My work currently divides into two main research programs. 

photo credit: David Boonin

photo credit: David Boonin

My main research program identifies theoretical and practical implications of the profound racial injustice within American policing and punishment. This work seeks to better understand the various ways in which the US system of racialized mass incarceration is morally unacceptable, while demonstrating that penal philosophy itself needs to pay closer attention to the non-ideal dimensions of criminal justice. My work seeks to show that approaches to penal philosophy that are sensitive to the racial injustice (and other forms of injustice) endemic in American mass incarceration will lead to a very different understanding of policing and punishment than the standard idealized philosophical treatments of these topics. This program lies in the intersection of ethics, social and political philosophy, and the philosophy of law, and draws on resources provided from other areas of philosophy, history, social science, and activist work.

Alongside this work, I also maintain a research program in underlying issues in metaethics and moral psychology. This project rejects the common belief-desire model of motivational psychology by arguing that some beliefs (such as moral judgments) can be desire-like in their (defeasible) ability to motivate action, and that some (perhaps all) desires share representational features of beliefs.  


Race, Ideology, and the Communicative Theory of Punishment. Philosophers’ Imprint. (Forthcoming)

I argue that, understood as forms of communicative behavior, U.S. policing and punishment express racially derogatory, subordinating ideologies in much the same way that slurs and other types of objectionable discourse do.

Punishment and Democratic Rights: A Case Study in Non-Ideal Penal Theory. In M. Gardner & M. Weber (eds). The Ethics of Policing and Imprisonment. Palgrave Macmillan. 7-37. (2018) 

I argue that punishing people by taking away their basic political rights is wrong because it threatens to perpetuate and amplify unjust patterns of political power… I then use this argument to illustrate the importance of non-ideal penal theory.

A Challenge for Humean Externalism. Philosophical Studies 175(1): 23-44. (2018) 

I argue that arguments for motivational externalism that are premised on the existence of amoral or morally cynical agents generate a problem for the dominant Humean version of that view.

Humean Externalism and the Argument from Depression.  Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 9(2): 1-16. (2015)

I respond to a prominent argument for Humean externalism that is based on the motivational failures associated with severe depression or listlessness.

Appetitive Besires and the Fuss About Fit.  Philosophical Studies 165(3): 975-988. (2013)

I provide a novel response to several objections to the possibility of besires—mental states that are both representational and motivational.

Book Reviews

Review of Amy E. Lerman and Vesla M. Weaver, Arresting Citizenship: The Democratic Consequences of American Crime Control.  Ethics 126 (3): 840-845. (2016)

Papers Under Review and In Progress

Traumatic Incarceration (draft available soon, but in the meantime you can enjoy this poster)

I object to common forms of incarceration on the basis that this form of punishment is likely to unjustifiably re-traumatize many of the incarcerated persons with histories of traumatic victimization.