Friday, March 09, 2007

Research Interests

Some philosophical projects or topics I'd like to pursue further someday...

[N.B. The list is of course non-exhaustive. And I expect I'll develop all sorts of new interests and ideas in my early years of grad school. But here's what immediately springs to mind...]

1) Rational normativity, especially as it relates to:
(a) the foundations of normativity
(b) indirect utilitarianism and the rationality of rule-following
(c) constructing (synthetic?) a priori truth

2) a priori justification more generally

3) Ethical holism more generally, e.g. developing an institutional conception of rights.

4) Deliberative Democracy: in particular, developing the theory from the foundational value of civic respect.

5) Metaphysical holism, especially as it relates to:
(a) ontological deflationism: the fundamental existent is the entire actual world. All other "things" are in some sense derivative, perhaps abstracting from the whole world in various ways.
(b) philosophy of science, or how we understand the links between various "levels of explanation" (cf. microphysical vs. common-sense causal explanations). In particular, by taking the whole as being more fundamentally real than its parts, physical particles may again be seen more as 'abstractions' than as genuinely fundamental 'building blocks'.

6) Units of ethical consideration: what entities most fundamentally matter (or are subject to harms and benefits) -- worlds, communities, persons, or their momentary time-slices?

7) Corporate agents - dues and responsibilities (e.g. cross-generational reparations). Liberal individualism vs. communitarianism.

8) Philosophy of information/media, especially as it relates to:
(a) metaphysics, e.g. what is information? Is it created or discovered?
(b) ethics, e.g. intellectual property issues.

9) Philosophy of law, insofar as it relates to indirect utilitarian or "rule-following" considerations, abstraction and universalizability.

Hmm, perhaps I should look for a dissertation topic at the intersection of value theory and metaphysics? And the various "holisms" are curious -- quite a change in my philosophical dispositions from a couple of years ago!

[Update: more here.]


  1. On indirect utilitarianism, unless you are motivated by mostly pragmatic reasons, the following article is, in my opinion, not a bad argument concerning it. I recall it being not specifically against indirect utilitarianism, but I see no reason, due to its use of analogy, why it cannot be applied to indirect utilitarianism.

    "Global Consequentialism", by Philip Pettit and Michael Smith, in Morality, Rules, and Consequences by Hooker, Mason and Miller (eds.). (also available online through Pettit's Princeton homepage.)

  2. hmm the article has a nice way of putting it.

  3. Hello,

    I think your interests in ethics go well with those of Peter Railton's (and the sympathies have at least a family resemblance). I read a few of his essays in researching a seminar paper last spring (the paper itself proved to be less valauble than the reading, sadly!). He's not a bad person to read on levels of explanation either (some of his early work was concentrated in phil science).


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