about

Hi! I'm Nate. Here's a button that will produce my CV, if you're into that sort of thing (updated August 2019).

CV

As of Fall 2019, I am an Assistant Professor in the Corcoran Department of Philosophy at the University of Virginia.

I work primarily in political philosophy and philosophy of law, focusing on the legitimacy of institutions and the nature of the practical authority that they claim over us. I have published papers in these and other areas in venues such as The Journal of Political Philosophy, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, and Law and Philosophy. On this site you will find more detail about me, my research, my teaching, and how to contact me.

Previously I was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Philosophy Department of McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada. Before that I was a Research Fellow with the Justitia Amplificata Centre for Advanced Studies, an interdisciplinary research center in political theory and philosophy at Goethe Universität Frankfurt in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. I was also a visiting postdoctoral research fellow with the Chair of International Political Theory at Goethe Universität for Sommersemester 2014 and during the 2014-15 academic year I was a Visiting Assistant Professor at Virginia Tech. I have a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Washington University in St. Louis (2014), an M.A. in Philosophy from Virginia Tech (2008), and a B.A. in Biochemistry from Spring Arbor University (2004). I've ended up a long way from biochemistry! Everything else you'll find here is about philosophy but if you're interested: for my senior thesis, I investigated the reported efficacy of chaulmoogra oil for treating leprosy by separating out various chemical components of the natural oil and testing their properties. 

I'm originally from the USA, though not from any particular place. I was born in the northeast and have lived in New York City, the south, the midwest, China, Germany, and Canada. I've learned a lot from my migratory ways. We can't take the view from everywhere or the view from nowhere, but I hope that having had the view from many-wheres helps my understanding of morality, political institutions, and justice. It’s nice to be back in time zones where I can occasionally watch some baseball. Sometimes I attempt to write fiction and I return to an extremely unfinished novel in fits and starts, all of which is a nice outlet for the kind of explosive purple prose that is most often counterproductive in a philosophy article aiming for clarity and precision. 

My research is focused on issues of political authority and legitimacy. I am curious about how political institutions concentrate and exercise power and what that means for those of us subject to those institutions (i.e. all of us). My research into authority is fundamentally motivated by anti-authoritarian impulses: I want to understand authority because I want to know exactly where its rightful limits lie. Power motivates its own expansion and so the project of pushing back against power is necessary and unending. I think it helps to reframe these issues in terms of the paired ideas of vulnerability and trustworthiness, in part by drawing on resources from normative ethics and epistemology. In our orientation towards reform, I am interested in civil disobedience as a contestatory practice, and my thinking in that regard has been keenly shaped in conversation with graduate students in two seminars I taught on the subject in Frankfurt. I have also started research into the implicit enactment of norms, starting from a course I taught on propaganda and recently focusing on the linguistic mechanism of accommodation. I am interested in such mechanisms because they must play a central role in explaining, and so addressing, structural injustices, which by definition are not the simple product of intentional design, enactment, and support.