My primary research is on the moral significance of social practices and institutions. I'm concerned with both highly structured practices like legal systems and informal social norms. I draw from political philosophy to evaluate these practices and draw from moral theory to determine how individuals should act within these practices.
I am currently working on a book project titled “Kantian Conventionalism” that tries to reconcile the moral importance of social contingency with Kantian moral ideals. The first part argues for an analysis of social practices and institutions while the second applies Kantian moral principles to guide individual choice within these practices.
Beyond this, I also have work on issues in contemporary political philosophy and Rawls scholarship. For instance, I have worked on the basic liberties, moral objectivity, public reason, and the nature of social cooperation,
Outside of my core research, I work to support Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) as an intellectual program. I have been involved with five PPE programs and am currently the Assistant Director of PPE at Suffolk.
I am also the editor for the upcoming Routledge Handbook of PPE, which will be published in Spring 2022.
I show where disagreements about what social cooperation is causes problems in contemporary debates and defend one conception of social cooperation as uniquely best. Specifically, I argue that the relevant acts that make society a cooperative venture are acts of institutional rule-following. Society is a cooperative venture because people cooperate with one another by following the rules of our basic institutions.
I identify four challenges to one of Gaus's central argument in The Tyranny of the Ideal, (i) the argument only targets a subset of ideal theories, (ii) Gaus conflates normative and scientific perspectives, (ii) the justificatory framework is not adequately supported, and (iv) the idea of a non-ideal is not useful in contemporary society.
In his version of contractarianism, James Buchanan focuses on what constitutional changes people would agree to if the status quo were the no-agreement point. I argue that this use of the status quo is unjustifiably biased towards the interested of those currently advanced by constitutional rules.
This article fills a gap in in Rawls's argument for the basic liberties. Rawls defends a list of six basic liberties as those that guarantee the conditions necessary for the development and exercise of the two moral powers. This article explains why those specific liberties provide this guarantee.
G.A. Cohen and Seanna Shiffrin have argued that accepting inegalitarian incentives in the labor market is inconsistent with Rawlsian egalitarianism. I argue that the dual commitments to conventionalism and constructivism explain why the Rawlsian view is consistent.
written with Justin Bernstein
Recent arguments by Tomasi and Nickel have used Rawlsian premises to argue for the protection of free-market rights as basic liberties. We substantiate the possible arguments for this view and show why each fails to support the conclusion.
Dissertation, University of Pennslyvania
Rawls took the “the basic structure of society” as the first subject of justice. In this dissertation, I explain both what the basic structure of society is and why it is an appropriate subject in moral theory. As the set of institutions that specify our claims as members of society, the basic structure has a profound influence on the content of ethical life; shaping our values, virtues, relationships, and obligations.
Supervisor: Samuel Freeman
Committee: Kok-Chor Tan, Elisabeth Camp, and Waheed Hussain
It is common for people to understand the basic structure of society as the set of coercively imposed rules or as the rules that have profound impact on life. I argue against both views and defend the idea that the basic structure is the system of social practices that specify our rights as members of society.
Journal of Moral Philosophy, forthcoming
One problem with dominant conventionalist theories is that they do not adequately justify conventional moral claims. As a remedy, this article develops and defends the Principle of Legitimate Expectations. Suggested by Rawls, this principle grants individuals a moral claim to what the rules of a morally justified practice entitles them.
Develops remarks that Rawls wrote in a letter to HLA Hart about his views on moral objectivity. I argue that objectivity is constituted by conceptions that would be shared in wide reflective equilibrium, and more specific principles are constructed from those conceptions.
I argue that politicians can be justified in lying about their own views on policy (though not justified in lying about information that supports a view) because the practice of politics is constituted by rules that permit lying and supporters expect politicians to act within the rules to try and win.
The dominant conventionalist view explains the wrong of breaking a promise as failing to do our fair share in supporting the practice of promise-keeping. Yet, this account fails to explain any unique moral standing that a promisee has to demand that the promisor keep the promise. In this paper, I provide a conventionalist response to this problem by defending the moral significance of legitimate expectations
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The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
- A comprehensive handbook to introduce research programs within the interdisciplinary field of PPE. Different authors discuss models of choice, economic systems, democracy, distributive justice, markets, and policy evaluation.
- The book constructs on argument in favor of conventional rights and obligations on the basis of Kantian moral ideals. In this way, it justifies contingency in morality from a non-contingent foundation. I provide an analysis of social practices and institutions, then argue for Kantian principles that combine with practices and institutions to establish moral claims, obligations, responsibilities, and virtues. In this way, the book develops themes from the work of HLA Hart, John Rawls, and Barbara Herman.
[Paper on Public Reason in Rawls]
- In this draft paper, I argue that Rawls actually offers two different models of public reason. One model is appropriate in the well-ordered society, and another is appropriate outside of this ideal. Recognizing these two models helps to overcome frequent misinterpretation of Rawls's later work.
[Paper that identifies when legal changes can wrong a person]
- In the course of policy reform, a person’s legal rights might change. For example, a new zoning law might only permit single-family homes where apartments were previously allowed. Or, a new social security law might change when someone can claim full benefits from age 67 to age 69. In this draft paper, I answer the question, “is the person who loses his or her legal rights wronged by the government in cases like these?” Does the law violate valid moral claims when it takes away what people previously had the legal right to do?
[Paper that differentiates the reasons to follow socia rules]
- This draft article challenges a reductive analysis of social practices by distinguishing five kinds of reason for following the rules of conventional practices. Depending on one’s preferred intellectual tradition, conventional practices enable coordination, facilitate cooperation, constitute activities, fulfill reciprocity, or specify abstract rights. Instead of being rival theories of social practices, I argue that these different models complement one another in a full analysis of social practices
[Paper that defends Hart's theory of social rules]
- In this paper, I defend a version of “practice-positivism" Arthur Applbaum uses this phrase in his book, Ethics for Adversaries, to explain the idea that we can understand the requirements of a social practice without any moral commitments. In this paper, I develop this view and defend it against common criticisms
"International Right and Kant's World Federation" (available by request)
- Completed article arguing that Kant's ideal for international justice is a non-coercive world legislature. I argue that Kant's explicit remarks favor this view, but this seems to conflicts with a common reading of Kant's domestic political philosophy emphasizing the link between government and coercive force. I stoped trying to publish the piece because it seemed impossible to address that larger issue in the space of a single article (because I believe the common reading of Kant is mistaken).
"Legal Obligation and The Value of Choice" (available by request)
- Completed article that defends the Principle of Fair Play (PFP) as the basis for legal obligation. I argue against the view that the PFP only applies when one accepts the benefits of a practice and instead focus on the condition that the practice must be "sufficiently just." Given the value of individual choice, practices that people do not have the option of participating in are not sufficiently just. However, a legal system can be sufficiently just even when people do not have the choice to participate, so the revised PFP can ground legal obligation. I stopped trying to publish the piece because my interests turned elsewhere.
This page briefly describe the work that is not yet published. I do not list the titles of papers that are under review in order to avoid being identified in a google search.
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