Jorah Dannenberg

|Lecturer
Academic Appointments

Lecturer in Philosophy

I teach courses and write papers in moral philosophy.   

I am also very interested in political philosophy, epistemology, philosophy of language, philosophy of action, and philosophy and literature (including especially film).  I have taught courses that touch on all these areas.  Some of my written work touches on them too - especially where they overlap with, or shed new light on, the questions about morality that interest me most.  

What questions are those?  

While moral philosophy can get pretty abstract, I believe that at bottom it always has to come down to finding better ways of posing and answering the sorts of pressing, practical questions we all face in our own lives: questions about how to make our choices, how to relate to one another, how to arrange society, how to cultivate and express our own characters as individuals, how to navigate conflict, and how to respond to our inevitable failures and shortcomings.  

In my papers I've written about some more concrete questions that surround making and keeping promises, telling the truth, and trusting in people by taking them at their word.  I've also done some writing about more abstract questions: for instance, I'm interested in figuring out whether living a good human life is primarily or entirely a matter of cultivating our reason and using it excellently in making our choices, setting our goals and pursuing them, and so forth (spoiler: I think it's not, but we consistently are tempted to think otherwise, and we may even be guilty of a kind of motivated belief in the moral importance of our reason).  Finally, I've written a bit on what I think makes moral philosophy distinctive as a branch of philosophy, and why it's important to keep track of this.

I take a lot of inspiration from the history of moral philosophy - both the philosophers I agree with, and those I don't.  I've learned a lot from reading Plato and Kant and John Stuart Mill, for instance, even though I'm usually not persuaded by them.  On the other hand, the thinkers who have managed to change my mind the most are probably Hume and Nietzsche, along with 20th century figures who built on key insights of theirs: among others, Bernard Williams, John Rawls, Annette Baier, Elizabeth Anscombe, and P.F. Strawson.  I also like the way these figures tended to approach things: they saw the need for doing moral philosophy in ways that were less "metaphysical," less religious, more realistic about human psychology (including its seamier aspects), more rooted in history, more embedded in culture and conventions, and more distinctively practical in both aim and orientation.  In my work I try to revive, update, and extend the reach of this kind of approach.

Contact

HB

Department(s)

Philosophy

Education

  • PhD UCLA, 2010
  • B.A. Pomona College, 2001