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I have always been captivated by larger questions, and sought answers or new understandings, which have sometimes changed my life. This passion led me to study and teach philosophy, to careers in academia and public service, and to spiritual exploration in diverse traditions.
More specifically, I teach ethics and public policy at Brown University, and have taught at New York University, Western Washington University, and Johns Hopkins University. My scholarly interests have included the significance of embodiment for critical reflection, the relevance of philosophy to democratic government, social justice issues inherent in public policy, and the ancient notion of philosophy as a way of life.
In addition, in nearly two decades of public service, I have addressed issues of poverty and disadvantage, and advanced policy analysis and evaluation across government, including working in the White House under two Presidents. My role has been to understand government and public policy, to formulate issues and options, and to explain these understandings to leaders and the public.
I also have explored theology, spirituality and meditation through participating in and leading numerous courses, discussion groups and retreats. This has broadened my understanding of philosophy, uncovered valuable resources for reflection, and allowed dialogue with persons of diverse beliefs. It also has allowed experimentation with practices of reflection grounded in our nature as emotive, embodied, mortal beings – which I originally explored philosophically in The Corporeal Turn.
My education includes a BA in philosophy from Macalester College and a PhD in political philosophy from Johns Hopkins, and I am APPA-certified in philosophical counseling.
Canonical: Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Foucault, Rawls.
Contemporary: Richard Rorty, Stuart Hampshire, Robert Nozick, Bernard Williams, Amartya Sen, Charles Taylor, William Connolly, Martha Nussbaum, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Danielle Allen.
I also regard as “philosophers” a broader array of theorists and theologians, poets and prophets, scientists and sages who offer extraordinary insight into the human condition. Among the most inspiring are Homer, Sophocles, Rumi, Thoreau, Gandhi, Paul Tillich, Reinhold Niebuhr, Martin Luther King, Jr., Thich Nhat Hahn, E.O. Wilson, Mary Oliver, and Parker Palmer.
“…a philosophical problem has the form: ‘I don’t know my way about.’”
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations