Writing

In Preparation
  • Expression as Manifestation: A Relational Account of Freedom of Expression (Manuscript)

    Traditionally, freedom of expression has been identified with freedom of speech: roughly, intentional communication of cognitive attitudes. However, many significant forms of self-expression do not constitute speech in that sense. These include behaviors which manifest, or make intelligible, a person’s practical identities, such as gender, religious, sexual, or cultural identities. I aim to develop a novel account and defense of free expression which foregrounds these kinds of self-expression. More specifically, I defend freedom of self-expression on the grounds that expressive freedom is a necessary condition or constituent of interpersonal relationships we have reason to value in themselves. In particular, these include relationships of authenticity and recognition. One implication of this view is that many forms of self-expression, ranging from gender policing to hairstyle discrimination, qualify for heightened protection from collective interference in virtue of being expressive even when they don’t constitute speech in the traditional sense.

    A more extensive description of this project, including chapter-by-chapter abstracts, is available on request.

  • Expression and Recognition

    When people deliberate about what to do, they rely—if only inchoately—on certain assumptions about what interests their fellow citizens have and how morally important those interests are. These include assumptions about others’ desires, preferences, and practical identities. Because we cannot read each other’s minds, if behavior expressive of certain interests is systematically subject to social sanctions, the incidence or importance of these interests is liable to be underestimated, generating a distinctively epistemic failure of recognition which I call epistemic inconsideration. It follows that insofar as we have reason to promote the circumstances in which everyone’s interests can be appropriately recognized, we have reasons to protect and promote freedom of expression. As I show, this recognition rationale unifies otherwise disparate considerations of individual autonomy, democratic governance, and toleration counting in favor of free expression.

  • Self-Expression and Self-Authorship (Under Review)

    In spite of their many normative disagreements, theorists of free expression exhibit near unanimity in identifying expression with intentional communication, or speech. But there is a more explanatorily basic sense of expression under which we express ourselves whenever we manifest or make intelligible some states of mind. This paper defends an account of the value of freedom of expression that treats manifestation, rather than intentional communication per se, as the fundamental case of self-expression. First, I show that identifying expression with manifestation does not have the implication that all limitations on freedom limit freedom of expression, because only some limitations sanction people’s conduct on the basis of the states of mind thereby manifested. After examining several concrete examples of such limitations, I develop a diagnosis of what makes these practices qua limitations on freedom of expression morally wrong. From this, I infer a positive account of the value of freedom of expression. In brief, each of us has a fundamental human interest in exercising autonomy with respect to the boundary between one’s personality, the totality of one’s mental states at a given time, and one’s persona, those aspects of one’s personality one is intelligible to others as having in a given interpersonal context. Call this the interest in autonomy of self-authorship. Restrictions on freedom of expression interfere with a person’s ability to freely draw the line between personality and persona. Interestingly, so too do invasions of privacy, albeit in the opposite direction.

Published and Forthcoming

  • Gentrification and Domination. Forthcoming, The Journal of Political Philosophy.

    At its core, gentrification is an influx of relatively affluent people into neighborhoods previously occupied by the less affluent. Gentrification has generated a vast body of explanatory literature in economics, sociology, urban studies, and other fields. By contrast, there is surprisingly little normative work on gentrification within political philosophy. This paper develops an original assessment of gentrification from the standpoint of social equality. I focus on the aspect of gentrification that elicits the strongest intuitions of injustice: displacement of current residents from their homes and neighborhoods because of unaffordable market-rate rent increases. In particular, I demonstrate that gentrification-induced displacement is pro tanto unjust in virtue of instantiating a distinctive nexus of domination between current residents, private landlords, and gentrifying residents. The general lesson of this diagnosis is that there are weighty reasons of social equality for the state not to treat housing as just a commodity.

  • Poverty as a Social Relation. Forthcoming, Dimensions of Poverty: Global Poverty Measurement in Philosophical, Economic, and Social Perspective. Valentin Beck, Henning Hahn, and Robert Lepenies, editors. Springer.

    This chapter argues that there are theoretical benefits to understanding poverty as a kind of social relation: that is, a social position defined by the character of the interpersonal relationships a person is susceptible to losing or falling into in virtue of occupying that position. I begin with a methodological question: how, if at all, can philosophers as such make a valuable contribution to theoretical work on poverty? After sketching an answer to this question, I outline and motivate the general proposal that poverty can be understood as a social relation. In doing so, I draw an analogy to Sally Haslanger’s analysis of gender as a social position. Then I illustrate this proposal with two examples of the kinds of interpersonal relationships that figure in the content of poverty as a social relation: one positive (social capital) and one negative (invidious stereotyping). Finally, I conclude by considering an objection and sketching a few practical proposals.

  • Boxed (2019). Philosophy and Literature 43(1): 229-247

    Skepticism about other minds is typically presented as a straightforwardly epistemological thesis. Eliminativism about folk psychology is typically presented as a straightforwardly metaphysical thesis. But having moral status entails having, or having had, some mental states. And relating to persons as persons presuppose the application of folk-psychological concepts. So neither view can be divorced from ethics.

  • Disability, Democratic Equality, and Public Policy (2018). In The Routledge Handbook of Ethics and Public Policy. Annabelle Lever and Andrei Poama, editors.

    Disability has recently become a central topic in discussions of distributive justice and social equality. This chapter provides an overview of the role of disability in these discussions, focusing on Rawlsian contractualism, luck egalitarianism, and democratic equality. It then proposes a novel interpretation of the claim that compensating for disability undermines respect for persons. Even if compensation is not intrinsically disrespectful, it carries a significant risk of undermining respect for persons by promoting stereotypes about people with disabilities that obscure the existence or full importance of their non-medical interests.

  • Equality of Intelligibility (2015). In The Equal Society. George Hull, editor. Rowman & Littlefield. Co-contributors include Miranda Fricker, Charles Mills, Jonathan Wolff, and Lucy Allais.

    Respecting someone entails recognizing that person’s important interests as reasons for action in one’s practical deliberation. A necessary condition of recognizing someone’s interest is understanding the content of that interest. When someone has important interests that are collectively unintelligible, it follows that she has important interests that are collectively unrecognizable as reasons for action. So if justice requires equal respect, then it requires equality in the extent to which people’s important interests are intelligible in the context of collective deliberation. Building on Miranda Fricker’s analysis of sexual harassment prior to the advent of a shared concept for that conduct, I show that equality of intelligibility is a substantive implication of equal respect. The upshot is that equality of respect has substantive normative implications which are prior to, and independent of, whatever function over interest-satisfaction is required by justice.

  • Daniel Putnam, Adrienne Asch, Jeffrey Blustein, and David Wasserman. Disability and Justice. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edward Zalta, editor. (2013; revised 2019). Reprinted (2017) in Law and Social Justice: A Reader. James Dwyer, editor. Kamset.
  • Adrienne Asch, David Wasserman, Jeffrey Blustein, and Daniel Putnam. Disability: Health, Well-Being, and Personal Relationships. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (2016)

Dissertation

  • Relating as Equals

    Most egalitarians are distributive egalitarians. They assume that the point of equality is that everyone be made equally well-off in some respect. Rejecting this assumption, there is a small but growing body of literature defending a relational conception of equality. On this view, the point of equality is that people stand in relationships that are equal in some respect. This view has intuitive appeal. But it faces two significant challenges. It’s not clear what the distinction between relational equality and distributive equality consists in. Nor is it clear that relational egalitarianism is a substantive alternative to distributive egalitarianism for first-order assessments of social justice. Relating as Equals develops a new conception of the relational view that meets both challenges. By treating the concept of face-to-face relating as basic, while showing how there can be collective accountability for failures to relate as equals, this account of relational egalitarianism yields substantive conditions on the justice of social practices and institutions. The result is a new way of thinking about equality. It vindicates the intuition that equality is, fundamentally, about how we relate to one another as persons.