Ph.D., University of Chicago (2012)
B.A., University of Chicago (2001)
My research focuses on the social dimensions of freedom. I am interested in the ways in which a free life involves not just pursuing one’s own private interests, but also acting with others from a shared sense of the common good. In thinking about freedom as a political rather than narrowly personal concept, I engage with a tradition of thought stretching from Rousseau to Kant, Hegel, Marx, and Rawls. According to this tradition, freedom is deeply interconnected with questions of equality, economic justice, and the state.
Although much of my published writing involves critical reconstruction of major works and figures in the history of political thought, more recently I have turned my attention to the political present. I am particularly interested in the idea of institutional or structural domination, i.e., threats to freedom that stem not from individual bad action but from unjust social institutions. Throughout my research, I am oriented by the idea that philosophy should incorporate insights from the social sciences. To this end, I am currently also working on a project entitled “What’s Wrong with Gentrification?” which applies political philosophy to questions of urban planning.
I teach introductory courses in general philosophy, as well as introductory and advanced courses in social and political philosophy, ethics, and European philosophy. My courses often explore questions like, ‘Why should I obey the law?’ ‘Is economic inequality unjust?’ ‘What does society owe me, and what do I owe society?’
No matter what material my class is discussing, I aim to help students see how the claims of difficult and often historically remote texts speak to contemporary experience. For example, in both Justice, Freedom, and the State and Racial Justice and Injustice we examine how classic justifications for state authority resonate with the facts of systematic racism and racial exclusion. If citizens have made an agreement to yield to state authority in return for essential goods and services, do members of racially underprivileged groups still have a duty to obey?
“Freedom and Poverty in the Kantian State,” European Journal of Philosophy, vol. 26 (2018): 911-931
“The Provisionality of Property Rights in Kant’s Doctrine of Right,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy, vol. 48 (2018): 850-876
“Rousseau on the Ground of Obligation: Reconsidering the Social Autonomy Interpretation,” European Journal of Political Theory, vol. 17 (2018): 233-243
“Autonomy and Happiness in Rousseau’s Justification of the State,” Review of Politics, vol. 78 (2016): 391-417
“Rawls on Meaningful Work and Freedom,” Social Theory and Practice, vol. 41 (2015): 477-504
Amherst alumni reunion talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfUkW-Vykoo