I am working on a monograph on Hegel's philosophy of mind. This work explores features of Hegel's thought that I take to carry significant worth for a range of persistent challenges. I focus in particular on his notion of the unity of the mind, answers to radical skepticism, the hylomorphism of matter and form in thought and action, and the nature of inner growth and necessity of developmental kinds. I read Hegel as rejecting system ontology, and instead as weaving a path from Aristotle's ethics and metaphysics to Kant's theoretical philosophy. Of particular interest to me is the manner in which Hegel tries to ground the necessity of empirical investigation for judgments that (in Kant's terms) carry universal validity, while also grounding claims to necessity despite the presence and significance (on his view) of experiential formation and contingency. In short, I see Hegel's philosophy of mind as contributing insights into questions of unity that open discussion and ground diverse methods against sometimes reductive or dogmatic traditions in both the history of philosophy and in contemporary debates.
Within the philosophy of mind, I am also working on the aesthetic role of the imagination in the formation of representations adequate to a given rule or concept. I am also interested in the role of habituation of the mind in art, ethics, and discrete forms of critical thinking for the cultivation of the capacities of the mind, including dispositions and characteristic traits. Toward this end, I am interested in a broadening of approaches to contemporary virtue epistemology. I am working on an article here that draws on elements of a recent publication on the epistemic role of the category of art in Hegel's philosophy of mind (Journal of the History of Philosophy, 2023).
Within aesthetics I have recently published several articles on the epistemic role of art, as well as on possible reasons for thinking that a certain kind of value in the experience of certain kinds of artworks necessitates treating them as ends in themselves. I am particularly interested in the axiological worth of art that might be described as a secondary good and attendant on aesthetic experience and dependent on aesthetic conditions. I am also interested in the basis on which artworks might be understood as organic wholes with an internally purposive relation between the material parts and the unifying form. My work in aesthetics engages a range of historical and contemporary traditions.
I am nearing completion of a second monograph on contemporary issues in philosophy and literature that engages substantially with the work of Martha Nussbaum's Love's Knowledge, particularly its significances for ethics and knowledge. In this work, I take up the secondary value that literary art holds for the formation of character and the mind, but argue that to treat art as a means to such ends undermines those very ends.
I am interested in comparative ethics and the basis for holding a deontic notion of synthetic a priori moral principles as compatible with a naturalist form of ethics in the tradition of Philippa Foot. I am also interested in central questions and challenges within philosophy of action. The philosophy of Gertrude Anscombe, Donald Davidson, Christine Korsgaard, and Charles Taylor have played a large role in defining contemporary action theory. Their philosophy of action has strong roots in the philosophy of mind and ethics of Aristotle, Kant, and Hegel. I am interested in tracing a specific thread in the philosophy of action from its roots in Aristotle and Kant through Hegel. In particular, I am interested in what Hegel (and Charles Taylor after him) add to the contemporary discourse, through such things as Hegel’s concept of action as the actualization of rational freedom. For Hegel, an action is an action by degrees, since rational freedom is not a state, but following Aristotle, is an activity. I am interested in considering more fully how intentional movement might be thought of as more or less fully “action”. Since rational freedom for Hegel is distinct from arbitrary choice or non-rational intention, an action is for him the actualization of rational freedom and it is this by degrees. This notion suggests that the standard for action becomes on the one hand more qualitatively restrictive, yet on the other hand more broadly applicable, such as to non-human individuals like educational or social institution or the state. I'm interested in asking what consequences such a concept of action has for moral and rational culpability, responsibility, and identity. Are reasons mere rationalizations, or causes of action, or are actions actualizations of reason itself?
Broadly, I am interested in skeptically adequate meta-ethical grounds to ethics. To this end, I am interested in how utilitarianism, virtue ethics, deontic or a priori ethics, naturalist ethics get their start. So, my work in ethics is often drawn to a comparative approach to Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, Mill, Nietzsche, Anscombe, Foot, Nussbaum, and MacIntyre.
I am currently co-writing an article on Cassirer and Hegel that offers, on the one hand, reason for seeing greater interpretive commonality between Hegel and the Marburg Neo-Kantian account of the thing-in-itself as an empty epistemic limit, the relation of forms of the mind and the relationship between inner necessity and freedom. On the other hand, it suggests that Cassirer's thought is closer to one version of Hegel than previously thought and that Hegel's answer to the classical skepticism in a system of reason might hold particular insight for a gap in Cassierer's thought. This work engages particularly with Samantha Matherne's recent book on Cassirer (2021).
I plan to return soon to the subject of my dissertation, the imagination in Kant's philosophy, to explore an important thread of unity in his critical philosophy that partially gave way to Idealism in the post-Kantian context. In particular, the imagination is the faculty of the mind that Kant defines as the source of synthesis (both pure representation and empirical). I explore the functions of synthesis (yielding unifiable and determinable wholes) that Kant ascribes to it. I am particularly interested in Kant's differentiation of the spontaneity of the mind whereby pure intuitions and pure representations are yielded as a condition of the possibility of self-consciousness, and constituting a part of the pure use of the synthetic unity of apperception in the 'I think.' The imagination comes most fully into view in his account of the source of mixed intuitions for the schemata, as well as empirical intuitions as products of synthesis of manifold wholes from the raw given of sensibility. While each of these functions fall under the theoretical function of the mind and is a condition of the possibility of experience, Kant complicates the picture with the heautonomous or "free lawful" function of the imagination in the reflecting power of judgment (particularly in pure aesthetic judgments). Of particular interest to me is the role of the imagination in yielding aesthetic ideas, which Kant suggests plays an important role in the theoretical function of reason and in the moral (i.e. as symbolic schemata for moral ideas).