Placement Candidates

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Paul 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.

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Benjamin 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.

Trip Glazer                                

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.

Matt Shields

Matthew Shields

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.

Katherine Ward 2

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.