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Publications

 

          I. On-going and very recent projects

1. How Final and Non-final Valuing Differ (Journal of Ethics, 2022)

How does valuing something for its own sake differ from valuing an entity for the sake of other things?  Although numerous answers come to mind, many of them rule out substantive views about what is valuable for its own sake.  I therefore seek to provide a more neutral way to distinguish the two valuing attitudes.  Drawing from existing accounts of valuing, I argue that the two can be distinguished in terms of a conative-volitional feature.  Focusing first on “non-final valuing”—i.e. valuing x for the sake of something else—I argue that it involves adopting certain reasons on account of a desire for x to contribute to other things.  I then show how this contrasts final valuing.  The result, I argue, is a plausible account of how the two modes of valuing differ that leaves open a wide range of substantive views about what all can be valued for its own sake.  This is helpful because it develops a popular methodology used to explore the value of a wide range of things, including natural entities, family heirlooms, and artworks, as well as, more broadly, entities that might have “extrinsic final value.” 

 

2. The ‘Genre View’ of Public Lands: The Case of National Monuments (Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 2023)

According to the view that I develop here, public land designations fall into different genres of land management.  The view counterbalances a general tendency among philosophers to overlook differences between land designations.  Focusing on one designation in particular—U.S. national monuments created under the Antiquities Act—I develop the view and illustrate its significance.  I characterize the national monument genre in terms of two norms stated in the Act and show how they shape public space in distinctive ways.  I then illustrate how the genre view opens avenues for evaluating land designations.  By way of example, I evaluate national monuments according to aesthetic considerations.  I argue that the genre is, perhaps surprisingly, aesthetically vexed and that there is an aesthetic reason for presidents to depart from the original intent and meaning of the Act.  Such aesthetic considerations may hold legal weight, lending support for the more controversial, expansive national monuments.  They can also influence policy decisions about whether to protect an area as a monument or whether to pursue a different form of protection.  In these ways, the genre view offers a framework for philosophers to contribute to public lands law and policy.

 

3. How much land can be included in a national monument? (forthcoming Environmental Law)

The Antiquities Act gives the president the power to designate “objects of historic or scientific interest” as “national monuments.”  Presidents have used this power expansively, protecting massive tracts of federal land, often by claiming that very large things, such as the Grand Canyon or even entire landscapes, are “objects” in the requisite sense.  There is legal debate over such uses of the Act, with critics arguing that they depart from the original intent and meaning of the legislation.  What has been less discussed, however, is whether the Act allows presidents to protect just the object of interest (whatever it turns out to be), or whether it allows presidents to protect a substantial amount of land around objects of interest.  I draw from language in the Antiquities Act and existing case law to argue for the latter.  Due to the nature of “historic and scientific interest,” protecting an object with such interest often requires protecting certain features of the broader landscape.  This holds regardless of what counts as an “object of interest.”  As a result, my discussion offers a way to argue on certain critics’ own grounds for more expansive designations: even granting a narrow, originalist conception of what qualifies as an “object,” large designations can be justified.  

 

4. Aesthetic Justice, in Wilderness? (slated for inclusion in Routledge Handbook of Environmental Aesthetics)

According to “cognitivist” views in environmental aesthetics, we ought to appreciate natural landscapes for what they are and thus with knowledge of their history.  Such writers tend to emphasize the role of scientific knowledge in such experiences.   Meanwhile, other writers in the environmental humanities have pointed out that even the most natural areas, such as those protected as wilderness in the United States, have a long history of human influence, being the ancestral home of indigenous communities.  Bringing these insights together, I identify a notion of aesthetic justice.  As a matter of appreciating the landscapes for what they really are, and as a matter of giving past people their due, we ought to step into those peoples’ aesthetic shoes and experience the landscapes where they lived as they would have.  This does not mean that we ought necessarily to endorse all the ways they engaged with the landscape, and it does not mean that we must experience the landscape exactly as they had.  Rather, we ought to experience the landscape in a manner importantly similar to how they did, appreciating both the ways the landscape shaped their lives and the ways they shaped it.  The Wilderness Act, I suggest, facilitates this kind of aesthetic justice quite well, and does so better than certain other public land laws.  I end by placing these ideas within the broader constellation of critical discussions regarding wilderness. 

 

          II. My next projects (2-3 years)

  1. Public Lands: A Philosophical Guide

Many books have already been written on the environmental and cultural histories of national parks, and other protected areas.  Less explored, however, are the philosophical questions that arise regarding public lands.  In what senses, for instance, are public lands public?  What, if anything, is special about the publicness of such lands?  And how ought public lands be designated, or divvyed up, in light of different values on the landscape, and competing interests in the public?  There are also more specific questions, of the sort that arise to visitors:  Should hunters be allowed to install cameras in national forests?  Why shouldn’t the public be allowed to use already-existing roads in “wilderness” areas?  Why are drones prohibited in so many places, particularly if they pose little threat to wildlife or visitors’ safety?  And why do the etchings of people today count as graffiti, but ranchers’ autographs from the 18th Century, as well as petroglyphs, hold considerable value?   In this monographic, I seek to explore, and evaluate, various answers to these questions.  Some of those answers are expressed in associated laws and policies, and to that extent my project will engage critically with public lands law.  However, my primary aim is just to offer a philosophical, and opinionated, guide to many of the questions that arise to those visiting public lands.  I plan to approach university presses that have a history of placing their books in the gift shops of national parks (e.g. University of Utah Press), and therefore also aim to write in a manner approachable to a wide audience. Tenative outline:

 

            I. Foundations

                        Ch. 1   What are public lands?  Why are public lands important?

                        Ch. 2   Who should oversee public lands?  

                        Ch. 3   Why are there so many different land designations?

                        Ch. 4   How ought public lands by divvied up?  Whose recreation matters more?

            II. Particular Management Issues 

                        Ch. 5   Are fees and lotteries for access to public lands justified? 

                        Ch. 6   Today’s scribbles: Graffiti? Or tomorrow’s heritage?

                        Ch. 7   Should hunters be allowed to install cameras in national forests?  

                        Ch. 8   Why can’t we fly drones in national parks and wildernesses? 

                        Ch. 9.   Why can’t I drive there?—accessibility vs wilderness

                        Ch. 10.   High-speed internet & Google Street View: how new technologies shape public lands

 

 2. Towards A Philosophy for Public Lands:  Federal Wilderness Today (full draft available)

Environmental ethicists often explore abstract and general questions pertaining to the environment:  What is “nature?” Do species, ecosystems, and non-living entities have intrinsic value?  And who is responsible for climate change? Less discussed are questions relating more closely to the details of environmental laws and policies.—questions which arise for legislators, administrators, the judiciary, and members of the public.  So, in what follows, I seek to remedy this by outlining a philosophy for public lands.  My approach starts with the language and history of public land laws and explores philosophical and value-related issues that arise from them.  In so doing, one can breathe new life into well-worn topics, and one can link philosophy with public administration, public policy, and the legal profession.  By way of illustrating this, I focus on wilderness as defined in U.S. federal law.  I first consider whether the values mentioned in The Wilderness Act (1964) and the Eastern Wilderness Act (1975) are bona fide values, and I argue that they are.  I then explore what all might be required to protect wilderness values, suggesting possible amendments to wilderness legislation, and also how we might provide more just access to wilderness values.  

 

  3.   Cities Should Have Savings Plans (in draft form) 

Urban planners typically seek to promote growth.  What happens, though, when cities “decline,” losing key business and a significant portion of their residents?  Such cities—such as Flint, MI—face a tough reality, struggling to protect residents’ health and promote their flourishing with a shrinking tax base and aging infrastructure.  In light of this, I argue that cities ought to have savings plans.  After all, it is widely agreed that in a neoliberal state, each person ought to save for their retirement.  If this sort of “fiscal responsibility” is embraced for the individual person, why not embrace it for cities too?  Continuous growth—just like perpetual life—is unlikely, and cities ought to plan for the inevitable.  A savings plan for cities would help cover increased costs and needed repairs when the cities decline, with the hope that this tides them over until they grow once more, as cities often do.   

 

  4.   The Joy of Missing Out… on Things One Values? (in draft form)

Here is a puzzle for value theorists:  People often want to be close to the things they value and this seems a rational desire to have.  Yet there are a range of cases that seem to flout such a norm.  They are cases in which people seem to enjoy feeling distant from something they value, even when the distance impedes their proper engagement with it, and even when it does not conduce to others’ engaging with it.  Some of these cases involve spatial distance (e.g. enjoying the muffled sound of live music heard from afar) and others involve temporal distance (e.g. the old-fashioned look of a Polaroid picture, even if it was taken recently).  I draw on such cases to develop a richer conception of the norms internal to valuing.  One insight I draw is modest: when one values something, there can be a reason to engage creatively and imaginatively with the thing, which distance can help one do.  A second insight is bolder: internal to valuing can be a norm to enjoy not engaging with the thing because, in so refraining, one can get a sense that the object exists in a reified form, separate from oneself and, in some cases, separate from others. This latter idea counterbalances the emphasis writers have long placed on engaging with value.  It may also characterize what is involved with attributing “existence value” to something and thereby serve as a marker for cases in which one values an entity for its own sake. 

 

  5.   Constitutive and Symbolic Value

Sometimes people value things for what they symbolize or for the role they play in constituting some larger whole.  Such cases are not always accurately described as ones in which people value the entities instrumentally.  For instance, J.S. Mill goes to quite some length to argue that virtue is a part of happiness and not a mere means to it, suggesting that this point saves utilitarianism from an important objection.  How, though, does valuing something as a constituent differ from valuing something instrumentally?  Similar questions arise regarding symbolic value.  I want to explore the differences between these values by looking at how they rationally structure our valuing attitudes.  My hope is that this will shed light on their significance and on how they compare to, say, final value.  With that in hand, we may then have a better understanding of the value of a wide range of entities, including things as diverse as national flags, the organisms in an ecosystem, and the friendships constitutive of a good life. 

          III. Dissertation

In my dissertation, I explored how various entities—e.g. family heirlooms, heritage sites, and natural entities—can be valuable for their own sakes, even if they are not the source of their value.  I argued that such entities can be valuable for their own sakes but get their value from how they relate to other things, such as particular people (heirlooms), particular societies (heritage sites), or humanity as a whole (nature).  While such a view has contemporary defenders, not enough had been done to explain when and how objects come to have the above sort of value.  So, in one chapter, the basis for my “An Account of Extrinsic Final Value” in Journal of Value Inquiry 54:3 (2020), I showed how objects, such as family heirlooms, come to have the above value.  Developing an idea from Wlodek Rabinowicz and Toni Rønnow-Rasmussen, I suggested that an heirloom can be valuable for its own sake on account of its relation to someone one loves, where it is one’s love for the person that partly renders the heirloom valuable for its own sake.  In my paper “No Intrinsic Value? No Problem: Why Nature Can Still Be Valuable for Its Own Sake” Environmental Ethics 42(2) 2020, I built on these points to show how a wide variety of natural entities can be valuable for their own sakes.  Various conditions must hold for this to be the case, so I outlined some of them, with particular attention to how human interaction influences nature’s final value. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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