Professor & Department Head
801 McClung Tower
Knoxville, Tennessee 37996-0480
My PhD is from the University of Illinois at Chicago (1993). I joined the department in 2018.
After earning my Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1993, I taught at the State University of New York at Buffalo, before joining the faculty of the University of Utah Department of Philosophy in 2001. In spring of 2018, I became the department head of the Department of Philosophy at UT.
My research focuses on foundational questions in the sciences, especially the physical, social and decisional sciences, as well as on the relations amongst the sciences. My book on these subjects, called Without Hierarchy; The Scale Freedom of the Universe, was published in 2013 by Oxford University Press. My second book, called A Social Theory of Freedom (Routledge, 2016) moves into the sphere of social ontology, offering a new answer to the timeless philosophical question of human freedom, one that engages with social science but repulses the relevance of questions around determinism, biological and otherwise. It advances instead an existential theory of freedom in new ways—and it does so without denying the relevance of science, especially social science, for illuminating human agency.
I apply as much of my findings as I can to issues of public policy. I have been funded by the NSF to study precautionary decision making in relation to catastrophic risk, especially in public contexts. The goal in this project is a prescriptive theory of precaution (an account of how best to proceed in the context of major uncertainty) that does more than simply endorse aversion to risk. And I'm developing these and related ideas the theory of decision.
I’ve authored numerous articles on causation, explanation and how relations between micro and macro are handled by a range of scientific theories; as well as articles in political philosophy, action theory, metaphysics, epistemology, logical paradox and feminism. My work has won the Royal Institute of Philosophy inaugural Essay Prize (2012), and again in 2013, and the American Philosophical Assn’s Kavka Prize (1999). I’m a former fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Advanced Studies of the Australian National University, the Tanner Humanities Center, the University of Sydney Center for Foundations of Science, and the Institute of Philosophy, University of London.