In my research, I am to develop and defend a eudaimonist virtue ethics, both against other approaches in normative ethics and against non-eudaimonist forms of virtue ethics. Eudaimonism is characterised by the ideas that only living virtuously is unconditionally good, that other things are good only relative to living virtuously, and that it is a mistake to sharply distinguish living well, living ethically and living happily. Non-eudaimonist virtue ethics (such as consequentialist virtue ethics) are those which reject one or more of these ideas, while still giving virtue theoretical centrality.

Articles

In Defense of a Narrow Drawing of the Boundaries of the Self

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This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in the Journal of Value Inquiry.
The final authenticated version is available online at: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10790-020-09761-2

Abstract:

In his monograph Happiness for Humans, Daniel C. Russell argues that someone’s happiness is constituted by her virtuous engagement in a certain special sort of activity, which he calls embodied activity. An embodied activity is one which depends for its identity on things which lie outside of the agent’s control. What this means is that whether or not it is possible for the activity to continue is not completely up to the agent. A motivating example is my activity of living alongside my spouse. Whether or not it is possible for this activity to continue is not entirely within my control, because my spouse might die, or otherwise become unavailable to me. To defend the view that it’s embodied activities which are constitutive of happiness, Russell defends what he calls the embodied conception of the self. This is the view that the boundaries of the self whose happiness is at stake include all the constitutive parts of our embodied activities.

In response, I provide two arguments. Firstly, I show that while Russell makes a good case for the relevance of embodied activities to happiness, he doesn’t establish that we must adopt the embodied conception of the self in order to obtain those insights. Secondly, I argue that to draw the boundaries of the self in accordance with the embodied conception involves forming beliefs in a way that is not epistemically responsible. In making this argument I rely on the claim that there is a strong, particular sense in which other people are unknowable to us, a claim which is developed in the fiction of Haruki Murakami.

Ph.D. dissertation: Purely Dynamic Eudaimonism

In progress.

Abstract:

Purely dynamic eudaimonism (PDE) is a novel view according to which the final end of practical reasoning is virtuous activity. This should be distinguished from the view that its final end is the agent’s possession of virtue, as well as views according to which its final end is the obtaining of some other state of affairs, or engaging in some other activity or activities. The commonly-raised egoism and intellectualism objections to eudaimonism have motivated eudaimonists such as Rosalind Hursthouse (1999) to appeal to eudaimonia in only carefully circumscribed ways. PDE escapes these objections, and so PDE enables deploying the concept of eudaimonia without reservation to more satisfactorily explain how possession of one virtue seems to imply possession of others, how virtue enables the virtuous to respond well to very different situations, and how the aspiration to develop virtue is a rational response to the challenges that arise in any adult life. Against non-eudaimonist philosophies of happiness, such as Susan Wolf’s, PDE better accounts for how ethical improvement makes lives good; it also explains how the process of integrating our practical concerns itself contributes to making lives good.

I defend PDE in three stages. First, I provide a taxonomy of conceptions of happiness, giving precise accounts of the characteristic features shared by all and only eudaimonist conceptions of happiness (including a minimalist theory of virtue), while also explaining how eudaimonisms can differ from one another. I then argue against representative views drawn from each category of the taxonomy, other than PDE’s category. Finally, I provide positive arguments for PDE by expanding upon the minimal virtue theory common to all forms of eudaimonism.