"I would eventually like to teach and write philosophy at the university level. To that end, the USP program is a great opportunity to familiarize myself with the ins and outs of in-depth philosophical research, to prepare for graduate level work, and in general, to further my professional development. In the current academic year I aim to complete a USP project which not only furthers my own growth, but which my audience finds informative and stimulating. In addition I will be working on an honors thesis in philosophy and applying to graduate schools in hopes of beginning graduate work in the fall of 2012."
I am fascinated by all things philosophical, but my primary interests lie with ethics. If it is possible for a question to be a guiding principle, then the first principle which guides all human activity is this: What is the good life? The study of ethics is the foundation for an answer to this all important question, and thus (for me at least) the most noble of pursuits. I am also interested in epistemology, both in how it affects ethical discussions and for its own sake.
Academic and Other Awards
- University Scholars Program Scholarship (2011-2012)
- Navy Achievement Medal and Good Conduct Service Medal
With Eta Sigma Phi I help organize annual canned-food drives, bake-a-thons, and other events.
Hobbies and Interests
The Ethics of Selfishness
Selfishness is often thought to be the antithesis of ethical behavior, so much so that an ethical theory driven by self-interest seems at the offset a contradictory notion. It is my contention that selfishness, or egoism as it is called in the philosophical literature, is denied a place in serious contemporary ethical discussion largely as a result of its misconstrual. I intend to build a positive case which shows that psychological egoism is plausible. To do so I will address the standard philosophical objections to egoism as well as the more serious challenge posed by altruism both in the philosophical literature and from evolutionary theory. Altruism characterized simply as helping behavior is supposed to stand in opposition to selfishness and to be the paragon of moral behavior. What appear to be altruistic behaviors however may be ultimately rooted in egoistic motives. So prevalent are such doubts that it is difficult to identify even a single altruistic behavior in humans that is not subject to suspicions of egoistic motivation. Properly characterized, altruism is behavior motivated solely by an interest in the welfare of another. I will argue that altruism so defined is a controversial notion not readily supported by philosophical argument or evolutionary theory, thus leaving open the possibility that egoism is a psychological fact. Supposing psychological egoism to be true, it would be unreasonable to mandate non-self-interested behavior; a conclusion which would seriously alter the ethical landscape upon which theory may be constructed. Finally, having offered a plausible conception of egoism and having addressed serious objections, I intend to clear up misconceptions about the consequences of egoism and to show that it can successfully encompass and even motivate our most closely held intuitive notions about ethical behavior, such as considerations for the interests of other persons.