Current Projects


I am at work on a number of papers, some of which are under review. I have included abstracts of these papers below so you can get an idea about where my research is headed. Email me at if you’re interested in talking more! 

Is Hume’s Ideal Moral Judge a Woman?

Hume refers to women as imaginative, compassionate, conversable, and delicate. While his appraisals of women seem disparate, I argue that they reflect a position about the distinctive role that Hume takes women to have in shaping and enforcing moral norms. On his view, I maintain, women provide us with the model of a moral critic, or judge. I claim that Hume sees a tight connection between moral competency and those traits he identifies as feminine. Making this case requires getting clear on a number of concepts in Hume’s philosophical toolbox and their relation to one another. The primary quality of a good moral judge, according to Hume, is a delicacy of taste. I show that Hume thinks of delicacy as feminine in that the traits one must possess to be delicate – compassion, imagination, conversability – are most associated with women in the 18th century.

Enthusiasm and Modesty in Hume’s History

There is widespread recognition about the importance of pride in Hume’s ethics; however, little is said about the virtue of modesty outside of an epistemological context. In this paper, I make a case for the importance of modesty in Hume’s catalogue of moral virtues. I do so by examining the phenomena of enthusiasm and fanaticism. According to Hume, one of the dangers of enthusiasm is that it leads one to hold false beliefs – an enthusiast may “imagine he sees what has no reality: he may know his narrative to be false, and yet preserve in it, with the best intentions in the world, for the sake of promoting so holy a cause.” However, more important for him is that enthusiasm can pervert our natural sentiments and encourage vice. I focus on the negative impact that enthusiasm has on the cultivation of modesty, a virtue that Hume deems important for anyone living in polite society to develop, since immodesty is a key feature of cruelty and inhumanity. I examine Hume’s portrayal of Oliver Cromwell in The History of England as a way of illustrating this connection between enthusiasm, immodesty, and cruelty.

Getting More For Less: A Minimalist Conception of Love

A puzzle arises when considering the value of love alongside that of autonomy – how can a relation wherein two individuals are bound to one another be consistent with self-determination? In this paper, I defend a rather heterodox solution to the puzzle of love and autonomy; one that explains why love is not only consistent with but necessary for acknowledging another person’s autonomy. To develop this solution, I argue for a minimalist conception of love, according to which love is an agreeable sensation that is experienced when considering the existence of another person. On this view, love does not involve a desiring component – one does not seek anything from the beloved but simply acknowledges their presence. A precondition of this love is that one recognizes the other as a distinct being. Love puts us in a position to appreciate the beloved in their particular way of being. By accepting the presence of the beloved, we gain a sense of their autonomy and even of our own as well. The roots of this minimalist conception of love are found in the writings of Damaris Masham (1659-1708). I draw on some recent work by Kyla Ebels-Duggan to elaborate on and defend Masham’s view, distinguishing it from other revisionary accounts of love (Vellemen 1999, 2008; Setiya 2014).