self-shaping effects of eating and so lack a complete analysis of the ethical and epistemic impacts of healthism. Through an extended critique of diet research on eating disorders and vegetarianism, I show how understanding eating as a self-shaping activity helps us make ethically-informed choices about how to characterize eating. This work draws attention to overlooked aspects of the ethical importance of eating, and develops conceptual tools for analyzing the effects of eating on the self that can be deployed in a variety of contexts including food ethics, clinical ethics, diet research, and public conversations about eating. My dissertation was supervised by Rebecca Kukla.

My current research expands and extends the themes of my dissertation. I am working on a defense of “mindless eating,” and pursuing interdisciplinary work including a paper on the clinical ethics of covert drugging in food, co-authored with clinical ethicist and philosopher Laura Guidry-Grimes and philosopher Elizabeth Victor. My research has appeared in various journals including Feminist Philosophy Quarterly and the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry.

I have taught Bioethics, Bioethics and Disability, Philosophy of Science, and Philosophy of the Body. I am prepared to teach courses in Feminist Philosophy, 20th-century Continental Philosophy, Philosophy of Food, and on topics relating to the body, including Fat Studies. My teaching is grounded in my commitment to recognizing and supporting diversity in the classroom and in the profession.

Benjamin profile photoBenjamin Elzinga

Areas of Specialization: Epistemology, Autonomy and Free Will, Philosophy of Mind

Areas of Competence: Philosophy of Language, Kantian Philosophy, German Idealism, Feminist Epistemology

                                                        Dissertation: Get Good: Self-regulation, Education and Epistemic Agency

In my dissertation, advised by Bryce Huebner, I defend a unified account of knowledge and use it to articulate and resolve a number of problems in social epistemology. I argue that to know how to Φ is to have a self-regulated ability to live up to the norms that govern Φ-ing, and I argue that propositional knowledge is success through cognitive know how. I next address the kinds of social relations that sustain or undermine good epistemic practice. First, I focus on the problem of hermeneutical injustice, which occurs when members of a social group are unjustly prevented from developing or spreading new conceptual skills for making sense of the world. Second, I explore the empirical literature on what’s known as the Dunning-Kruger effect, which explains the tendency of unskilled individuals to over-estimate their abilities, to describe a novel form of skepticism. If you lack the conceptual skills to make sense of some feature of the world, that very lack can, to some extent, prevent you from recognizing your ignorance. In response to both, I develop a theory of educational practices. I argue that we develop new conceptual skills and come to recognize gaps in our epistemic resources by coming together in joint practices of self-regulation.

Currently I’m working on two articles. First, using my work on conceptual skills and the concept of “epistemic echo chambers”, I develop and address a novel, practical form of skepticism. In the second, use my work on educational theory to develop a specifically non-testimonial form of epistemic dependence involved in teaching and argue that we depend on each other much more deeply than epistemologists currently recognize. 

I have taught Introduction to Philosophy, Logic, Epistemology, Philosophy of Language, Free Will and Philosophy of Mind. I am prepared to teach topics in Philosophy of Science, philosophy of education and Kantian and Post-Kantian Philosophy.

colin hickey profile photoColin Hickey

Areas of Specialization: Ethics and Political Philosophy (with a focus on climate ethics, global justice, bioethics, and methodology)    

Areas of Competence: Classical Chinese Philosophy, Buddhist Philosophy, Moral Psychology

Dissertation: “Global Climate Justice and Individual Duties”

In my dissertation, I developed an account of the morality of climate change that unifies both collective and individual levels of inquiry. The account aims at the creation of adequate collective institutions of justice with responsibility for mitigating climate change, explains responsibility for realizing that aim when such institutions do not yet exist, and informs what such institutions should look like and how they should fairly distribute duties downward to individuals. My work on climate change extends to a range of current projects on individual duties and the social cost of carbon, demandingness, climate representation, and climate activism, as well as an ongoing project on climate ethics and population policy.

I am working on a number of broader projects in political philosophy, including on methodologies for doing non-ideal political philosophy, questions about the agents responsible for realizing justice, and the foundations of egalitarian theorizing. I am also doing some work on issues in moral psychology about moral education/improvement and blame/holding responsible.

I have taught Intro to Ethics, Bioethics, Environmental Ethics, Global Justice, Moral Psychology, Ethics and Technology, Activism and Resistance, as well as courses on Classical Chinese and Buddhist Philosophy. Among others, I am also prepared to teach Philosophy of Law and Feminist Philosophy.

matthew shields profile photoMatthew Shields

Areas of Specialization: Philosophy of Language, Epistemology

Areas of Competence: 20th-century post-Kantian European Philosophy; Feminist Philosophy; Pragmatism; Jewish Philosophy; Philosophy of Social Science

Dissertation: The Pragmatics and Epistemology of Conceptual Disagreement

In my research I aim to understand what speakers are doing when they articulate or defend a certain understanding of a concept or term. My dissertation, advised by Mark Lance and defended in May 2019, addresses the following puzzle: can speakers rationally resolve disagreements about concepts that play a fundamental role in how they make sense of the world? I aim to solve this puzzle by giving an account of what speakers are doing when they defend or articulate an understanding of a concept – what kind of speech act they are performing. I argue that speakers are carrying out acts of stipulation, a speech act to which philosophers and linguists have paid little attention. On my account, to stipulate something is to say that it will be useful to inferentially entitle all relevant speakers to the content of that stipulation. Acts of stipulation are therefore ends-directed. I then apply this account to cases where speakers argue over how to understand a particular concept. I interpret these speakers as stipulating their preferred understanding of the concept. This application of my account shows that, while we may lack theoretical reasons in certain cases of conceptual disagreement, we will always have access to practical reasons for resolving such disagreements because we are engaging in stipulative acts. The epistemological worries prompted by conceptual disagreements are, in turn, defused

I also consider questions of conceptual disagreement and change from the perspective of the pragmatist and 20th-century post-Kantian European traditions, where I have papers in progress on Hannah Arendt, Martin Heidegger, and Richard Rorty’s treatment of these questions. In feminist philosophy, I apply my views in speech act theory and metasemantics to recent work on theorizing and changing oppressive social structures. In Jewish philosophy, I apply these views to ongoing debates within the Jewish community over group membership and identity.

I have designed and taught courses on the philosophy of language, epistemology, introductory logic for majors and non-majors, Jewish philosophy, feminist philosophy, and introductory courses. In my teaching, I work to create a welcoming environment for all students and strive for diversity of thought and representation in my course materials. 

For the 2019-2020 AY, Matthew will be a Lecturer at University of Colorado Boulder.

Katherine Ward profile photoKatherine Ward

Areas of Specialization: Phenomenology, Feminist Epistemology

Areas of Competence: 20th-century Continental Philosophy, Ethics, Political Philosophy

Dissertation: Standpoint Phenomenology

The task of phenomenology is to make explicit the conditions of experience by examining experience itself. My research furthers this phenomenological project by 1) updating the phenomenological methodology to more accurately lift out the shared conditions of experience, and 2) applying phenomenological insights to contemporary debates in epistemology, ethics, and political philosophy.

My dissertation focuses on the first of these. In it, I draw on feminist epistemology to develop a new phenomenological methodology that I call standpoint phenomenology. While traditional phenomenological methods strip away what is specific or idiosyncratic in a given first-person experience to reveal the shared, general conditions underlying that experience, I argue that there is value in deploying a methodology that emphasizes not the general or universal aspects of experiences, but those that are specific to certain social groups. Experiential diversity is important for both developing new phenomenological insights and revising the phenomenological project generally.

My work going forward focuses on applying phenomenological insights to problems in epistemology and ethics. I’m currently working on a paper that applies Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of perception to the debate on epistemic permissivism—the view that two agents with differing epistemic responses to the same body of evidence might both be rational. My next long-term project examines the role “communicative blame” and “moral justice forgiveness” play in reshaping the moral norms of a community. I connect these practices to what Heidegger calls the "basic structure" of the logos—the meaning that emerges as a result of everyday activities and situations.

I have taught Phenomenology, Feminist Philosophy, Theory of Knowledge, Existentialism, Political Philosophy, Bioethics, Aesthetics, Logic, and Critical Thinking. I am prepared to teach courses in 20th-century Continental Philosophy and on topics in Ethics.