East Coast of the Avalon Peninsula.
Photo by Bill Dagg
My current research looks at political disengagement through the lens of political theories of withdrawal. Empirical studies of voting behaviour have long shown that most citizens do not follow political events very closely and do not seek greater opportunities for political engagement. While most contemporary political theorists see citizen disengagement as a normative failure, my book manuscript, Minding the Mundane: The Critique of Political Participation from Epicurus to Montaigne, articulates a new way of thinking about citizen disengagement, which I call the ‘mundane perspective.’
I recover a tradition of political theorizing, beginning with Epicurus and carrying through ancient Roman and early modern European political thought, that presented political activity as inherently compromising but nevertheless essential for securing peace, security, and the goods of ‘extrapolitical’ life. These theorists fostered clarity about the ethical dilemmas inherent in much political activity and counseled cautious and intermittent participation for the sake of securing a realm apart from politics in which to pursue reflection and deeper, more intimate forms of community engagement. Minding the Mundane provides a more satisfying account of the political dimensions of ancient Epicureanism, new readings of well-known theorists like Machiavelli and More, and a case for studying François Rabelais and Michel de Montaigne as political theorists. It offers a fresh lens on the history of European political thought—one which pushes back against the hegemony of the republican paradigm—and contributes to contemporary normative debates about citizen engagement.
I am currently developing a second book project, tentatively entitled Expert Advice: Philosophic Advisors and the Rhetoric of Counsel. This will be a study of the ethical challenges facing experts in contemporary liberal democracies through the lens of ancient and early modern theories of counsel. Lastly, I have a long-standing interest in revising mainstream interpretations of the political thought of Thomas Hobbes.
"Laughing with Leviathan: Hobbesian Laughter in Theory and Practice."
Political Theory (2021)
"Jesting with Giants: Playing the Fool in Rabelais's Gargantua and Pantagruel."
The Political Science Reviewer (2020)
"Wheat or Chaff? Roger Williams in the History of Political Thought."
Review of Teresa Bejan, Mere Civility: Disagreement and the Limits of Toleration, in The Review of Politics 80, no. 3 (Summer 2018)