I am an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Florida International University, with research interests in political philosophy, the philosophy of law, medical ethics, and human rights (in particular gay rights and abortion rights). (Click here for a list of my published work.)
In addition to teaching and research, I serve as President and lead negotiator of the United Faculty of Florida's chapter at FIU. I have previously held positions as a researcher on trade-related issues with UNIFOR (Canada's largest private-sector union) and as a financial editor for Desjardins Capital Markets.
Outside of work, you can find me enjoying time in the outdoors, training for my first half marathon, or hanging out with my cat.
Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence (2016)
During his career, Ronald Dworkin wrote extensively on an impressive range of issues in moral, political, and legal philosophy, but, like many of his contemporaries, international law remained a topic of relative neglect. His most sustained work on international law is a posthumously published article, “A New Philosophy for International Law” (2013), which displays some familiar aspects of his views in general jurisprudence, in addition to some novel (though perhaps surprising) arguments as well. This paper argues that the moralized account of international law we might have expected is conspicuously missing from this posthumous article; with Dworkin advancing an argument based on a form of political realism instead.
Philosophy of Science (2019, with R. Powell)
The debate over the concept of disease is cast as one between naturalism and normativism, with a hybrid view staked out in between. In light of widely discussed problems with each account, some theorists recommend eliminating the disease concept in medical contexts. In this paper, we reframe the disease debate by way of examining Ereshefsky's widely cited criticisms. We argue that while prevailing accounts do not suffer from the particular defects that he and others have identified, they do suffer from other deficits — and this leads us to propose an amended hybrid account that satisfies the institutional-ethical desiderata for a concept of disease in human medicine.
Journal of Medical Ethics (2019, with R. Powell)
“Disease” is one of the most foundational concepts in medicine, and yet debate as to how we should characterize it is no closer to a resolution than when it began several decades ago. Because discussions of “disease” straddle biology, medicine, morality, and culture, disease theorists have angled from many different disciplines in the service of diverse programmatic goals. This situation is conducive to talking at cross purposes and has caused some recent philosophical analyses of “disease” to become rather insular, quarantined from wider social ramifications. In this paper, we argue that prominent critiques have actually misdiagnosed the most serious problems that plague existing accounts of “disease.” We discuss the chief criticisms associated with each approach, and explain why these critiques gloss over the most powerful objections. We then go on to offer a new twist on the hybrid account that not only avoids these objections, but also satisfies the institutional-ethical desiderata for a concept of disease in human medicine.
The Oxford Handbook of Transnational Law (2021, with M. Giudice)
While some forms of transnational law are quite old, such as lex mercatoria, other forms are relatively recent and continue to proliferate. The rise of new, non-state legal phenomena, or at least phenomena which have not received the same quantity and quality of attention from legal theorists as state law, prompts questions about the adequacy of existing theories and frameworks. This is the theme of this chapter, but with a particular focus on the prospects for the familiar philosophical theory of legal positivism to account for the existence and character of transnational law. We shall suggest that while some of the core commitments of legal positivism still serve a useful purpose, other commitments may need to be significantly altered or perhaps even abandoned.
Jus Cogens (2022)
Once limited to issues in maritime and trade law, today the most recognizable examples of international law govern issues such as human rights, intellectual property, crimes against humanity and international armed conflicts. In many ways, this proliferation has been a welcomed development. However, when coupled with international law’s decentralized structure, this rapid proliferation has also posed problems for how we (and in particular judges) identify if, when, and where international law exists. This article puts forward a novel, dignity-based account for how we answer this question: arguing that an international law exists if and only if it is consistent with respecting dignity. The upshot of this account is two-fold. First, it explains many features of international law that other theories leave unaccounted for or under-explained. And second, my dignity-based account provides for a mechanism through which the system can continue to be developed and improved.
the American Journal of Bioethics (2022)
In Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) the Court argued that the Fourteenth Amendment protected “choices central to personal dignity and autonomy.” Not only did the Court argue this grounded the procreative rights of pregnant persons, but in the decades that followed this language also served as the basis for the greatest expansion of LGBTQ+ rights in American history, including: Lawrence v. Texas (2003), United States v. Windsor (2013), and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015). This commentary argues that these advances are not only at risk in Dobbs v. Jackson, but that the “dignitary harms” found to be prohibited in these subsequent decisions give us reason to believe the Court should recognize greater protections for the procreative liberties of pregnant persons.
Taylor Swift and Philosophy, Blackwell's Philosophy and Pop Culture Series (forthcoming, with K. VaLde)
The Trouble With Knowing You Were Trouble
“I knew you were trouble when you walked in,” sings Taylor Swift in her song I Knew You Were Trouble (IKYWT). But what, exactly, does Swift know? And how does she know it? This paper considers three possible interpretations. The first interpretation considers whether Swift is simply profiling or stereotyping her would-be suiter. The second interpretation considers whether Swift is actually making a self-knowledge claim--where what is claiming to know is something about herself. Finally, the third interpretation considers whether we should take Swift at face-value. When Swift says she "knew you were trouble when you walked in," she meant it. Indeed, women and other minorities are socially conditioned to be attenuated to body language and other non-verbal cues that help keep them safe. Swift's claim, therefore, may not simply be a morally problematic instance or stereotyping, or a claim about her self-knowledge (which is somewhat unsupported by the lyrics); rather, Swift's claim to know you were trouble helps reveal shortcomings in popular contemporary accounts of epistemology. Shortcomings that can be corrected by thinking about claims like the one Swift makes here.
American Journal of legal History (2023)
Although this paper uses Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) as its frame, it aims to bring out some distinctive features of Justice Kennedy’s jurisprudence of dignity more broadly. There are two reasons why such an investigation is important. The first is important to those interested in the legal case. Indeed, in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health (2022), the Court now argues that the relevant ‘test’ for determining whether a right is protected under the Due Process Clause is whether the right is found to be ‘deeply rooted’ in the nation’s history and tradition. This paper aims to critique this decision, as well as originalist approaches to constitutional interpretation more broadly, and seeks to resurrect and reconstruct Kennedy’s jurisprudence of dignity that has undergirded (sometimes quietly) the expansion of civil rights protections to the LGBTQ+ community. The second reason this investigation is important is of interest to philosophers and legal historians. Dignity is a notoriously elusive concept, and much ink has been spilt trying to sort out the precise nature of its content and its boundaries. This paper brings together the many (seemingly disparate) uses of dignity found across cases involving gay rights, abortion, and foreign sovereign immunity, and argues Kennedy effectively weaves these uses together in ways that may sharpen our understanding of dignity in both the philosophical and legal literatures.
Journal of Medical Ethics (2019, with R. Powell)
We are grateful for the thoughtful attention the commentators and editors have given our paper. They raise many substantive points that warrant a response, but our reply must be brief. In our paper, "Rethinking 'Disease': A Fresh Diagnosis and a New Philosophical Treatment," we argue for an amended hybrid account of ‘disease’ in human medicine that takes normative ethics seriously, guards against pernicious classifications of disease and reconnects the concept with the goals of healthcare institutions in which disease diagnosis is embedded. Carel and Tekin, in their respective replies, raise issues about the objectivity and effective operationalisation of our account, Agar makes an ‘evolutionary’ case for disease concept eliminativism in mental health, and Wakefield and Conrad contend that our proposed modification to the harmful dysfunction account is unnecessary and undesirable. In this piece, we respond to each in turn.
Journal of Applied Philosophy (2023)
Talk of ‘dignity’ is everywhere. As Vincent Lloyd notes, in Black Dignity: The Struggle Against Domination, in its legal habitat ‘dignity’ has historically been used to denote a particularly high status. However, this focus on dignity as status, Lloyd argues, ignores a ‘richer sense of dignity’ (p. 3) that lays at the heart of the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as ‘Black struggles of the past years, decades, and centuries’ more broadly (p. 24). That is, the sense of dignity as an activity you do. This sense of dignity, according to Lloyd, is the ‘cornerstone’ to understanding the underlying moral and political stance embodied in the Black Lives Matter movement (p. 22). This review works through some of the novel insights Lloyd brings to the ever growing philosophical debate about the nature of 'dignity,' and offers some thoughts about why we might do well not to abandon some historical understandings so quickly.
Res Publica (2023)
Kristen Hessler’s book, Feminist Human Rights: A Political Approach (2023), challenges traditional understandings of the relationship between International Human Rights Law (IHRL) and moral philosophy. For so-called orthodox theorists, such as John Tasioulas (2012), IHRL itself presupposes “an extra-legal conception of human rights” which builds in moral analysis at the ground floor (p. 2). In contrast, political approaches to IHRL, such as the one put forward by Charles Beitz (2009), reject such a presupposition yields any explanatory benefits: arguing instead that the best way for us to understand IHRL is to be attentive to the practice itself. Hessler rejects this traditional dichotomy, and puts forward a feminist approach to human rights theorizing that takes the practice of IHRL not only as the primary source for her analysis, but also as “a potential producer of authoritative moral principles” (p. 155).
Journal of Moral Philosophy (forthcoming)
Ruling Bodies: A Study of Coercion and Punishment in Plato's Republic, Laws, and Gorgias, by Robin Varma (book review)
What role should coercion have in modern statecraft? In their recent book, Ruling Bodies: A Study of Coercion and Punishment in Plato’s Republic, Laws, and Gorgias (2022), Robin Varma asks us to think about this question by turning our attention back to these three Platonic dialogues. I believe much can be learned from Varma’s insightful analysis of each of these dialogues, both as a matter of historical interest, but also for contemporary theorists interested in thinking about the proper role of coercion and punishment in the rule of law and modern statecraft. To this end, Varma’s emphasis on the role of shame in Plato’s dialogues is also important: particularly when thinking about the foundational questions of legal systems writ large.
American Journal of Bioethics (forthcoming)(with A. Polk)
What Do Right Have to Do With It?
Keisha Ray & Jane Fallis Cooper broadly argue that “If bioethicists take the project of health justice as seriously as our core professional principles purport, then we have to address environmental injustices and threats they pose to our bioethics principles, health equity, and clinical care” (p. 2). There is nothing particularly objectionable about these goals, and we agree with the authors that bioethicists and medical practitioners of all stripes ought to take the social determinants of health seriously. However, following Waldron (1993), we argue it does not follow from these goals that we ought to codify a legal right to a healthy environment. Indeed, not only is it unclear that anything important turns on there being a ‘legal right’ to a healthy environment (as opposed to, say, passing legislation which provides individuals and communities with a healthy environment), but given the significant political costs (e.g., money, labor, energy, etc.,) of codifying such a right, we believe this may actually be counterproductive to achieving the authors’ stated goals.
The history of abortion law in the United States has long been well trodden ground for many lawyers, scholars, and activists. Nevertheless, with decision in Dobbs v. Jackson (2022) now finalized, there has been a resurgence of interest in this topic from people around the world. In this post, I work through some of the reasoning offered by the Court in its decision to overturn Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) and Roe v. Wade (1973). Ultimately, I argue that the relevant ‘test’ the Court purports to adopt for determining what rights fall under the ‘liberty’ protected by the fourteenth amendment is misguided. Moreover and concerningly, this misguided test carries risks. Other liberties are vulnerable to the adoption of this test. Important protections, such as for same-sex marriage and interracial marriage, could be lost under the precedent of Dobbs. This majority decision has traded a sound jurisprudential tradition for a jurisprudence of doubt.
Policy driven by data and science represents the gold standard amongst politicians of all political stripes who seek to break through the partisan gridlock. From health and safety protocols surrounding COVID-19 to long term projects related to infrastructure and public transit, the ideal appears to be to let the data "speak for itself" and lead the way. In this post, we examine the relationship between science, scientific practices and policy making, and highlight one aspect of this relationship that has been underappreciated: namely, the relationship between science and policy making is symbiotic not unidirectional. Implicit and explicit value assumptions made by policymakers and scientists alike inevitably frame and shape the data we collect. As a result, we argue the relevant roles of scientists and policymakers have often been misunderstood, and appreciating the symbiotic relationship that exists between these two sets of actors may indicate a need to reform policymaking institutions such as the FDA and CDC.
Academe (forthcoming, with K. Valde)
Has Quantification Seduced Higher Ed?
This article examines the challenges and pressures liberal arts programs are currently facing, as well as their responses to them. We argue that while liberal arts programs do in fact develop transferable skills that promote ‘work-place readiness,’ these skills are best understood as derivative goods of a liberal arts education and not the value of the education itself. Further, we argue that valuing the liberal arts for these derivative goods may be self-defeating—insofar as a liberal arts education is constituted by a certain set of social norms, values, practices. Like friendship, therefore, a liberal arts education has instrumental value; however, pursuing a liberal arts education for the instrumental value may diminish (and may even preclude) the realization of these derivative goods and values.