Research

My research concerns living a meaningful life, specifically what we can do to live lives that are meaningful for us, and how we can do those things. Currently, I am focused on what forms of socially embedded technology can help or hinder our making our lives meaningful.

One way we can actively make our lives more meaningful is through the interpretive choices we make about the events that transpire in our lives. Another is through reasoning and acting in a way that keeps us open and responsive to the things and people we care about, such that they can teach us how to better care about and for them. The psychological, social, and agential dynamics at play need to be better understood and integrated into our picture of living a meaningful life.

Below is a brief list of my writing on these topics.

  • “Meaning in Life and Becoming More Fulfilled” connects personal meaning to the pattern of activity over time in which we learn how to better care for things and people in our lives. Forthcoming in The Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy. [preprint]
  • “Personal Meaning and the Shape of a Life” develops an analysis of personal meaning. Personal meaning is what accrues to our life as we successfully cope with the enduring practical problem of what to value, and how, constrained by our limited understanding and resources. (In preparation.)
  • A paper that develops a picture of heuristic reasoning and acting that is compatible with self-guidance, but susceptible to manipulation. This paper also addresses self-guidance worries about nudges and nudging. (Under review, email for a draft.)
  • “Manipulative Design through Gamification” accounts for gamification as a species of nudging in which game-like rules enable certain patterns of playful, heuristic reasoning and acting. Design choices like these are manipulative when, and because, the activity they induce serves the designers’ hidden purposes. (In preparation, email for a draft.)

The latter two papers are largely self-standing and address prominent ethical issues about interpersonal influence and technological design, but the picture they develop bears on living a personally meaningful life. While manipulative design leads us away from making our lives meaningful, similar but non-manipulative design choices could support us in this endeavor. I am happy to discuss any of these issues further email, though more work on this is coming soon.

I also have a side interest in Nietzsche, especially his moral psychology and metaethics. My paper, “Nietzsche and the Art of Cruelty” has been published in The Journal of Nietzsche Studies 48.3 (2017): 402–29. [PhilPapers] [JSTOR]