Works in Progress 

Email me for most recent drafts.

A paper on diagnosis (coauthored with Ethan Higginbotham, UC Davis)

What is diagnosis? An intuitive thought is that diagnosis, when done correctly, properly identifies the fact that a person has a given condition. It describes a true fact about the world. We argue, however, that this account, though intuitive, is mistaken. We provide an alternative account according to which all that diagnosis does is place a person into a particular social group, namely, the group of people who have received the given diagnosis. This does not make diagnosis trivial, however, because group membership is not trivial. Part of what placement into the group does is provide prima facie justification for treatment (both medical and nonmedical). On our account, diagnosis is warranted when the treatment it justifies is warranted. 

A paper on mental illness metaphors

Metaphors about mental illness abound. These metaphors can convey something negative ("she's so bipolar") or positive ("he's so organized--it must be OCD!"). While negative metaphors have received some attention in the philosophical literature, positive metaphors have remained largely ignored. I argue that both positive and negative metaphors contribute to what I call hermeneutic hijacking. Hermeneutic hijacking occurs when a term's literal meaning is eclipsed by a nonliteral usage in a way that prevents the literal term from functioning as it should. In the case of mental illness terms, the ability to use these terms literally is crucial for the well-being of individuals living with the conditions the terms describe. Metaphors using mental illness terms harm the mentally ill by robbing the linguistic community of access to the terms' literal meaning.

A paper on consent

When philosophers talk about 'consent', they are often talking about it in the context of biomedical ethics or sexual ethics. In addition to these "high stakes" contexts, though, people consent to more minor things everyday. When I go to the hairdresser, I consent to the stylist touching and altering my hair. When I see a stranger searching their bag, I consent to letting them borrow my pen. Consent is functioning the same way in all of these instances: by providing my consent, I signal my intention to exercise a normative power, namely, to grant a permission. The standards that must be met in order to succeed in granting that permission vary, however. If you ask most people, they will say that the stranger who lies to me about what he intends to write still has my morally valid consent to use my pen, but a doctor who lies to me about what she intends to amputate does not have my morally valid consent to operate on me despite any words that I say. I give an account of consent according to which consent is graded and multidimensional. It is graded in that one can consent more or less to something. The amount of consent needed in a given circumstance will depend on what it is the person is consenting to and the purpose for which we are evaluating consent. The standards of consent in different contexts will be a function of the degree to which four features are satisfied: ontology, voluntarism, knowledge, and enthusiasm.

A paper on doxastic wrongs

A person doxastically wrongs someone in virtue of what they believe. Philosophers so far have explored doxastic wronging in the context of beliefs whose content are about the injured party. In this paper, I argue that we can doxastically wrong one another without explicitly believing anything about the person we wrong. In other words, a person can be doxastically wronged by a belief that is not directly about them. I argue that beliefs about social groups, beliefs about oneself, and beliefs about the world more broadly all have the potential to doxastically wrong. I do so by arguing that people do not exist in a vacuum, and we do not mentally represent them as such. We recognize that people exist in relation to other people in a shared world. Therefore, our beliefs about other people and the world in which we all live impact the way we mentally represent, and therefore relate to, particular people.