Academic Writing

Prospective Reasoning for Dynamic Identities: Making Decisions That Make You Glad You Made Them

Presented at (includes scheduled):

  • Uehiro Graduate Conference, March 2022

  • Georgia Philosophical Society Spring Meeting, June 2022

When deciding whether or not to do something, we might try to imagine ourselves in the future, looking back on the choice we made with gladness or regret. If we'll be glad that we did it, it's a good sign that we should do it; if we'll regret that we did it, it's a good sign that we shouldn't. I focus on cases where the very decision to do something leads us to form attachments and commitments that make us especially likely to be glad that we did it. In the literature, this is generally seen as bad reasoning — we can't justify a decision by claiming that we will be glad we did it when making the decision turns us into someone who's glad we did it! I argue that it can in fact be very good reasoning, both because our identities are porous, dynamic things, and because it allows us to make decisions with an eye towards personal growth. [draft]

"You Have No One to Blame But Yourself": Gaslighting and the Line Between Intrapersonal and Interpersonal Deception

Presented at (includes scheduled):

  • University of Florida - Florida State University Graduate Philosophy Conference, March 2022

  • Great Lakes Philosophy Conference, April 2022

  • APA Eastern Division Meeting, January 2023

In normal deception, someone else leads me to have a false belief. Most accounts of self-deception try to specify what part of myself leads me to have a false belief. Is it a certain intention? Desire? Emotion? What all these accounts tend to ignore is that intentions, desires, and emotions are formed in a social context. In other words, just because my false belief arises from, for instance, a desire that warps my reasoning, that doesn't mean that, in another sense, it didn't also arise from someone else. As an example, I discuss "gaslighting," or the ongoing process of a perpetrator leading a victim to distrust her own ability to determine the truth. A victim of gaslighting will often form false beliefs in ways that fit the bill for accounts of self-deception, despite the fact that the process which, indirectly, led her to these beliefs was created and maintained by the perpetrator. In the end, the line between being deceived by myself and being deceived by someone else can be blurry, and attempts to clearly define the boundaries of self-deception tend to push a false dichotomy. [draft]

Public Writing

Why Location Matters When Choosing a Graduate School

(Blog of the American Philosophical Association) [link]

What Should We Do About Problematic Characters and Their Bad Fans?

(Aesthetics for Birds) [link]

Projects in Progress

The Implications of Transdiagnostic Approaches to Psychological Nosology for Mental Illness as a Social Identity

To be presented at the annual meeting of the Mississippi Academy of Sciences, February 2023

Diagnosis of mental illness currently sees disorders as discrete labels that might overlap. This has been criticized in both the psychological and philosophical literature. Broadly speaking, it looks as though the lines which separate different disorders are arbitrary and often get in the way of successful treatment. This has led to calls for "transdiagnostic approaches" such as the Hierarchical Taxonomy of Psychopathology, which trades discrete labels for a system of nested relations between traits and symptoms determined quantitatively. More than ever, thanks to the success of the disability rights movement, a mental illness diagnosis is understood as an affirmed part of peoples' identities, around which communities are built. So, it's worth asking, if we lose the discrete labels, what happens to the the identities and communities that are based on them? I go over potential drawbacks and benefits on this front.

Integrating the Incoherent: Trauma, Love, and Life Narratives

A relatively popular theory is that people try to integrate their experiences into some sort of coherent narrative -- it may even be central to living a fulfilling life. Sometimes, though, the logic of this narrative is disrupted. Some experience violates important assumptions about how people and the world work, and it is extremely difficult or impossible to integrate that experience into one's life narrative without a major revision to the entire narrative. For some, this is the definition of trauma. Perhaps it is clear that the story of yourself that you were developing so far cannot be the same story of yourself that you develop after this experience: the narrative becomes incoherent. Or perhaps the experience itself can't be made sense of using the tools that you've been using to develop your narrative so far: the event is incoherent. I draw on non-fiction narratives of trauma, clinical psychology, the fiction of Tim O'Brien, The Leftovers and Station Eleven, and the philosophy of love to analyze the varieties of this phenomenon, as well as accounts of its overcoming. Specifically, the relationship between reestablishing stability by reintegrating the traumatic experience into a life narrative and reestablishing stability through trust in others and community.