Rice Unconventional Wisdom

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Current Graduate Students

Joseph Adams  Interests: Which is the best life for you?  Our typical answers don't adequately guide, even if true.  Which among the many specific flourishing or desirable lives is best for you?  My thesis is that a narratively unified life is good for you, and that, given your personal history, the pursuit of it can guide our lives with a superior degree of specificity.  Besides normative ethics, I maintain research interests in social and political philosophy, especially retributivism, and competencies in feminist philosophy, epistemology and the philosophy of science, and Kant

Thesis: Living Storied Lives  Advisor: George Sher 

 Daniel Burkett   Interests: Social and political philosophy (esp. punishment and justice), ethics (esp. contractarianism), freedom and moral responsibility. My thesis will be an attempt to formulate a contractarian theory of punishment, including an examination of what kinds of punishment might be justified under such a theory. I also have strong interests in both the philosophy of time travel, and the philosophy of rock music.

 Thesis: Punishment by Agreement  Advisor: George Sher

 Christopher Dohna.  Interests:  ethics, social and political philosophy, applied ethics (especially technology, medicine, and education), Perfectionism, virtue ethics, philosophy of law, and Existentialism (Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Sartre; the normative aspects especially, whatever those may be.)  Websitewww.christopherdohna.com

 Rainer Ebert.   Interests: I am interested in all of philosophy, except the obscure kind. Particular interests include the moral status of human and nonhuman animals, political philosophy, consciousness, metaphysics, and the roles philosophy does, can and should play in education, politics and activism.

Thesis: The Wrongness of Killing   Advisor: George Sher

Website: http://www.rainerebert.com    Blog: http://rainerebert.wordpress.com

David Erdel.  Interests:  Ethics, Political Philosophy.  The philosophical questions I think about most relate closely to morality. Here are a few: If someone attempts to do the best they can, what do they attempt? Is morality obligatory? When is it better to be partial than impartial? Does participation in a society entail allegiance to it? Is moral progress possible? I'm also interested in many topics in metaphysics and epistemology, as well as in the history of philosophy (especially the early modern period).

Shohei Edamura.  Interests: Early Modern Philosophy, Normative Ethics and Moral Psychology, Metaethics  Advisor: Mark Kulstad 

Claudia "Roma" Hernandez.  Interests:  Philosophy of Mind (esp. Empathy), Phenomenology (esp. Husserl and Merleau-Ponty), Feminist Philosophy of Science, Feminist Theory.  Advisor:  Charles Siewert 

 Samuel Huang.  Interests: Normative ethics, applied (bio- and business) ethics, social and political philosophy, and philosophy of law. My dissertation is on the morality of markets (commodification), an area which I believe needs more examination of the plurality of modes of ownership and expressive values that arise from sale transactions. I am also interested in normative issues regarding the relationship between citizens and the state, in areas such as civic obligation, criminal law and punishment, and expressive political protest, such as civil disobedience.

Thesis: A Price or a Dignity: The Problem of Commodification   Advisor: Baruch Brody

Elizabeth Hupfer  Interests: Social and political philosophy, normative and applied ethics, feminist theory. My current work is in distribution and poverty, and my dissertation is focused on global distributive justice. I argue that in order to determine whether distributive justice is required between nations one must examine the global economic cooperation that currently exists between them. I believe that there is strong reason to think that even when taking nation-states as given, a theory of distributive justice is coherent only when the scope of justice is expanded beyond national borders.. It is not the case that distributive justice applies to all peoples but it is the case that it applies to all countries interacting in an international economic system.

Thesis: Global Distributive Justice: A Structural Approach  Advisor: George Sher

Sherry Ya-Yun Kao  Interests: Normative ethics, bioethics, history of ethics (Kant in particular), value theory, and metaethics. “What makes your life go well for you?” is a question that animates my current project. Starting with the individual situated in social context, I approach this question with a focus on agency, individual uniqueness, and self-realization. I argue that an individual’s values and commitments should survive critical reflection and guide one toward leading a life that is both (I) authentically one’s own and (II) justifiable to others. One makes one’s life go well only if one leads a life with these features (I) and (II).

Thesis: Living Reflectively     Advisor: Baruch Brody 

David Marrah.  Interests:  I am interested in philosophy of mind and continental phenomenology (especially Husserl).  I am particularly interested in consciousness, the nature of mental content, phenomenological introspection as a philosophical method, and how to understand the relationship between mind and world. Consequently, I am also interested in metaphysics and philosophy of  language.  Some questions that motivate my research include "How should we understand the subjective/objective dichotomy?" and "What would constitute a viable alternative to representational theories of mind?

Donald Oxtoby Interests: Philosophy of Perception and Mind, Philosophy of Science, and Modern philosophy. My work focuses on the effects of memory and attention on perceptual experience and perceptual learning (especially auditory perception). I am interested in the question of inference and "unconscious inference" in perception, as contrasted with non-inferential or "direct" perceptual experience. A question of constant concern is how much of a subject's experience in perceiving something depends on inference or other operations, and how much depends merely on perception.  


Carissa Phillips-Garrett  Interests: My primary interests are in ethics and ancient philosophy, but I have secondary interests in the history of ethics, feminist philosophy, and in social and political philosophy.

ThesisBlame, Moral Responsibility, Forgiveness
, and Honor in Aristotle and Beyond

Advisors: Donald Morrison and George Sher

In my dissertation, I offer a new interpretation of Aristotle’s account of blame, argue that a compelling account of blame must make space for forgiving as a valuable practice, and defend a new account of honor. I contend that Aristotelian blame is justified on the grounds of fairness, and since this is so, it is both incompatible with forgiving and also a way of holding agents morally accountable, rather than merely an instrumental or descriptive tool. Moreover, since forgiveness benefits both the forgiver and the forgiven, I argue that the incompatibility of Aristotelian blame and forgiveness is a serious objection. Finally, I offer a solution: Aristotelian blame is reconciled with forgiveness through a novel account of honor that is internally focused and connected essentially to an agent’s integrity.

Allen Porter Interests: Primarily continental philosophy, philosophy of language, metaphysics, and the history of philosophy (both analytic and continental). I am especially interested in the philosophy of Hegel vis-a-vis contemporary continental philosophy, in particular the existential phenomenology of Heidegger and the poststructuralism of Deleuze & Guattari. I am also interested in the resonances between continental poststructuralism and analytic neopragmatism (as found in, for example, the later Wittgenstein, Quine, and the later Putnam). Selected papers available at rice.academia.edu/AllenPorter

 Joshua Reagan . Interests: I am interested in issues related to logic, metaphysics, and epistemology.  In particular, I am curious about what it means to have knowledge of logic(s), and about which logic(s) we can know, if any.  Another issue I'm interested in is how we can do metaphysics, if we can; and on that note I am reading about two-dimensionalist semantics, among other things.  These interests are driven by my interest in the realist/anti-realist debate.  I have additional interests in the history of philosophy (particularly ancient metaphysics and epistemology) and the philosophy of religion. 

 Victor SaenzInterests:  Mainly in Ancient Philosophy--especially Aristotle and his Ethics. There's strong evidence that  Aristotle claims his list of moral virtues in the Nicomachean Ethics is both systematic and complete, i.e., not ad hoc, and not missing any virtues.  I'm interested in what the justification for this claim might be.  I also have strong interests in contemporary bioethics, and in how neo-Aristotelianism can help shed light on bioethical debates.  Finally, I am interested in the history of ethics and contemporary analytic moral theory.

Thesis: On the Systematicity of Aristotle's Moral Virtues   Advisor:  Donald Morrison

Jesse Slavens  Interests: Kant (esp his practical philosophy) and Kantian ethics; Hegel (esp what he has to say about Kant's practical philosophy); moral psychology; social and political philosophy (esp distributive justice) 

Thesis: Tracking Kant's Bete Noir: The Significance of Hegel's Emptiness Critique for Contemporary Kantianism  Advisor: H. Tristram Engelhardt 

Graham Valenta  Interests:  Bioethics, Distributive Justice, Philosophy of Religion, Philosophy of Food

Kerry Vaughan.  Interests: Mainly in ethics including value theory applied ethics and biomedical ethics in particular. My work focuses on the ethics of so-called "nudges" which are attempts to apply the lessons of behavioral economics to improve the wellbeing of choosers without restricting or burdening their choices. I also have an interest in ways that the tools of academic philosophy can be used to do the most to help other people.

Thesis: The Ethics of Nudging in Theory and in Practice

Adviser: Jennifer Blumenthal-Barby

Brandon Williams.  Interests:  I have wide interests in the standard issues of core analytic philosophy, but my research focus, of late, has been in metaethics. I'm interested in (broadly) Humean accounts of reasons, and I think that most reasons internalists are not internal enough (including Bernard Williams). I have also been looking at the debate(s) between moral realists and error theorists while exploring the possibility of an error theory that has a more Carnapian flavor.  I am happy to answer any questions by email: williams.brandon.m@gmail.com

 Peter Zuk Interests: Metaethics, Moral Phenomenology, Normative Ethics, History of Philosophy.  My work so far has focused on two interconnected sets of issues, one contemporary and one historical. On the contemporary side of things, I am interested in the relationship between the first-person content of moral experience and various conceptions of moral objectivity.  I also engage with various issues in value theory, the theoretical underpinnings of consequentialism, and the normative aspects of free will and moral responsibility. On the historical side, I focus on the ethical, metaethical, and general metaphysical commitments of Spinoza, Kant, and Mill, both in order to understand their perspectives on their own terms and to apply their insights to contemporary problems.