What I’m Working on Now

I’m revising a monograph, provisionally titled Humanist Certainty, that builds on my dissertation research. Broadly speaking, the book argues that the ancient notion of certainty, alien to the modern concept of the same name, is most fully theorized in Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria as a term denoting customary agreement, not unimpeachable truth. This consensus-based understanding of certainty, built upon earlier sources including Aristotle and Cicero, exerts an influence on Quintilian’s humanist readers—including Lorenzo Valla, Thomas Hobbes, and Giambattista Vico—who use it to ground their writings on law, logic, and science. The second half of the book, which treats these later authors, focuses on the writings on Lorenzo Valla, Thomas Hobbes, and Giambattista Vico.

Building on an essay originally published in Commonweal Magazine, I recently finished another book (Learning to Be Fair: Equity from Classical Philosophy to Contemporary Politics, Fortress Press; available at Bookshop.org and Amazon) on the complex history of “equity,” a word that continues to dominate contemporary culture. By locating our word’s predecessors in Greco-Roman thinkers like Aristotle and Cicero, I anchor our (mis)understanding of equity in the durable ethical and political paradoxes raised millennia ago. I look forward to discussions and events surrounding this book in the coming year.

I frequently train with Mill City Running in Minneapolis, no matter the frigid temperatures. The vibrant running community is one of the many pleasures of living in downtown Minneapolis.

I’ve become a civic evangelist for Vote Forward, a volunteer organization devoted to increasing voter participation in the United States. You can register to vote or confirm your voter registration at Vote.gov.

(last updated 3/30/2024)