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Shidan LotfiShidan Lotfi

Department of Philosophy
801 McClung Tower
University of Tennessee
Knoxville, TN 37996-0480

Phone: 865 974 3255
Fax: 865 974 3509

My Ph.D. is from Florida State University. I joined the Department as a Lecturer in the fall of 2010.

My research interests are in ethical theory and the philosophy of science. I wrote my dissertation on what some philosophers (including Socrates) consider the most basic and serious question in ethics, namely, what is the good life? The theory of flourishing that I proposed in my dissertation was that the flourishing of any creature consists in the development and exercise of the capacities that are essential (i.e., metaphysically necessary) to that kind of creature. A number of questions emerged from my thesis that I continue to explore, including: can the fact that a state (e.g., knowledge) is the ideal state of an essential human capacity (e.g., cognition) be explained in a fully non-evaluative manner, and can the comparative value of the ideal states of the essential human capacities (i.e., the various human goods) be ranked, and if so, how?

One of the other main questions in ethical theory that interests me is: what desiderata should we use to assess normative ethical theories? What criteria, in other words, should a given normative ethical theory satisfy to be deemed a good (or ideal) theory? For example, is the ideal ethical theory the one that best systematizes our strongly-held moral intuitions? Or, are moral intuitions not the right kinds of "data" upon which to base ethical theory?

In the philosophy of science, I am especially interested in the role of values, both epistemic and non-epistemic, in science in general and theory choice in particular. There is, in my view, an interesting but overlooked analogy between the problem of theory choice in science and theory choice in ethics that deserves more serious attention.

Recent, representative publications

  • "The 'Purposiveness' of Life: Kant's Critique of Natural Teleology," The Monist, v. 93.1, 2010, pgs. 123-134.
  • "Wittgenstein's Rule-Following Considerations and Moral Particularism," Theoria, v. 75.2, 2009, pgs. 100-116.

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