Moral and Political Philosophy, Philosophy of Education
Applied Ethics, Philosophy of Law, Ancient Philosophy, Early Modern Philosophy, History of Moral and Political Philosophy
Philosophers have often been gripped by the nature of human mortality. However, no less important for the human condition is the closely related fact which Hannah Arendt called our natality: the fact that the existing world must constantly be replenished by new human beings—human beings who are at first utterly dependent on, and vulnerable to, those who came before, but who are also ignorant of, and at best indifferent to, the values and traditions that structure the existing social world. Seen in this light, education assumes a double significance. On the one hand, it consists in replacing the child’s vulnerable dependence with a more secure independence—or perhaps interdependence. On the other hand, education involves initiating children into certain shared practices, languages, and ways of seeing and caring about things.
In conversation with both contemporary philosophers (like Rawls, Dworkin, Feinberg, Korsgaard) and historical writers (like Locke, Kant, Hegel, and Mill), my dissertation – Origins and Departures – addresses three clusters of philosophical questions that arise when education is looked at in this way. First, what is the moral basis of the authority that adults exercise over children, and at what point do young people become independent of that authority? Second, what is the basis of the special rights that parents have over their children, and how extensive are those rights with respect to education? And third, when, if ever, are inequalities of education and opportunity justified, when these emerge from decentralized authority over children in families and local communities?
Post-dissertation projects planned or already underway explore moral questions particular to other periods of the lifespan. For instance, to what extent does society have a duty to help parents balance their familial and occupational roles? And what principles ought to guide our care for the elderly suffering from dementia? (For more information, visit the website listed above.)
"On Becoming an Adult: Autonomy and the Moral Relevance of Life’s Stages," Philosophical Quarterly (forthcoming).
"Creation and Authority: The Natural Law Foundations of Locke's Account of Parental Authority," The Canadian Journal of Philosophy (forthcoming).
Book Review of Jonathan Wolff, Ethics and Public Policy: A Philosophical Inquiry (Routledge, 2011). Journal of Applied Philosophy 29 (2012): 266-268. (PDF of author-generated version)
Book Review of Norvin Richards, The Ethics of Parenthood (Oxford University Press, 2010). Journal of Value Inquiry 46 (2012):117–121. (PDF of author-generated version)