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In my research, I explore how moral theory can provide conceptual tools to expose the generative forces inherent in our social institutions and provide guidance in our personal practical actions and public policies. I argue that a good moral theory should be useful in guiding actions in non-idealized situations and be able to address the social reality of particular situated bodies. In other words, our moral theories and public policies must be responsive to the fact that we live in a society in which some are systematically made vulnerable in light of the way social institutions respond to differences in gender, race, class, or sexual orientation. In my recent work, I draw on contemporary moral theory, agency theory, and feminist philosophy to critically examine contemporary ethical issues through a non-idealized lens. As my research begins from the point of view of social institutions, my research interests are broadly interdisciplinary, bridging conceptions of group agency, individual autonomy, and personal freedoms as they are taken up and played out in different facets of society, particularly the institution of medicine and jurisprudence.
In “Vulnerabilities Compounded by Social Institutions” (forthcoming in the International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics), Laura Guidry-Grimes and I focus on the effects of certain diagnoses within mental health and medicine that operate as interactive kinds of labels. We argue that such interactive kinds of labels create institutional barriers that limit one’s capacity to develop or achieve wellness of being. In “The Persistence of Agency through Social Institutions” (under review), we modify Michael Bratman’s account of planning agency and propose a relationally autonomous account of planning agency as the basis for duties to future others.
Branching out from the field of bioethics, my article “Corporate Governance and Corporate Speech” (under review) explores the tensions between the representations of corporate political speech as ideally presented in the Supreme Court decision of Citizens United and the realities of constrained shareholder freedom and managerial fiduciary duty. Additionally, I have recently led a Brown Bag lunch series at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville focusing on the effects of the recent Citizens United Supreme Court decision on how the decision is shaping group speech rights, shareholder control of corporate political speech, and potential transparency concerns. I have also given an internal presentation on the First Amendment protections of Facebook and other social media activities.
In addition to corporate governance, I am particularly interested in exploring particular aspects of philosophy of law from a narrative identity perspective. For example, I am beginning to explore the ramifications of same-sex divorce law in the United States, how policies are taking the objective attitude toward those seeking the right to exit the marriage contract, and how this may constrict the agency of the individuals affected by such laws. In particular, I am seeking to explore how the marriage, once entered into and not able to be dissolved, creates a dissonance within the personal identity of those attempting to move on with their lives.
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