Projects

My current work centers on three main overlapping projects.

(1) Wittgenstein: Philosophy and Therapy
Against the standard picture of Wittgenstein’s work as divided into two distinct periods by the contrasting theories of meaning Wittgenstein subscribes to in each of those periods, I argue that Wittgenstein’s commitment to an essentially non-theoretical understanding of meaning grounded in our shared basic capacity for making sense of an utterance remains constant throughout his life, with radical consequences for our understanding of his therapeutic philosophical project as a whole. Much of my work in this area focuses on developing and defending an account of Wittgenstein’s early philosophy along these lines, and on the underlying approach to meaning.
Representative publications:
“Eliminating Ethics: Wittgenstein, Ethics, and the Limits of Sense”, Philosophical Topics (forthcoming).
“Throwing the Baby Out”, co-authored with James Conant, in Beyond the Tractatus Wars (Routledge, 2011).
“Wittgenstein, Contextualism and Nonsense”, Journal of Philosophical Research, 33 (2008).

(2) Philosophy of Language: Meaning and Normativity
In Philosophy of Language, my work focuses on articulating and applying the insights afforded by my understanding of Wittgenstein’s philosophy to contemporary debates, problems and views, as well as articulating the capacity-based conception of meaning that underlies that account of Wittgenstein’s work. My current research in this area focuses on the normativity of meaning, arguing that the contemporary debate over the nature of the normativity involved in correctness-conditions for the use of words is fundamentally confused. I have also written extensively on contextualism and the context-principle, and its relation to compositionality, as well as the analysis of metaphor, the possibility of inexpressible thought, the communicative powers of nonsense, and the analysis of ethical discourse.
Representative publications:
“The Normativities of Meaning” (in progress).
“Eliminating Ethics: Wittgenstein, Ethics, and the Limits of Sense”, Philosophical Topics (forthcoming).
“Projection and Pretence in Ethics”, Philosophical Papers 41:2 (2012).
“Throwing the Baby Out”, co-authored with James Conant, in Beyond the Tractatus Wars (Routledge, 2011).
“Wittgenstein, Contextualism and Nonsense”, Journal of Philosophical Research, 33 (2008).

(3) Ethics: Re-conceiving Value
In Ethics, I argue that we should give up a large part of what we think of as ethics, as well as the idea that in giving it up we would be giving up anything of any significance, because it is entirely empty of content: it is simply nonsense. In making that argument, I develop the line of thought that I think underlies Wittgenstein’s critique of ethics throughout his life, and particularly his claim in the Tractatus that there can be no ethical propositions, showing how the thought that value is not accidental leads to a fundamental critique of the prevailing conception of ethics. Thus, I argue for a distinctive form of ethical eliminativism. Moreover, I develop an alternative conception of the possibilities open to ethical thought arising out of that critique. In addition, I have published self-standing work in applied ethics, and on the analysis of ethical discourse.
Representative publications:
“Eliminating Ethics: Wittgenstein, Ethics, and the Limits of Sense”, Philosophical Topics (forthcoming).
“Ethical Eliminativism and the Sense of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus”, Ethics—Society—Politics: Proceedings of the 35th International Ludwig Wittgenstein Symposium (2012).
“Projection and Pretence in Ethics”, Philosophical Papers 41:2 (2012).
“Not Cricket? Ethics, Rhetoric and Sporting Boycotts”, Journal of Applied Philosophy 24:1 (2007).