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Essays

Articles and Chapters
 

7. 'The Wrong of Eugenic Sterilization'

Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, forthcoming
 

I defend a novel account of the wrong of subjecting people to non-consensual sterilization (NCS), particularly in the context of the state-sponsored eugenics programmes once prevalent in the United States. What makes the eugenicist practice of NCS distinctively wrong, I claim, is its dehumanizing core: the fact that it is tantamount to treating people as nonhuman animals, thereby expressing the degrading social meaning that they have the value of animals. The practice of NCS is prima facie seriously wrong partly, but crucially, on these grounds. I consider and reject accounts of the wrong of NCS that make no reference to its animalizing character, such as that it violates victims’ (procreative) autonomy, amounts to treating them merely as a means, inflicts psychological harm on them, or constitutes an affront to their human dignity. My discussion suggests that the critical vocabulary of bioethics should be expanded beyond talk of rights-violations, benefits and harms, and equal treatment—and that the language of dehumanization is indispensable to bioethicists.

6. 'An Attitude towards a Soul—and Its Corruptions: A Wittgensteinian View of Racial Alienation'Wittgenstein and Contemporary Moral Philosophy (Routledge, 2024), ed. Jonathan Beale and Rach Cosker-Rowland, forthcoming 

 

I extend my account of social invisibility and interpersonal recognition by using it to analyze the moral psychology of one form of racism: racial alienation—the failure to emotionally identify with members of another racial group on the basis of their race. I argue that leading views of racism in the analytic tradition threaten to contravene the conviction that racial alienation involves a misrecognition of the other group’s humanity. The pitfall is best avoided by developing a conception of interpersonal awareness that is informed by Wittgenstein’s remarks on other minds, particularly his point that our awareness of others as humanly minded consists in ‘an attitude towards a soul’ rather than in an 'opinion' that she has a soul.

5. 'Do Suicide Attempters Have a Right Not to Be Stabilized in an Emergency?'

Hastings Center Report 2024 54(2): 22–33
 

The standard of care in the United States favors stabilizing any adult who arrives in an emergency department after a failed suicide attempt, even if they appear decisionally capacitated and refuse life-sustaining care. I challenge this ubiquitous practice. Emergency clinicians generally have a moral obligation to err on the side of stabilizing even suicidal patients who refuse such interventions. This obligation reflects the infeasibility of determining these patients’ level of decisional capacitation—among other relevant information—in this unique setting. Nevertheless, I argue, emergently stabilizing suicidal patients over objection sometimes violates a basic yet insufficiently appreciated right of theirs—the right against bodily invasion. It follows that, in such cases, it is prima facie wrong to stabilize a patient who wants to die even if they lack a contrary advance directive or medical order and suffer from no terminal physical illness. 

4. 'Humanism: A Reconsideration'

Journal of the American Philosophical Association 2023 First View: 1–20
 

Humanism is the view that people treat others inhumanely when we fail to see them as human beings, so that our treatment of them will tend to be more humane when we (fully) see their humanity. Recently, humanist views have been criticized on the grounds that the perpetrators of inhumanity regard their victims as human and treat them inhumanely partly for this reason. I argue that the two most common objections to humanist views (and their relatives) are unpersuasive: not only does the evidence marshalled against these views fail to actually disprove them, it could threaten them only if some questionable assumptions were granted. While my discussion constitutes a partial defense of humanism, it is primarily intended as a plea for greater methodological mindfulness. By providing necessary conceptual ground-clearing and routing common lines of attack, I hope to determine what it would take for a humanist project to succeed, paving the way for a full defense of humanism that fulfills its explanatory ambitions.

 


3. 'Objectification and Domination'
Ergo 2021 8: 406–40

I contend that the concept of objectification is necessary yet insufficient for capturing the wrong of recognition-seeking domination (RSD). It’s insufficient because RSD is wrong, in part, because it seeks the victim’s acknowledgment of his own status relative to the dominator—an essentially ‘subjectifying’ relation. Yet it’s also necessary because RSD does resemble our standard ways of acting on inanimate objects, which shapes the distinctive moral profile of these acts. The general lesson is that we must keep both the objectifying and ‘subjectifying’ dimensions of domination in view in morally evaluating it.   


2. 'Kantian Constructivism and the Authority of Others'
European Journal of Philosophy 2020 28(1): 77–92

I argue that Kantian constructivists cannot accommodate our obligations to others. Because the Kantian holds that all of our obligations are grounded in our obligating ourselves, she is committed to the view that our obligations to others are grounded in corresponding obligations to ourselves. Yet this conclusion is objectionable on substantive moral grounds. The problem is that she embraces an egocentric conception of authority, on which we originally have the authority to obligate ourselves while others only have the authority to obligate us because we grant it to them. The solution is to adopt a more thoroughly social conception of authority and autonomy.  We should reject Kantian constructivism, then. 



1. 'Interpersonal Invisibility and the Recognition of Other Persons'
Explorations in Ethics, ed. David Kaspar (Palgrave, 2020)  

I argue that we get an account of social invisibility that best fits our practice of moral complaint if we reject orthodoxy and accept a quite different view of what it is to see another person as a person. On my view, seeing a person as a person is inseparable from caring about her in person-specific ways—hence from a disposition to a range of interpersonal emotional responses to her point of view. Thus, a person’s humanity is invisible to us, according to this picture, when we are unreceptive to her power to influence our attitudes and will through her own attitudes and will.




Book Reviews

'Review of David Livingstone Smith, On Inhumanity'
Philosophical Quarterly 2021 71(3): 647–50




In Progress

 


[Title Removed for Peer Review]  

Although the concept of objectification is generally taken to be a valuable tool in feminist theorizing, far less attention has been devoted to animalization: seeing or treating a person as a nonhuman animal. I consider whether people can be animalized, in a morally significant sense, and whether animalizing actions or attitudes are morally objectionable as such. Modeling a theory of animalization on Kantian theories of objectification in feminist philosophy, I argue that the concept of animalization is most apt when applied to behavior/attitudes that involve a kind of disregard for a person’s will or for her capacity for thought, feeling, or experience. While rebutting the standard objections to use of the concept of animalization, I also show that the most difficult issue with the concept is that it may not always be possible to neatly separate animalization from its neighbors in logical space: objectification and infantilization.

[Title Removed for Peer Review]

Is love a moral emotion? Can love for a particular individual serve as a basis for moral concern, committing us to holding ethical attitudes toward others generally? Love is continuous with moral concern, I argue, because it is linked to our capacity for empathetic identification. Empathetically identifying with our beloved leads us to see a value in him that makes it appropriate to treat him with basic consideration regardless of whether or not we love him. Because our love for someone gives him the power to reveal the same value in people we don’t love, it compels us to show such consideration for a more general category of people, too. Someone who rejects morality, then, may not just be morally bad, but also deeply alone.

 

[Title Removed for Peer Review]

Purely performative resuscitation—resuscitative efforts not expected to provide a clinical benefit to the patient—remains controversial in clinical practice. Nevertheless, many clinicians admit to pursuing it, particularly purely performative CPR (the so-called ‘slow code’). I argue that pursuing a slow code amounts to treating the patient as a tool for others’ benefit—hence, treating him as an object—and that this instrumentalizing quality constitutes one core prima facie wrong of the practice. By employing some well-known conceptual tools of feminist theory, I also build a case for the idea that the slow code may not always be all-things-considered wrong, and I specify limited conditions under which acts of PPR might ultimately be permissible. Thus, the symbolic dimension of medical treatment is indeed morally important, both in morally favorable and in morally problematic respects—namely, in its symbolic denial of the patient’s humanity.

[Title Removed for Peer Review]  

 

The practice of force-feeding dangerously malnourished patients with anorexia nervosa (AN) raises a puzzle for clinical ethics. Force-feeding AN patients may seem justified when, and because, it saves their lives and helps them recover from a debilitating pathological condition. Yet clinical ethics seems committed to a robust anti-paternalism principle, on which it is normally wrong to force treatment on decisionally capacitated patients for their own good. I examine three attempts to solve the puzzle and argue that,  individually or taken together, they cannot justify force-feeding all AN patients for whom this intervention would be potentially effective at enabling recovery. I conclude that no such justification is currently available. A solution to the moral puzzle of AN may come from a reevaluation of the anti-paternalism principle, a deeper clinical understanding of the psychology of AN, or even a reconceptualization of decisional capacity.

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