My research focuses on the political ethics of the oppressed and on the morality of violent and non-violent resistance. My broader interests include questions about normativity, authority, and political obligation.
I hold a Ph.D. in political theory from Harvard University, where I was a graduate fellow of the E. J. Safra Center for Ethics and an inaugural awardee of the Government Department's Sidney Verba Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. I also hold an M.Phil. in political theory from the University of Oxford and an A.B. in philosophy from Georgetown University.
Acts of futile resistance--harms against an aggressor which could not reasonably hope to avert the threat the aggressor poses--give rise to a puzzle: on the one hand, many such acts are intuitively permissible, yet on the other, these acts appear to fail to meet the justificatory standards of defensive action. The most widely accepted solution to this puzzle is that victims in such cases permissibly defend against a secondary threat to their honor, dignity, or moral standing. I argue that this solution fails, because futile resistance is not plausibly regarded as defensive in the relevant sense. I propose instead that futile resistance is justified as a form of protest, where protest is analyzed as an expression of rejection of victims' wrongs. Such protest is justified, I argue, when and because it is the fitting response to the circumstances of futility. [X]
2021. "From Self-Defense to Violent Protest," to appear in the Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy. Online first 5 Jan 2021. [Abstract | Text | PDF | Version of Record]
It is an orthodoxy of modern political thought that violence is morally incompatible with politics, with the important exception of the permissible violence carried out by the state. The "commonsense argument" for permissible political violence denies this by extending the principles of defensive ethics to the context of state-subject interaction. This article has two aims: First, I critically investigate the commonsense argument and its limits. I argue that the scope of permissions it licenses is significantly more limited than its proponents allow. Second, I develop an alternative (and supplementary) framework for thinking about permissible political violence. I argue that under certain circumstances, subjects may violently protest their treatment, where protest is understood as an expression of rejection of those circumstances. On my view, protest, including violent protest, is permissible when it is the fitting response to those circumstances. This alternative framework accounts for an important class of cases of intuitively permissible political violence, including cases in which such violence does not serve strategic political ends or is even counterproductive towards those ends. [X]
2020. "Do We Have Reasons to Obey the Law?," Journal of Ethics & Social Philosophy, 17(2): 159-197. [Abstract | Text | PDF | Version of Record]
Instead of the question, "Do we have an obligation to obey the law?," we should first ask the easier question, "Do we have reasons to obey the law?" This paper offers a new account of the notion of what Hart called the content-independence of legal reasons in terms of the normative grounding relation. That account is then used to mount a defense of the claim that we do indeed have content-independent, genuinely normative reasons to obey the law (because it is the law), and that these reasons do sometimes amount to an obligation to so act. [X]
2018. "The Small Improvement Argument, Epistemicism, and Incomparability," with John Halstead, Economics & Philosophy, 34(2): 199-219. [Abstract | Text | PDF | Version of Record]
The Small Improvement Argument (SIA) is the leading argument for value incomparability. All vagueness-based accounts of the SIA have hitherto assumed the truth of supervaluationism, but supervaluationism has some well-known problems. This paper explores the implications of epistemicism, a leading rival theory. We argue that if epistemicism is true, then options are comparable in small improvement cases. Moreover, even if SIAs do not exploit vagueness, if epistemicism is true, then options cannot be on a par. The epistemicist account of the SIA has an advantage over leading existing rival accounts of the SIA because it accounts for higher-order hard cases. [X]
2011. "On Discount Rates in the Cost-Benefit Analysis of Climate Change," M.Phil. Thesis Chapter, Department of Politics, University of Oxford. [Text | PDF | Note: I make this paper available because it has been cited in work by others but is not otherwise available online.]