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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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).