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.
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 explores how experiences of ourselves as embodied—as queer, fat, fragile, or even “normal”—are formed, maintained, and transformed, and the effects of these experiences on us as moral and epistemic agents. My current work explores experiences of ourselves as good or bad eaters.
My dissertation, Eating, Agency, and Healthism, supervised by Rebecca Kukla, offers a new account of eating as a self-shaping activity: how we understand and practice eating shape not only our experiences as eaters, but our agency, affects, capacities, values, and other important aspects of the self. 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 the link between eating disorders and vegetarianism, I show that healthist assumptions and ignoring the self-shaping effects of eating can distort scientific research and clinical practice on eating. This work draws attention to the ethical and epistemic importance of eating itself, and develops conceptual tools for analyzing the effects of eating that can be put to use in food ethics, bioethics, diet research, and public conversations about how we should eat. My dissertation is supported by fellowships from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Mellon Sawyer Foundation, and Georgetown University.
My other ongoing projects critique conceptions of eating in various arenas of diet research, food ethics, clinical practice, and public debate. I am currently working on papers engaging popular and psychological understandings of “mindless eating,” the account of eating implicit in public health food interventions, and a coauthored paper on the clinical ethics of covert drugging in food. My next major project will engage with accounts of good and bad eating in the context of climate change.
I have taught Bioethics and Philosophy of Science, and am prepared to teach courses in Feminist Philosophy, 19th and 20th century Continental Philosophy, Philosophy of Food, and on topics relating to the body, such as Fat Studies and disability. My teaching is grounded in my commitment to recognizing and supporting diversity in the classroom and in the profession.
Areas of Specialization: Meta-Ethics, Normative Ethics, and Applied Ethics (esp. Bioethics and Environmental Ethics)
Areas of Concentration: Social and Political Philosophy, Philosophy of Law, Modern Philosophy, Philosophy of Mind
Dissertation: On Moral Reasons to Parent One’s Infant Children
My research is in normative philosophy and related areas, with a particular focus on problems that range across multiple levels of ethical inquiry. My dissertation, advised by Margaret O. Little, develops a new account of procreators’ moral responsibility to care for their progeny. On my view, procreators’ parental obligations are located in the harm their progeny would suffer by being created and then inadequately cared for. Despite being intuitive, this harm-based account faces two significant challenges. First, how could merely creating someone harm her, since harm seems to require making the sufferer worse off than she otherwise would have been? Second, why must procreators provide further aid to their progeny, given that creation itself usually imparts the expected benefit of a life well worth living? I solve these problems by arguing, first, that agents have moral reasons to keep others from suffering noncomparative harms—states that are intrinsically bad for someone but not necessarily worse than any available alternative. Second, I argue that benefiting a moral patient can never fully justify thwarting her potential for autonomous choice, since she could not possibly consent to such a harm. On my account, then, procreators have strong moral reasons to ensure their progeny develop their autonomous capacities, lest they be unjustifiably harmed by being created.
I also have an active research program on procreative rights and environmental ethics, in which I defend population control as a policy tool for addressing environmental problems. A paper on this topic by my co-authors and me was recently featured in a piece on NPR. In the future, I will pursue further research on the nature of special moral reasons and on the moral authority of social conventions.
I have taught Introduction to Ethics, Bioethics, Ethics and Children, and Free Will. I am also prepared to teach Introduction to Philosophy, Logic, Environmental Ethics, Political Philosophy, Modern Philosophy, and Philosophy of Law, among other courses.
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.
Dissertation: The Language of Emotion
My research examines the nature and norms of emotional expression.
In my dissertation, which I defended in January of 2016, I developed an analysis of emotional expression and then used it to rule out various theses in the philosophy of language. On my view, behaviors express emotions by enabling the perception of them. Thus, a smile is an expression of joy because observers who see this smile can see joy, and a snarl is an expression of anger because observers who hear this snarl can hear anger. I then argued that emotional expressions play a critical role in the structuring normative space—by instituting, enforcing, and challenging social and moral norms within groups.
I have since expanded upon this project by developing a theory of "emotional agency," or the ability to manage one's emotions and expressions in accordance with social norms. I argue that emotional agency is vital to moral development, and I examine the ways in which people can be wronged in their capacity as emotional agents.
In addition to teaching Introduction to Philosophy and Introduction to Ethics, I have taught Bioethics, Logic, Critical Thinking, Moral Psychology, Philosophy of Language, Philosophy of Emotion, and Plato. I am also prepared to teach topics in the Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Science, and 19th-20th century German and American Philosophy.
Areas of Specialization: Philosophy of Language, Epistemology
Areas of Competence: 20th-century Continental 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 disagree over how to understand concepts. In my dissertation, advised by Mark Lance, I address the following puzzle: can speakers rationally resolve disagreements about concepts that play a fundamental role in how they make sense of the world? I 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 Continental 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, and Jewish philosophy. I am prepared to teach in all my areas of competence, among other 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.