I’m revising my first monograph, provisionally titled Humanist Certainty. 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 enormous influence on Quintilian’s humanist readers, 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.
As part of a second research interest, I’ve started to do some writing on the rhetorical tradition as it bears on the emerging anxieties surrounding deepfake videos. In some writing currently under review, I argue that deepfakes approximate the long-standing, low-tech strategy of sermocinatio or ēthopoeia, the use of persuasive caricature and impersonation.
As far as non-academic side projects go, I’m running a lot with the Dashing Whippets Running Team, and I’m working on some piano tunes by Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans, and Bach.
(last updated 2/1/2020)