My research spans ethics (applied and normative), metaphysics, moral psychology, and the philosophy of religion. I’m currently working on responsibility, blame, apology, and the emotions (esp. regret, admiration, shame). I also have research interests in personal identity, the nature of character, evil, the nature of heaven, and issues relating to death and the desirability of immortality and the afterlife.
I have three main current projects: (1) Responsibility Over Time, (2) The Nature and Ethics of Apology, and (3) The Nature and Ethics of Admiration. My three projects are connected and grew out of my interest in responsibility over time. In project (1), I defend the position that a person can cease being responsible, in the sense of being praiseworthy or blameworthy, for her actions if she changes sufficiently. But the view faces two difficult objections. First, those who commit atrocities or war crimes seem to be people who can never cease being blameworthy no matter how much they change. Second, we continue to praise athletes and artists for their athletic and aesthetic products even well after they cease having the abilities required for producing those products. Both challenges cut against my position. Investigating the challenge presented by the first objection has led me to inquire the nature and ethics of apology more generally. Investigating the challenge presented by the second objection has led to me to inquire about the nature and ethics of admiration more generally.
1. Responsibility Over Time
Philosophers have typically focused on ascertaining the conditions on becoming morally responsible – that is, the conditions that must be satisfied when an action is performed so that an individual is morally responsible for that action. Among these conditions are thought to be control and epistemic conditions, and there has been much disagreement exactly how to understand the content of these conditions. Philosophers have paid much less attention to the conditions on remaining morally responsible – that is, the conditions (beyond the conditions on becoming morally responsible) that must be satisfied by an individual at t2 to continue to be morally responsible for an action performed at t1. The unreflective view is that metaphysical identity is the condition on remaining responsible – that is to say, an individual interminably continues to be morally responsible for an action once she becomes morally responsible for it (for as long as she exists). In this longstanding project, I argue against the unreflective view and explore the implications that this has for theories of moral responsibility.
2. The Nature and Ethics of Apology
This project is a developing research project of mine that arose as part of my research position with the Stockholm Centre for the Ethics of War and Peace. I investigate the nature and ethics of apology. Most accounts of apology take a nature-first approach – that is, they start by working out the nature of apology and then figuring out the ethics from that nature. I instead propose, as Scanlon does with respect to blame, that we should take an ethics-first approach. Among other things, I investigate the nature of personal and political apologies for war time wrongdoings.
3. The Nature and Ethics of Admiration
This is a collaborative project between me and Dr. Alfred Archer (Tilburg). Admiration is an important, but under-investigated emotion. We admire artists, footballers, politicians, war heroes. But what is admiration and when ought we and ought we not admire? We investigate both questions. This project is funded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO).