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Mentoring and Student Research

My teaching often plays a vital role in my research. Luckily for me, Cal Poly adopts the Teacher-Scholar model for faculty, emphasizing the importance of scholarship for teaching and teaching for scholarship. This model includes, when possible, meaningful student engagement in faculty scholarship and the incorporation of one's scholarship into one's teaching. To this end, I aim to teach practical research skills and to use research experiences to foster virtuous inquiry. I am proud to have had former students go on to pursue graduate work in philosophy and related fields, as well as students who have found careers that align with their values and philosophical training. Please see below for information about mentorship through Cal Poly's Senior Projects and collaborative research projects with my students through a variety of Cal Poly programs.

Senior Project Advising

At Cal Poly,  all students are required to complete a senior project to graduate. This is an expression of the university's ethos: learn by doing. For philosophy majors, learn by doing means doing philosophy! The senior project for philosophy majors typically consists of writing a substantial research paper under the supervision of a tenured or tenure-track faculty member.  I am happy to supervise senior projects on a number of topics related to my areas of specialization and competence. Please see below for lists of the topics of current and past senior projects I've supervised.

Upcoming, Current, and Past Senior Project Topics:

David Lewis's Theory of Causation

Theistic Metaethics

Theories of Beauty

Free Agency and Mental Health

Physicalism and The Causal Theory of Action

Free Will and Utilitarianism about Moral Responsibility

Free Will Skepticism

Manipulation Arguments for Incompatibilism

Grounding and Post-Modal Metaphysics

The Ontological Argument for God's Existence

Idealism in Contemporary Philosophy of Mind

Strawsonian Accounts of Moral Responsibility

Critiquing Cartesian Arguments for Mind-Body Dualism

Philosophical Zombies and Cognitive Science

Dungeons and Dragons and Philosophy

The Morality of Manipulation

Actualist Accounts of Modality: Essentialism vs. Dispositionalism

Fictionalism in Metaphysics


Free Will and Self-Knowledge

Mental Health Education as a Moral Imperative


Faculty-Student Research

CLA SURP Research Project

The CLA Summer Undergraduate Research/Creative Activity Program at Cal Poly aims to promote CLA student engagement in faculty-led research and creative activities. 

Abilities and Disabilities: A Metaphysical Investigation, Summer 2024

Project Abstract: It is often unreflectively assumed that disability is a kind of medical impairment. But there is a growing consensus across liberal arts methodologies that disability is to be understood as a kind of social exclusion or minoritization, an unjust mismatch between a person’s characteristics and their built environment or culture's social activities. The debate between the medical and social models of disability is longstanding. Philosophers have only recently begun to think seriously about this debate or about disability in general. Some philosophers have tried to define disability in terms of normal function or physiological or psychological impairment; others have suggested that disabilities are socially constructed. Some have even suggested that disabilities are nothing more than the expression of unjust power structures. One very recent philosophical approach to disabilities says that they are unique kind of inability. The difficulty with this kind of view is figuring out what makes disabilities unique. Why are disabilities a locus of injustice and discrimination? This recent approach has not drawn on recent developments in analytic metaphysics and the philosophy of action, however. In this project, we will investigate the connection between disabilities and the contemporary metaphysics of abilities. The goal will be to bring these disconnected literatures together, and so connect pressing social justice issues with cutting-edge work in theoretical philosophy. The main goal would be to help deal with pressing moral and political questions about disability by carefully analyzing the concept itself. Let’s figure it out together!

BEACoN Research Project

Free Will and Anger at Injustice, Winter 2021- Spring 2022

Project Abstract: Some philosophers think that no one has free will. It is not up to us what we do. Perhaps everything we do is just the product of brain mechanisms that are out of our control, or that physics says there is only one possible future, or that everything is ultimately lucky due to quantum indeterminism. Importantly, if it is not up to us what we do, it seems that our actions are not deserving of blame or punishment; no actions are worth being angry about. Why? It would be unfair to angrily blame someone who could not have avoided doing something wrong. It would be unjust to punish someone who was not in control over what they were doing. On the other hand, other philosophers have suggested that our confidence in the fact that we are morally responsible—that some people really do deserve angry blame—itself constitutes a reason to believe in free will. In this project, we will investigate the connection between free will and the aptness of anger. We will focus on work on anger that emphasizes anger at oppression by contemporary ethicists, especially those concerned with feminism and anti-racism. Can a free will skeptic accommodate concerns about anger at injustice? Are there places where pro and anti-anger thinking converge, such as in criminal justice reform or non-violent response to wrongdoing? Could an argument be made for free will from justice struggles? Let’s find out!

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