I specialize in ancient philosophy and am particularly interested in issues that lie at the intersection of ancient ethics and epistemology. My dissertation was on arguments for the value of knowledge and learning in four Platonic dialogues (the Laches, the Protagoras, the Meno, and the Euthydemus). Other philosophical interests include contemporary philosophy of education, ethics, and early modern philosophy.
I will be a Postdoctoral Fellow in philosophy at the University of Toronto, starting December 2019.
PhD, Classics and Philosophy Combined Program, Yale University (2018). MA, Philosophy, University of Toronto, (2011). BA, Philosophy, Western Oregon University (2010).
My research investigates the value of knowledge and inquiry and the relationship between knowledge and the good life. Currently, my main focus is on the treatment of these issues in the dialogues of Plato. A central claim of my dissertation is that, for Socrates, philosophical inquiry and knowledge are constitutive of the virtuous and happy life. One implication of this view is that the virtuous person must know what knowledge is. This suggests a new account of the importance of epistemology in the dialogues: doing epistemology is a means to becoming good.
My next major project after the dissertation will focus on the implications of the craft analogy in Plato for understanding ethical motivation. Some have thought that Socrates’ use of the craft analogy suggests that he is an advocate of ethical egoism. Others have argued that, although Socrates does use the craft analogy to illustrate the rational structure of virtue, he nevertheless thinks that virtue is essentially other-regarding. I will argue that Socrates’ view of the structure and value of craft knowledge shows that we have egoistic reasons to become virtuous but non-egoistic reasons to act virtuously.
In addition to these projects on Plato, I am planning two papers that aim to show how Platonic ideas can further investigations of the nature of education. I am also working on papers on Seneca (on the relationship between benefaction and self-sufficiency) and Hume (on the origin of belief in external bodies).
Below you can find short abstracts for my publications, completed works, and select works-in-progress. Please email me for more details or drafts of works-in-progress.
“The Discipline of Virtue: Knowledge and the Unity of the Virtues in the Protagoras.” Ancient Philosophy. (forthcoming)
Identifies a false assumption that underlies standard interpretations of the Unity Thesis and offers a new interpretation according to which the virtues are unified insofar as they are each constituted by the same kind of psychological power: knowledge. Shows that the Unity Thesis, so interpreted, has practical implications for deliberations about how to become virtuous.
“The Meno on the Value of Knowledge and True Belief”
Offers a new account of why knowledge is more valuable than true belief. Argues that knowledge and true belief both have final value because both are true. However, knowledge is superior to true belief because it provides the cognizer with the certainty that she possesses (and will continue to possess) the truth and with the awareness that her cognitive state is one of knowing. My account of the value of knowledge explains why Socrates identifies genuine virtue with knowledge rather than true belief.
Dissertation: Learning Virtue: The Value of Knowledge and Philosophical Inquiry in Four Platonic Dialogues
Throughout Plato’s dialogues, Socrates is portrayed as having an unwavering commitment to the value of philosophical inquiry. Socrates thinks that philosophy and knowledge (in particular, knowledge of what virtue is) play an important role in becoming a virtuous and happy person. But what kind of role do they play? And what kind of value do they have? The central claim of my dissertation is that, for Socrates, philosophical inquiry and knowledge have both instrumental and final value. Philosophical inquiry, especially inquiry into the nature of virtue, is a means to virtue and happiness insofar as it provides one with a conceptualization of the kind of person one aims to become and helps guide one’s actions toward that end. But, in addition, philosophical inquiry and knowledge are constitutive of the virtuous and happy life. Virtuous action consists in doing philosophy, and the genuinely happy person will be the one who has acquired the knowledge at which philosophy aims through her philosophizing. One implication of my view is that the truly virtuous person must know what knowledge is. This suggests that Plato’s epistemological investigations are in the service of the project of becoming good.
“Stoic Self-Sufficiency and Seneca on Benefaction”
According to Seneca, benefaction requires the reciprocation of good intentions by the recipient to the giver. This analysis of benefaction conflicts with the Stoic thesis that the virtuous person is self-sufficient (the Self-Sufficiency Thesis), since it allows that a giver may fail to engage in benefaction, despite her best efforts. I argue that Seneca’s unorthodox analysis is well-motivated and significant. It is well-motivated because benefaction is a special kind of virtuous action, and it is significant because it illuminates the nature of Stoic friendship. I propose that, given the philosophical pay-off of Seneca’s analysis, we should reinterpret the Self-Sufficiency Thesis.
“Educating for Excellence: Socrates on soul care as technē”
Argues that in the Laches Socrates assumes that the process of education (i.e. of making someone virtuous) is governed by a form of productive knowledge. This assumption explains why Socrates thinks candidate educators must able to give an account of the nature of virtue. It also illuminates an important facet of philosophical inquiry's instrumental value. Since knowledge of the nature of virtue is a necessary condition of expertise in soul care, anyone who wants to be a teacher of virtue must acquire this knowledge for himself.
“Making Space for Contemplation: Plato’s Euthydemus on knowledge and happiness”
In the Euthydemus Socrates holds that the correct use of goods is at least partly constitutive of happiness. This is sometimes taken to imply that knowledge is merely instrumental to happiness. However, I argue that Socrates thinks that knowledge is itself a good and that one correct use of knowledge is in contemplation. Thus, knowledge, in the form of contemplation, is at least partly constitutive of happiness.
“A Mysterious Case of Mistaken Identity: Hume’s account of belief in body”
Focuses on Hume’s account (in Treatise 1.4.2) of the coherence and constancy of our impressions, and how they yield belief in the continued existence of body. I argue that Hume has a unified explanation of belief in body at his disposal. The central claim is that all cases of coherence and constancy that give rise to belief in body involve a mistaken opinion of identity. This mistaken opinion is what leads one to believe in the continued existence of body. My interpretation avoids the problems that arise for the standard interpretation of Hume's position, according to which Hume explains belief in body by appealing to causal reasoning plus the galley mechanism.
I have had the privilege of working with students in a variety of learning communities, including the University of Toronto, Yale University, and Fairfield University.
I think excellence in research and excellence in teaching go hand in hand. The idea for my dissertation grew out of a discussion I had with students about Plato’s Meno, and my research projects in contemporary philosophy of education were inspired by interactions with students in my introductory philosophy of education course. I view the classroom not only as a space where my students learn, but as a space where I learn—a place where my own assumptions are challenged in conversation with other thinkers.
Below you can find sample syllabi and some examples of in-class exercises.
Syllabi for courses taught as sole instructor
Ancient Philosophy (Fairfield University, Summer Session 2019)
Sample syllabi (for courses I would like to teach)
The Value of Education (intermediate/advanced undergraduate course)
The Good and the Beneficial in Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics (graduate course/advanced undergraduate course)
Some in-class exercises
Guided Philosophical Analysis (a worksheet to guide analysis and in-class discussion of the Aristotle's argument for the highest good)
Game Review Session (teams of students compete to get the most answers right in an in-class final exam review)
[pictured: some students from my Intro to Philosophy of Education, June 2017.On the final day of class, I asked them to create a mind map to the course that covered the questions and topics we had discussed during our seminars. Here is one group posing with their creation. Shared with permission.]