Curriculum Vitae

Abbreviated. Full CV available as PDF here.


RESEARCH

  • Areas of Specialization: Social & Political Philosophy, Philosophy of Language
  • Areas of Competence: Ethics, Philosophy of Law, Epistemology
     

EMPLOYMENT

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The Australian National University, Canberra. September 2017 - 2019

Research Fellow in the School of Philosophy, Research School of Social Sciences. In association with the Australian Research Council (ARC) project on Ethics & Risk, with Seth Lazar, Lara Buchak, Alan Hajek, Philip Pettit, Frank Jackson, and Katie Steele.


EDUCATION

University of Southern California

Ph.D. Philosophy, December 2017
Dissertation: Mistaken Self-Defense and Normative Conventions
Advisor: Jonathan Quong; Committee Members: Mark Schroeder, Robin Jeshion, Seana Shiffrin, Richard John

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Northern Illinois University

M.A. Philosophy, May 2012

Biola University

B.S. Studio Arts, December 2010, Summa Cum Laude
B.A. Philosophy, December 2009, Summa Cum Laude


PUBLICATIONS

Journal Articles

'Reasonable Mistakes and Regulative Norms: Racial Bias in Defensive Harm'. Journal of Political Philosophy, Vol. 25, No. 2 (2017): 196-217. doi: 10.1111/jopp.12120

'Revisiting the Right to do Wrong'. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 95, No. 1 (2017): 43-57. doi: 10.1080/00048402.2016.1179654

'The Pragmatics of Slurs'. Nous, vol. 51 no. 3 (2017): 439-462; published online March 2015. doi: 10.1111/nous.12090

Book Reviews

Review of How Propaganda Works by Jason Stanley. Ethics, Vol. 127, No. 2 (2017): 502-507.


HONORS, AWARDS, & FELLOWSHIPS

2016


 


2015-16

PhD Achievement Award, University of Southern California
Given to five out of the 3,000+ students enrolled in PhD programs university-wide.

Flewelling Award for Outstanding Graduate Students, University of Southern California
Competitive philosophy department award.

Scholar at Saks Institute for Mental Health Law, Policy, and Ethics

2015
 

2014
 

2013
 

2012
 

2011

University Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award, University of Southern California
Given to the three top teaching assistants university-wide, one each in the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Hard Sciences.

Award for Excellence in Teaching, University of Southern California
Given to one teaching assistant per department.

University of Southern California Graduate School Professional Development Summer Fellowship
Sponsored by the National Science Foundation; Competitive university fellowship.

C. Mason and Madeline Myers Graduate Philosophy Award, Northern Illinois University
Given to one outstanding student in the philosophy M.A. program.

University Fellowship, The Graduate School, Northern Illinois University
Competitive university fellowship.


TALKS & CONFERENCE PRESENTATIONS

To view abstract, click the paper titles.
 
  • Melbourne Applied Philosophy Seminar, March 2018 (invited)

+ The Case For Conventional Defensive Permissions

On most accounts, whether it is morally permissible to harm someone in self-defense depends exclusively on whether doing so is necessary to avert a genuine threat for which they are responsible, or else is justified by lesser-evil considerations. Problematically, because they can't distinguish between genuine and merely apparent threats, these accounts leave agents prone to unintentional rights-transgressions, and fail to fairly distribute the risk of suffering unjust harm. I argue that this mischaracterizes agents' defensive permissions in a social context. Taking promissory obligations as a model, I show that there is moral reason to introduce a convention to mediate and extend agents' defensive permissions. Given the uncertainty that agents must act under, there is reason to permit defense against agents to avoidably act in ways that are conventional signals of aggression, even if (unknown to the defender) the threat is merely apparent.

  • Australasian Workshop in Moral Philosophy, January 2018
  • Stockholm Centre for the Ethics of War and Peace, Graduate Reading Retreat, November 2017

+ Epistemic Injustice and the Harm in Mental Illness Epithets

This paper aims to focus carefully on the topic of pejoratives relating to mental illness. I argue that though 'crazy' and similar mental illness-based epithets (MI-epithets) are not best understood as slurs, they do function to isolate, exclude, and marginalize members of the targeted group in ways similar to the harmfulness of slurs more generally. While they do not generally express the hate/contempt characteristic of weaponized uses of slurs, MI-epithets perpetuate epistemic injustice by portraying sufferers of mental illness as deserving minimal credibility. After outlining the ways in which these epithets can cause harm, I examine available legal and social remedies, and suggest that the best path going forward is to pursue a reclamation project rather than aiming to censure the use of MI-epithets.

  • New York Philosophy of Language Workshop, December 2017 (invited)
  • Central APA (symposium), Kansas City, March 2017

+ Explaining the Justificatory Asymmetry between Statistical and Individualized Evidence

In some cases, there appears to be an asymmetry in the evidential value of statistical and more individualized evidence. For example, while I may accept that Alex is guilty based on eyewitness testimony that is 80% likely to be accurate, it does not seem permissible to do so based on the fact that 80% of a group that Alex is a member of are guilty. In this paper I suggest that rather than reflecting a deep fact about the content of types of evidence, this asymmetry might arise from the moral features of the relation between the source of evidence and the target’s agency. While relying on statistical evidence plausibly raises the stakes of error by introducing new kinds of risk to members of the reference class, paradigmatically “individualized” evidence—evidence tracing back to A’s voluntary behaviour—lowers the stakes of error. Plausibly the degree of evidential support needed to justify accepting a proposition as true depends on the stakes of error. If so, then these facts explain the apparent evidential asymmetry without positing a deep difference in the brute justificatory power of different types of evidence.

  • Australian National University Economics & Philosophy Workshop, November 2017 (invited)

+The Rational Impermissibility of Accepting Racial Generalizations

I argue that racialized inferences (e.g. believing Fernando is a janitor, on the grounds that he is Salvadorean and most Salvadoreans in this area are janitors) instantiate species of a more general epistemic flaw: accepting a proposition when, given the stakes of the context, one is not adequately justified in doing so. I sketch an account of the nature of adequate justification---practical adequacy with respect to eliminating the ~P possibilities from one's epistemic statespace---and suggest that whether one is justified in accepting a proposition on generalized evidence partially depends on whether the membership conditions of the generalization satisfy constraints on permissible avoidable signaling conventions. If they do, then the moral stakes are lower, as the object of belief has waived their complaint against acceptance. Finally, I suggest that since racial membership conditions do not satisfy these constraints, generalizations based on race cannot justify acceptance of a proposition P if one risks wronging the object of belief if mistaken.

  • St. Louis Annual Conference on Reasons and Rationality, St. Louis, May 2017
  • Talbot Philosophical Society Colloquium, Biola University, November 2016 (invited)
  • Arche Graduate Conference, St. Andrews, October 2016

+ The Moral Grounds Of Mistaken Self-Defense

Mistaken self-defense presents a puzzle: in at least some cases agents are intuitively justified in imposing defensive harm on an apparent aggressor, despite (in fact) facing no genuine threat. I argue that these cases motivate a more expansive view of the moral grounds of permissible self-defense, allowing that in addition to liability-based permissions, defenders sometimes enjoy vulnerability-based permissions. In particular, when individuals S behave in ways that conventionally signal that they pose a threat to an agent P, S cannot reasonably demand that P refrain from defensive action, so P is permitted to defend herself. I develop an account of what it is to conventionally signal threateningness, and explore some limitations on what signaling behaviors can do the relevant moral work.

  • Manchester Center for Political Theory (MANCEPT), Panel on Risk & Uncertainty, September 2016
  • Harvard Graduate Political Theory Conference, October 2015

+ The Problem Of The Mistaken Defender

There is widespread agreement that agents are justified in imposing defensive harm in at least some cases where they are reasonably mistaken about whether the threat is genuine (perhaps because the apparent aggressor is bluffing). Still, not every evidentially justified mistaken defense is permissible: in some cases (like McMahan's Mistaken Resident) the mistaken defender wrongs the apparent aggressor. I argue that none of the dominant accounts are able without supplementation to secure and explain the intuitive verdicts about the full range of cases of mistaken defense. At minimum we should look for an extension that identifies the moral feature that renders permissible mistakes permissible, links the permission in the right sort of way to the apparent aggressor's actions, and keeps the account from over-generating.

  • Stockholm Centre for the Ethics of War and Peace Graduate Reading Retreat, September 2016
  • Rocky Mountain Ethics Congress, Boulder, August 2016

+ Reporting Bad Beliefs: Solutions For Pragmatic Accounts Of Slurs

Pragmatic accounts of slurs are characterized by commitment to the equivalence thesis: that slurs are semantically equivalent to their neutral counterparts. I present the three most common objections to pragmatic approaches stemming from this thesis: the equivalence problem, that it makes “all (NCs) are (slurs)” a conceptual truth; the substitution problem, that the view falsely predicts slurs may be substituted into intensional contexts salva veritae; and the conversational problem, that reports omitting slurs are intuitively incomplete and thus indicate that slurs differ from NCs in semantic content. I show that pragmatic theorists have adequate responses to each objection. The substitution problem relies on principles she is free to deny, while the equivalence objection is question begging. Finally, the conversational problem relies on delicate data that does not clearly support a semantic interpretation.

  • Pacific APA (colloquium), San Francisco, March 2016
  • 9th Annual Northern Graduate Conference at Northern Illinois University, November 2015

+ Reasonable Mistakes And Regulative Norms: Racial Bias In Defensive Harm

A regulative norm for permissible defense distinguishes the conditions under which we will hold defenders to be innocent of any wrongdoing from those in which we hold them responsible for assault or manslaughter. The norm must strike a fair balance between defenders' security, on the one hand, and other agents’ legitimate claim to live without fear of suffering mistaken defensive harm, on the other. Since agents must make defensive decisions under high pressure and on only partial information, they will sometimes make mistakes. We have reason to want a norm that considers a mistake permissible when it was highly likely on the evidence that defense was proportionate and necessary to avert a threat. However, adopting an evidentialist norm under non-ideal conditions is treacherous business. I briefly survey empirical data suggesting that the type and extent of bias prevalent in the US renders a straightforward evidentialist norm unjust, and thus since the legal practice in the US relies on such a norm, we must explore avenues for reform. Preferably this will take the form of adopting a modified evidential norm, and I explore some promising options. If this proves impossible, however, then we have to accept a strict regulative norm (which does not consider any mistakes permissible), as the sole just alternative.

  • Political Violence Workshop, University of Connecticut, December 2015

+ Metalinguistic Moral Disagreement

The problem of moral disagreement has been presented as an objection to contextualist semantics for ought, since it is not clear that contextualism can accommodate or give a convincing gloss of such disagreement. I argue that independently of our semantics, disagreements over oughts in non-cooperative contexts are best understood in the framework of metalinguistic negation, which is easily accommodated by contextualism. If this is correct, then rather than posing a problem for contextualism, the data from moral disagreements provides some reason to adopt a semantics that allows variance in the meanings of oughts.

  • Central APA (colloquium), St. Louis, February 2015

+ Revisiting the Right to do Wrong

Rights to do wrong may be conceptually possible, but (contra Waldron, Enoch, and Herstein) they are not necessary (even) within the framework of interest-based rights aimed at preserving autonomy. Agents can make morally significant choices and develop their moral character without a right to do wrong, so long as we either acknowledge supererogatory and minimally satisficing acts, or allow that there can be moral variation within the set of actions an agent is obligated to perform. Agents can also engage in non-trivial self-constitution in choosing between morally indifferent options, so long as there is adequate non-moral variation among the alternatives. Furthermore, the intuition that in some cases individuals do have a right to do wrong can be explained as stemming from a cautionary principle motivated by the asymmetry between the risk of wrongly interfering and that of refraining from interfering.

  • UCLA Law and Philosophy Graduate Conference, October 2014

+ The Specification Problem for Anderson's Democratic Egalitarianism

The specification problem is a challenge to both specify the content of our egalitarian obligations, and justify these obligations on neutral grounds. I spend the majority of the paper illustrating how the problem arises for one particular relational egalitarian theory, defended by Elizabeth Anderson. After reviewing the obligations Anderson aims to justify, evaluating three strategies one may use to ground these particular obligations, and finding that they all fail to simultaneously specify our obligations and justify them on grounds that are neutral between conceptions of the good, I contend that this failure stems from a structural feature of relational egalitarianism in conjunction with a capabilities metric. Consequently, it illuminates a general problem for relational egalitarian theories with such a metric: either they can specify the content of our obligations, or they can ground our obligations in neutral principles, but they cannot do both.

  • Northwestern University Society for Theory in Ethics and Politics, March 2014

+ The Pragmatics of Slurs

It is standardly assumed that an adequate semantics of slurring terms must account for the peculiar embedding pattern exhibited by slurs, explaining why slurs often cause offense despite logical embedding. I argue that the offense generation pattern of slurring terms parallels that of impoliteness behaviors, and is best explained by appeal to purely pragmatic mechanisms akin to those at work in impoliteness phenomena. In short, in choosing to use a slurring term rather than its neutral counterpart, the speaker signals that she endorses the term (and its associations). Such an attitude is offensive, and consequently slurs generate offense whenever a speaker’s use demonstrates a contrastive preference for the slurring term. Since such an explanation comes at low theoretical cost and imposes few constraints on an account of the semantics of slurs, this suggests that we should not require semantic accounts to provide an independent explanation of embedding patterns.

  • Princeton/Rutgers Graduate Student Conference, April 2013
  • Texas Tech University Philosophy Graduate Student Conference, April 2013

+ Chancy Conditionals: A Critique of Hawthorne

A number of authors have argued that since quantum indeterminacy results in non-zero probabilities of remarkable events, it poses a threat to Lewisian semantics of counterfactuals. Lewis proposed two criteria (remarkableness and improbability) to distance possible worlds containing such events from the world set relevant to evaluation of ordinary counterfactuals. Hawthorne leveled four objections to the criteria set, which assume that remarkableness must be a probabilistic concept. I argue that there is good reason to avoid a probabilistic construal of remarkableness, and offer an alternative understanding which avoids Hawthorne's objections.

  • Indiana Philosophical Association, April 2012

A Prosententialist Account Of Vagueness

  • USC/UCLA Graduate Conference, February 2012
  • British Postgraduate Philosophical Association Conference, September 2011
  • Central States Philosophical Association Annual Conference, September 2011

ACADEMIC SERVICE

 

Journal Refereeing

Australasian Journal of Philosophy (x4); Dialectica (x2); Ergo; Erkenntnis; Ethical Theory and Moral Practice (x2); Ethics; Journal of Philosophy; Journal of Political Philosophy (x5); Pacific Philosophical Quarterly (x5); Philosophical Studies; Philosophical Quarterly; Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (x2); Social Theory and Practice

 

Other Administrative

  • PhilPapers Assistant Area Editor, Philosophy of Law (2016-present)
  • Editorial Assistant, Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy (2016-2017)
  • President, USC Philosophy Graduate Student Association (2015-2016 academic year)
  • Philosophy Graduate Student Advisory Council, Northern Illinois University (2011-12 academic year)
  • Co-Organizer, USC/UCLA Graduate Conference (2014)
  • Co-Organizer, 5th Annual Midwest Regional Graduate Conference (2011)