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. This investigation takes place centrally in ethics and the philosophy of action, though it draws on work in behavioral psychology, clinical psychology, and neuroscience.

One way in which 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. In both such cases, the psychological 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”, which 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 Narrative Shape of a Life” develops an account of interpretive choices and the broader narratives they support, and how this bears on personal meaning in life. (In preparation, email for a draft.)
  • A paper under review that develops a picture of ‘fast-and-frugal’ reasoning and acting that is compatible with self-guidance, but susceptible to manipulation. This paper also addresses self-guidance worries about nudges and nudging.
  • “Manipulation in Nudging and Gamification” accounts for gamification as a species of nudging in which a fiction about aims is exploited, and argues that manipulation, to which gamification and nudging makes us susceptible, is best understood as a matter of deception. (In preparation, email for a draft.)

The latter two papers are largely self-standing and address prominent ethical issues about interpersonal influence, but the picture of reasoning and acting they develop bears on living a personally meaningful life. I am happy to discuss these connections by email, though more work on this is coming soon.

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