Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology
Professor Lenny Moss
PhD, Berkeley (Biochemistry); PhD, Northwestern (Philosophy)
Telephone: 01392 723279
OFFICE HOURS: M 14:40-15:30, Tues 15:00-16:15.
My office is Amory 319. The best way to contact me is by email (not by office phone).
The usual expression of ‘interests’ on philosophers’s web pages strikes me as a bit peculiar in the it typically seems to presuppose that it purely a personal matter. One indicates what questions one subjectively just happens to be interested in (as with a hobby) and not what one takes to be the question or questions that should or must be addressed. The expression of web-page research interests can either serve as an advert for the privilege and luxuries of the academic life or it can be an entry-way into a conversation about how best to understand the intellectual challenges and perhaps even moral imperatives of our historical moment. I take the challenge of addressing questions of nature and normativity to have that kind of status. On the whole, we no longer embrace a vision of humans as distinct from nature, and yet we are at great pains to simultaneously seek, in normative terms, the warrants for our always already normatively saturated life and action orientations, while also taking ourselves, in a scientifically-accountable way, to be creatures of nature. I take this deficiency to have unfortunate ethical, socio-political, enviromental and scientific consequences. My project involves developing a ‘non-reductive’, yet scientifically accountable, view of nature that is permissive of, and amenable to, the possibility of a naturalistic understanding of freedom and autonomy as normative focal points, while also reconsidering the implications for our understanding of the meaning of freedom and autonomy from such a new-naturalistic perspective. I have been advancing a theory of 'natural detachment' that draws upon resources ranging from theoretical biology and chemistry, new findings about the role of 'the group' and sociality in human evolution, to Brandomian semantics and the social theory of Jurgen Habermas and Axel Honneth, in endeavoring to provide a new basis for reconciling naturalism and normativity.