Research

My work lies at the intersection of interpersonal normative ethics, social philosophy, and moral psychology. Normative ethics asks questions about what actions are right and wrong and what kinds of lives we should live. Social philosophy asks questions about the justice of social structures (both formal and informal). Both areas of philosophy require robust epistemological commitments. (How can we know that we have acted rightly? How do epistemic gaps in our understanding prevent us from adequately working to promote justice?) And, both require close attention to moral psychology. (What reactive attitudes are warranted in response to an action that another commits? What roles can emotions, beliefs, and attitudes play in helping to undermine or perpetuate injustice?)

In my dissertation I analyzed apology and forgiveness as practices of moral repair; the motivating question for that work was to explore not just what makes an action wrong, but what reparative obligations one bears after committing a wrong. As a non-ideal theorist concerned primarily with gender and racial justice, I aim to explore what obligations we bear in light of the legacies of historical and ongoing oppression.

In my published work, I have explored moral emotions like love, contempt, and anger, as well as moral-emotional practices like empathy, forgiveness, and reconciliation, all of which can be used to challenge injustice of various types. Unjust ideologies and cognitive biases heavily influence our perception of ourselves and others. That means that our inner lives – what we perceive, believe, and feel – are sites of resistance where individual actors can work to promote justice. Those conclusions impact not just how we ought to act as individual agents, but what kinds of social policies we should implement.

My scholarly commitments, then, are primarily to restorative/transformative justice (broadly construed), which operates both at the interpersonal level (in the form of individual agents’ reparative obligations) and at the social level (in the form of liberation from oppression). In short, I am concerned with how both individual agents and moral communities ought to perceive, think, and feel in a world shot through with injustice.

Publications

You can download copies of my publications by following the links below.

The Violence of Silencing

Forthcoming in Pacifism, Politics, and Feminism: Intersections and Innovations, edited by Jennifer Kling, in Brill Publishing's Philosophy of Peace series.

I argue that silencing (the act of preventing someone from communicating, broadly construed) can be an act of both interpersonal and institutional violence. My argument has two main steps. First, I follow others in analyzing violence as violation of integrity and show that undermining someone’s capacities as a knower can be such a violation. Second, I argue that silencing someone can violate their epistemic capacities in that way. I conclude by exploring when silencing someone might be morally justifiable, even if doing so is an act of violence.

Forgiveness and Reconciliation

The Moral Psychology of Forgiveness, edited by Kathryn J. Norlock. London, UK: Rowman and Littlefield: 117-134 (2017)

www.rowmaninternational.com/books/the-moral-psychology-of-forgiveness

Forgiveness has received considerably more attention in the Western philosophical literature than has reconciliation. That’s unfortunate, since both are important responses to wrongdoing and are central to moral life. In this paper I develop an account of interpersonal reconciliation. On my view reconciliation is fundamentally bilateral (whereas forgiveness is fundamentally unilateral). It entails transparency and agreement between the wrongdoer and the victim as to the nature of a past wrong or set of wrongs. And, it requires that moral repair be made between the two parties (which entails that both parties bear proper attitudes towards each other). In making my case I contrast reconciliation with toleration and collaboration, in order to demonstrate that reconciliation also entails forgiveness (though forgiveness definitely does not entail reconciliation).

Love and Resistance: Moral Solidarity in the Face of Perceptual Failure

Feminist Philosophy Quarterly, 2 (2): 1-21 (Fall 2016)

In this paper I explore how we ought to respond to the problematic inner lives of those that we love. I argue for an understanding of love that is radical, challenging, and that can be a powerful form of resistance within the confines of everyday relationships. Far from the platitudinous and saccharine, I will argue that love does not call for us only to celebrate our loved ones’ strengths and accomplishments, nor for us to accept our loved ones’ failings. Instead, part of what loving another requires is believing in their potential to grow, holding them to account when they fail, and expecting them to be better.

I argue that loving others means meeting them where they are and working to understand the role that oppressive ideologies, coupled with cognitive biases, play in generating and entrenching their problematic mental states. I then argue that we ought not disengage with our loved ones or write them off as lost causes, nor should we accept that we will simply “agree to disagree.” Instead, we should stand in moral solidarity with our loved ones and press them to become better while simultaneously understanding that such moral growth is usually a slow and painful process – often, the project of a lifetime.

Empathy and a Life of Moral Endeavor

Hypatia, 31 (1): 171-186 (2016)

Over the course of her career, Jean Harvey contributed many invaluable insights that help to make sense of both injustice and resistance. Specifically, she developed an account of what she called “civilized oppression,” which is pernicious in part because it can be difficult to perceive. One way that we ought to pursue what she calls a “life of moral endeavor” is by increasing our perceptual awareness of civilized oppression and ourselves as its agents.

In this paper I argue that one noxious form of civilized oppression is what Miranda Fricker calls “testimonial injustice.” I then follow Harvey in arguing that one of the methods by which we should work to avoid perpetrating testimonial injustice is by empathizing with others. This is true for two reasons. The first is that in order to manifest what Fricker calls the virtue of testimonial justice, we must have a method by which we “correct” our prejudices or implicit biases, and empathy serves as such a corrective. The second is that there are cases where the virtue of testimonial justice wouldn’t in fact correct for testimonial injustice in the way that Fricker suggests, but that actively working to empathize would.

Perceptual Failure and a Life of Moral Endeavor

Social Philosophy Today, 31: 129-139 (2015)

Over the course of her career, Jean Harvey argued that as agents engaged in a “life of moral endeavor,” we should understand ourselves and others to be moral works in progress, always possessing the potential to grow beyond and become more than the sum of our past wrongs.

In this paper I follow Harvey and argue that in order to live a life of moral endeavor, it is not enough merely to know about injustice. Instead, we must engage in the difficult and often painful task of overcoming deep-seated cognitive biases that cause us to fail to perceive the ubiquitous injustice that pervades our world. I conclude by arguing that education, empathy, and love can each help us to increase our perceptual awareness of injustice and so should be recognized to be crucial parts of a life of moral endeavor.