I am an professor of philosophy at the University of Rochester, with research and teaching interests in public health ethics, neuroethics, and political philosophy.
In addition to my primary appointment in Philosophy, I also serve as chair of the Steering Committee for the Public Health-Related Majors, a group of five interdisciplinary majors: Bioethics, Environmental Health, Epidemiology, Health Policy, and Health, Behavior, and Society. Within the program, I direct the Bioethics major.
I also I work with the Clinical Ethics program in the Department of Health Humanities and Bioethics at the University of Rochester Medical School. Outside Rochester, I serve on the (mostly defunct) Ethics Committee of the Empire State Stem Cell Board for the State of New York.
"My country is the world and my religion to do good."
My research falls into four broad categories. First, I work in a number of issues in health care ethics. I am especially interested in the ethical justifications for public health initiatives and particularly those for newborn screening. In addition, I have an interest in the myriad of ethical issues that arise in organ transplants and in the complex set of ethical issues at the intersection of neuroscience, neurology, and ethics. I have a special interest in the extent to which we think that we should be able to use medicine to modify our brains to improve our memory, our cognition, our moods, and our personality.
Second, related to these issues, I have been teaching and writing about the meaning and implications of death, both for how it affects bioethical issues and for how it affects the way we create meaning in our lives.
Third, I have a continuing interest in the social and conceptual foundations of liberal institutions and practices. I have a special interest in the philosophical justifications for toleration, which is the subject of my book Trust and Toleration.
Fourth, I study the historical foundations of modern politics in the eighteenth century, with an emphasis on the works of the great Scottish philosopher David Hume and those of the American Founders.
Philosophy is not a set of facts to be learned, but a method of inquiry. I hope both to model that method and to encourage it in my students, through discussions and writing assignments.