PhD in Philosophy, University of Pittsburgh, 1994
MA in Philosophy, University of Pittsburgh, 1990
BA in Philosophy, Carleton College, 1988
My research interests have centered around developing a solution to the mind-body problem that is adequate to a serious moral psychology. To this end I have developed a theory of emotions and their rational interconnections with other emotions, desires, and evaluative judgments that provides the basis for an account of the nature of persons.
My Emotional Reason (Cambridge University Press, 2001) is to a large extent individualistic: focused on personal values and on how we can, largely in isolation of other people, deliberate about personal values. Indeed, this emphasis on the individualistic strand in our understanding of persons at the expense of the social strand is pervasive in philosophy: we generally think of persons as self-determining and autonomous, where these are understood to be capacities we exercise most fully on our own, apart from others, whose influence on us tends to undermine that autonomy.
My second book, Love, Friendship, and the Self (Oxford University Press, 2010), argues that we must reject a strongly individualistic conception of persons if we are to make sense of significant interpersonal relationships and the importance they can have in our lives. It presents a new account of love as intimate identification and of friendship as a kind of plural agency, in each case grounding and analyzing these notions in terms of interpersonal emotions. At the center of this account is an analysis of how our emotional connectedness with others is essential to our very capacities for autonomy and self-determination: we are rational and autonomous only because of and through our inherently social nature. By focusing on the role that relationships of love and friendship have both in the initial formation of our selves and in the on-going development and maturation of adult persons, I hope to alter our understanding of persons and the kind of psychology we persons have as moral and social beings.
My most recent book, Communities of Respect (Oxford University Press, 2017), extends this account of persons as social by examining our place within what I call "communities of respect". Communities of respect are communities of people sharing common practices or a (partial) way of life, including families, clubs, religious groups, and political parties. They are, I argue, formed by complex interpersonal rational connections among their reactive attitudes—emotions like resentment, gratitude, guilt, approbation, and indignation—whereby people hold each other responsible to certain norms. Through the “call” of such reactive attitudes, members respect—recognize the standing and authority of—fellow members and make them be responsible agents bound to communal norms. Insofar as such communal norms include not just norms of action but also norms of character, defining who one is, communities of respect thus shape the identities of their members. In all these ways, we persons are essentially social creatures.
A brief CV can be found here.
Grants & Awards
- Templeton Foundation Grant (2012–15): Love and Human Agency: An Interdisciplinary Investigation (with Agnieszka Jaworska and Jeffrey Seidman), $640,317
- NEH Fellowship (2012–13): "Defining Moral Communities: Respect, Dignity, and the Reactive Attitudes", $50,400
- Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Faculty Fellow (2012–13), Princeton University Center for Human Values, $47,000
- Bradley R. Dewey Award for Outstanding Scholarship (2012), Franklin & Marshall College
- Brocher Foundation Award (2011) for a workshop on “The Neuroethics of Caring” (with Agnieszka Jaworska), $36,000
- NEH Fellowship (2005–06): "Love, Friendship and the Self: The Emotional and Interpersonal Grounds of Autonomy", $40,000
- NSF-CCLI Grant (2001–04): Creation of Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (with Tony Chemero), $173,281
- ACLS Fellowship (1998–99): "Emotion, Judgment, and Practical Reason: How to Deliberate about Value", $20,000
- NEH Summer Stipend (1998): “Reason, Emotion, and Evaluative Judgment: How to Think about the Meaning of Life”, $6,000
- Communities of Respect: Grounding Responsibility, Authority, and Dignity. Forthcoming from Oxford University Press. (Chapter 1: "Towards a Social Conception of Persons")
- Love, Friendship, and the Self: Intimate Identification and the Sociality of Persons, Oxford University Press, 2010. (Chapter 1: "Introduction")
- Emotional Reason: Deliberation, Motivation, and the Nature of Value, Cambridge University Press, 2001. (Chapter 1: "Two Problems of Practical Reason")
Recent Articles (Links to published articles are to late drafts. See the relevant journals or volumes for the definitive versions.)
“Personal Relationships and Blame: Scanlon and the Reactive Attitudes,” in Social Dimensions of Responsibility, ed. Katrina Hutchison, Catriona Mackenzie, and Marina Oshana (Oxford University Press, forthcoming).Tim Scanlon has recently argued that what sort of blame is appropriate varies according to the blamer’s relationship with the wrongdoer, and he uses this to argue against reactive attitude accounts of blame. I will show a reactive attitude account has the resources not only to accommodate such variability of blame but also to fill in some of the gaps in Scanlon’s own account. To do this, we need to turn not merely to particular reactive attitudes but to broad, interpersonal rational patterns of reactive attitudes in terms of which we can make sense of what I have come to call “communities of respect”. The sort of relationship whose impairment is relevant to blame is that of co-membership in a community of respect, so that the significance of the agent’s wrongdoing relevant for blame is the significance those actions and attitudes have for us in the community. However, accommodating the variability of blame on which Scanlon rightly insists requires a more careful examination of two additional factors that affect how it is proper for one to respond to the impairment to those relationships that the wrongdoing represents: one’s role in a given case as perpetrator, victim, or witness, and one’s personal commitments. These factors provide one with excuses for failing to treat the perpetrator with the normal trust and respect we demand of each other, and the validity of these excuses itself depends on the overall rational structure of the patterns of reactive attitudes within the community. Consequently, both the individual and the community are important in defining the relationships and modifications of relationships that are central to blame; however, such modifications to personal relationships are a consequence of blame rather than, as Scanlon claims, part of its content.
- "Truth, Objectivity, and Emotional Caring: Filling in the Gaps of Haugeland's Existentialist Ontology", in Giving a Damn: Essays in Dialogue with John Haugeland, ed. Zed Adams and Jacob Browning (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2016), 213–41.
In a remarkable series of papers, Haugeland lays out what is both a striking inter- pretation of Heidegger and a compelling account of objectivity and truth. Central to his account is a notion of existential commitment: a commitment to insist that one’s understanding of the world succeed in making sense of the phenomena and so poten- tially to change or give up on that understanding in the face of apparently impossible phenomena. Although Haugeland never gives a clear account of existential commitment, he claims that it is fundamentally an individual matter. is, I argue, is a mistake that fails to make sense of the public, shared nature of the objective world. Instead, I oer an account of existential commitment as one we undertake jointly, and I analyze it (and the corresponding responsibility) in terms of interpersonal rational patterns of reactive attitudes: emotions like resentment, gratitude, indignation, approbation, guilt, and trust. e upshot is that our existential commitment is not only to a shared, objective world but also to each other such that our ability individually to take responsibility for our understanding of the world is intelligible only in terms of others’ being able to hold us responsible for it.
“Emotional Expression, Import, and the Reactive Attitudes,” in Expression of Emotion: Philosophical, Psychological, and Legal Perspectives, ed. Catherine Abell and Joel Smith (Oxford: Cambridge University Press, 2016), 95–114.
After distinguishing between evincings and expressions of emotions, I argue that emotional expressions are more than mere reports of the content of emotions. Rather, they are expressions of commitments to the values underlying these emotions. Central to this argument is an understanding of the expression of the reactive attitudes—emotions like gratitude, resentment, approbation, and guilt. For in expressing the reactive attitudes we call others to account in light of shared norms, thereby not merely communicating a positive or negative evaluation of the other's actions but also expressing the underlying values as our values in a way that can preserve and reinforce this shared sense of value.
“L'Amitié”, in Petit traité des valeurs, ed. Julien Deonna and Emma Tieffenbach (Ithaque, 2015). A preview of the book, including my article can be found here; the original English version can be found here.
“What Is the Role of Love In Human Freedom?”, Big Questions Online.
- “Rationality, Authority, and Bindingness: An Account of Communal Norms”, in David Shoemaker (ed.), Oxford Studies in Agency and Responsibility (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 189–212.
How can we be bound or obligated to the norms of particular communities? How can other community members have authority to hold us responsible and demand compliance? I argue that the bindingness of communal norms has its source in our joint commitment to the community and to each other, a commitment that is implicit in the rational structures of reactive attitudes we display in response to each other. In having a reactive attitude, one holds its target responsible to certain norms and calls on others likewise to hold her responsible, thereby both asserting one’s own authority and recognizing the authority of others to demand compliance with the norms. When this call is taken up by others, the interpersonal rational structure of these reactive attitudes constitutes our jointly granting such authority to ourselves and so binding ourselves to the norms.
- "Emotions and Recalcitrance: Reevaluating the Perceptual Model". dialectica 69, no. 3 (September 2015): 417–33.
One central argument in favor of perceptual accounts of emotions concerns recalcitrant emotions: emotions that persist in the face of repudiating judgments. For, it is argued, to understand how the conﬂict between recalcitrant emotions and judgment falls short of incoherence in judgment, we need to understand recalcitrant emotions to be something like perceptual illusions of value, so that in normal, non-recalcitrant cases emotions are non-illusory perceptions of value. I argue that these arguments fail and that a closer examination of recalcitrant emotions reveals important disanalogies with perception that undermine the perceptual model of emotions.
- “Trust as a Reactive Attitude”, in Oxford Studies in Agency and Responsibility, ed. Neal Tognazzini and David Shoemaker (Oxford University Press, forthcoming).
The reactive attitudes are central to our practices of holding each other responsible and so to a certain form of human community. This paper argues that trust is a reactive attitude—indeed that without self, personal, and vicarious reactive trust these practices, this form of human community, and responsible agency would not be possible. Moreover, understanding trust in this way helps resolve several problems that have confronted philosophers thinking about trust, including the distinction between trust and reliance, the conditions of the rationality of trust and the nature of trustworthiness, and how my trust can motivate your behavior.
- “Emotional Communities of Respect”, in Collective Emotions, ed. Christian von Sheve and Mikko Salmela (Oxford University Press, 2014), 47-60.
My aim in this paper is to step back from an investigation of particular emotions and the way such emotions might have social dimensions, thereby bringing into view a broader emotional phenomenon—in general, the phenomenon of caring—that itself can have social dimensions. I have long argued that caring is to be understood in terms of a distinctive rational pattern of emotions. In saying that caring itself can have a social dimension, I mean in part that the relevant pattern of rationality is one that extends across multiple persons, so that what it is rational for me to feel is tied to what it is rational for others to feel. This is the case, I shall argue, for the reactive emotions, which are emotions, like resentment, indignation, gratitude, approbation, and guilt, that we feel in response to the good or ill will one person shows to another. For if you resent me, I ought to feel guilty and others ought to feel indignation or disapprobation. Indeed, your resentment in effect calls on others to feel these reactive emotions, and (other things being equal) others’ failure to feel them is a failure properly to respond to you as someone worthy of our respect. By examining the interpersonal rational interconnections among the reactive emotions, I shall argue that the resulting rational patterns constitute that respect which we owe each other and thereby constitute this group of people as a community bound together by their mutual respect. This is for us to form a community of respect.
- “Accountability and Some Social Dimensions of Human Agency”, Philosophical Issues 22 (2012), 217-32.
- “Paternalistic Love and Reasons for Caring,” in Autonomy and the Self: Norms, Free- dom, and Commitment, ed. Michael Kühler and Nadja Jelinek, Philosophical Studies Series (Springer, 2012), 253–71.
What reasons can children have for coming to care about particular things so that they can develop into responsible adults? This question raises issues both about the status of such reasons as “internal” or “external” to the child’s subjective motivational set and about the role of adults in guiding children’s choices. In confronting this latter question, Tamar Schapiro argues that adults can adopt what amounts to a two-pronged strategy: of rewarding or punishing the child and of offering explanations and justifications. Such a strategy, however, ignores the special role loving caregivers can play in a child’s life. By developing an account of such paternalistically loving relationships, I show how the caregiver’s conception of the child’s well-being can come to inform the child’s own sense of herself and so to provide her with essentially interpersonal reasons for caring. Indeed, such reasons can be both normatively and motivationally binding on the child even though she may not yet be in a position to understand them. That such reasons are essentially interpersonal seems to make otiose whether they are “internal” or “external,” thereby rendering that distinction less important than we might have thought.
- "Responsibility and Dignity: Strawsonian Themes", in Morality and the Emotions, ed. Carla Bagnoli (Oxford University Press, 2011), 217–34.
Peter Strawson’s “Freedom and Resentment” usefully connected the concepts of freedom and responsibility with the reactive attitudes, but there has been some controversy concerning both the nature of that connection and what the reactive attitudes are. I shall argue—tentatively and speculatively—that we can best understand the reactive attitudes by seeing them as individually presupposing and jointly constituting both our respect for persons and the dignity to which that respect is responsive. Consequently, being both a proper subject and object of the reactive attitudes is to be a member of the normative community of fellow persons within which one both takes responsibility and is held responsible for what one does. This just is to be a responsible agent.
- “Affektive Intentionalität: Holistisch und vielschichtig,” in Affektive Intentionalität: Beiträge zur welterschließenden Funktion der menschlichen Gefühle, ed. Jan Slaby et al. (Paderborn: mentis, 2011), 72–99. (The original English version, before translation, can be found here.)
Cognitivist theories of emotions, the dominant philosophical theory as recently as 15 years ago and still highly influential in psychology today, understand emotions to be essentially clusters of beliefs and desires. Thus, cognitivists claim, what it is to be afraid of something is to believe it dangerous and want to get away. The intentionality of emotions is therefore understood to be dependent on that of the constitutive beliefs and desires, and it seems that there is nothing we could call a distinctively “affective” intentionality. Indeed, for cognitivists affect is seemingly added on as an afterthought: the relevant belief and desire somehow come packaged together with a bodily sensation (of a sinking feeling in your gut, for example), and it is this packaging of those intentional states with a feeling that was supposed to account for their affective nature.
As I shall argue, such cognitivist accounts of emotions fail to capture the distinctively affective character of emotions. A central reason for this failure lies in the kind of evaluations that emotions essentially involve. Cognitivist theories must understand emotional evaluations to be a part of either the belief or the desire; in either case, they are supposed to be intelligible prior to the emotions themselves. My contention is that this is false: we cannot make sense of these evaluations except in terms of the emotions themselves, and it is this fact about emotions that enables us to understand affective intentionality. That is, I shall argue, what is characteristic of affective intentionality is that it essentially involves evaluations that are felt, where such feelings are simultaneously both responsive to and constitutive of that evaluation. Our felt awareness of emotional objects as good or bad in some way just is a matter of our being emotionally pleased or pained by these objects, and this fact about emotions is central to understanding the nature of affective intentionality.
- "Love as Intimate Identification", Philosophic Exchange, 40 (2010), 20–37.
It is widely acknowledged that love is a distinctively intimate form of concern in which we in some sense identify with our beloveds; it is common, moreover, to construe such identification in terms of the lover’s taking on the interests of the beloved. From this starting point, Harry Frankfurt argues that the paradigm form of love is that between parents and infants or young children. I think this is mistaken: the kind of loving attitude or relationship we can have towards or with young children is distinct in kind from that which we can have towards adult persons, as is revealed by reflection on the depth of love and its phenomenology. My aim is to present an alternative conception of the sort of distinctively intimate identification at issue in love, arguing that this account makes better sense of love and our experience of love.
- "Self-Love and the Structure of Personal Values", in Emotions, Ethics, and Authenticity, ed. by Verena Mayer and Mikko Salmela, John Benjamins, 2009.
Authenticity, it is plausible to suppose, is a feature of one's identity as a person—of one's sense of the kind of life worth living. Most attempts to explicate this notion of a person's identity do so in terms of an antecedent understanding of what it is for a person to value something. This is, I argue, a mistake: a concern is not intelligible as a value apart from the place it has within a larger identity that the value serves in turn to constitute; to assume otherwise is to risk leaving out the very person whose identity these values allegedly constitute. By contrast, I offer an account of values as always already a part of one's identity. I do so by providing an analysis of values in terms of what I call ‘person-focused emotions,’ emotions like pride and shame. Such emotions, I argue, involve a commitment to the import of a person primarily and, only secondarily, to things valued, and in this way enable us to understand what it is to value these things for the sake of the person. The upshot is a more satisfying account of a person's identity and values, an account that can provide the necessary background for a more thorough investigation of authenticity.
- "The Import of Human Action", in Philosophy of Action, ed. by Jesus Aguilar and Andrei Buckareff, Automatic Press/VIP, 2009, 89-100.
- "Emotions as Evaluative Feelings", Emotion Review, 1 (2009).
The phenomenology of emotions has traditionally been understood in terms of bodily sensations they involve. This is a mistake. We should instead understand their phenomenology in terms of their distinctively evaluative intentionality. Emotions are essentially affective modes of response to the ways our circumstances come to matter to us, and so they are ways of being pleased or pained by those circumstances. Making sense of the intentionality and phenomenology of emotions in this way requires rejecting traditional understandings of intentionality and so coming to see emotions as a distinctive and irreducible class of mental states lying at the intersection of intentionality, phenomenology, and motivation.
- "Emotions and Motivation: Reconsidering Neo-Jamesian Accounts", in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Emotions, ed. by Peter Goldie, Oxford University Press, forthcoming.
Emotions are notorious for their irrationality, and nowhere does this irrationality show up more clearly than in their effects on motivation. Thus, to take some stereotyped examples, fear, anger, and jealousy frequently seem to move us to act contrary to our better judgment. Recently, however, there has been increasing emphasis on the rationality of emotions and their place in practical reason. Thus, while deliberating about what to do, although we may be able to articulate reasons for and against each option, we may not be able to say why the weight of these reasons favor one over the others; in such cases, we may simply go with the one that “feels” right—that resonates more fully with our emotional sense of our circumstances—and such an appeal to emotions seems appropriate. I argue that emotions are fundamental to motivation and practical reasoning. In particular, emotions motivate not because they involve mere dispositions to behave but rather because they are rational responses to things we care about, responses that sometimes rationally demand intentional action. This, together with the way our linguistic concepts can inform these emotional responses, makes for rational interconnections with evaluative judgments that allow our emotions to play a significant role in our determining what to do.
- "Love, Identification, and the Emotions", American Philosophical Quarterly, 46 (2009), 39-59.
Standard accounts of love, I argue, fail to make sense of the kind of intimacy love essentially involves because they understand such intimacy in tacitly egocentric terms and then either embrace it or recoil from it—in each case unsatisfactorily. By developing an account of emotions like pride and shame as “person-focused” and so analyzing their rational interconnections, I offer a non-egocentric account of intimacy as a kind of identification: an identification which, when reflexive, constitutes one’s own identity and, when non-reflexive, constitutes the close, personal attachment to another that love is.
- "Plural Agents", Noûs, 42 (2008), 17-49.
Genuine agents engage in activity because they find it worth pursuing--because they care about it. In this respect, they differ from what might be called "mere intentional systems": systems like chess-playing computers that exhibit merely goal-directed behavior mediated by instrumental rationality, without caring. A parallel distinction can be made in the domain of social activity: plural agents must be distinguished from plural intentional systems in that plural agents have cares and engage in activity because of those cares. In this paper, I sketch an account of what it is for an individual to care about things in terms of her exhibiting a certain pattern of emotions. After extending this account to make sense of an individual's caring about other agents, I then provide an account of how a certain sort of emotional connectedness among a group of people can make intelligible the group's having cares and thereby constitute that group as a plural agent. Alternative accounts of social action, by ignoring the difference between mere intentional systems and genuine agents, and so by leaving out these emotional entanglements from their accounts of social action, thereby fail to capture a whole range of social phenomena involving plural agents.
- "Love", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer, 2005 edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), revised Fall, 2009.
- "Friendship", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer, 2005 edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), revised Fall, 2009.
- "Felt Evaluations", American Philosophical Quarterly, 39 (2002), 13-30.
This paper argues that pleasure and pains are not qualia and they are not to be analyzed in terms of supposedly antecedently intelligible mental states like bodily sensation or desire. Rather, pleasure and pain are characteristic of a distinctive kind of evaluation that is common to emotions, desires, and (some) bodily sensations. These are felt evaluations: passive responses to attend to and be motivated by the import of something impressing itself on us, responses that are nonetheless simultaneously constitutive of that import by virtue of the broader rational patterns of which they are a part and that they serve to define. This account of felt evaluations makes sense of the way in which pleasures and pains grab our attention and motivate us to act and of the peculiar dual objectivity and subjectivity of their implicit evaluations, while offering a phenomenology adequate to both emotional and bodily pleasures and pains.
- "Emotions and Practical Reason", Noûs, 35 (2001), 190-213.
The motivational problem is the problem of understanding how we can have rational control over what we do. In the face of phenomena like weakness of the will, it is commonly thought that evaluation and reason can always remain intact even as we sever their connection with motivation; consequently, solving the motivational problem is thought to be a matter of figuring out how to bridge this inevitable gap between evaluation and motivation. I argue that this is fundamentally mistaken and results in a conception of practical reason that is motivationally impotent. Instead, I argue, a proper understanding of evaluation and practical reason must include not only evaluative judgments but emotions as well. By analyzing the role of emotions in evaluation and the rational interconnections among emotions, desires, and evaluative judgments, I articulate a new conception of evaluation and motivation according to which there is a conceptual connection between them, albeit one that allows for the possibility of weakness of the will.
- "Emotional Reason: How to Deliberate about Value", American Philosophical Quarterly, 37 (2000), 1-22.
Deliberation about personal, non-moral values involves elements of both invention and discovery. Thus, we invent our values by freely choosing them, where such distinctively human freedom is essential to our defining and taking responsibility for the kinds of persons we are; nonetheless, we also discover our values insofar as we can deliberate about them rationally and arrive at non-arbitrary decisions about what has value in our lives. Yet these notions of invention and discovery seem inconsistent with each other, and the possibility of deliberation about value therefore seems paradoxical. My aim is to argue that this apparent paradox is no paradox at all. I offer an account of what it is to value something largely in terms of emotions and desires. By examining the rational interconnections among emotions and evaluative judgments, I argue for an account both of how judgments can shape our emotions, thereby shaping our values in a way that makes intelligible the possibility of inventing our values, and of how our emotions can simultaneously rationally constrain correct deliberation, thereby making intelligible the possibility of discovering our values. The result is a rejection of both cognitivist and non-cognitivist accounts of value and deliberation about value.
Of course, comments on any of these would be appreciated.
- Dan Kaplan (Hackman Scholar, 2011): "Joint Caring about Truth"
- Kathryn Kutz (Hackman Scholar, 2009): "Truth, Emotion, and Shared Commitment"
- Neal Swisher (Coutros Scholar, 2004): "Artificial-Life Learning in Mobile Robotics"
- Yaroslava Babych and Aleksandra Markovic (Hackman Scholars, 1998), "Moods as a Sense of Priorities"
PHI/SPM 250: Philosophy of Mind. This class is designed as a general introduction to the philosophy of mind (and, consequently, as an introduction to the philosophical side of the Scientific and Philosophical Studies of Mind major). Most fundamentally, we will examine the mind-body problem, a problem which arises out of our differing conceptions of the natural world and of our minds. Thus, the body, science tells us, is just a hunk of physical matter that obeys the laws of nature mechanistically -- mindlessly. The mind, of course, is anything but mindless. So what's the connection between the two? -- How do we conceive of the mind in relation to the body? We will critically examine several different purported solutions to this problem: dualism, identity theory, functionalism, eliminative materialism, and intentional systems theory. We shall then apply these theories to help us address three other questions that have been raised about minds: Is it possible to build an intelligent machine? Is free will compatible with determinism or mechanism? and Can we give a materialist account of consciousness? In addressing these questions, we shall gain a clearer understanding of the strengths, weaknesses, and implications of the various theories about what the mind is and its relation to the body.
PHI/SPM 352: Philosophy of Emotions. Long neglected in philosophy, the emotions have recently—and increasingly—come to be seen as important both in their own right and for the way they bear on a wide variety of issues, from the mind-body problem and the nature of consciousness and intentionality to the nature of reason and reasoning to aesthetics to interpersonal relationships to moral psychology and metaethics. In this class we will focus on the first three; other topics are covered in other classes. In particular, we will consider the connections between emotions and other mental states, such as beliefs, desires, and bodily sensations. Can emotions be reduced to complexes of other mental states? Are emotions beneficial aspects of our mental lives, or might we be better off without them? If they are beneficial, what contributions do they make? Are emotions in some sense commitments to the world’s being a certain way, or are they more like mere appearances? And how can we understand the (rational? causal?) interconnections between emotions and other mental states like beliefs and desires?
PHI/SPM 360: Concept of a Person. We persons think we are special. Although we are animals, we find it insulting to speak of ourselves as "mere" animals, as if the other animals are somehow importantly different from ourselves. Well, how are they importantly different, and what difference does this make?
Philosophers tend to understand the concept of a person in two ways: as a metaphysical notion and as a moral notion. Moral personhood is roughly an understanding of ourselves as the subjects of moral rights and responsibilities. If I, through reckless disregard, end up smashing your computer, I am held morally accountable for having wronged you and so am subject to censure or blame. But if a dog does the same thing, we do not blame the dog, at least not in the same way. Moreover, we feel it is appropriate, at least in many cases, to keep animals like dogs or rabbits in cages, but we would feel it a gross violation of a person's rights to do the same to her (at least without some very special justification for doing so). Part of we want to understand in thinking about moral personhood is what it means to have these special rights and responsibilities that differentiate us from mere animals. By contrast, to understand personhood as a metaphysical notion is to understand it as delineating a special category of being---as having or being a soul, for example. Typically, the metaphysical notion of personhood is thought to somehow underwrite our status as moral persons: to understand why we are moral persons but dogs are not requires appeal to the kind of creatures we but not dogs are---to the metaphysical notion. (Indeed, it is precisely because of this explanatory link between them that many philosophers think it is appropriate to understand the concept of personhood not as having two senses but as a univocal concept with two aspects.)
In this course, we will begin, roughly, with the metaphysical notion of personhood, in an attempt to understand the differences between ourselves and ``mere" animals. As the course develops, this discussion of metaphysical personhood will begin to shade into moral personhood as well, as we consider the nature of values and how we can deliberate about the meaning of life.
PHI/SPM 361: Moral Psychology. Moral psychology is a relatively new field---so new, in fact, that there's still little consensus about precisely what its subject matter is. As I understand it, moral psychology is the study of the kind of psychology necessary in order for a creature to be moral---to be subject to moral assessments of blame and responsibility, for example. Some philosophers engaged in moral psychology take the scientific discipline of psychology to be very important; others think that how we conceptualize the relevant psychological states (concepts which are presupposed by the design and interpretation of psychological experiments, for example) are too confused for the scientific discipline of psychology to be helpful at this point. We'll do some of both, though my own views tend towards the latter, and our focus will be almost entirely philosophical.
PHI/SPM 362: Love and Friendship. Love and friendship are undoubtedly important in our lives ... but why? Although we commonly say that we “love” both chocolate cake and philosophy or that we are “friends” with people on Facebook, these seem to be thin surrogates for the potentially deep, rich, intimate, and rewarding attitudes and relationships we develop towards and with other persons. Clearly it is the latter that we interested in here: forms of love and friendship that apply paradigmatically to intimate relations among persons. In investigating personal love and friendship, we will encounter several problems concerning their justification, their bearing on the autonomy and identity of the individual, and the place their value has within a broader system of values, including moral values.
PHI/SPM 375: Respect, Responsibility, and Ethics. Recently many philosophers have argued that certain interpersonal emotions, such as resentment, indignation, guilt, gratitude, and approbation, are fundamental to a host of interconnected issues in ethics, including the nature of respect, dignity, responsibility and freedom, and the origins of moral values. This class will closely examine these claims and arguments with the aim of understanding more clearly how moral psychology and metaethics intersect.
(Many of these courses are cross-listed with SPM [Scientific and Philosophical Studies of Mind], an interdisciplinary program concerned with the mind, broadly construed.)