My Academic Research: Past and Present

My philosophical research interests are primarily concentrated in applied ethics, normative ethics, and epistemology. Although I have been drawn to a variety of issues in different subfields in applied ethics, the dominant focus of my recent work has been intergenerational ethics, particularly the intersection between environmental ethics and procreative ethics. My main interests in epistemology are the ethics of belief and peer disagreement.

Below are descriptions of topics that I am currently researching. My Papers and Vitae also provide some insight into research I have conducted in the past.

Overpopulation

If you visit a webpage with a world population clock, you'll quickly notice two things: global human population is greater than 7.3 billion, and it is still steadily growing. Until recently, the dominant thought with respect to global population was that it would peak at about 9 billion in 2050 and stabilize or perhaps begin to decline, but recent projections from the United Nations and some other studies suggest that population stabilization may not occur this century at all. We could have a global population of greater than 11 billion by 2100 if current trends continue.

It's easy to be skeptical of concerns about population because those who predicted population catastrophes in the past, most notably Thomas Malthus and Paul Ehrlich, overestimated the impacts of population growth. Nevertheless, it is foolish to ignore one of the variables in the IPAT Equation: environmental impact is a result of the multiplicative contribution of population, affluence, and technology. Even if we assume that technological innovation will reduce per capita ecological footprint, these reductions will not result in an overall decrease in environmental impact if population growth outpaces them.

Of course, discussions of population policy bring to mind worries about forced abortions and mandatory sterilizations – severe infringements on reproductive freedom that are generally regarded as morally abhorrent. There is no doubt that taking population seriously requires directly addressing the conflict between promoting a sustainable population and promotive procreative liberties, and given the severity of the problems to which population growth contributes (such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and resource depletion), it's quite possible that no tidy resolution to this conflict will be forthcoming. But that's hardly an excuse to ignore the problem or act as if the carrying capacity of the Earth is infinite. Some recent contributions to academic philosophy, such as the collection Life on the Brink and Sarah Conly's One Child, indicate that philosophers are starting to share this sentiment.

My dissertation, titled Population, Consumption, and Procreation, addresses the difficult moral question of what we ought to do (both collectively and as individuals) in response to rising global population. Although I do engage with some of the traditional issues in population ethics, such as the repugnant conclusion and the non-identity problem, my main aim is to craft moral principles that can help us respond appropriately to our actual population problem in light of the empirical facts about it. One of the dissertation's guiding themes is that responding adequately to overpopulation requires a long-term focus: we must take seriously the equal moral status of those who will not be born for centuries or even millenia. Taking the moral status of future people seriously means, among other things, that we should pursue lasting solutions to these problems rather than those that will only prove satisfactory for the next few generations. Unfortunately, developing such a long-lasting solution to the population problem without compromising other crucial moral values is no easy task.

You can read my dissertation in its entirety through via this page in the Tennessee Research and Creative Exchange repository. I am currently revising portions of my dissertation in the hope that they can either form the foundation of a book on the subject or be rewritten as standalone articles.

What We Owe the Victims of Climate Change

Preventing global climate change is no longer possible. Our collective actions have guaranteed that global climate change will cause widespread suffering and death to future people for (at least) hundreds of years. Beyond human suffering, global climate change will also cause tremendous losses in biodiversity and dessimate irreplaceable natural environments (e.g., coral reefs, rainforests). Regardless of what policies we adopt to lessen the effects of climate change or adapt societies to the rising sea levels, altering temperatures, etc., we are still left with a significant moral question: what do we owe the future generations who are affected by our actions? And if we owe them something significant, how would we present it to them? The temporal gap and unpredictable changes in societal values create some tricky problems in determining how we might give future generations anything that they would value. Part of my research focuses on what particular goods we might provide to them that could serve as adequate compensation for the wrongful harms of climate change. As my Master's Thesis suggests, my main focus is whether certain epistemic goods might play a role in compensating future people for the adverse effects of climate change.

Biography

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I am currently a postdoctoral scholar affiliated with the philosophy department at the University of South Florida. My primary research interests are applied ethics and epistemology.

Contact

Office: FAO 237
E-mail: tgh1@usf.edu

Mailing Address:
    4202 E. Fowler Ave
    FAO 226
    Tampa, FL 33620