Research Interests

I enjoy research. However, I consider myself a generalist rather than a specialist, and I am interested in too many disparate topics to devote my life and career to one discipline, let alone one area within that discipline, let alone one specialization within that area. I suppose that’s the main reason I never pursued a traditional academic career.

At the start of the 2019-2020 academic year, I have aspirations to use my position at the Center of Ethics and Human Values (administrative though this position might be) as an “excuse” to study current areas interests within environmental ethics, conversation biology, and environmental aesthetics.

I am also currently interested in paleobiology and paleoecology.

Select Past Research

• As a PhD student at Ohio State, I studied philosophy of language, complemented by pragmatics, sociolinguistics, and rhetoric (and, within philosophy some meta-ethics and meta-metaphysics). My dissertation was entitled “Feigning Objectivity: An Overlooked Conversational Strategy in Everyday Disputes” (2015), and my committee consisted of William W. Taschek (chair), Stewart Shapiro, and Richard Samuels.

This was the abstract:

“In this dissertation, I reconsider core cases of alleged “faultless disagreement,” beginning with disputes about matters of taste. I argue that these cases demand no revisions to traditional truth-conditional semantics and that, instead, their interesting features—those features that theorists have thought to pose difficulties to traditional semantics—are in fact best explained at the level of pragmatics, rhetoric, and sociolinguistics. Specifically, I maintain that such disputes arise in situations in which, given conversational aims, it is rhetorically effective for disputants to feign contradiction—posturing as if their dispute concerned the truth of an “objective” proposition, even if this is not in fact the case.

“I demonstrate, moreover, than many canonical cases of so-called “merely verbal” disputes share these same interesting features of “faultless” disputes about taste—and that these disputes as well can be explained as rhetorically effective instances of merely “feigned” objectivity. Philosophical discussion of both types of disputes has been hampered by their uncritical assimilation to canonical factual disputes—despite the differences in social role that become evident when the disputes are situated in their context of production—and this has led philosophers too often to neglect other important social and rhetorical reasons for which speakers express disagreement.”

It was fun (in my opinion), but I am no longer working in this area at present.

• Around 2016-17 I accidentally became known as an expert on basic income experiments, especially those planned or launched at the time. This is something I did to counter numerous false headlines and out-of-date or misleadingly incomplete journalistic summaries, but it was not an area of interest in itself. Please kindly refrain from requests for lectures or articles consisting of descriptive summaries of recent or ongoing basic income experiments (although I might well consider invitations to participate in broad-scope critiques of the value of such experiments).