Kant's Theoretical Philosophy
- Indeterminacy, Infinity, Ideality: Kant's Mathematical Antinomies. My dissertation focuses on the resolutions of the first and second antinomies, which concern the cosmological questions of the world's spatiotemporal extent and the divisibility of matter. In the resolution of the antinomies, Kant claims that transcendental idealism proves the thesis and antithesis statements of the antinomies both to be false. That is, it is false that the world is spatiotemporally finite, and it is false that it is spatiotemporally infinitely; likewise, it is false that objects are composed from a finite number of simple parts, and it is false that objects are composed of infinitely many parts, none of which are simple. I argue that in making these claims, Kant means to attribute metaphysical indeterminacy to the spatiotemporal extent and compositional structure of the empirical world. Moreover, in fleshing out exactly what these claims to indeterminacy amount to, we see more clearly how Kant understands the ideality of appearances. Along the way, I make several key claims about how Kant understands the relationship between infinite phenomena and indeterminate phenomena and about why Kant thinks the spatiotemporal world must be indeterminate, given that transcendental idealism is true.
- Kant's account of space and time. Another project of mine asks about Kant's account of space and time. In what sense are space and time are ‘given’ in intuition for Kant, and in virtue of what do space and time count as infinite magnitudes? I challenge interpretations that seek to answers these questions by appealing to phenomenological presence to consciousness and argue instead that both the 'givenness' and the infinity of space and time are to be understood in non-phenomenological terms.
- Kant on actual infinity and infinite aggregates. Inspired by Kant's discussion in the first antinomy of the Critique of Pure Reason, many commentators attribute to Kant the view that actually infinite aggregates are a conceptual impossibility. Against this position (call it the 'No Infinite Aggregates View'), I argue that Kant instead held that infinite aggregates are impossible only when the depend on the successive combination of their parts. Thus, infinite aggregates might exist among things in themselves (for all we know), and they might exist in space if spatial aggregates could result from a simultaneous combination of their parts (a possibility ruled out by the commitments of transcendental idealism). This view enjoys significantly more textual support than does the No Infinite Aggregates view, and it helps to release Kant from the charge that the core arguments of the first antinomy surreptitiously presuppose the doctrine of transcendental idealism.
Ethics and Moral Psychology
- “Taking it Personally: Third-Party Forgiveness,Close Relationships, and the Standing to Forgive,” Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics, Vol 9. 2019 — This paper challenges a common dogma of the literature on forgiveness: that only victims have the standing to forgive. Attacks on third-party forgiveness generally come in two forms. One form of attack suggests that it follows from the nature of forgiveness that third-party forgiveness is impossible. Another form of attack suggests that although third-party forgiveness is possible, it is always improper or morally inappropriate for third parties to forgive. I argue against both of these claims; third-party forgiveness is possible, and in some cases it is morally appropriate for third parties to forgive (or refuse to forgive) wrongdoers for wrongs done to victims. I also propose an explanation of third parties’ standing to forgive: third parties have the standing to forgive when it is appropriate for them to take wrongs done to victims ‘personally’. While appropriately ‘taking a wrong personally’ does not require seeing oneself as a victim, it typically does require being in some form of personal relationship with victims. Thus, while the standing to forgive is not grounded exclusively in having been wronged, the prerogative to forgive is normally limited to victims and their loved ones. And once we recognize the importance of third-party forgiveness in our moral lives and the norms that govern it, we can more easily adjudicate between competing accounts of the nature of forgiveness.
- Partiality and the Reactive Attitudes. In this project, I argue for a revision of the traditional Strawsonian distinction between ‘personal,’ ‘impersonal,’ and ‘self-reactive’ attitudes. Whereas Strawson suggests that we should sort reactive attitudes according to whether they are self- or other-concerning, I argue that our we should first distinguish between partial and impartial reactive attitudes. Thus, whereas Strawson suggests that attitudes like resentment, gratitude, shame, and pride are two kinds of self-concerning responses, I argue that they are partial responses, which need not necessarily concern the self; sometimes, these attitudes reflect the special concern we have for our family members, romantic partners, and close friends. Revising the Strawsonian taxonomy of reactive attitudes in this way has two main benefits. First, it lets us account for cases the traditional Strawsonian taxonomy neglects (cases involving our partial responses to our close ties). Second, it has a natural place in the literature on relationship-based obligations, for if we have special obligations of care and concern for our close ties, we should expect to see partial and yet other-concerning reactive attitudes in our moral psychology.
Other History of Philosophy
- Crusius on space and time. I am also working on a paper on Crusius's account of space and time. Unlike Kant, Crusius holds that space and time are features of all existing things, including God. However, Crusius also distinguishes between 'actual' space and time, which created things fill, and 'merely possible' or 'ideal' space and time, which God alone fills. How should we understand this distinction in the context of a realist scheme like Crusius's? That is, what is the nature of the distinction between 'actual' space and time and 'merely possible' or 'ideal' space and time, and what motivates Crusius to make this distinction? I argue that Crusius is motivated to make these distinctions because of concerns relating to Spinozism, but to see how he can succeed in maintaining the distinctions in his realist framework, we must look to his commitment to the principle that actuality is the ground of possibility.
Last updated March 2021 by Rosalind Chaplin