In Conversation with LSR Visiting Faculty Fellow Mark van Roojen

Friday, May 11, 2018

Mark van Roojen is a professor of philosophy at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He works mostly in metaethics, ethics, and political philosophy, and has published papers about moral rationalism, expressivism, moral semantics, moral epistemology, satisficing, and moral psychology. He is the author of "Metaethics: A Contemporary Introduction" and is presently book review editor for "Ethics."

As a Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Faculty Fellow, he is working on a book project defending moral rationalism, or the view that moral requirements, obligations or reasons are a subset of the requirements of rationality.

“That thesis isn't particularly original, but to make the view plausible and consistent with relatively ordinary views about what we owe other people requires some more original ideas about the way reasons and rationality work,” said van Roojen. “This has to fit with a story about how our minds and our language can be used to think and talk about rationality so conceived.”

With most of three book chapters finished and several other papers on metaethics written, van Roojen has had a productive year at the UCHV, both in academic output and in conversations with Princeton faculty and fellows who share similar research interests.

“Michael Smith got me started thinking about rationalism quite long ago when I was a graduate student here, and he's been around a good bit to talk to this year,” van Roojen said. “Liz Harman, Sarah McGrath, Johann Frick and Gideon Rosen all do at least some work of relevance and interest, and I've been going to Ralph Wedgwood's grad seminar in abstract normative theory, where I've enjoyed both the seminar and the graduate students and faculty who go.”

“Among the visiting fellows, I've overlapped most closely with Shaun Nichols and Stephanie Beardman, who both work in metaethics; with Mitch Berman, who has a metaethical project that intersects with his work on law; and with Dylan Murray, a post doc in Cognitive Science of Values.”

He noted that speaking with graduate students at the Department of Philosophy’s Tuesday afternoon teas has been another highlight.

“It is always stimulating to talk with people you don't regularly see and to be able to do that over a longer course of time,” said van Roojen. “Most of the visitors at the center have been eager to talk about our work outside the formal settings so that has been very nice.”