The main focus of my research is Aristotle's ethical theory. Here, I am principally interested in Aristotle's views on the place of contemplation in the happy life, and in understanding these views against the background of Aristotle's biological naturalism (especially his views on living organisms as self-maintaining systems). I argue that while Aristotle thinks that contemplation is the highest end of a happy life, and is in some sense a useless activity, Aristotle also identifies a useful role for contemplation in the self-maintaining activity of human beings. Hence, contemplation plays a role in the good for human beings continuous with the role that perception plays in the good for animals and nutrition plays in the good for plants.
I maintain related interests in Platonic and Aristotelian views on friendship and self-knowledge, and am at work on various papers covering these topics. In 2008, I participated in the NEH Summer Seminar "Traditions into Dialogue: Confucianism and Contemporary Virtue Ethics."
"Contemplation and Self-Awareness in the Nicomachean Ethics" (forthcoming in Rhizai)
I explore Aristotle’s account in the Nicomachean Ethics of how agents attain self-awareness through contemplation. I argue that Aristotle sets up an account of self-awareness through contemplating friends in Books VIII-IX that completes itself in Book X’s remarks on theoretical contemplation. I go on to provide an account of how contemplating the divine, on Aristotle’s view, elicits self-awareness.
"Aristotle on Activity 'According to the Best and Most Final' Virtue" (forthcoming in Apeiron)
I examine Aristotle's claim (in Nicomachean Ethics I.7 1098a16-18) that eudaimonia consists in "activity of soul according to virtue, but if there are many virtues, then according to the best and most final" virtue. Ongoing debate between inclusivist and exclusivist readers of this passage has focused on the referent of "the best and most final" virtue. I argue that even if one accepts the exclusivist's answer to this reference question, one still needs an account of what it means for activity of soul to accord with the best and most final virtue. I examine the nature of this accordance relation and defend a novel inclusivist reading of the whole passage.
Review of Paula Gottlieb, The Virtue of Aristotle's Ethics. Journal of the History of Philosophy 48 (2010): 397-398.
"The Utility of Contemplation in Aristotle's Protrepticus." Ancient Philosophy 30 (2010): 135-153.
Fragments of Aristotle’s lost Protrepticus seem to offer inconsistent arguments for the value of contemplation (one argument appealing to contemplation's uselessness, the other appealing to its utility). In this paper, I argue that these arguments are mutually consistent. Further, I argue that, contrary to first appearances, Aristotle has resources in the Protrepticus for explaining how contemplation, even if it has divine objects, can nevertheless be useful in the way in which he claims, viz., for providing cognitive access to boundary markers (horoi) of the human good.