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Seton Hall University

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 Ph.D. 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 Good You Can Do (2016) in the Philosophical Quarterly. Recent publications on the actualism/possibilism debate include Does Scrupulous Securitism Stand-Up to Scrutiny? in Philosophical Studies (2015) and the forthcoming Moral Obligations: Actualist, Possibilist or Hybridist? in the Australasian Journal of Philosophy, which is co-authored with Yishai Cohen.

Categories: Research

For more information, please contact:

  • Abe Zakhem
  • (973) 220-7762
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