I am Professor and Queen’s National Scholar in the Department of Political Studies at Queen’s University. I am cross-appointed with the Department of Philosophy and I also teach in the School of Policy Studies.
My research interests are interdisciplinary, integrating normative insights from political theory and ethics with empirical insights from diverse disciplines.
The foundational aspiration of my research is the advancement of the Enlightenment Project into the 21st century. The themes of reason, science, progress, and optimism inform my curiosity-driven research interests and interdisciplinary focus. The philosopher Immanuel Kant described enlightenment as “man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity.” Our immaturity can stem from our ignorance of the facts, ideological convictions, cognitive biases, unquestioned assumptions, a myopic perspective, etc. These cognitive blindspots often lead us to categorize societal problems in overly simplistic terms either because we treat certain values as “sacred” (that is, moral imperatives we’re unwilling to compromise on) or we categorize problems as stemming from one group of people oppressing another group. By embracing the critical thinking inherent in the Socratic method, I (cautiously and tentatively) aspire to help generate emancipatory knowledge that goes beyond what arm-chair normative theorizing typically has to offer.
This site contains information about my academic career and research interests.
TedX Queen’s Talk on Global Aging and Longevity Science:
Central question which preoccupies most of my research and life: How should we live?
My past and current research focuses on more specific topics that arise from this general question, including:
- Global aging and its ethical and societal implications.
- The “playful society” as a realistic utopia.
- What is political theory? And why is it important for us to do political theory?
- Pandemic justice and non-ideal theory
- What are the “epistemic virtues”? And how can virtue epistemology help us improve our understanding of the moral/political landscape?
If you are looking for my blog “In Search of Enlightenment” please click here.
I also have a multimedia page here, which has some video presentations of published papers and works in progress. I hope you find something of interest! 🙂
I am a political theorist and philosopher and received my PhD from the University of Bristol in England in 1999. I would describe myself as a bit of an “old-school” academic type as-
(1) I love teaching my students and typically teach over 300 undergraduates each semester. For me teaching is research (and vise versa), the classroom is my “intellectual laboratory” where I get to try out new ideas, gain valuable insights, etc. from bright, young minds! And my laboratory extends beyond the ivory tower- I do volunteer teaching in prison during the summer months and also organize a “philosophy in the pub” group locally.
(2) I love the “deep thinking” involved in reading and writing academic research, where I spend the bulk of my time at work (when I am not teaching). I”m not a fan on the encroachment of social media like “tweets” into academic life. I myself think Twitter (on the whole) has had a negative impact. A persistent distraction of superficial thinking certainly doesn’t help us refine the intellectual virtues. And I think Twitter has eroded norms of civility by amplifying “group think”, functioning as a “virtual clique among like-minded geeks” and a venue for “virtue signalling” vs scholarship. My intellectual hero Socrates would probably say “The Tweeted life is not worth living!”… which is short enough to constitute a tweet). As an academic I am not interested in “winning the internet” or amassing Twitter followers. My primary goal is to advance some novel and useful knowledge and scholarship in the fields of inquiry I address.
(3) I love spreading myself across academic disciplines (vs investing solely in inward specialization). I find the catalyst for much of my research comes from insights in outside, but related disciplines, like psychology and evolutionary biology.
(4) I try to address a variety of different topics and consciously cultivate my intellectual development over my career.
I also tend to gravitate towards topics and methodologies off the beaten track in my discipline. This creates some challenges for my research given it goes against the grain of the existing professionalized trends and incentive/reward structures, but it also has many rewards. While I address many topics that are currently on the margins of the political philosophy, I believe these topics will not always be considered marginal as they are significant societal challenges of the 21st century. I write on topics that I genuinely believe that, when on my death bed, I will be able to say to myself “I am glad I tried my best to tackle those particular intellectual problems!”
I have published 6 books (two edited volumes and four single-authored books) and numerous articles in a variety of different journals. My research interests are interdisciplinary and include normative issues in politics, philosophy, law, science and medicine. My publications have appeared in journals such as Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Political Studies, British Medical Journal, Journals of Gerontology, QJM: An International Journal of Medicine, Biogerontology, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, American Journal of Bioethics, Canadian Journal of Political Science, Nature’s EMBO Reports, University of Toronto Law Journal, Bioethics, Public Health Ethics, Hypatia, Political Studies Review, Journal of Medical Licensure and Discipline, Rejuvenation Research and Philosophy of the Social Science.
I am also a father to three sons I adore deeply. So Dad duties are my #1 priority in life, but the kids are getting older (sigh!). When not working or tending to parental duties I stay sane by engaging in a variety of activities that help me achieve “flow”. These include daily exercise and sports. And I am also active in volunteer work, I find such prosocial activities deeply rewarding. I volunteer teach political philosophy to inmates and I also organize the Kingston Philosophy Meetup Group (170+ members) which brings philosophy into the local pubs of the city to help foster the intellectual community of the city. And I also organize a social support group for men. And finally two passions of mine include cooking- my Big Green Egg smoker is one of the rare material items I covet!- and the 1970s TV show Columbo with Peter Falk (I own the complete DVD set).
Before coming to Queen’s University in 2008 I was Associate Professor of Political Science (Cross-Appointed with Philosophy) at Waterloo University for 5 years. I also spent a year as a Research Fellow in the Dept of Politics and International Relations at Oxford University and as a Visitor in Oxford’s Program on the Ethics of the New Biosciences, and a semester as Visiting Professor at UCLA’s Dept. of Public Policy. For the Fall term of 2018 I am the Fulbright Visiting Research Chair in the Social Sciences at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.
In the more distant past, I held full-time academic appointments in the Dept of Government at Manchester University, the Dept of Political Science and International Studies at Birmingham University and the Dept of Philosophy at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.
The bridge of life: frontispiece to Pearson (1897).