Name a trait, skill or characteristic that you have that others may not know about.
I am an award-winning singer and dancer. I once won a bottle of coconut rum for being the worst karaoke singer in a group of very bad karaoke singers. On a day cruise to the Bahamas, I was awarded a t-shirt for winning the “Real Man” competition. When they asked me what my talent was, I told them that I could dance…worse than anyone on the ship. I then proceeded to prove it.
When did you last sing to yourself, or to someone else?
My two boys (ages 4 and 6) are the only people who can tolerate my singing. A while back, they insisted that I constantly play the Moana soundtrack. I actually enjoyed listening to it twice a day, every day for an entire month. We would sing “You’re Welcome” and “Shiny” together and their enthusiastic vocalizations nearly shattered my eardrums. How can such little people be so loud? Also, who knew that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson could sing so well?
What’s your poison?
A light roast, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe pourover. I have a shrine devoted to coffee in my office where I carefully weigh both the coffee and water while brewing. Yeah, I’m that guy.
What would your childhood self say if someone told you that you would grow up to be a philosopher?
I would have asked them, what is a philosopher? Philosophy was nowhere on my radar, and I fully planned to enter the undergrad business school. I completed the application and was on my way to submit it. I never completed the 50 yard trek from my dorm to the business school, because the words of Ann Hartle (emeritus at Emory U) reverberated in my mind. When I asked her to write a letter for me, she said “I am willing to do that, but I don’t think business school is a good fit for you. You like thinking about ideas too much.” She was right. As time went on, I realized that my favorite ideas to think about were philosophical ones and that people would even pay me to think about those ideas. That’s how I ended up becoming a philosopher.
What are you working on right now?
Most of my career I’ve worked mainly in epistemology. Now, however, I’m focusing on the intersection of normative ethics and the philosophy of religion. The project centers on the ethical assumptions that underwrite certain objections to the existence of God, including the problem of evil. Discussions of these atheistic objections tend to revolve around metaphysical and epistemological concerns. Yet these objections often appeal to assumptions about God’s ethics that are in tension with prominent ideas in normative ethics. My goal, in part, is to understand what ethical assumptions are needed to motivate the best defenses of and responses to the problem of evil.
Yet I can’t understand the ethical assumptions of anything, if I don’t understand the relevant ethics. Thus, I do mainstream normative ethics and philosophy of religion side by side. For example, my “How to Think About Satisficing” (Phil Studies 2017) presents my take on satisficing to the mainstream ethics and practical rationality crowd. My “Satisficing and Motivated Submaximization (in the Philosophy of Religion)” (PPR 2016) applies my take on satisficing to debates surrounding certain atheistic objections. Next steps in the project include work on partiality and supererogation.
If you have interest in the intersection of ethics and philosophy of religion, consider submitting an abstract to the Theistic Ethics Workshops that Christian Miller (Wake Forest), Mark Murphy (Georgetown), and I co-organize. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
This section of the APA Blog is designed to get to know our fellow philosophers a little better. We’re including profiles of APA members that spotlight what captures their interest not only inside the office, but also outside of it. We’d love for you to be a part of it, so please contact us via the interview nomination form here to nominate yourself or a friend.