The central focus of my research is the division of epistemic labor and authority between the natural sciences and philosophy. I’ve published on a wide range of specific questions and debates related to this issue – for instance: the influence of philosophical commitments in Darwin interpretations (HOPOS, 2018); philosophers’ and biologists’ debates about “typological thinking” in biology (Studies C, 2015); 19th and 20th century rhetoric on the human “place” in nature (Palgrave, 2016); the promises and dangers of ethical naturalism (IPQ, 2011); and the realism-relativism issue in the Rorty-Putnam debate (Nordic Studies in Pragmatism, 2015).
My research to this point falls into three main categories:
1. Modern German Philosophical Anthropology. Much of my work in the history of philosophy has focused on a biologically-engaged style of (mostly German) philosophy known as “philosophische Anthropologie” (philosophical anthropology): for instance, the work of Helmuth Plessner, Arnold Gehlen, and Marjorie Grene. My published work on these figures, particularly Plessner, has explored the relevance of their ideas to contemporary debates about naturalism, the ontology of living things and processes, philosophies of nature, culture, and technology, and embodiment and animality. Representative publications include a 2015 essay in IJPS, an edited collection of new essays entitled Naturalism and Philosophical Anthropology (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), and assistance with a recently published English translation of Helmuth Plessner's Levels of Organic Being and the Human (Fordham University Press, 2019).
2. History of the Philosophy of Biology. Another strain of my previously published research has focused on the history of the philosophy of biology, mostly since 1950. This work examines the limits of both biology and philosophy by examining how each has informed and structured the other in this period – including establishment and negotiation of boundaries, contests over epistemic authority, collaborations, and conceptual and thematic borrowings. Within this work I've especially used debates about biological taxonomy (species, higher taxa) as a focus and test case. Representative publications thus far include papers in Studies C and in HOPOS; several other papers are planned or underway.
3. “Natural Artificiality” and Contemporary Philosophy. In my current book project, Natural Artificiality, I address the relation between science and philosophy from yet another angle. There I defend a single biologically plausible hypothesis – “natural artificiality”: the thesis that humans are species-typically adapted for content-open artifactual mediation – and explore the implications of this hypothesis in four core areas of philosophy (metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and social-political). The result provides a new point of integration between philosophy of biology and philosophy of technology and challenges nearly all canonical philosophical views by affirming a qualified naturalism, realism, and relativism about epistemic and ethical normativity.