Areas of Specialization:   Philosophy of Language, Ordinary Language Philosophy, Ethics, Aesthetics, Philosophy of Psychoanalysis

Areas of Competence:    Political Philosophy, Philosophy of Mind, Epistemology

Research projects

My recent book ‘Wittgenstein and Lacan at the Limit: meaning and astonishment’ brings together the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein and Jacques Lacan around their treatments of ‘astonishment,’ an experience of being struck by something that appears to be extraordinarily significant. Both thinkers have a central interest in the dissatisfaction with meaning that these experiences generate when we attempt to articulate them, to bring language to bear on them. I argue that this frustration and difficulty with meaning reveals a more fundamental characteristic of our sense-making capacities –namely, their groundlessness. Instead of disappointment with language’s sense-making capacities, I argue that Wittgenstein and Lacan can help us find in this revelation of meaning’s groundlessness an opportunity to acknowledge our own involvement in meaning, to creatively participate in it and thereby to enrich our forms of life with language.

You can listen to my introductory podcast at the Monocle Weekly radio show on the topic of astonishment here.

My research plans for the next 5 years involve two main research projects:

The first one is entitled ‘What if we lost nature? Nature, disinterestedness, and the human life’ and it brings together Romantic ideas on the importance of nature with Hannah Arendt’s concept of natality and the Kantian concept of disinterestedness to argue that the experience of nature, as what is born and grows with no predetermined purpose is vital for human flourishing.

The second project is entitled ‘Lived and unlived words: Cavell and Freud on authority and trust in language use’ and it explores what it means to speak authentically and with first-person authority. Inauthenticity can take different forms. Fakeness, pretentiousness, self-alienation are only some, but a common characteristic that these different forms share is what I call, following Emerson, dispossession – namely, a state where words and actions are unlived or unowned. The worry that comes with dispossession can be expressed in both first and third person: does X mean their words/do I mean my words?; do X’s/my words and actions still carry their original power?; are X’s/my words and actions really X/me (as opposed to a borrowed identity)? The variety of situations in which each of the above disquietudes can arise is as complicated as the overall question of the project: what are the criteria for possessed or dispossessed, lived or unlived, words and actions? How do (we know that) we own and live our words and actions? In this project, I approach these questions by bringing together Sigmund Freud and Stanley Cavell.