What I Do

I am a philosopher and ethicist. Many people (especially philosophers themselves) tend to assume that philosophy is not a practical discipline. Philosophy's supposed lack of utility is seen as a badge of pride by some philosophers, and a reason to dismiss it by somewhat greater numbers of nonphilosophers.

Both are mistaken. Philosophy done well springs from, and returns to, the problems we face in living in the world. The problems that most urgently require philosophical reflection in any generation will usually be those which come out of changed conditions of human life, rather than those which simply continue long-running philosophical debates at a greater level of sophistication. John Dewey put it best: "Philosophy recovers itself when it ceases to be a device for dealing with the problems of philosophers and becomes a method, cultivated by philosophers, for dealing with the problems of men."

Because of this my research often addresses new problems that are currently outside the philosophical mainstream, but now require systematic and rigorous reflection. What principles should govern the ownership of ideas? When are inequalities in health and life expectancy unfair? What should the limits be on state interventions to improve the health of the population? What is the fairest way to distribute limited healthcare resources?