My work draws on the philosophical traditions of transcendental idealism, phenomenology and hermeneutics as resources for thinking the relationship between the natural world and the scientific, ethical, technological and aesthetic practices through which we engage it. My dissertation, which I wrote at Penn State University, focuses on the figure of the artistic genius and its place within Kant’s system of critical philosophy. Following Kant’s analysis, I offer an interpretation of the unique talent of the genius, and show that it offers a concrete model not only for artistic creation, but for the more general problem of how to bring human freedom to bear on the world around us. My concern is to show that the experience of beauty is significant not because it provides us with an opportunity to step away from our ordinary involvement in reality, but rather because it brings our unthought presuppositions about the world—what it is, how it came to be, and what sort of possibilities it offers for human life—directly before our attention, and requires us to examine them more carefully. I am currently beginning work on a book tracing the development of the concept of nature in 18th and 19th century German philosophy, and its relation to concurrent developments in politics, the arts, and natural science.
One of my primary goals in the classroom is to give students a sense of the historical development of philosophical ideas, and to encourage them to engage the material as a set of living questions, and not just as abstract concepts. The courses I have taught have drawn on ancient, modern, and contemporary authors, dealing with such topics as Philosophy of Natural Science, Environmental Philosophy, Ethics, Aesthetics, and Philosophy and Literature. Philosophical thinking provides a broad foundation from which to engage in interdisciplinary research, and my teaching is oriented towards drawing out the connections between philosophy and the other arts and sciences. Because studying philosophy both requires us to present our ideas with clarity and precision, and teaches us how better to do so, I put great emphasis on active participation in classroom discussion and on frequent written assignments. I strongly believe that philosophical reflection has a place in every person’s life, and hope to help my students reach this same conclusion for themselves.
I’m a native Californian, though I’ve spent much of the last few years in faraway places (most recently Bulgaria and Germany), and I’m happy to be settling down in Memphis with my wife Petya. Apart from my interest in philosophy, I’m an avid photographer, a great fan of music, and a very amateur vegetarian cook.
B.A. Literature, Pomona College, 1996