I work in the History of Philosophy, specializing in Kant and Hegel. My research is generally focused on the nature of subjectivity: how an account of subjectivity (or of actual human subjects) can fit into a more general ontology in a non-reductive fashion, and how, at the same time, this account can make sense of our ability to experience the world around us. My research is also informed by the central figures in Early Modern Rationalism (Descartes, Leibniz, Spinoza) as well as by 20th Century Phenomenology, especially Merleau-Ponty.
In my dissertation, The Idealism of Life: Hegel and Kant on the Ontology of Living Individuals, I argued that Hegel’s account of life in the Science of Logic should be seen as resolving difficulties present in Kant’s conception of natural teleology (presented in the Critique of Judgment) by introducing a logical account of subjectivity. The concept of life or organic nature occupies a privileged and pivotal spot in both Kant’s critical philosophy and in Hegel’s Science of Logic, and consequently, thinking about the relationship between the two accounts of the distinctive character of life can offer a focused, concrete point of contact between Kant’s and Hegel’s respective conceptions of logic and metaphysics. Recent accounts of this relationship have focused on questions about teleological explanations that appeal to a connection between an organism and its kind. For instance, we might wonder how both Kant and Hegel would respond (or think we are licensed to respond) to the question, “Why do dogs have such sensitive noses?”
While questions about the possibility (and necessity) of teleological explanations are obviously relevant to Kant’s and Hegel’s purposes, I argue that any claims regarding the possibility of such teleological explanation (particularly explanations drawing on the relationship between biological type and token, species and individual) themselves rest on a deeper question about the logical nature of living individuals, on the distinctive character of the tokens that can stand in this relation to their type. By focusing on this question—what, logically, makes something an individual, rather than a mere heap—I demonstrate how to make sense of one of Hegel’s most radical insights: that the conception of life as self-determining rests on a kind of ideal unity that cannot be captured by the more familiar ontological categories such as substance, cause, or reciprocity, but which ultimately must be captured in the terms of a self-determining subject which is determined in and through its relations to both itself and its environment.