I am a Professor of Philosophy at Ohio State University, where I have taught since 1995. Before that, I did my graduate studies at the University of Michigan (Ph.D. 1995), and my undergraduate studies at Princeton University (BA, 1985).
My research interests include Moral Theory, Metaethics, Moral Psychology, Philosophy of Emotion, and Evolutionary Theory. I have published articles on these topics in various refereed journals including Chicago-Kent Law Review, Ethics, The Journal of Philosophy, Philosophical Studies, Philosophy, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Philosophy of Science, and The Southern Journal of Philosophy, as well as numerous edited volumes and online venues.
Most of my work relates to questions about how various facts about human nature and evolution are relevant to various normative questions about justice, morality and value. My main research project at the moment is the articulation and defense of a sentimentalist theory of value. I aim to publish this in a book, Rational Sentimentalism, co-authored with Daniel Jacobson, which is under contract with Oxford University Press. The book explains an important and under-theorized range of human values, such as funny, shameful, enviable and disgusting. Sentimental values are central to human life, but you wouldn't know it from reading widely in philosophical ethics. That is partly because of their problematic relationship to moral judgments about how we ought to feel. A robustly pluralist conception of value will make room for these values, even though they sometimes compete with moral value and justify emotional responses that it would be morally problematic to have. But this kind of pluralism is the right conception of value for humans. Some things are funny even though it is not nice to be amused by them, and some things are enviable even though a morally ideal person would not be envious.
The book will offer a theory of these 'sentimental value' concepts and their relationship to emotions. On this view these concepts are devices for regulating emotional responses with reasons of a particular kind. Many philosophers have assumed that emotions are passions, and that passions are not susceptible to rational regulation--they are things that happen to us, not expressions of our rational nature. It has also been widely thought that emotions make us care about things out of proportion to their value, and that they lead us to ill-considered actions that are contrary to what it would be rational for us to do. There are grains of truth in those traditional assumptions. But I think they are also importantly mistaken. While emotions are not under voluntary control, they are amenable to some interesting forms of rational supervision. And though they are highly susceptible to evaluative error, they also reveal reasons we humans have that need not be shared by different sort of rational creatures.
Dan and I have also edited a volume of essays on issues at the intersection of ethics and empirical moral psychology, that will be coming out from Oxford this year. It is called Moral Psychology and Human Agency: Philosophical Essays on the Science of Ethics. Look for it in all good bookstores in Autumn 2014, if there are any bookstores left by then. If not, you know what to do.
There are links to some of my papers and my CV through the tabs above. Perhaps some day this webpage will also have some non-professional content. Until then, you must settle for this: the photo above is of me and Bodger. I'm the one wearing glasses.