My research is focused on questions in political philosophy and applied ethics. I have a particular interest in public health ethics and the concept, value and practice of security. Here I have some brief notes on ongoing research interests and projects. For a representative sample of my published and unpublished work, see my paper archive.
Security and Practional Rationality
Orthodox accounts of instrumental rationality require agents to perform a very complex set of cognitively demanding tasks. Ordinary human agents are, however, boundedly rational agents with limited cognitive resources. I am interested in the extent to which the security of basic goods enables agents to formulate instrumentally rational plans.
The Moral Status of Emergencies
Emergencies are often characterized as circumstances where the normal moral and legal constraints (e.g. respect for human rights) are replaced by a special set of considerations (e.g. the minimization of harm). I am interested in whether this model of emergencies as "moral exceptions" is tenable, and which features of emergencies - e.g. scale, impact and uncertainty - might justify such a state of moral exception.
The concept of "health security" has a central role in contemporary global health governance, and yet its precise content and value is under-specified. Of particular concern is whether the value of health security justifies the allocation of resources to protect populations from potentially catastrophic and deeply uncertain risks to their health (such as fast-moving zoonoses, pandemic influenza and bioterrorism), as opposed to alleviating ongoing, serious and well-characterised threats (such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, cardiovascular disease). I am currently extending my conceptual work on health security to a number of applied problems, including: (i) high-risk infectious disease research, and (ii) the criteria for the declaration of a Public Health Emergency.
Other Research Interests
- Risk and well-being
- The dual-use dilemma
- Duties to possible persons
My doctoral thesis analysed the concept and value of security. In it, I argued that whilst conceptions of security disagree about the content of this good, they all rely on an underlying thin concept: a mode of enjoying that content ‘securely.’ I give an account of what it means for an entity to enjoy a good securely, and why this might be a weighty consideration in moral decision-making. A more complete abstract and chapter summary is available here.