How do people become and remain virtuous?

I am developing a theoretical model of virtue acquisition and maintenance based on the phenomenon of friendship. I can't be a friend all on my own, and neither can you, but together we can both be friends. The idea is that virtues often come in interlocking pairs: For instance, you're trustworthy because I'm trusting toward you, and I'm trusting because you're trustworthy. This suggests that one person's character may be partially located in another person's character.


How are different values distributed among people?

What we say about the dead may say as much about us as it does about them. Along with my collaborators, I use data-mining techniques to extract patterns of evaluative judgments from obituaries published in local newspapers. This allows us to compare people's values based on their geography, their gender, their age, and other variables.


What is the nature of desires and preferences, and how do they relate to human flourishing?

Research in psychology and behavioral economics suggests that people's preferences can be unstable, and that sometimes we don't even know what we want. I am developing a model of preferences that takes this into account, which I then use to articulate an account of human flourishing. One of the key upshots of this model is that, sometimes, instead of trying to get what we already want, we should change our own desires.