Dr. Travis Timmerman (Philosophy) Awarded NEH Grant

Travis Timmerman (Assistant Professor of Philosophy) has
received a highly competitive National Endowment for the Humanities
(NEH) summer grant. He will use the NEH summer grant money to conduct
further research in the actualism/possibilism/hybridism debate in
ethics. This debate concerns the following question: What is the
relationship between the choices a person freely makes and her moral
obligations? This is a fundamental issue in ethics, yet it only began
receiving attention in the philosophical literature recently. To help
make this abstract question more concrete, here’s a particular case.

The Wedding: Your ex-partner invites you to her wedding,
and it would be best if you accepted the wedding invitation and attended
without misbehaving—something you can do at little cost to yourself.
But, due to your jealousy, if you were to accept the wedding invitation,
you would misbehave at the wedding. Thus, it would be better to decline
the invitation rather than to accept it and misbehave. But declining
would be worse than accepting and behaving.

Actualists say that you are obligated to decline the
invitation because what would actually happen if you decline is better
than what would actually happen if you accept. Possibilists say that you
are obligated to accept because it’s possible for you to both accept
and behave. So, they think, you should accept because doing so is
necessary to complete the best possible action.

Timmerman, and his co-author Yishai Cohen, are known for
developing a new view, viz. hybridism. Hybridism is in the early stages
of development, but appears to be a promising alternative to the other
views on offer. According to hybridism, you morally ought to accept the
invitation because it’s part of the best thing you can do, but
practically ought to decline the invitation because it will minimize the
amount of wrong you will do.

For the NEH summer grant, Timmerman will write two papers
exploring the relationship between hybridism and blameworthiness,
arguing that the correct account of blame actually supports the view he
helped develop. He also hopes to co-write the Stanford Encyclopedia of
Philosophy entry on the actualism/possibilism/hybridism debate within
the next year.

Dr. Timmerman’s earned his Phd from Syracuse University in
2017. His research interests are in ethics, death, and epistemology. In
addition to working on the the actualism/possibilism debate in
normative ethics, he also work on the philosophy death and global
poverty and animal welfare in applied ethics. Recent publications on
death include Your Death Might Be the Worst Thing Ever to Happen to You
(But Maybe You Shouldn’t Care) in the Canadian Journal of Philosophy
(2016) and Reconsidering Categorical Desire Views in Rowman &
Littlefield’s Immortality and the Philosophy of Death (2016). Recent
publications on global poverty include Sometimes There is Nothing Wrong
with Letting a Child Drown in Analysis (2015) and a review of Peter
Singer’s The Most…

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