Roman Altshuler, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
B.A., Harvard University
Ph.D., Stony Brook University
Office: Old Main A311
Office Hours: Mon. & Wed. 1-3 p.m. and Fri. 1-2 p.m.
Specialization: Ethics, Philosophy of Action, Existentialism
I am interested broadly in human agency and issues surrounding it. including free will, personal identity, moral philosophy, and, a bit more distantly, issues of death and its relevance to the ways we create meaning in life. Many of our actions reflect background commitments on our part, and these commitments, in turn, shape who we are. So it would seem to follow that I can create myself and shape my identity simply by tweaking my commitments. At the same time, however, I didn't get to choose where I was born, the people who raised me, or any number of other factors that have shaped my identity in countless ways. So while it might seem like we have an unlimited ability to shape our identities by tweaking our commitments, it also seems as if the commitments we select stem from influences on us that lie beyond our control. My hunch is that we can resolve the problem by understanding the role time plays in our commitments, and especially in the way those commitments are affected by our relation to the future and the narratives we use to shape our agency.
My recent and forthcoming papers include two pieces on the relation between identity, agency, and death and three on the relation between agency, character, and self-constitution. I am also working on an edited collection for Routledge, Time, and the Philosophy of Action, that takes up the question of the role time plays in action and agency. In addition to these interests, I have also worked on Heidegger and other continental thinkers (I am especially interested in the ways Heidegger, Sartre, Bergson, and Ricoeur can inform our understanding of agency), spent two years in Germany exploring Kant's moral philosophy (focusing on the relation between morality and freedom), and have written (and taught) on the moral status of non-human entities in the context of environmental ethics. I also have an ongoing interest in the history of philosophy, with a focus on the ways different thinkers and epochs have conceptualized free will.