Research

Dissertation

‘Utilitarianism and the Social Nature of Persons’. Utilitarianism faces objections from integrity, rights and egalitarianism. These objections characterise the somewhat elusive charge that utilitarianism neglects ‘the separateness of persons’. The guiding thought of my responses is that recognising the ways in which we are social beings – using insights from the socialist tradition – helps utilitarianism to overcome these objections. Supervised by Prof. Véronique Munoz-Dardé, Dr. Joe Horton and Prof. Ulrike Heuer.

Peer-reviewed papers

‘Repugnance and Perfection’, Philosophy & Public Affairs, 48(3), Summer 2020. Derek Parfit’s ‘repugnant conclusion’ holds that for any possible population of ten billion lives lived at a very high level of welfare, there is some much larger possible population whose existence, if other things are equal, would be better even though its members have lives that are barely worth living.’ This conclusion, though counterintuitive, is difficult for theories in population ethics to resist. ‘Perfectionism’ – a special concern with the best things in life – is often said to be incompatible with the repugnant conclusion. I show that perfectionism is in fact compatible with it, though not with a subtly different claim. I then evaluate Parfit’s last two papers on the subject, which appeal to perfectionism in order to avoid the repugnant conclusion, in light of this.

Other publications

‘Resisting Surveillance Capitalism’, New Socialist, 25 August 2020. A critical review, from a Marxist perspectivee, of Shoshana Zuboff’s book ‘The Age of Surveillance Capitalism’.

‘Statues, Philosophy, and Charitable Intepretation’, What To Do About Now, 12 June 2020. A response to CM Lim’s article ‘Vandalizing Tainted Commemorations’, involving some thoughts on how the use of the principle of charity can help and hinder philosophical engagement with real world politics.

‘Is it wrong to be a lockdown hypocrite?’, What To Do About Now, 6 May 2020. A defence of the position that it is sometimes permissible for individuals to breach lockdown regulations, and for those same individuals to blame politicians and officials who do so.

‘Should governments prioritise lives, or the economy?’, What To Do About Now, 18 April 2020. An investigation into the choice that the Covid-19 pandemic is often said to pose, involving some thoughts on what ‘the economy’ is.

Talks

‘Is consequentialism self-effacing, or merely collectively self-defeating?’, London Graduate Philosophy Conference, 4 June 2020. I argue that even if our accepting consequentialism would preclude us from having meaningful lives, consequentialism may still not be self-effacing – though it would be collectively self-defeating.

‘Surveillance Capitalism: a Marx-inspired account’, Amsterdam Graduate Conference in Political Theory, 29 May 2020. I argue that surveillance capitalist firms – such as Facebook and Google – interact with users in a way analagous to the interaction between industrial capitalists and workers described by Karl Marx.

Work in Progress

  • ‘Is Consequentialism Self-Effacing?’ I investigate whether consequentialism directs individuals not to accept consequentialism, separating this from the question of whether it would make things go better if we, collectively, rejected consequentialism.
  • ‘Utilitarianism is a Form of Egalitarianism’. I argue that utilitarianism shares the concerns of egalitarians for equal distributions of wealth and an end to hierarchical social relations, and further that there is no good reason not to consider it a form of egalitarianism.
  • ‘Surveillance Capitalism: a Marx-inspired account’. I draw similarities between the relations of users to online platforms that Shoshana Zuboff observes in what she calls ‘surveillance capitalism’ and the relations of workers to capitalists in Marx’s account of industrial capitalism.
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