In the fall of 2022, I will join the faculty of the Hebrew University Philosophy Department.
I spent the first two weeks of September 2021 at the Center for Advanced Studies at LMU Munich with a research group led by Prof. Monika Betzler. On September 9 and 10, I participated in a conference organized by the group, on the end of relationships. The poster is below. Here's a pdf of my talk; it is about the resilience and vulnerability of relationships, and about the role of hope.
A review I wrote for Mind of Philip Pettit's The Birth of Ethics: https://doi.org/10.1093/mind/fzab013
Together with my colleague, Dan Baras, I organized an interdisciplinary workshop on surprise. June 10-12, 2020, on Zoom. Dan and I presented a paper on 'What is Surprising?'. Click here to watch our pre-recorded talk.
"What Makes Something Surprising?", co-written with Dan Baras, is forthcoming in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
"The Moral Significance of Shock" is out in The Politics of Emotional Shockwaves, ed. Sara Graça da Silva and Ana Falcato (Palgrave Macmillan).
Conference on "The End of Relationship", Center for Advanced Studies at LMU, Munich.
Online workshop on fittingness, for a collected volume due to come out in OUP.
Jerusalem Political Theory Workshop.
A letter about Tom
I recently wrote a letter about a good friend of mine, Tom Fehse. I share it here because it includes my views about the challenges of doing philosophy and about the importance of genuine philosophical community.
"Who Shot Gil Naamati? Or: A History of Video Games," co-authored with Gil Naamati and Yanay Israeli, translated and edited by David Raphael Lockard, published in Adjacent, November 2018. (English)
My first book of fiction in Hebrew, Limbo, was published in October 2018 by Kinneret Zmora-Bitan Dvir.
A chapter from Limbo in the Short Story Project (Hebrew).
A chapter from Limbo in Alaxon (Hebrew).
The overarching theme of my recent work is the rationality of emotional change. On the view I develop, the rational status of an emotional episode is partially determined by the process in which it is embedded. The view draws on insights found in works of fiction; it clarifies puzzles about regret, grief, and anger; it sheds new light on fitting-attitude accounts of value; and it has the potential to explain an important connection between narrative, value, and meaningfulness in life.
What Makes Something Surprising?
Co-authored with Dan Baras.
Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (forthcoming).
Surprises are important in our everyday lives as well as in our scientific and philosophical theorizing—in psychology, information theory, cognitive-neuroscience, philosophy of science, and confirmation theory. Nevertheless, there is no satisfactory theory of what makes something surprising. It has long been acknowledged that not everything unexpected is surprising. The reader had no reason to expect that there will be exactly 190 words in this abstract and yet there is nothing surprising about this fact. We offer a novel theory that explains when and why an unexpected fact is surprising. We distinguish between descriptive and normative notions of what is surprising; clarify the sense in which surprising facts are unexpected; and, finally, develop and defend the significance account of surprise, according to which a fact is surprising to an agent if and to the extent that it is both unexpected and significant to the agent. Since a surprising fact can be significant to an agent in various ways—personal, moral, epistemic, and aesthetic—surprise is not merely or primarily epistemic. Fitting surprise reflects more than a person’s view of what is; it reflects a person’s view of what is significant.
Emotions and Process Rationality
Australasian Journal of Philosophy (forthcoming).
Some epistemologists hold that all rational norms are fundamentally concerned with the agent’s states or attitudes at an individual time [Hedden 2015, 2016; Moss 2015]; others argue that all rational norms are fundamentally concerned with processes [Podgorski 2017]. This distinction is not drawn in discussions of emotional rationality. As a result, a widely held assumption in the literature on emotional rationality has gone unexamined. I employ Abelard Podgorski’s argument from rational delay to argue that many emotional norms are fundamentally concerned with emotional processes. I also claim that the main response available to the synchronist about belief is not available to the synchronist about emotions and, therefore, fundamental process norms are more plausible than epistemologists tend to believe.
The Rationality of Emotional Change: Toward a Process View
Noûs (forthcoming). https://doi.org/10.1111/nous.12304
The paper argues against a widely held synchronic view of emotional rationality. I begin by considering recent philosophical literature on various backward-looking emotions, such as regret, grief, resentment, and anger. I articulate the general problem these accounts grapple with: a certain diminution in backward-looking emotions seems fitting while the reasons for these emotions seem to persist. The problem, I argue, rests on the assumption that if the facts that give reason for an emotion remain unchanged, the emotion remains fitting. However, I argue there are rationally self-consuming attitudes: affective attitudes that become less fitting the longer they endure while the facts that give reason for them persist. A widely held synchronic view of fitting affective attitudes denies that fittingness at a time depends on the agent’s attitudes at different times and therefore denies that the fittingness of an affective attitude can depend on its duration. Once we reject the synchronic view, we may see that affective attitudes are often fitting due to the fitting processes of which they are part. These fitting processes explain the fitting diminution of backward-looking emotions as well as other diachronic aspects of the fittingness of emotions.
The Fitting Resolution of Anger
Philosophical Studies 177, 2020, pp. 2417-2430. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11098-019-01317-w
How can we explain the rational diminution of backward-looking emotions (e.g., grief, regret, and anger) without resorting to pragmatic or wrong kind of reason explanations? That is to say, how can the diminution of these emotions not only be rational but fitting? In this paper, I offer an answer to this question by considering the case of anger.
Can We Intend the Past?
Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 12, No. 3, December 2017, pp. 304-311.
First and primarily, I criticize Jay Wallace's account of the affirmation dynamic, which entails a willingness to bring about past occurrences that were necessary for one's present attachments. Specifically, I criticize his analysis of regret and affirmation as intention-like attitudes about the past. Second, I trace Wallace's notion of regret to a common but misguided model of retrospection as a choice between courses of history. Finally, I offer reason to think that the rationality of retrospection crucially differs from the rationality of choice.
Reasons of Love: A Case Against Universalism About Practical Reason
Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society CX, No. 3, October 2015, pp. 315-322.
The paper presents an argument from love against universalism about practical reason, that is, the view that an agent’s practical reasons normatively supervene on the agent’s circumstances. Universalism explains the different reasons you and I have by citing differences in our properties, circumstances, relationships, etc. It thus rejects the possibility that the normative differences between us are basic. But love seems to make such basic distinctions, for it gives us special reasons with regard to particular individuals as such. To establish this, I criticize Niko Kolodny’s relationship theory, which accounts for reasons of love in universal terms. Then I suggest that any universalist account will fail in the same way.
In Israeli Social Protest: Political Lexicon 2011-, ed. Ariel Hendel (Hakibutz HaMe’uhad, 2013), pp. 309-319 (Hebrew).
The article reviews the liberal notion of social and distributive justice in the context of the Israeli social protest of 2011.
The Rise and Fall of the Bleeding Hearts: A Reading in Soldiers’ Talk and Breaking the Silence [two collections of Israeli soldiers’ testimonials]
Theory and Criticism 33, 2008, pp. 225-238 (Hebrew).
The article compares two collections of testimonies by Israeli soldiers, one compounded in 1968 and the other in 2005.
Work in Progress
What Is Evaluable for Fit?
Our beliefs, intentions, desires, regrets, and fears are evaluable for fit—they can succeed or fail to be fitting responses to the objects they are about. Can our headaches and heartrates be evaluable for fit? The common view says ‘no’. I will argue: sometimes, yes.
Different theories of punishment offer different justifications of 'hard treatment', but they all assume that the suffering inflicted by hard treatment is independent of the justification offered for it. I argue that this is a mistake. The reasons for which hard treatment is inflicted on a person determine the suffering such treatment merits.
What Is Going On? On Anxiety's Temporal Gaze
Given that we can be anxious about whether we did well at last week's job interview or about a public performance that is currently ongoing, why do we think anxiety is about the future? A paper about the temporal gaze of emotions in general and of anxiety in particular.
Regret and Repair
It is widely thought that emotions can be fitting or unfitting to their objects, but how should we think of the fittingness of emotions over time? I address this general question by examining the more specific case of regret. To see when regret and its dissipation might be fitting, I argue that we must look to the broader process in which regretting is embedded. I propose that regret is an essential stage in the process of what I call repair – a process that is itself fitting. In the final section, I apply my view to recent debates about regret stirred by Parfit’s case of the young girl’s child. My fittingness account shows that far from an unusual, puzzling phenomenon, the case of the young girl is an instance of a general and familiar occurrence: the fitting diminution of regret.
The Duration of Grief
Though psychiatrists consider prolonged grief pathological, some philosophers have recently been puzzled by the diminution of grief. Given that grief is warranted by the death of a loved one, and the loved one’s death does not change with time, why should it be fitting to grieve less over time? How might the diminution of grief be justified if the reason for it stays the same? Dan Moller has argued that as long we continue to love the deceased, grief remains fitting. Berislav Marušić has argued that there can be no satisfying answer to the puzzle. Against these views, I argue that a fitting change in an attitude need not correspond to a relevant change in the circumstances that made the attitude fitting. Many attitudes are rationally self-consuming: their own existence changes the justification for them. We come to see this once we view rational attitudes as stages in fitting processes.
The Most Basic Regret
I argue that there are grave wrongs that call for the most basic regret on the part of the wrong-doer. Following Bernard Williams, I characterize ‘basic regret’ as regret about a past action or decision that refutes one’s ground projects and thereby renders one’s life meaningless. I then consider whether recovery from fitting basic regret could ever be fitting. The possibility of fitting recovery, I claim, depends on a fitting process of moral repair, of which basic regret is an essential element. The paper takes as its point of departure a fact that I find both disturbing and perplexing, namely, that I no longer experience the most basic regret about grave wrongs I committed as an Israeli soldier in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
A Distinction in Love
The paper examines three puzzles about the rationality of love: the puzzle of legitimate partiality, the puzzle of particularity, and the puzzle of love's necessity. I argue that, in one way or another, the three puzzles arise from a failure to distinguish and understand the relation between two kinds of love-related reasons: reasons to love and reasons of love.
Moral Presence Before the Law: The Case of the Group at the Fence
The paper considers whether the physical presence of refugees at the border bears on the obligations of the state to provide them shelter. I consider a specific case from 2012, in which a group of 21 Eritrean refugees were trapped for eight days in a no man's land between the Israeli and the Egyptian border.
The Future of Historic Injustice: The Case of the Nakba
The dispossession and expulsion of 700,000 Palestinians by Israeli forces in 1948, during Israel’s War of Independence, is known as the Nakba (literally, disaster). Israelis often worry that recognition of the Nakba would involve an acknowledgement that descendants of Palestinian refugees have a right to return to the lands of their forebears (known as the Right of Return) as well as a rejection of the legitimacy of the State of Israel. Does full recognition of the Nakba undermine Israelis’ commitment to their political institutions, culture, and society? I argue that to recognize the Nakba and the role of their institutions in it, Israelis must undergo a process of repair. Such a process would plausibly involve stages of profound alienation from various facets of the Israeli establishment and its history. Nonetheless, the very same process may lead to a renewed commitment to the State of Israel, one that is no longer haunted by self-deception but informed by the moral failures of the past and looks on to a respectable, proud future.
Draft coming soon
Loving, Valuing, Regretting, and Being Oneself: Prologue and Introduction
The prologue and introduction to my dissertation.
Aggressor. by Philip Guston, 1978
Essays in English
Who Shot Gil Naamati? Or, A History of Video Games
Co-authored with Yanay Israeli and Gil Naamati. Translated from Hebrew by David Raphael Lockard.
In Adjacent, issue 4, November 2018.
In Philadelphia, in the year 2010, during a talk about the global anarchist movement, the lecturer mentioned Gil Naamati as a person who played a significant role in the history of the movement. This piece recounts Gil Naamati's story as he tells it. It also includes Gil's descriptions of his favorite video games. It was written in Hebrew in 2011 and was finally published, in English, thanks to David Raphael Lockard, in 2018.
The Frontiers of Vision and the Painting of Movement
In Eigengrau: Daniel Lergon, ed. Galerie Christian Lethert, Köln (Kerber 2017), pp. 142-147.
An essay about the work of Daniel Lergon, a contemporary painter. The essay considers how movement can be captured or created in a painting; it draws on Georg Simmel's book on Rembrandt.
Boston Review (July/August 2016), pp. 56-61.
An essay about conviction and moral isolation in times of war.
The Point (Winter 2016), pp. 137-145.
An essay about the possibility of political action in the face of wide-spread, entrenched injustice.
The Possibility of Self-Sacrifice
Boston Review (March/April 2014), pp. 45-53.
An essay about the nature of self-sacrifice, considered through the cases of Socrates, Yukio Mishima, and Emily Davison.
The essay is included in The Best American Essays list of Notable Essays and Literary Nonfiction of 2014.
Boston Review (July/August 2012), pp. 38-45.
German translation in Zenith, November/December 2012, pp. 14-27; Italian translation in Internazionale, February 2013, pp. 96-101.
The essay describes the logic of military occupation, its moral depravity, and its self-destructive consequences. It was the most read article in BR in 2012.
Essays in Hebrew (selected)
The Beginning of Love
Alaxon (April 2017)
An essay about the work of Yehoshua Kenaz, an Israeli novelist.
The Paradox of Sight and the Solution of Touch
The Beauty of the Defeated: Critical Essays on Yehoshua Kenaz, edited by Chen Strass and Keren Dotan (Am-Oved, 2017), pp. 150-168.
A reading of The Great Woman of the Dreams by Yehoshua Kenaz and his Hebrew translation of Traveler on All Saints' Day, by Georges Simenon.
It Is Not Happening Now, It Is Happening Again
Alaxon (January 2015)
An essay about magic, puzzles, repetition, and change. Discusses Marcel Duchamp and Georges Perec.
The Hottest Place in Hell (June 2015)
Reflecting on violent events that took place in the summer of 2015 in the West Bank, this essay recounts events from the winter of 2002, when my platoon forcefully occupied the home of a Palestinian family and used it as our own.
That Which Is Not Seen
Alaxon (August 2013)
An essay about the presence of that which cannot be seen. Discusses Eedweard Muybridge.
Alaxon (June 2013)
An essay about faith and doubt. Discusses Caravaggio's "Doubting Thomas" and the Unicorn Tapestries at the Met Cloisters.
The Status Quo
Alaxon (April 2013)
An essay about passion and the obstruction of order in New York City.
Letting Out Steam -- 1949, 1974, 2003: On Motti Ashkenazi and Ways of Silencing Protest
Ha'aretz (December 2003)
An essay I wrote shortly after completing my conscript service, about the possibility of protest in Israel.
Breaking the Silence (selected)
I am a long-time member of Breaking the Silence, a group of Israeli veterans that collects testimonies of Israeli soldiers about the Occupied Territories. The purpose of Breaking the Silence is to expose the moral reality of Israel’s military occupation and to bring about its end. I joined the group shortly after it was founded, in 2004. Below you can find some of the articles I have written over the years as a member of the group as well as a book I co-edited, which analyzes ten years of soldiers’ testimonies. Some of my long-form essays and philosophical articles also deal with relevant issues. For more information, here is a link to the group’s website: http://www.breakingthesilence.org.il/
Our Harsh Logic: Israeli Soldiers’ Testimonies from the Occupied Territories 2000-2010
Breaking the Silence, ed. Mikhael Manekin, Avichai Sharon, Yanay Israeli, Oded Na’aman, Levi Spectre (Metropolitan Press, September 2012) (also published in Hebrew, German, French, Dutch, and Swedish).
How Central Is Land for Peace? (co-authored with Mikhael Manekin)
Foreign Affairs (November/December 2011)
Untitled. Daniel Lergon, 2009
Fiction in English
Journal of Absence: New York City February-June 2013
Bookieman Press 2013.
A collaboration with artist Nino Biniashvili. During a six-month stay in NYC, Nino and I set out to explore the city’s art scene. The book consists of nineteen micro-stories written on the basis of nineteen art visits, among which are: a visit to the Frick Collection exhibition of Piero della Francesca; studio visits in Bushwick and at the Brooklyn Army Terminal; a visit to Rebecca Chamberlain’s show at Dodge Gallery; a visit to Acconci Studio; and a visit to Printed Matter, Inc. (In total: 12 art shows, 4 artists’ studios, 1 art bookstore, 1 art dealer, and 1 print shop.) The nineteen micro-stories form nineteen entries in a journal of absence, where text takes the place of art.
Journal of Absence. Photo by Nino Biniashvili.
Fiction in Hebrew (selected)
Kinneret Zmora-Bitan Dvir Publishing, October 2018.
My first book of fiction (in Hebrew) includes two novellas, "Limbo" and "Venice".
In "Limbo," a man reconstructs a forgotten love affair from memories of art exhibits. He names his lover Annette Messager and himself Gerhard Richter.
In "Venice," a man attempts to escape his life by making up a woman and traveling to Venice to meet her.
Cover of Limbo
Russia. Altai Territory. Villagers collecting scraps from a crashed spacecraft, surrounded by thousands of white butterflies. By Jonas Bendiksen. 2000
What Is a Meaningful Life? (Taught in Hebrew)
Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Fall 2019
Philosophy, Literature, and the Arts Core Seminar
co-taught with Blakey Vermeule, Stanford University, Winter 2018
Postdoctoral Adviser Undergraduate Honors Program in Ethics
Stanford University, 2015/2016
Advised seniors in college on writing their Honors Theses
Responsibilities of Public Action
Harvard Kennedy School for Government, Fall 2012
Teaching Fellow (Primary Instructor: Christopher Robichaud)
Equality and Liberty
Harvard College, Spring 2012
Teaching Fellow (Primary Instructor: T. M. Scanlon)
Self, Freedom, and Existence
Harvard College, Fall 2011
Teaching Fellow (Primary Instructor: Richard Moran)
Human Rights: A Philosophical Introduction
Harvard College, Spring 2011
Teaching Fellow (Primary Instructor: Mathias Risse)
Responsibilities of Public Action
Harvard Kennedy School for Government, Fall 2010
Teaching Fellow (Primary Instructor: Christopher Robichaud)
Young Farmers. By August Sander, 1914.
I received a BA in Philosophy from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a PhD in Philosophy from Harvard University. After completing my studies in 2015, I spent two years as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society at Stanford University and a year as a Lecturer at the Stanford Philosophy Department in support of the Philosophy and Literature Initiative. Currently, I am a postdoctoral fellow at the Martin Buber Society of Fellows in the Humanities and Social Sciences at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem.
With my niece and nephew.