My research addresses the question of how diverse individuals, who disagree on a wide range of fundamental questions, can live together in a shared social world. I’ve found that tackling this question requires approaching various topics in political philosophy using a wide range of theoretical tools. I’ve worked on questions ranging from legitimacy, democratic theory, distributive justice, and public reason liberalism, and I’ve addressed these questions using methods such as social choice theory, agent-based modeling, and, of course, more typical philosophical argumentation, as well as often drawing on insights in the empirical social sciences.
In my dissertation I develop a theory of egalitarian social relations. It begins by advancing an instrumental argument for relational egalitarianism, in addition to arguing that the relevant social relation that we ought to equalize are those of social status. The remainder develops a formal analysis of the dynamics which give rise to and sustain status inequality, as well as the conditions conducive to the mitigation of such inequality.
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"Adjudicating Distributive Disagreement," Synthese (forthcoming) Get the model code here This paper examines different mechanisms for adjudicating disagreement about distributive justice. It begins with a case where individuals have deeply conflicting convictions about distributive justice and must make a social choice regarding the distribution of goods. Four mechanisms of social choice are considered: social contract formation, Borda count vote, simple plurality vote, and minimax bargaining. I develop an agent-based model which examines which mechanisms lead to the greatest degree of satisfying justice-based preferences over the course iterated social choices. Agents are ascribed two kinds of motivations: they wish to realize justice and to receive a greater package of goods. Each agent seeks to realize her ideal distribution, and the failure to do so leaves agents “disappointed,” resulting in their trading off the pursuit of gains in justice in favor of gains in self-interest. Mechanisms are thus assessed using the metric of how many agents remain interested in justice over the course of iterated adjudication. The mechanisms are also examined under some non-ideal conditions, such as the presence of power asymmetries or strategic behavior. Several significant results are addressed: social contract formation and simple plurality voting are robust under the conditions considered, bargaining is a highly ineffective means of adjudicating distributive disagreement, and lastly allowing for concessions in justice for gains in self-interest proves to be a crucial mechanism for ensuring the stability of resolutions.
"The Epistemic Limits of Shared Reasons," European Journal of Philosophy, (forthcoming) Accounts of public reason disagree as to the conditions a reason must meet in order to qualify as public. On one prominent account, a reason is public if, and only if, it is shareable between citizens. The shareability account, I argue, relies on an implausibly demanding assumption regarding the epistemic capabilities of citizens. When more plausible, limited, epistemic capabilities are taken into consideration, the shareability account becomes self-defeating. Under more limited epistemic conditions, few, if any, reasons will be shareable between all reasonable citizens, making the shareability account so demanding that it precludes public reasoning altogether.
"Principles of Collective Choice and Constrains of Fairness: Why the Difference Principle Would be Chosen Behind the Veil of Ignorance" (with Phil Smolenski), The Journal of Philosophy, 2019 In “The Difference Principle Would Not Be Chosen behind the Veil of Ignorance,” Johan E. Gustafsson, argues that the parties in the Original Position (OP) would not choose the Difference Principle to regulate their society’s basic structure. In reply to this internal critique, we provide two arguments. First, his choice models do not serve as a counter-example to the choice of the difference principle, as the models must assume that individual rationality scales to collective contexts in a way that begs the question in favor of utilitarianism. Second, the choice models he develops are incompatible with the constraints of fairness that apply in the OP, which by design subordinates claims of rationality to claims of impartiality. When the OP is modeled correctly the difference principle is indeed entailed by the conditions of the OP.