I'm happy to provide drafts of these papers upon request!
A list of my research presentations can be found on my CV.
A list of my research presentations can be found on my CV.
Papers in Ethics and Philosophy of Action
In this paper, I consider whether an agent can have integrity only if she is willing to die for her commitments. I argue that an agent who violates the requirements of her core commitments suffers a practical death: a severe fracture of her agency characterized by psychological crisis, diminished capacity for instrumental reasoning, and undermined autonomy. I begin the paper with an account of an agent’s core commitments as the commitments that factor most centrally in her self-conception. Next, I provide an account of integrity as the state of living up to the requirements of one’s core commitments, whatever those commitments may be. Finally, I draw on literary and real-life examples to show that agents who compromise their core commitments cease to be integrated and suffer a practical death. However, I conclude by offering some considerations for the possibility of integrity despite the threat of practical death.
This paper explores a phenomenon where, after a period of turmoil or depression, people often express a desire for a "fresh start" or "clean slate." I draw from literature and memoir to show that this desire tends to stem from two places: a dissatisfaction with or confusion about either (1) aspects of one’s identity or ground projects or (2) aspects of one’s environment that prevent one from fully realizing one’s identity or ground projects. Next, I consider some common features of experiences of starting over—changing one’s environment, embarking on a journey, severing ties with people one knows, and meeting new people—and provide an account of why people find experiences with these features to be therapeutic. Finally, I consider how opportunities to start anew and shed "undesirable" aspects of one’s life and identity are reserved for the privileged, and how this affects the morality of starting anew. Taking Paul Gauguin’s abandonment of his family to paint in Tahiti as a central case, I argue that the idea of starting anew ought not be imbued with the kind of romanticism that it often is.
Resolutions as Promises to Oneself
This paper argues that resolutions are reason-giving: when an agent resolves to ϕ, she incurs an additional promissory reason to ϕ over and above the reasons that led her to ϕ in the first place. I begin by offering two arguments for thinking that resolutions are promises. First, resolutions play the same role in our intrapersonal lives that promises play in our interpersonal lives. Second, all plausible, popular accounts of promises—the expectation, normative power, and authority interest views—are also plausible accounts of resolutions for exactly the same reasons. I conclude by addressing a bootstrapping objection to my view: if resolutions are reason-giving, then we can problematically bootstrap any action into rationality simply by resolving to do it. If I am right that the reasons resolutions give us are promissory reasons, then the bootstrapping objection has no bite.
Can Consent Be Irrevocable?
Morally valid consent is consent that succeeds in generating a moral permission. Some widely accepted conditions for morally valid consent include that it be informed and that it be uncoerced. In this paper, I propose that another condition for morally valid consent is that it be revocable. In other words, I argue that irrevocable consent—consent we try to give when we say, "I give you consent to do X to me at this later time, no matter what I say later"—is never morally valid. I offer two arguments in favor of this conclusion. On the argument from informed consent, irrevocable consent is never morally valid because it can never be sufficiently informed. I show why we should be skeptical about this argument, and turn instead to the argument from authority, on which irrevocable consent can never be morally valid because we do not have the diachronic authority to strip our future selves of the ability to revoke consent. On my view, when one's consent amounts to illicitly binding oneself to a future course of action, that consent fails to generate a moral permission.
Procrastination, Perfectionism, and the Importance of Satisficing
This paper examines a form of procrastination that is not characterized by a failure to take steps toward one's goals, but by a tendency to take too many steps toward one's goals. Picture, for instance, an academic who convinces herself that she needs to read all the relevant background material and discuss her idea with every single one of her colleagues before she can begin writing a research paper. In this paper, I show how the "overactive" procrastinator's failure to see her resolutions through differs from the idle procrastinator's. I argue that perfectionism is the main psychological mechanism motivating overactive procrastination, and explain what this entails for self-management and practical wisdom more generally. Specifically, I argue that practical wisdom requires us to satisfice; that is, to accept suboptimal outcomes.
Papers in Aesthetics
Counterfactual Reasoning in Art Criticism
When we evaluate artworks, we often consider hypothetical variations of those works in order to make judgments of the works as they actually are. We might, for instance, say of Kara Walker’s enormous sugar sphinx A Subtlety, “The effect of the sculpture would completely change if it were made out of clay, plaster, or even some other edible substance like chocolate, rather than granulated sugar.” Call this counterfactual reasoning in art criticism. I argue that counterfactual claims about artworks involve a special kind of comparative judgment between actual works and hypothetical works, where the hypothetical works are just like the actual ones in some but not all respects. By positing counterfactual counterparts to actual artworks and being clear about what features of the work we are holding ﬁxed and which we are altering, we can bolster our explanations of how actual artworks achieve certain aesthetic effects. Because counterfactual reasoning in art criticism involves aesthetic judgments about hypothetical artworks one has not actually perceived, it puts pressure on the acquaintance principle: a longstanding tenet in aesthetics on which aesthetic judgments must be made on the basis of a perceptual encounter with its object. I argue that accepting the validity of counterfactual reasoning in art criticism requires amending the acquaintance principle.
Art is frequently accused of being pretentious. In this paper, I argue that the art community should ﬁnd this troubling. My argument rests on an interpretation of pretentiousness that emphasizes accessibility rather than pretense. On my view, pretentiousness involves a lack of concern for making one’s work or activity accessible to others. Thinking about pretentiousness in terms of accessibility explains why it is morally objectionable: pretentiousness is exclusionary, a mechanism used by an "initiated" group (in this case, members of the art community) to hoard the valuable experiences and insights afforded by artworks. When members of an initiated group are pretentious, they create barriers that prevent outsiders (in this case, the general public) from enjoying the value of their activity. I argue that members of the art community ought to do what they can to make art more accessible, but making art accessible does not amount to making art easy. Instead, I argue that it requires helping the public become better positioned and empowered to engage artworks, whatever the difﬁculty of those works. Making art less pretentious will thus involve improving aesthetic education, removing the social and ﬁnancial barriers preventing the public from reaching artworks, and making the art community more welcoming to outsiders.
Architects as Public Artists
In this paper, I argue that public art is governed by moral and aesthetic norms that "private" art is not. I use architecture as a case study. Specifically, I argue that the publicness of architecture subjects architects to two conflicting duties. On one hand, architects have a duty to design with artistic integrity—a duty to satisfy their own artistic interests rather than pandering to an audience—that arises in virtue of their status and self-identification as artists. On the other, architects have a duty to design for public taste, which arises from their works' existence in the public domain. These duties are at odds because professional and public taste tend to oppose one another, with professionals favoring difficult, intellectualized art and the public preferring familiar, accessible art. On my view, architecture is normatively distinct from private art forms because architects have an overarching second-order duty to reconcile their competing first-order duties of artistic integrity and of designing for public taste, while private artists encounter no such conflict in their practice. I propose that in order to reconcile these duties, architects must design bilaterally rather than parochially; that is, architects must design buildings that appeal to both the public and to art professionals, rather than to one audience or the other.