Overview of research

My research concerns the strengths and weaknesses of theistic rationalism, the idea that you can know that God exists simply by using your reason. Theistic rationalism experienced a golden age during the early modern period, supported by such noteworthies as Descartes, Leibniz, and Locke. Towards the end of this period, however, it suffered a series of setbacks at the hands of Hume and Kant. Much philosophical lore has it that these setbacks proved the death of theistic rationalism. Yet today theistic rationalism is experiencing something of a renaissance, thanks in large part to various advances in modal logic and in physics.

I am not a theistic rationalist myself. However, I think that there is great historical and philosophical value in coming to grips with theistic rationalism. To that end I focus my research on one of the greatest proponents of theistic rationalism, namely Leibniz, as well as on one of its greatest critics, namely Pascal.

With respect to Leibniz, I have written papers on the foundational plank of his theistic rationalism, namely the principle of sufficient reason (PSR). These include papers on whether the PSR is necessary or contingent, and why it is true at all. I have also written papers on how Leibniz employs the PSR in his theism more generally. These include his cosmological argument for the existence of God, as well as his infamous view that God has created the best of all possible worlds.

With respect to Pascal, I am currently working on a paper that explores the relation between two of his main views: that we are mere specks in a vast cosmos, and that the prospects of using our reason to arrive at philosophical truth are pretty dim. In future work, I aim to extend these investigations to Pascal’s somewhat pessimistic view of human nature, and to his famous wager.

Papers

    1. “The Modal Status of Leibniz’s Principle of Sufficient Reason.” Forthcoming in the Journal of the American Philosophical Association.
    2. Revise and resubmit.
    3. Under review.
    4. “Why does Leibniz’s God Create the Best of All Possible Worlds?” In progress.
    5. “Pascal’s Epistemic Humility.” In progress.