Aaron Abma

  • Graduate Student

I am a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh.  I did my undergraduate work at Calvin College.  I specialize in ethics and particularly theories of value, but I also have interests in Ancient Greek Philosophy, the History of Ethics (especially Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Kant), Metaethics, Biomedical Ethics, and the Philosophy of Love.   

My dissertation addresses fundamental questions in the theory of value.  There I am interested in whether good is good for—whether everything that is valuable is so if and because it is beneficial.  I develop the argument that this ‘good-for theory’ cannot adequately account for symbolic value.  Many of our acts are valuable because of what they mean or signify—for example, acts of refusing to participate in harmful systems or standing for certain ideals—despite being inefficacious and even costly.  Good-for theory can understand these acts at best as disvaluable side-effects of other valuable things (e.g., valuable dispositions or practices).  I propose that such acts are valuable as appropriate responses to whatever is good-simpliciter, where good-simpliciter is the value of that which is worthy of love.  I argue that this proposal illuminates a dimension value which we can see throughout our lives, including in our actions in the interpersonal, political, and religious domains.  I go on to develop accounts of the good life, the good person, and good action which make love of the good-simpliciter central.   

In further developing these accounts, I plan to engage with both contemporary thinkers who wish to put love at the center of the moral life as well as with the work of Augustine and those influenced by him.  I also anticipate my future work addressing value-theoretic questions like: what is the conceptual relationship between good-for and good-simpliciter?  What is the relationship between good-simpliciter, reasons, and fittingness?  Perhaps more pressingly, I intend to explore what makes things good-simpliciter or what good-simpliciter itself is, looking especially to the Moorean and Platonic traditions for inspiration. 

I have side-interests in structural questions concerning various normative theories.  I am interested in the egoism objection to (eudaimonistic) virtue ethics.  I am also interested in indirect consequentialism and the various objections to it.  In a paper in progress, “The Root Objection to Indirect Consequentialism,” I investigate the question of which structures of evaluative dependence can (and cannot) be coherent given the basic commitments which seem to constitute consequentialism. 

I enjoy being outside, walking, running, and biking, playing tennis and other racket sports, and reading novels.  Here are a bunch of novels I found worthwhile.  Perhaps you would too, if you haven’t already: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, Middlemarch by George Eliot, Plainsong by Kent Haruf, Silence by Shūsaku Endō, My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok, A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth, The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead, A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky, and The Brothers K by David James Duncan.