My research interests center upon Kant’s so-called “ethicotheology,” that is, the manner in which Kant takes coherent moral agency to necessitate faith in a just and loving God (among other things). I am particularly interested in laying out the continuity of Kant’s ethicotheology with religious movements already existing within early modernity. I think this time-period offers a rich variety of ways of thinking about the connection between the divine and ethical experience, ways that can cut through the tidy dichotomies we sometimes bear (such as an opposition between reason and faith, or between piety and autonomy). In my dissertation, I traced how the heterodox religious elements within Rousseau and the Pietists play a substantial role in the practical philosophy of Kant, to be adapted by his immediate successors (such as Reinhold and Fichte). To acknowledge the way that these authors put forward an “inner religion” where God is hidden away in inwardness (yet no less vivid thereby), I titled my dissertation The Hidden Life of God: Kant and the German Idealists on Ethical Purity.
This project did not arise in isolation from my studies. My first engagement with a philosophical text came when I chanced upon Plato’s Euthyphro, and the famous dilemma within that dialogue—is something pious because the gods love it, or do the gods love it because it is pious?—set me on my path. I became fascinated with the Platonic tradition and its connection to the self-understanding of medieval and modern thinkers. I see this tradition in play within such modern figures as Spinoza and Leibniz, who obviously lay the ground for the revolutions in thinking that characterize German idealism. I think the ongoing relevance of their thoughts for the philosophizing that comes after them needs to be understood through its historical grounding, an approach which my time at the University of Kentucky cemented. My training in the history of philosophy has convinced me of its potential to not only illuminate the past, but to also challenge present ways of thinking even as it provides positive possibilities for the future.