Research

Recent Work

Here is some of my most recent, peer-reviewed work with links to the journal websites where they can be found.  A fuller list of my published work with readable PDFs can be found on my Academia.edu site or at my PhilPeople site.

Refereed Journal Articles

2017

“Dutifully Wishing: Kant’s Re-Evaluation of a Strange Species of Desire.” Kantian Review, Vol. 22, No. 3, pp. 373-394.

Kant uses ‘wish’ as a technical term to denote a strange species of desire. It is an instance in which someone wills an object that she simultaneously knows she cannot bring about. Or in more Kantian garb: it is an instance of the faculty of desire’s (or will’s) failing insofar as a desire (representation) cannot be the cause of the realization of its corresponding object in reality. As a result, Kant originally maintained it to be antithetical to morality, which deals with ‘ought implies can’. However, Kant’s notion of wish is not static. On the contrary, I argue in this article that Kant re-evaluated the capacity to wish as (to some extent) causally efficacious and, further, of moral relevance. This re-evaluation has not been discussed in the literature, yet has been lurking in plain sight in a subtle but decisive shift evident in two versions of a footnote from the Critique of the Power of Judgement.

“Life, Logic, and the Pursuit of Purity: Logically Reconstructing the Transition to Cognition.” Hegel-Studien, 50, pp. 63-95.

In the Science of Logic, Hegel states unequivocally that the category of “life” is a strictly logical, or pure, form of thinking. His treatment of actual life – i.e., that which empirically constitutes nature – arises first in his *Philosophy of Nature* when the logic is applied under the conditions of space and time. Nevertheless, many commentators find Hegel’s development of this category as a purely logical one especially difficult to accept. Indeed, they find this development only comprehensible as long as one simultaneously assumes that Hegel breaks his promise to let the logic do the leading. However, if Hegel were in fact to allow the logical development to be led by biological analogies at this point, problems would ensue. Not only would it contradict his own speculative method, which should secure the necessity of the categories, but it would also endanger the ontological generality of the category of life itself. Beyond undermining his method and the logical integrity of the category, however, I will argue that such a reading makes the transition to the next category of “cognition” unintelligible and problematic. My aim in the first part of this paper is to argue how logical life can be read as a pure category. I then argue in the second part how my reconstruction makes the transition to cognition intelligible without resorting to profane or supernatural interpretations.

 

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Recent and Upcoming Conference Activity

Invited Presentations

2020

“Kant on Perfection from a Metaphysical Point of View,” as part of the Invited Symposium: New Approaches to Kant on Perfection

APA Pacific Division Meeting – April 8-11, San Francisco, California

In this paper, I investigate Kant’s development of a new form of perfection for the possibility of critical metaphysics. Contrary to the notion of quantitative perfection developed by his dogmatic rationalist predecessors (esp. Leibniz, Wolff, and Baumgarten), Kant – I argue – refines the principle of perfection by distinguishing a second notion of it within his transcendental method: namely, a teleological or qualitative perfection. After clarifying the function of the principle of perfection within critical philosophy proper and delineating its two forms, I turn to reconstruct puzzles that possibly motivated Kant’s thinking. One has to do with how we form judgments of the moral best – both in cases of action and in cases of moral valuation. The other has to do with how we judge ends in nature as obtaining partially or completely. I conclude with thoughts as to what we can make of this form of perfection today.

2018

“Husserl’s Theory of Basic Values: A Case Study from Blood Meridian, as part of the Phenomenology and Literature: New Readings in Husserl Conference of the

Organized by the German Departments of Brown University and Johns Hopkins – May 5-6,  Brown University

I begin by exploring some of the basic elements of Husserl’s theory of values from his earlier lectures on a phenomenology of ethics.  In particular, I explore the notion of an “adiaphoron,” which stands for a content in a judgment that is taken as value-neutral.  Inspired by Husserl’s own example of the “savage” and his “fetish” as demonstrative of such a case, I employ a scene from Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian to test the phenomenological reach of Husserl’s argument, namely, the so-called “eldress in the rocks.”

 

Papers Presented (Refereed)

2018

“Morality and Nature’s Hidden Plan,” at the The Freedom of Nature and the Nature of Freedom 

UK Kant Society Annual Conference – September 6-7, Cardiff University

Though Kant importantly distinguishes between ends of nature and ends of freedom, these two domains are never perfectly isolated from each other. By the third Critique the two domains overlap when Kant asserts “the whole of nature is teleologically subordinated” to the highest good. The convergence of these domains, however, occurs much earlier in the development of Kant’s thought in a shift of Kant’s discernment of the teleological, hidden aim of nature. I reconstruct this first convergence between the domains of ends about five years prior to the third Critique. Due to Kant’s developing moral theory, his original views as to the shape of nature’s hidden plan change from merely including morality to prioritizing it: that is, nature’s hidden plan goes from developing humanity as a perfectly rational species to a perfectly moral species. After sketching this evolution, I unpack two philosophical afterthoughts: first, I address one possible interpretive concern about a possible fallacy of equivocation on my part between rational determination and moral determination; and, second, I gesture towards how this tension sews the seeds of future tensions in the nature of the highest good as an end of freedom that should be realizable by us as a species.

 

“Kantian Archetypes and Action,” Colloquium Paper in the Kant session

APA Central Division Meeting  February 21-24, Chicago, Illinois

In the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant states that ideas give us the rule for organizing experience and ideals serve as archetypes or standards against which one can measure copies. Albeit undefined, Kant also states that ideas and ideals can be practical. I offer a reconstruction of how ideas and ideals might be practical in connection to action. However, a skeptical objection remains, namely: if we have a rule for action, what further purpose can an archetype serve? The skeptic finds practical archetypes superfluous to practical reasoning. I offer the preliminary sketches of a reply by pointing out that practical archetypes might serve a function in judging the degree of moral imperfection in our characters and in the state of the world. They do not tell us how to act, but rather give us grounds to be primed for action by pointing out moral work left undone.

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