I am a PhD candidate in Harvard’s philosophy department. Broadly speaking, my work is concerned with the ways that different kinds of epistemic virtues enable, constitute, and (perhaps) interfere with ethical virtues. I'm particularly interested in the significance of emotionally-charged imagination and understanding, and in the gap between intellectually comprehending and knowing something “in one’s heart.” Previously, I’ve worked on questions about the ethical status of epistemic goods that naturally arise within a broadly Aristotelian framework: issues I’ve addressed include whether some epistemic deficits might be features of good character, and whether the unity of the virtues thesis imposes unacceptably high demands for intellectual understanding and practical know-how upon a would-be phronimos.
My dissertation explores territory not as well-trodden by Aristotelian virtue theorists, since it is focused on a psychological phenomenon, empathy, that has traditionally been of interest to philosophers working in the sentimentalist tradition. However, I rely upon insights from virtue theory to develop my account of empathy as an epistemic-cum-ethical good. I argue that close attention to the nature of our desire for empathy, to our disappointment and even anguish when others do not empathize with us, reveals that what we want from empathy is to be understood. Empathy is critically important to our happiness because it is the unique means by which others can come to see how our attitudes make sense, and when others fail to understand our attitudes in this respect, we are in some sense alienated from the human community of feeling. This alienation can be deeply wounding, even if those who cannot or do not empathize with us are nevertheless full of benevolent concern for us. So, even if empathy comes with serious risks (and there are real worries about empathy’s myopic or provincialist tendencies) the capacity to empathize is an important part of complete virtue.
Other topics I am interested in include: self-knowledge, integrity, and connections between ethics and aesthetics.