Research

Most of my work these days is divided between two main projects:

  • Doing Better: In this book I understand moral development as a process of becoming more virtuous, and I argue that while ideals of virtue can help us clarify different aspects of the nature of virtue, we do not become more virtuous by approximating to ideals. Rather, becoming more virtuous is better understood as a matter of doing what one has to do to respond wisely to the challenges one actually faces, making the best of the resources one has to work with within the limitations one has to accept. Some related publications:

“The Reciprocity of the Virtues,” in Practical Wisdom: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives, edited by M. De Caro and M. S. Vaccarezza (Routledge, 2021)

“Eudaimonia, Virtue, and Ideals,” in Handbook of Virtue Ethics, edited by F. Timmermann (Springer, 2021)

  • Toward a Theory of Self-Ownership: In this book I present self-ownership--like all other forms of ownership--as a social institution for defining who may do what things without obtaining permission from others and who must obtain permission before doing what things, in such a way as to create social conditions that benefit everyone. These relations between persons are the bases of such basic freedoms as the freedom to work and the freedom to own property. Some related publications:

“Self-Ownership as a Form of Ownership,” in The Oxford Handbook of Freedom, edited by D. Schmidtz and C. Pavel (Oxford, 2016)

“Self-Ownership, Labor, and Licensing,” Social Philosophy and Policy 36 (2019), 174-95


There are also a couple of projects that I'm hoping to begin in the next few years:

  • What We Don't Know about Happiness: The current generation of happiness research is often characterized by a high degree of confidence in our understanding of what happiness is, how to measure it, and what those measurements mean for public policy. In this book, I'd hope to explain why I am not as confident about any of those things, and suggest where I think the efforts of the next generation of happiness research would pay off most.

  • Profits: Research suggests that humans are disposed to suspect that for-profit organizations do less good in the world for no other reason than that they are for-profit. In this book, I'd hope to explore the role of profits in human societies, the social practices that are necessary for profit-seeking ventures to be socially beneficial, and the practices that can make it either easier or harder for those ventures to be socially beneficial.