My research concerns what we can do to live lives that are meaningful for us, and how we can do those things. I focus on what forms of socially embedded technology can help or hinder our making our lives meaningful, especially in the workplace and in gamified environments. This investigation ranges over much fertile terrain, concerning not only meaningful activity, but craft, expertise, and the transforming nature and significance of work.
Below is a brief list of my writing on these and other topics. For more information, download my CV here.
"Meaningful Work and Achievement in Increasingly Automated Workplaces", in Journal of Ethics (forthcoming)
As automating technologies are increasingly integrated into workplaces, one concern is that many of the human workers who remain will be relegated to less meaningful work. This paper considers two rival theories of meaningful work, achievementism and the practice view, that might be used to evaluate particular implementations of automation. Of the two, the practice view is the better tool for assessing the future of meaningful work, because achievementism is explanatorily inadequate in two ways. Moreover, the practice view can explain why the most meaningful forms of work cannot be automated.
"Nudges, Nudging, and Self-Guidance Under the Influence", in Ergo (forthcoming)
This paper offers a tripartite analysis of nudging in terms of dispositions to decide using heuristics. It articulates and responds to the worry that nudging an agent undermines her self-guidance by undermining her good reasoning. Good reasoning is compatible with being nudged because the heuristics involved can be good rules to reason with, and the agent can be flexible with respect to their use. However, a more pernicious, manipulation-based worry comes to the fore: that, in nudging, our self-guidance can be exploited to undermine other aspects of our autonomy.
"Manipulative Design Through Gamification", in Fleur Jongepier and Michael Klenk (eds.), The Philosophy of Online Manipulation (Routledge, 2022): 216–234
This paper 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.
"Meaning in Life and Becoming More Fulfilled", in Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 20.1 (2021): 1–29
This paper 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. It argues that this process of becoming more fulfilled through what we do is a genuinely subjective source of meaning in life, and that two popular arguments in the literature against such subjectivist theories fail. It also shows that the view on offer is broadly intuitive.
"Nietzsche and the Art of Cruelty", in Journal of Nietzsche Studies 48.3 (2017): 402–29
This paper offers an account of Nietzsche's remarks on cruelty in light of his drive-based picture of human psychology. After offering a conceptual analysis of cruel acts, it argues for a psychologically pluralistic understanding of "the will to power" to make sense of Nietzsche's high regard for cruelty, especially self-directed cruelty, in individual greatness.
Currently, I have paper drafts available (upon request) on what role, if any, narratives have in living a meaningful life; and on whether autonomy can be used to explain why manipulation is pro tanto wrong.
A couple of papers are also in preparation, with drafts available very soon. The first tries to reconcile a longstanding tension in two views on meaningful activity, one that privileges play, and the other self-transcendence; I will argue that playfulness is how agents like us transcend ourselves. I also have other papers in progress with colleagues on explainable AI and the right to an explanation, and on manipulation of laypeople by experts.