My research ranges across normative ethics, the history of philosophy (with a focus on Kant), the philosophy of law, and the philosophy of mind. In recent projects I focus on defending Kant's Formula of Universal Law ("FUL") against the consensus that it is rigid and unworkable. My interpretations connect disparate interpretive literatures: anglophone and Continental European accounts of maxims; interpretations of Kant's work in virtue ethics and criticisms of his early work on permissibility. And they aim to be historically informed, with a focus on Kant's German primary texts.
In the legal context, I am especially interested in justifications of punishment and Constitutional theory. Other projects include analyses of the Supreme Court's death penalty jurisprudence and the Trump administration's family separation policies.
Work in Progress
A Defense of Compassionate Retributivism
Retributivism, the theory of punishment on which punishments are justified if and only if they are deserved, relies on the troubling premise that wrongdoers deserve to suffer. This is often taken to mean that retributivism entails harsh punishments and has little place for compassion. In this paper, I defend retributivism against standard objections and argue that its natural consequences are in fact the opposite. Retributivists ought to advocate for a more compassionate justice system which takes into account the circumstances of criminal behavior and results in lenient punishments.
The Formula of Universal Law and Kant's Virtue Ethics
Kant's Formula of Universal Law is almost universally understood as a permissibility criterion. I argue that this consensus is wrong. FUL serves two purposes: to derive an account of permissibility (by means of the contradiction-in-conception test) and also to derive an account of virtue (by means of the contradiction-in-the-will test). In this paper I explain how Kant's virtue ethics is grounded in FUL. In the process, I illustrate FUL's close similarity to FH, which is the formula generally associated with the virtue ethics.
Maxims and Phantom Puzzles: A Re-Evaluation of Kant's Ethics
This paper aims to lay the groundwork for a new defense of Kant’s substantive views
by providing a better understanding of the maxim. Prevailing interpretations of Kant’s
maxims, I argue, anachronistically overtheorize his use of a simple common-language
term. These interpretive moves in turn suggest misguided objections to Kant’s
substantive views. Read in their proper historical context, Kant’s remarks about
maxims are consistent and plausible. Importantly, a historically informed interpretation
also puts us in a position to reevaluate the Categorical Imperative. Interpreters tend to
adopt a view according to which the C.I. is a procedure for testing a particular action as
it was conceived by its agent. That view is wrong, and it practically invites all the ‘false
positives’ and ‘false negatives’ standardly thought to be decisive counterexamples to
Kant’s account of the distinction between right and wrong. The Categorical Imperative
is, as Kant thought, a viable formula for deriving general duties. And a better
understanding of the maxim can show us why this is so.
Why Time is in Your Mind: Transcendental Idealism and the Reality of Time
Philosophy textbook chapter about the arguments of Kant's First Antinomy
in Philosophical Thought Across Cultures and Throughout the Ages ed. Heather Wilburn (Open Source, forthcoming 2022).
Is Kant the Reason Everybody Hates Moral Philosophy Professors?
Chapter in a series about philosophy in popular TV shows. Discusses Kant's ethics in The Good Place.
in The Good Place and Philosophy, eds. Steven Benko, Andrew Pavelich (Open Court Publishing, Chicago, 2019)