Academic Philosophy

Searching for Social Properties (forthcoming in Philosophy & Phenomenological Research). This paper addresses the following question: What makes for the difference between social and non-social properties?

Public Philosophy

Why We Shouldn't Compare Transracial to Transgender Identity (with Robin Dembroff) (Boston Review, Nov. 18th 2020). Unlike gender inequality, racial inequality primarily accumulates across generations. Transracial identification undermines collective reckoning with that injustice. 

Current Research

The abstracts of my papers are listed here. Please email  me for the full drafts:


Falling Through the Gaps

A paper about the nature and injustices of systemic marginalization. 

Systemic marginalization is a particularly dangerous form of oppression. In this paper, I give an account of one particular type of systemic marginalization, something I call system caging. Generally speaking, an individual is system caged by a given social system (or set of social systems) when, due to certain barriers, they are unable to participate in that system, and this leaves them without recourse. My account of system caging is strongly informed by three cases, each of which involves an individual who experiences this form of systemic marginalization. After sketching the contours of system caging, I argue that this form of oppression is not best understood in terms of either oppressive double-binds, or intersectional injustice. At the end of this paper I describe a concrete proposal for ameliorating system caging. The general proposal is to create a database which compiles all of the rules on eligibility for welfare systems across the US. We might then develop a tool which we can use to cross-reference those rules in specific contexts, and thereby give us a better sense for where the gaps are in our welfare systems.

*Note: actively soliciting better names for this phenomenon! If you've got ideas, please email me :) 

Definitional Social Construction

A paper about how properties are socially constructed.

Plausibly, there are many socially constructed properties. For example, in the literature on social construction, the property of being money is standardly taken to be socially constructed, as well as the properties of being cool and being married, among many others. In this paper I propose a view about how the social construction of properties works. On this view, which I call Definitional Construction, a property F is socially constructed just in case there is at least one social factor in the essence of F. I argue that Definitional Construction satisfies all of the basic desiderata on any relation of social construction, and it also offers us insight into how properties might be socially constructed to varying degrees. In addition, Definitional Construction helps us to see certain relationships between entities in the social world, some (but not all) of which it would be difficult to examine otherwise. For these reasons, I argue that we should add Definitional Construction to our metaphysical toolkit of relations of social construction.

Gender and Race, not 'Gender' and 'Race'

A paper about the importance of distinguishing race and gender properties from race and gender terms.

What is it to be a woman? What is it to be Black? These are central questions in the philosophy of gender and the philosophy of race, respectively. In these literatures, questions about gender and race are often taken to be questions about the meanings of terms. We ask: what does ‘woman’ mean? What, if anything, do our race terms refer to? In this essay I argue that when we understand these questions as being exclusively about terms, we miss that there are other questions to be asked here, too—questions about people, and the ways those people actually are. For the purposes of this essay, I’ll talk in terms of properties when I’m describing the ways people actually are (properties like the property of being a woman, or the property of being Black). Overlooking this distinction between terms and properties can cause problems in the philosophies of gender and race, and I highlight some of those issues here.