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I am a Ph.D Candidate in Philosophy at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, with an M.A. in Philosophy from Western Michigan University. My dissertation is in metaphysics, chaired by Dean Zimmerman. My primary areas of specialization are metaphysics and epistemology, especially formal epistemology and including decision theory. I also have interests in ethics and religion. You can find my papers here.

 

My research interests are in Metaphysics, Epistemology, Decision Theory, Ethics, and the Philosophy of Religion. My dissertation project focuses on bringing insights from less well known branches of mathematical logic to bear in issues in metaphysics and metametaphysics. I’ve also published papers in ethics, religion, and decision theory. You can find more information on my research page. 

When I am not doing philosophy, I enjoy reading, especially history and science fiction. I also enjoy traveling, seeing historical landmarks, and cooking. 

 

Research

Here are my papers. Below, find a summary of some things I've been thinking about. 

Dissertation Summary

The goal of my dissertation is to bring insights from branches of logic that are not well-discussed in the

literature, notably modal model theory, to bear on questions in the metaphysics of time and modality. This

occurs on both the meta-level and on the level of first order philosophical questions. 

 

On the meta-level, I mount a defense of the ongoing usefulness of modal logic, considered as a branch of mathematics, in the face of recent views in metametaphysics that consider modal tools too crude to usefully state metaphysical theses or adjudicate metaphysical disputes. In doing so, I draw on the study of expressive power in languages and Bayesian epistemology to formulate a new criterion for ideological parsimony: if two ideologies are expressively equivalent, then they are equally parsimonious. After explicating this principle, I show how it blocks arguments against the use of modal logic (among other consequences for parsimony arguments in the literature). I go beyond purely negative arguments by then showing how to use modal logic to study things other than necessity and possibility, and use it to unearth a hitherto unappreciated parallel between grounding and provability.

 

On the first order level, I focus on A-theories of time. Tense logic and modal logic are mathematically similar; their model theory is typically studied together. I address several problems with A-theories. First, I argue that the standard way of setting up tense logic is hostile to open future views, and propose an alternative that is not. I show that my alternative can provide a logical setting for evaluating arguments about whether the future is open, and prove that the standard setup is a special case of my framework. Second, I argue that (a) presentists can consistently adopt a counterpart theory of identity across time, and (b) that they can solve several problems if they do so.

Surreal Decision Theory Project

Although classical expected utility theory is a fruitful and elegant approach to modeling preferences, it has trouble when extended to include infinities. Eddy Chen and I have argued, drawing on non-standard analysis, that we can get around many of these troubles by using surreal numbers in the representation of utilities. Our paper in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, “Surreal Decisions,” provides an overview of surreal mathematics, proves a representation theorem, and puts our theory to work analyzing Pascal’s Wager. We are working on extending our results to cases with infinite state spaces.

No Best World Project

I don’t think that there’s a best of all possible worlds. Any world can be improved. If this is true, it has interesting consequences for theism. In my Philosophical Studies paper, “God Meets Satan’s Apple,” I draw on work in infinite decision theory to show those consequences and conclude that a theistic creator cannot be subject to rational or moral norms. A current draft of mine, “There is No Best World,” shores up this conclusion by arguing that recent attempts to define a best world fail. In future work, I aim to provide further arguments a against a best world. 

 

Teaching

Syllabi, Teaching Statement, and Evaluations available upon request

Courses Taught

PHI 101: Critical Thinking.

  • Focus on how are thinking goes wrong and what we can do about it.

  • Includes: discussion of cognitive biases, introductions to propositional logic, probability theory, expected utility theory, and game theory.

PHI 103: Introduction to Philosophy.

  • Covered topics in metaphysics, ethics, and epistemology.

  • Focus on getting students to discuss philosophical topics and present their view on some controversial question to the class.

PHI 201: Introduction to Formal Logic.

  • Six week summer course.

  • Employed guided practice to move students through the propositional and predicate calculi, with focus on formalization of English sentences and learning to use tableaux proof systems. 

PHI 265: Introduction to Philosophy of Religion.

  • First part of the course covered arguments about the existence and attributes of an omnipotent, omniscient, good being. 

  • Second part of the course covered philosophical issues arising from specific philosophical traditions, with focus on the three Abrahamic religions.

PHI 305: Philosophy in the High Middle Ages.

  • Focused on scholastic metaphysics and philosophy of religion.

  • Particular attention to Anselm, Aquinas, Scotus, and Ockham. But we read some other figures, too.

 

Contact

Department of Philosophy
Gateway Transit Building, Floor 5
106 Somerset
New Brunswick, NJ 08901