I am a fourth-year philosophy PhD candidate with doctoral minors in neuroscience and cognitive science at the University of Arizona. My interests are centred on moral judgement-making—from there, they branch widely into the philosophy of cognitive science, psychology, neuroscience, the philosophy of science, metaethics, and, increasingly, the social sciences. As a result, I’ve been working primarily with Sara Aronowitz, Mark Timmons, Allen Buchanan, and Shaun Nichols.
I’m currently writing my dissertation. In it, I argue that individuating normative functions (i.e., distinguishing between functional and dysfunctional activities) is indispensable for designing useful experiments and explaining their results in psychology and neuroscience. However, psychologists and neuroscientists have resisted evaluating responses to moral judgment-making tasks as functional or dysfunctional insofar as it would be philosophically controversial. Unfortunately, I argue, this has severely impaired the sciences of moral judgment-making. To address this, I develop a scientific argument that the normative function of moral judgment-making is to encode information about whether a behaviour achieves its cooperative function for the largest functioning system that it participates in. I argue that this entails that moral rightness is identical to (or, at least, realized by) the property of a behaviour achieving its cooperative function for the largest functioning system that it participates in. This is a controversial implication, but I argue that we are epistemically obligated to accept it because it’s indispensable for the moral sciences. I conclude by mitigating its philosophical damage: surprisingly, it’s consistent with the positive existential claims of every metaphysical and epistemological theory about morality and moral normativity.
My career goal is to extend my dissertation project by developing and applying philosophical foundations for the moral sciences, from the sciences of moral judgment-making to the sciences of other natural kinds throughout the domain of morality. This goal is interdisciplinary: I’m equally interested in developing and implementing better experimental paradigms for the moral sciences as I am in explaining their results and exploring their philosophical implications.