My research focuses on contemporary ethics, philosophy of mind and psychology, and the history of modern European thought. I'm especially interested in issues at the intersection between moral psychology, cognitive science, and the philosophy of emotion, including the nature of emotional cognition and the role of emotional experience in moral and social agency. In approaching these issues, my work looks to rehabilitate historically-overlooked contributions to ethical theory from 19th and 20th century European philosophy, with an emphasis on sentimentalist reactions to Kant in early phenomenological and existential thought.
My recent publications attempt to bring the neglected but influential philosophy of Max Scheler to bear on issues in contemporary debate. My current works-in-progress include an invited chapter on Scheler’s encounter with Nietzsche’s philosophical psychology, and another paper on Scheler’s influence on Merleau-Ponty’s account of the lived body.
This paper attempts to demonstrate Max Scheler’s anticipation of and continued relevance to a burgeoning trend of essence-based accounts of modality, chief among them being Kit Fine’s landmark 1994 “Essence and Modality”. I argue that Scheler’s account of the material a priori not only anticipates the picture of essence-based modality suggested by Fine, but moreover offers resources with the potential to resolve key challenges for the Finean program. In particular, Fine’s account runs into problems in explaining how formal logical necessities are to be grounded in essences, challenges that put pressure on the essentialist to adopt a non-propositional account of the nature of logical principles. I argue that one such account can be found in Scheler’s notion of the material a priori, according to which all necessary propositional truth is grounded in a realm of experientially given yet a priori ‘phenomenological facts’. After showing the general rapprochement between Scheler’s and Fine’s accounts of regional modality, I then turn to address Scheler’s attempt to ground formal logical principles in essences. On Scheler’s picture, propositions expressing formal logical truths are true in virtue of the domain of essences in two senses: (i) In terms of what Scheler calls objective necessity, they are true insofar as they coincide with the essential facts and interconnections shared by all possible regions of being; (ii) In terms of what he calls subjective necessity, they are true in virtue of these same essential facts and interconnections insofar as they have become ‘functionalized’ into law-like patterns of cognition.
 “Emotion and the Ethical A Priori: A Schelerian Case”
Forthcoming in Phenomenological Studies, Felix Meiner Verlag
According to a common prejudice in ethical theory that finds its apotheosis in Kant, emotional experience cannot ground foundational moral principles unless we are to forfeit an a priori foundation for ethics. This prejudice in ethics is often buttressed by a formalist assumption about the a priori in general, according to which the unconditional necessity of all a priori truth must ultimately redound to those purely formal faculties that justify propositions irrespective of the material content of experience. In this paper, I aim to make some headway in overcoming this formalist prejudice though a novel appropriation of Max Scheler’s essence-based account of the "material a priori." On Scheler's account, the self-given contents of experience disclose a realm of a priori facts—namely, phenomenological facts—that are immune to empirically contingent states of affairs. Extending this notion of the material a priori to the ethical domain, Scheler argues that law-like constraints on evaluative and ethical judgements are grounded in emotionally-given value essences, which constitute a unique region of a priori phenomenological facts alongside those pertaining to all other experiential modalities (e.g. color, tone, space, etc.). In an effort to motivate a broadly Schelerian model of the material a priori, I first provide a case study of color incompatibility knowledge, arguing that traditional formalist analyses from the early Wittgenstein and Schlick fail to adequately explain the a prioricity of color incompatibility claims. After developing Scheler’s account of the material a priori as a corrective model of color incompatibility knowledge, I then turn to argue that phenomenological reflection on emotionally given evaluative phenomena also reveals self-evident objective laws grounded in the nature of emotional experience itself.
All else being equal, can an objective-seeming character of moral experience support a presumption in favor of some form of moral objectivism? Don Loeb (2007) has argued that even if we grant that moral experience appears to present us with a realm of objective moral facts—something he denies we have reason to do in the first place—the objective purport of moral experience cannot by itself provide even prima facie support for moral objectivism. In this paper, I contend against Loeb that granting the objective-seeming character of ordinary moral experience is sufficient to shift a presumptive case in favor of moral objectivism, and this by constituting non-explanatory, comparative confirmation that incrementally raises the prima facie likelihood that moral facts exist. More specifically, I appeal to a modest confirmation principle shared by Likelihoodists and Bayesians in an effort to show that (i) at a minimum, moral experience establishes a middling scrutable probability for a sufficient but not necessary condition of moral objectivism being true, and that (ii) this moderate probability in turn constitutes evidence that makes it prima facie more probable than not that some form of moral objectivism is true.