Research Statement

I am a social/political philosopher and ethicist who focuses on social justice issues particularly as they relate to race and class. Right now, I am working on a systematic project that sees health (broadly speaking) as a critical indicator of social justice and moral harm. When an entire portion of the population has a shorter life- expectancy, more mental health problems, and generally lives less fulfilling lives, then this is the site of multiple, compounded ethical and political problems to be untangled. My approach to philosophy is one of destruction and creation. In this dialectical approach, “destruction” refers to critique. It is futile to talk about “the good life” or an ideal “life worth living” if we can’t all access such a life. So, part of my research involves identifying the avoidable barriers that prevent us from flourishing (i.e., racism, poverty, poor health, and environmental devastation) and destroying/critiquing the ideas, habits, and social structures that perpetuate such barriers. But creation is just as important as destruction, so along with critiquing existing barriers, I also write about what another world could look like.

My current project (“Re-membering our Self: Organicism as the Foundation of a New Political Economy”) is an example of this destruction/creation approach. The first half is a critique of entitlement theory - the capitalist-aligned criteria for the moral entitlement to private property and its transfer. Proponents of this theory believe that one virtue of capitalism is that it protects “individual freedom”. More specifically, proponents believe it protects a particular metaphysical picture of the human being, that is, the “rational, autonomous, individual” as the ontological essence of a person. The problem, I contend, is that this entity does not exist universally and cannot be the ontological essence. Moreover, I show that the functioning of capitalism ironically creates the opposite effect of rational, autonomous individuals. Then the second half of the project is an act of creation. I create a theory of human ontology that I term, “organicism” to replace the “rational, autonomous, individual.” This picture of the human subject is universal because it focuses on our organic natures and our undeniable basic biological needs. Organicism also necessitates a social and ecological interconnectedness. Therefore, we require a new political economy that protects this new picture of the human. Organicism necessitates a revaluation of our social and economic values to prioritize health and well-being. Only then can the rational, autonomous, individual truly emerge. I wrote my dissertation as an effective launching point for several fruitful years of writing because I see it as an endeavor of systematic philosophy. The first trajectory I foresee involves the normative and applied ethics arising from organicism.

In the realm of applied ethics, I am particularly interested in health outside of the clinical setting, such as social and political determinants to health. I am more interested in health disparities of race and class, how the environment affects public health, and the ramifications of a profit-driven food and agriculture industry. First, I dig deep into the most foundational question: what is health? (in an article from my dissertation, “Defining Health: Flourishing Through Balance”). I argue for a broad understanding of health, more akin to “well-being”, that encompasses more than mere absence of disease. My second research question asks: why is health socially and politically important? This foundational theory of health then, has many segues and trajectories into the philosophy of social justice and liberation such as (to name future articles): “Access to Healthy Food as Equal Moral Standing as Access to Healthcare”, “Decolonizing Nuestra Comida: The Intersection of Environmental Ethics, Food Justice, and Health Disparities in the Latinx Population”, “The Hegemony of Western Medicine: Understanding the Colonial Erasure of Non-Western Health Practices”, and “The Harm in the Hustle: The Moral Harms of Stress in Late Capitalism”. The health of a population is an imperative question of political philosophy.

In the realm of political philosophy, I am interested in public ideological understanding of our most foundational concepts, such as “freedom”. One of my current projects uncovers the presupposed ontology of American libertarianism as an attempt to give us clarity into a characterization of freedom that is particular to the United States. I am also curious as to whether the concept of freedom has a tipping point. For example, at what point does freedom of information on the internet lead to public confusion and democratic disintegration? In my future article, “Freedom’s Tipping Point”, I ask: what other factors, if any, are strong enough to outweigh freedom? I have an article/chapter coming out in the Philosophy of Peace book series, published by Brill, titled, “Hate Speech as Antithetical to Free Speech: The Real Polarity,” where I outline a moral and legal solution to the contested issue of hate speech. This article is not only a contribution to political and legal philosophy, but also philosophy of race.

Within philosophy of race, I am one of the first philosophers to write about the Romani people - the largest ethnic minority group in Europe. My forthcoming publication, “Understanding the Legitimacy of Movement: The Nomadism of Gitanos (Spanish Romani) and Conquistadors”, complicates questions of migration, political power, and differing relationships to land by looking at the immigration of Romani into early modern Spain. I also have the groundwork for an introduction to the philosophy of mujerista as a Latina based feminism, and an exploration into the connections between racism and the functioning of capitalism.

In general, I am interested in finding the connections between the social/political, and unavoidably ethical, issues that are typically dealt with in isolation (like separate categories of applied ethics). I call this a ‘methodology of solidarity’ or a ‘rhizomatic method’. It is the recognition that true liberation and “the good life” can only be achieved when we “connect the dots” – when we see, for instance, how issues of public health relate to racism, how racism is influenced by the political economy, how inequality arose from colonialism, how colonial logics contribute to environmental degradation, etc. My ultimate goal is to answer the question: how can we ensure the wellbeing of all humans along with the natural and political ecosystems we call home?