What was your dissertation title and topic?
The Embodiment of Morality
What seminar stood out and influenced your thinking?
Hard to single out one, there were so many excellent ones, but two from my second year I might mention: Seana’s seminar on harm, which occasioned my move from M&E to ethical theory, and Tyler’s seminar on perception and animal psychology, which continues to influence my work strongly.
What, if anything, about the UCLA department’s culture and approach to philosophy has influenced your intellectual approach?
Many things, but high among them would be focus on philosophy as a discipline (as opposed to a profession) and emphasis on philosophical discussion (as opposed to more exclusive emphasis on philosophical writing).
How have your philosophical interests changed since you were at UCLA?
Not long after departing UCLA I became more deeply steeped in the work of John Rawls. More recently I’ve been working in the overlap between ethical theory and philosophy of mind, thinking in particular about the implications of animal psychology in ethics, politics, and law. Inasmuch as these categories are helpful my I’d say my general orientation has become more Aristotelian and less Kantian; but it always was, and still is, an attempted synthesis of the two.
If your current career is inside of academia, what’s your favorite course to teach right now? Do you have a recent publication you’d like to mention?
My favorite course to teach at present is probably Animal Psychology in Ethical Theory; the first half explores various biological and psychological capacities of animals, while the second half explores how a better understanding of these capacities should influence thinking in ethics; I normally teach it as a co-convening upper division undergraduate and graduate course. If I might indulge myself by mentioning three publications, to reflect the three broad areas in which I have done work: in political philosophy “Rawlsian Stability” (Res Publica 22:3, 2016), in traditional ethical theory “The Priority and Posteriority of Right” (Theoria 81:3, 2015), and in the application of animal psychology in ethics “Animal Punishment” (in progress with a conditional acceptance, probably best not to mention the venue until blind review is complete).
Any all-time favorite philosophical articles or books you would recommend? Any new discoveries?
Not sure it’s exactly my favorite, but Thomas Nagel’s The View From Nowhere very much captured my imagination as an undergraduate; and I think it’s still worthy of recommendation for people at all levels who are interested in philosophy. And not a surprise, especially for a UCLA alum, but I would say there’s little better way of orienting oneself toward contemporary philosophical issues than with careful study of Saul Kripke’s Naming and Necessity and John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice.