Molly Gurdon

Title | Organization: 
Graduate Student | Ph.D. program in Philosophy
Student Year: 
4th Year Ph.D. Student (Dissertation phase)

I work primarily in ethics and metaethics, with a strong interest in the history of moral philosophy. My dissertation, “Neo-Aristotelian Absolute Prohibitions,” articulates and defends a novel account of absolute moral prohibitions from a broadly neo-Aristotelian perspective. In the wake of Elizabeth Anscombe’s famous arguments against consequentialist moral philosophy, the latter half of the 20th century saw a surge of philosophical interest in Aristotle’s ethics. But few contemporary neo-Aristotelians take much interest in a view that Anscombe and Aristotle share: that there are specific kinds of actions that are inherently, and therefore always, wrong. Against the widespread view of absolute moral prohibitions as a primarily Kantian preoccupation, I argue that absolute prohibitions are an essential component of an Aristotelian ethical outlook, and that these prohibitions are both much more intuitive, and much more important, than is commonly thought. On my view, absolute prohibitions are best formulated not as transcendent laws of reason or divine commands, but as foundational principles for the kind of practical reasoning and affective dispositions necessary for living a good life.

Before coming to Columbia, I completed a BA in Philosophy & Modern Languages at the University of Oxford (Christ Church).