I am a Ph.D. candidate in philosophy at the University of Chicago. My primary area of research lies at the intersection of contemporary moral philosophy (incl. normative ethics, metaethics, practical reason, and moral psychology) with the history of moral philosophy (esp. Hume, Smith, Nietzsche, and Freud). I also have a secondary, but no less serious, area of research in biomedical ethics. Finally, I am interested in Scottish Enlightenment and 19th century European philosophy more broadly, as well as in the philosophy of psychoanalysis and later Wittgenstein.
In my dissertation, I offer a new interpretation of Adam Smith’s impartial spectator, which also solves a previously unrecognized problem in the relations between Smith’s conception of sympathy and approbation, my dissertation provides a novel account of moral reasons that is both desire-based and accommodating of an extensionally adequate version of the requirement that moral demands have reason-giving force. My account demonstrates that the standpoint of the impartial spectator can both determine what is morally appropriate and inappropriate and give reasons for action to all moral agents (most of us), namely agents who are accountable, can adopt this standpoint and have a certain social desire (the desire to be approvable). In particular, I provide an account of a modestly idealized, impartial standpoint that makes the objects of our patterns of approval approvable and our moral judgments correct. I then argue that moral agents have reason to fulfill moral requirements as determined from this standpoint because other moral agents have reason to expect them to do so, and moral agents have reason to live up to the legitimate expectations of others. The latter reason is explained, per the aspirations of the Humean Theory of Reasons, by the desire to be approvable.