Intellectual History, History of Modern Philosophy, History of the Human Sciences, Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art
I am an intellectual historian of the modern United States, and my research sits at the intersection of the history of modern philosophy, the history of the human sciences, and art history, broadly conceived. I received my PhD in U.S. History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2020.
My current book manuscript, titled Beyond the Senses: The Postwar Human Sciences and the Decline of Modernist Authority, examines the solidification of the post-World War II human sciences, particularly, analytic philosophy, information theory, probability theory, cultural anthropology, and cognitive psychology, and their influence on the theorization of contemporary art. Each of these disciplines were developed as continued reactions to the extant legacy of metaphysical speculation, the perceived threat of totalitarian thinking, and supported by massive outlays of federal and private funding for the behavioral, cognitive, social, and mathematical sciences during the Cold War. While by no means reducible to larger political contexts alone, these postwar disciplines of the human sciences were part of a broader intellectual reorientation of liberal thought in their attempts to define the conditions of knowledge in terms that resisted metaphysical speculation, behavioristic strictures, and obscurantist concepts. This new analytical toolkit, I argue, proved particularly influential for a group of American intellectuals who sought to theorize the conditions of postwar art in terms that fell outside of modernist dogmas, including the belief in a metaphysical conception of genius or talent, the ineffability of creativity, the divide between so-called ‘high’ and ‘low’ art, the idea of an avant-garde, art-historical progress, and the authority of art-critical expertise.
For the philosophers Arthur Danto and Nelson Goodman, and the music theorist Leonard B Meyer, the new disciplines of analytic philosophy, information and probability theory, cultural anthropology, and cognitive science proved enormously generative in their attempts to theorize the conditions of art after the verities of modernism appeared intellectually moribund. By situating these verities in both the longer-durée history of aesthetics that began with Immanuel Kant and David Hume in the eighteenth century; were further developed in the nineteenth-century instantiations of romanticism; and culminated in fin-de-siècle modernism in Europe and the United States, I argue for a significant break from the continuity of a 200-year tradition of theorizing about art along the lines of metaphysics and religion. In this sense, my project not only offers a new understanding of the break from modernism in the United States, but is the first attempt at an intellectual history of contemporary art.
- 2021. “Art and Indiscernibility: Arthur C. Danto and the Dynamics of Analytic Philosophy” Modern Intellectual History, 1-25. doi:10.1017/S1479244321000445
- 2015. "Wittgenstein and the Genesis of Neo-Pragmatism in American Thought,” History of European Ideas Volume 41 no. 1
- Intellectual Heritage I: The Good Life
- Intellectual Heritage II: The Common Good