Most of my philosophical writing has centered on three overlapping areas: early modern philosophy (especially Spinoza and Leibniz), metaphysics, and philosophy of religion. I also serve as one of the directors for the Center for Philosophy of Religion, and I am a principal investigator for several large research projects. Below you will find a summary of my research interests and links to some of those projects.
Early Modern Metaphysics
The bulk of my published work focuses on the rich metaphysics of Spinoza and Leibniz, with an eye towards parallel work in contemporary metaphysics and other early moderns. I have written about ontology, modality, dependence, causation, explanation, universals, idealism, referential opacity, perfection, and representation, and I am interested in many more topics in metaphysics that are of both historical and contemporary interest. My work on Spinoza's metaphysics and ethics comes together in Reconceiving Spinoza (Oxford University Press, 2018). And because I can't get enough of this stuff, I am working on a new, wide-ranging book project, No Cheating! A Spinozistic Reading of Early Modern Metaphysics, which has been generously funded by the NEH. I also have new papers on 18th century rationalists like Baumgarten and the early Kant.
Early Modern Philosophy of Religion
Another part of my research focuses on early modern philosophy of religion, most especially the problem of evil. Early modern discussions of evil brought together complex metaphysical, theological, epistemological, and moral issues, and I enjoy trying to sort through them, always with an eye towards parallel discussions in contemporary philosophy of religion.
Hope and Optimism
Hope and Optimism: Conceptual and Empirical Investigations is a 3 year, $4.9 million research initiative that funds new research in philosophy, psychology, sociology, and analytic theology on the nature and norms of hope and optimism. It includes funding for social science research, residential and non-residential fellowships, graduate students, workshops, conferences, an amateur film contest and a playwright competition. Co-directed with Andrew Chignell (Cornell University), 2014 – 2017. Visit the project website. Also, check out the new white paper on the research results of the project (which was also picked up by the WSJ.)
The Experience Project
The Experience Project is a 3 year, $5.1 million research initiative sponsoring new work in philosophy, psychology, sociology, and religious studies on the nature of transformative and religious experiences. Funding through the John Templeton Foundation and the University of Notre Dame. Co-directed with Laurie Paul and Michael Rea, 2014-2017. Visit the project website.
The Problem of Evil in Modern and Contemporary Thought
This was a 4 year, $1.9 million research initiative on the problem of evil in both early modern and contemporary philosophy. It supported faculty and graduate student research fellowships, national and international conferences, seminars, workshops, translations, and an essay prize. Funding from the John Templeton Foundation, with additional support from the University of Notre Dame. Co-directed with Michael Rea (University of Notre Dame), 2010-2013. More information on the project can be found here.
Contemporary Philosophy of Religion
I am one of the directors of the Center for Philosophy of Religion at the University of Notre Dame. In addition to the initiatives listed above, I’ve been involved with some of the other major Center projects, including the Analytic Theology research project and our video series. I also lead the Center’s weekly discussion group of works in progress by our residential fellows. For more information on the Center’s activities and fellowship programs, see here.