My first intellectual love is philosophy. Although I enjoy the arcana of logic, I believe that contemporary formal logic—with its mathematical rigor—strikes me as being rather sterile. In fact, the trend toward positivism across the board in philosophy seems to have sucked the fun out if it for all but the most committed ideologues. So I have built an intellectual home searching for the practical applicability of ethics to the everyday lives of ordinary people.
I earned a B.A. in philosophy, with an emphasis in professional and applied ethics, from Western Michigan University in 2003. From there, I started an M.A. program in theoretical and practical ethics, from the same institution. (I did not complete the program—four of five faculty members in the ethics program either died, left or retired during my first semester, leaving no faculty left to teach the core graduate ethics courses. The program fell from being a nationally ranked terminal-M.A. program to being unranked the following year.)
In terms of specific interests, I am especially fond of:
- Normative moral philosophy and the nature of moral evil
- Normative political theory (especially the nature of the state and its relationship to the individual)
- The application of evolutionary biology and cognitive psychology to the ethical assessment of human behavior, individual and social
- End-of-life decision-making
In addition to my academic work, I have served for several years as a member of the biomedical ethics committee for Spectrum Health’s Grand Rapids hospitals. In that capacity, I coordinated standing meetings and ad-hoc case consultations, performed chart reviews and participated in almost every case consultation over a four-year tenure.
In 2017-2018, I co-led the team to revise de novo the code of ethics of the National Association for Healthcare Quality. This new code of ethics was approved by NAHQ’s board of directors in April 2018. I served as principal author of the final document, including its logic model, and facilitated professional-ethics training for the team that participated in its review.
In early 2020, I accepted a three-year appointment to the Committee on Professional Ethics of the American Statistical Association.
In addition, in a literary context, I often speak to emerging writers on the subject of multivariate moral motivation as a contributor to the development of compelling conflict arcs and plausible characters. My writing textbook, From Pencil to Print: Practical Advice for Emerging Authors, includes sections about theme and conflict that address moral motivation. (Check out Theme and Conflict for a work-in-progress PDF of sections 4.4 and 4.5.)
- The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy — intermediate-length definitions, in a peer-reviewed online resource
- Philosophy Now — a magazine of pop philosophy written for non-academics
- Philosophy Pages — a meta-site of info for people who wish to learn more about philosophy, from a not-so-technical perspective
- Online Ethics Center — a clearinghouse of practical ethics guidelines from the National Academy of Engineering