My current research focuses on the writings of Immanuel Kant and on using his philosophy as a model for developing contemporary views in metaphysics and ethics.
In my dissertation, Kant’s Metaphysical Deduction and the Intellectual Origin of the Categories, I offer a novel reading of the Leitfaden or “Guiding Thread” Chapter of the Critique of Pure Reason and of the metaphysical deduction of the categories. The centerpiece of this reading is a systematic account of the unique actions in which each of the categories is originally acquired by the understanding's exercise of a certain logical function to combine certain representations. By providing this account, I seek to give novel texture and lend support to Kant's claim that the pure concepts of the understanding are not innate representations, but are rather acquired by the understanding's exercise of its essential activities. My work generally argues that the table of the logical functions and of the categories, viewed as systematically encoding the spontaneous acts of the understanding, play a foundational and systematic role throughout the whole of Kant's critical philosophy
In my work, I also explore the systematicity throughout Kant's theoretical and practical philosophies. As part of this, I argue against the standard "Reversal Reading" of Kant's foundational moral works, which holds that Kant abandoned the main argument from the Groundwork III in giving his Fact of Reason Argument in the Critique of Practical Reason. Instead, I propose a "Complementary Reading" that holds that these two arguments are not only consistent but in fact complementary. I argue that, together, these two arguments allow Kant to argue that morality is both possible and actual without violating the boundaries set forth by his philosophy.
I also explore the systematicity in Kant's philosophy by using aspects of his theoretical philosophy to make sense of intriguing yet puzzling aspects of his practical philosophy. This includes the analogies Kant himself draws between the physical order of the realm of nature and the moral order of the realm of ends. I generally argue that Kant means for these analogies to provide a deep structural parallel between these two aspects of his philosophy and that they constitute an essential way in which we are able to give determinate content to fundamental moral concepts.
Ultimately, I aim to show that Kant’s ideas are of more than historical interest. I aim to develop a contemporary, naturalistic version of transcendental idealism idealism that takes up insights from Kant's critical philosophy but also draws on lessons from the development of science not available to Kant (notably the fact that human cognitive capacities are evolved rather than timeless and that scientific explanation paradigmatically takes the form of empirically tested models rather than that of the demonstration of conclusions from a priori principles). The end goal of such a project is to develop a naturalistic metaphysics that is epistemically respectable, scientifically informed, and allows for a Kantian moral psychology and ethics.
"On Kant's Derivation of the Categories,"Kant-Studien 2018
ABSTRACT: In this paper, I put forth a novel interpretation of how the third categories under each heading in the table of categories (totality, limitation, community, and necessity) are derived. Drawing on a passage from the first Critique and a letter to Schultz, I argue that in order to derive these categories, a special act of the understanding is required. I propose that we interpret this special act as consisting of an application of the third logical function under the corresponding heading that unites the combination of the first and second categories (under that same heading) so as to produce the third.
Work in Progress
[Paper on the Balance of Forces in Nature and Morality for Kant]
ABSTRACT: In the Doctrine of Virtue, Kant draws an analogy between the physical and moral worlds, claiming that love is a form of moral attraction, respect a form of moral repulsion, and that "should either of these great moral forces fail, then nothingness (immorality) with gaping throat would swallow up the whole realm of moral beings like a drop of water" (6:449). I argue that we can make sense of this intriguing yet puzzling passage by interpreting Kant here as employing a method of symbolic presentation by analogy (developed in other critical works) in a way that yields practical cognition of the moral world and a corresponding moral analogy of the balancing argument from his natural philosophy. Kant there argues that purely repulsive and attractive matters respectively face problems of total dispersion and collapse. I argue that purely respectful and loving respectively face analogous problems of total moral repulsion and collapse.
[Paper on Freedom and the Moral Law in the Groundwork and the second Critique]
ABSTRACT: A common interpretation of Kant's foundational moral works is that in the Critique of Practical Reason, Kant rejects his argument from Groundwork III and reverses his strategy of justification, arguing from morality to freedom rather than from freedom and the moral law. I argue, contrary to this interpretation, that the arguments from these two works are different kinds of argument, which are not incompatible but in fact complementary. The Groundwork argues that freedom is the ground of the possibility of the moral law, while the second Critique argues instead that consciousness of the moral law is the ground of cognition of freedom. Each argument aims to establish a different kind of conclusion, but together they make possible cognition not just that we must be free if our being bound by the moral law is to be possible, but that we are actually free.
[Paper on a Naturalistic Version of Transcendental Idealism]
ABSTRACT: In this paper, I argue that a version of transcendental idealism can be seen to emerge from an attractive, naturalistic way of viewing the human mind as a certain kind of dynamical system that represents itself and governs its behavior by means of its self-representations. According to this naturalistic approach (which is articulated in different ways in the work of Craig Callender, Rick Grush, Jenann Ismael, and Huw Price among others) the embodied human mind not only passively receives sensory information from disparate sensory sources but also actively synthesizes information from disparate sensory sources into a global model of its environment. The mind represents itself in this model and uses it to navigate its environment. This view of the mind constitutes a version of transcendental idealism insofar as it accepts the two constitutive theses of transcendental idealism, roughly (TI-1): the things we experience them are not things in themselves but rather representations that we synthesize from sensory information, and (TI-2): space and time are not features of mind-independent reality but rather primarily forms of sensibility, representational frameworks we use to coordinate different sensations.