I am a PhD candidate in Philosophy at Princeton University. Previously, I was at Yale Law School, where I completed a JD, and before that I was at Trinity College, Cambridge, where I earned an MPhil in Philosophy. My BA, which was also at Princeton, was in Economics and Applied Mathematics. You can view my CV here and a detailed dissertation summary here.
Legal Philosophy and Applied Ethics:
My primary research concerns the intersection of ethics, legal philosophy, and metaphysics. I study legal and moral norms—their nature and normative import. I am especially interested in the way conventions shape the content and significance of legal and moral norms. The main paper to come out of this project, "Juridical Norms at the Edge of Legality," argues that the conventional character of legal norms entails a surprising fact about the force of law for judges. Judges have little to no legal obligation to follow a rule or norm based on its legality when its legality, though genuine, is sufficiently uncertain. Another paper in this project, "Legal vs. Factual Normative Questions," forthcoming in the Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics, & Public Policy argues that the distinction between moral norms that are convention-dependent and those that are convention-independent entails a difference in how judges should treat moral questions that arise under the law. A third paper, coauthored with Erin Miller and forthcoming in the American Journal of Criminal Law, offers an account of what it means for judges to follow a rule out of a sense of legal (rather than moral) obligation emphasizing law's distinctive conventionality. We use this account of legally motivated decision-making to argue that whenever the law explicitly demands moral reflection from judges, as in the evaluation of mitigating evidence during criminal sentencing, legally motivated decision-making violates the law.
In previously published work in this area, I have explored the ethics of legal incentives ("Why Motives Matter"), and criticized the influence of folk metaphysics in criminal law ("How Folk Beliefs about Free Will Influence Sentencing").
Metaethics & General Metaphysics:
A second research project lies in metaethics & general metaphysics. I am interested in the prospects of quasi-realistic expressivism in ethics, and am working on an original version of the view. The primary paper in this area, "The Hard Problem of Supervenience," argues that the conceptual truth that the normative supervenes on the non-normative has been misunderstood, resulting in sham or incomplete explanations of the phenomenon. Normative supervenience, properly understood, poses a significant explanatory challenge even for expressivists. A second paper, published in Philosophical Studies, "How to be Impartial as a Subjectivist," defends expressivism and related views from an objection of David Enoch's: namely that expressivism makes it impossible to be impartial while standing one's ground in moral disagreements. I disarm Enoch's objection with an original account of what impartiality consists in. A third paper, "On Ground as a Guide to Realism," forthcoming in Ratio, explores what distinguishes full-blooded realists from quasi-realists about ethical features. I raise problems for Kit Fine’s criterion for realism, which distinguishes "real" features by assigning them a distinctive explanatory role. I argue that Fine's approach, which has proven influential in metaethics, presupposes a false principle of explanation. The distinction should be cashed out in terms of the natures or essences of the relevant entities not their role in explanation.
- On Ground as a Guide to Realism. Ratio (forthcoming).
- Legal vs. Factual Normative Questions. Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics, & Public Policy (forthcoming, 2018).
- What Constitutes Moral Consideration of Mitigating Evidence? (with Erin Miller) American Journal of Criminal law (forthcoming).
- How to Be Impartial as a Subjectivist. Philosophical Studies (2016) 173:757–779.
- Why Motives Matter. Yale Law Journal (2014) 123:1070–1116
- How Folk Beliefs about Free Will Influence Sentencing. New Criminal Law Review (2013) 16:449–493.
Work in Progress:
- Juridical Norms at the Edge of Legality (under review)
- The Hard Problem of Supervenience (under review)
- The Essential Difference between Non-Naturalism and Quasi-Realism
- Unreasonable Search & Seizure
- The Hard Problem of Easy Ontology
- A Puzzle about the Fair Distribution of Tax Burdens
- What Follows from the Rational Determination of Legal Facts?
If you would like to watch a video recording of a lecture I gave for an introductory course in Metaphysics & Epistemology at Princeton University, as an example of my teaching, you can watch the video here.
If you're interested in my teaching evaluations, click here. The evaluations are for an upper-division bioethics course I taught at NJIT, and courses I precepted at Yale: Introduction to Ethics and Death. The downloadable file includes all the comments and feedback I received from students. It is not a curated list of greatest hits.
- 1. New Jersey Institute of Technology
- Bioethics (Spring 2015) (visiting instructor; responsible for all elements of course design and teaching)
- 2. Princeton University
- Normative Ethics (Fall 2015, for Johann Frick; lecture on moral luck)
- Introduction to Metaphysics & Epistemology (Fall 2017, for Gideon Rosen; lecture on arguments from design)
- Explaining Values (Fall 2017, for Michael Smith; lecture on resisting Humeanism about reasons)
- 3. Yale University
- Death (Fall 2012, for Shelly Kagan; assistant in instruction)
- Introduction to Ethics (Spring 2013, for Shelly Kagan; assistant in instruction)
- 4. University of Cambridge
- Formal Logic, Part 1A (Michaelmas term, 2010; co-taught with Tim Button)