I have written one monograph and several essays on Friedrich Schleiermacher, an early nineteenth-century German theologian. Schleiermacher is an ongoing subject of my research and teaching, as are the traditions of (mostly Protestant) religious liberalism that are downstream of his work. In the November 2017 I will deliver a talk provisionally entitled "Schleiermacher's Strategy and the Dynamics of Religious Polarization" to the inaugural meeting of the International Schleiermacher Working Group.
My other primary area of research for the past several years has been the historical foundation of 'critical theory'. I have completed a manuscript of a monograph provisionally entitled Reframing the Masters of Suspicion, which is currently undergoing press evaluations. The monograph revisits Paul Ricoeur’s well-known 1965 classification of Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Sigmund Freud as the “masters of suspicion”. I offer an alternative to Ricoeur’s account of the method common to these three figures. Where Ricoeur regarded suspicion as mode of interpretation, I argue that as practiced by his ‘masters’, it is better regarded as a mode of explanation. In the book’s three expository chapters I reconstruct Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud as practitioners of what I can the suspicious explanation of large-scale social phenomena, where a suspicious explanation is one that postulates the existence of “hidden” phenomena that are bad in some recognizable way. Reconstructing Ricoeur’s masters in this way brings their work into conversation with conspiracy theories, which I also classify as a type of suspicious explanation. And it opens the way for a discussion of the distinct kind of cognitive appeal that the works of the masters share with conspiracy theories. Suspicious explanations have some interesting features: they can appeal to values held by persons or communities in powerful ways, and they can complicate attempts to assess their likely truth or falsity by claiming that some sources of relevant evidence are misleading and so not to be taken at face-value. In the concluding chapter I argue that these two features make suspicious explanations “cognitively ensnaring”, to borrow a term from Pascal Boyer: if they are true they are importantly true, and their truth or falsity can be very difficult to ascertain.
Alongside my scholarly research interests, I have become interested in the possibilities of using Virtual Reality for academic work. A short profile of my work in this area can be found here.