Public Philosophy

This page includes my work aimed at the general public; these writings presuppose little to no background in philosophy.

Argumentative Papers

"Biological Explanations of Social Inequalities - Version for Students." Full version at Pacific Philosophical Quarterly. Vol. 103, No. 4. (December 2022), pp. 694-719.  

Inequalities of social goods between gender, racial, or other groups call out for explanation. Such inequalities might be explained by socialization and discrimination. But historically some have attributed these inequalities to biological differences between social groups. Such explanations are highly controversial: on the one hand, they have a very troubling racist and sexist history; but on the other hand, they are empirical claims, and so it seems inappropriate to rule them out a priori. I propose that the appropriate epistemic attitude toward biological explanations of social inequalities is a general but defeasible skepticism. I then turn to the appropriate moral attitude, arguing that when such explanations are inadequately supported, they are offensive.

"Privilege: What Is It, Who Has It, and What Should We Do About It?" in Ethics, Left and Right (edited by Bob Fischer). Oxford University Press, 2020, pp. 457-464.

Discussions of “privilege” have become increasingly common, but it’s often unclear what exactly people mean by “privilege.” Even well-known writings about privilege rarely take the time to define the word and explain what it means. This creates confusion, and is one reason why debates about privilege are often contentious and unproductive. This essay aims to demystify privilege. With a clear definition, it is easier to discuss some of the main debates: Is there such a thing as “white privilege”? What about “male privilege”? And what’s the point of talking about privilege, anyway?

"The Deep Error of Political Libertarianism: Self-Ownership, Choice, and What's Really Valuable In Life - Version for Students ." Full version at Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy. Vol. 23, No. 6 (2020), pp. 683-705.

A critique of Robert Nozick's libertarianism in Anarchy, State, and Utopia. I argue that the libertarian conception of self-ownership, the view’s foundation, implies what I call the Asymmetrical Value Claim: a dubious claim about the importance of choice relative to other valuable capacities. I argue that this misunderstands what is really valuable in life, and show how it causes libertarianism to generate counterintuitive public policy recommendations.

Common Arguments for the Moral Acceptability of Eating Meat: A Discussion for Students.” Between the Species. Vol. 19, No. 1 (2016), pp. 172-192.

This paper evaluates the most commonplace arguments for the moral acceptability of eating meat. Specifically, the paper examines (and finds inadequate) the arguments that eating meat is morally acceptable because it is (1) historically widespread, (2) necessary, and (3) natural. The aim of discussing these arguments is to pave the way for a more fruitful and focused discussion of the canonical texts of the animal ethics literature.

The above paper is aimed at students. I also have a version of the paper that can be read by teachers, with a preface that describes the pedagogical approach of the paper, here

Expository Writing

I have written the pieces below for 1000-Word Philosophy, a continually evolving reference work which covers philosophical topics in a briefer and more accessible way than resources like the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 

Karl Marx's Conception of Alienation          Speciesism          Aristotle's Defense of Slavery