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Overview

My research interests cover a range of topics in moral philosophy. Currently, I am working on two research projects. The first is on the issue of interpersonal aggregation. I explore and defend an individualist, as opposed to aggregative, justification for the moral relevance of numbers. This project has three parts: (1) an articulation of a general, theoretical framework for adjudicating interpersonal tradeoffs based on the ideal of justifiable to each person, (2) an extension of the framework to structurally complex cases that have been widely discussed in the recent literature on partial aggregation, and (3) an exploration of how best to apply an individualist moral framework to tradeoff situations involving risk.

 

My second research project is on the topic of promissory obligations. Two papers under this project are in progress. The first paper investigates the question: Under what conditions and why is a promise to perform an otherwise morally impermissible action nevertheless normatively binding? The second paper argues against the influential and dominant position that promissory obligations are the direct upshots of the exercise of normative powers. A planned, third paper will attempt to provide a new account of the normative basis of promissory obligations, one that is based on the idea that promising as an institution serves our non-normative interests in having an expanded degree of control over what happens in the world by acting through the agencies of others.

Two further projects are in their early stage. The first investigates the distinction between moral and non-moral reasons, and the second seeks to provide a clearer account of relational wronging. 

These projects have an underlying unity to them. I am interested in exploring the suggestion that the central and guiding ideal of interpersonal morality is that of justifiability to each person. This ideal has two non-consequentialist elements. First, the emphasis on justifiability to "each" person implies that the fundamental mode of moral justification is individualist and not aggregative in character. And second, the emphasis on justifiability "to" each person indicates that morality is at base concerned not with what outcomes are brought about, but with how we are to relate to one another as persons. Indeed, promissory obligations are often viewed as paradigm examples of relational obligations. My projects are geared toward gaining a better and deeper understanding of interpersonal morality in relational and nonaggregative terms.

Papers

"Individualist Theories and Interpersonal Aggregation," Ethics. Forthcoming.     [Penultimate Draft]

Abstract: This paper offers a solution to the numbers problem within an individualist moral framework. Its central aims are as follows: to rescue individualist moral theories, such as moral contractualism, from their longstanding problem with interpersonal aggregation; to demonstrate how, proceeding from an individualist mode of justification, we can nevertheless make the numbers count without directly counting the numbers; to provide an individualist rationale for accepting a partially aggregative criterion for resolving interpersonal trade-offs; and finally, to develop an extensionally adequate version of partial aggregation that finds application in structurally complex cases.

Selected to be featured on PEA Soup (Summer 2024)

 

"Promising to Do Wrong" (in preparation for submission).     [Paper Draft]

Abstract: My first aim in this paper is to specify the conditions under which a promise to do an otherwise wrongful action is nevertheless normatively binding. I advance and defend a promisee-centric condition of bindingness, according to which the bindingness of a promise to perform an otherwise wrongful action turns on whether the promisee in particular may permissibly aim at the realization of the promised outcome. My second aim is to provide a deeper rationale for the promisee-centric approach I favor. To do so, I motivate and defend a distinctive conception of the normative relationship between promisors and promisees, one that sees the former as acting as instruments of the latter in realizing the promised outcome.

Some more papers in progress:

 

"Wishful Thinking and Normative Powers" (in progress)

"Chance, Cost, and Complaint" (in progress)

"Grounding Promissory Obligations" (in progress)
 

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