Professor of Philosophy
Areas of Research: Ethics, Applied Ethics, Political Philosophy, Feminist Philosophy, Philosophy of Sex and Love, LGBT Philosophy
I joined Rice's Philosophy Department in the Summer of 2019. Prior to that, I taught at Arizona State University and the University of Calgary. I completed my PhD in Philosophy at the University of St. Andrews in 1999, and a BA in Classics and English at Oxford University in 1993.
My largest body of research focuses on the ethics and politics of marriage and the family. In my book, Minimizing Marriage, I argue that common reasons for thinking marriage has special moral value are misguided; the value of relationships lies in interpersonal care. I'm particularly interested in relationships which are excluded or marginalized by marriage law, and how legal protections can be extended to them. In later work, I've broadened my analysis to look at care for the elderly and at domestic workers as family members. As well as arguing for the value of caring relationships, I've also analyzed the wrongs of inequality within them and of privileging some caring relationships over others. In a new project, I'm focusing on the "bads" of caring relationships - such as emotional abuse, stalking, and harassment.
My second ongoing area of research is disaster ethics - especially, the state's role in disaster response. I've written on the importance of place as a reason for the state's role in rebuilding after disasters, and am currently writing on the ethics of price gouging.
I've also written on philosophical aspects of literary works (Henry James's novels and Bob Dylan's lyrics) and would someday like to return to those topics.
As a teacher, I typically teach courses in Philosophy of Love and Sex, Applied Ethics, Feminist Philosophy, History of Ethics, and Philosophy and Literature. With the other Professor Brake at Rice, my brother Matthew (https://mech.rice.edu/users/brake), I'm co-teaching a course in Engineering Ethics.
I am the Editor of the Journal of Applied Philosophy and the Program Chair for the 2020 Pacific Division Meeting of the American Philosophical Association in San Francisco.