The News

 Posted by on 18 June 2009 at 10:15 pm  Dissertation, The Beasts
Jun 182009

It’s official: Diana Hsieh is now Dr. Diana Hsieh.

I woke up at 5:30 this morning to finish reading my dissertation, as well as to prepare the opening remarks for my defense. I did that, and then, in a bit of a rush, I drove the 55-mile / 65-minute trek to Boulder. As the last of its kind after seven long years of exhausting commutes, that drive was remarkably satisfying in itself.

The defense — from noon to two — went well. My committee was pretty easygoing, but fielding major questions about my work for more than an hour and a half does take its toll. My brain felt pretty well-frozen by the end. And then I had the emotional shock of being really done. So to recover myself, I drank some champagne in the department with my committee. Then Conrad and I enjoyed a beautiful ninety minute hike from Flatirons Vista, just south of Boulder. By the end, I felt like myself again.

After that, I headed to northwest Denver to conduct the second meeting of Front Range Objectivism’s summer Atlas Shrugged Reading Group. I’m very pleased with that group, but I’ll save the details for another post.

I got home about 10 pm, and now I’m definitely headed for bed. It has been a long, exhausting, and most excellent day. I appreciate — far more than expected — all of the well-wishes posted to these comments, as well as the congratulations posted to Twitter and FaceBook. I felt like I had my own personal cheering section on the last home stretch of a race. (My favorite line was via e-mail: “Break a premise!”)

I should mention that my Ph.D isn’t entirely finished yet: I have some minor changes to make to the dissertation this upcoming week before I submit the uber-final version to the university. However, as I’ve learned the hard way of late, even minor changes to a 320-page manuscript will require much time and effort. (I’m not required to make changes, but I noticed some fixable problems when I re-read the dissertation these past few days, mostly just bits of unclear verbiage.) Once that is done, I’ll release it for public consumption.

Again, thank you, everyone!

Dissertation Defense Day

 Posted by on 17 June 2009 at 11:01 pm  Dissertation
Jun 172009

Later today — from noon to two in the afternoon, to be precise — I will be defending my philosophy dissertation before my committee (namely Michael Huemer, David Boonin, Chris Heathwood, Mitzi Lee, and Eric Claeys) at the University of Colorado at Boulder. I’ll post an update on the outcome when I can.

In writing this dissertation on the problem of moral luck, I’ve come to dislike the phrase “good luck” when applied to a person’s voluntary performance of some deed, particularly when carefully planned and prepared in advance. Although the sentiment is fine, the actual words are wrong and unjust, I think. So what might be said instead? I have no grand proposals, but I’d be delighted to hear any supportive comments from my readers. My nerves are wound a bit tight right now.

Dissertation: Finis!

 Posted by on 2 June 2009 at 8:15 am  Dissertation
Jun 022009

I’m pleased to announce that — as of noon on Saturday, May 30th, after two crazy weeks of much editing and little sleep — I completed my dissertation. It has been submitted to my committee. I’m scheduled to defend on June 18th.

It is titled: “Better Good Than Lucky: An Aristotelian Solution to the Problem of Moral Luck.” Here’s the abstract:

Philosopher Thomas Nagel casts doubt on our ordinary moral judgments of persons by his arguments for the existence of “moral luck.” We intuitively accept that moral responsibility requires control, yet we seem to routinely praise and blame people for actions, outcomes, and character substantially shaped by luck. This challenge to moral judgment rests on a faulty view of the conditions for moral responsibility and the process of moral judgment. The morally responsible person must satisfy the control and epistemic conditions originally identified by Aristotle in Book Three of the Nicomachean Ethics. When those conditions are adequately explained and developed, moral responsibility clearly tracks a person’s voluntary actions, outcomes, and character. Nagel’s questions about whether a person might have done otherwise given better or worse luck are irrelevant to the praise and blame a person deserves for his actual voluntary doings. This account of moral responsibility and moral judgment eliminates the appearance of moral luck in the puzzling cases raised by Nagel and others. We can conclude that our ordinary moral judgments of persons are warranted: they do not depend on luck in any problematic way.

The dissertation quite a monster at 329 pages — or 93,402 words, if you prefer. See for yourself:

Overall, I’m quite pleased with it. It largely consists of new and good philosophical work on moral judgment and moral responsibility. I wasn’t required to compromise my own views in any way, nor even to write on issues that I regarded as unimportant. Moreover, I enjoyed the topic overall — and I’m still quite fascinated by some of the related issues that I wasn’t able to explore in depth. That’s pretty good, given that the prospectus and dissertation took constant and often grueling work over the course of almost exactly two years. Sometimes, the end felt like it would never come.

I will make a version of the dissertation available sometime this summer. If you would like me to e-mail you when that is available, please write me at [email protected]. I will also announce it on NoodleFood, of course.

I will charge a nominal fee for the work. It’s darn good philosophy — and the product of two years of sustained and often arduous work on my part. So if you wish to partake, you will have to pay for the privilege. However, I do plan to turn a few extracts of the dissertation into academic articles, as well as publish a revised version of the whole work as an academic book. So I’ll happily give it to anyone willing and able to give me substantive comments, particularly philosophers familiar with Aristotle’s views on moral responsibility and lawyers interested in questions about attribution of liability in tort and criminal law.

Right now, I’m relaxing, while attempting to catch up on all the projects and pursuits that I’ve completely ignored over the past few months. I suppose that, if you’ve been burning to e-mail me about something, you can do so now. However, now and in the future, my replies will likely be short, as I simply don’t wish to spend much time on e-mail.

As for my future plans, you’ll hear about those later.

The End Is Near! The End Is Near!

 Posted by on 21 April 2009 at 1:01 pm  Dissertation, Personal
Apr 212009

I’m in the final push of editing my dissertation, so please don’t e-mail me — until, say, Monday, May 4th — unless you have a darn good reason for doing so.

Darn good reasons include:

  • “NoodleFood was just mentioned on CNN.”
  • “Hey Diana, your house is on fire. Bummer.”
  • “I’ve decided to give you a million dollars as a graduation present.”
  • “Wow, did you hear that Yaron Brook has become a Catholic nun?”
  • “Giant tortoises have invaded New York City.”

You get the idea, I hope!

Dissertation Draft One Completed

 Posted by on 2 March 2009 at 6:30 pm  Dissertation
Mar 022009

I am delighted to report that last night I finished the first draft of my dissertation in its entirety. It took 1 year, 2 months, and 2 days of consistent and often grueling work to complete. It is 10 chapters, 287 pages, and 84,874 words long. Yowza!

And here it is, in the flesh:

Here are the chapters:

  • Chapter 01: The Problem of Moral Luck (18 pages, 5200 words)
  • Chapter 02: Attempted Solutions (50 pages, 14435 words)
  • Chapter 03: Nagel on Control (19 pages, 5249 words)
  • Chapter 04: Moral Judgment (23 pages, 7286 words)
  • Chapter 05: Moral Responsibility for Actions (44 pages, 12897 words)
  • Chapter 06: Circumstantial Moral Luck (19 pages, 5551 words)
  • Chapter 07: Responsibility for Outcomes (24 pages, 7233 words)
  • Chapter 08: Resultant Moral Luck (36 pages, 10967 words)
  • Chapter 09: Responsibility for Character (20 pages, 5866 words)
  • Chapter 10: Constitutive Moral Luck (34 pages, 10190 words)

I’m very, very happy to have reached this milestone. It has been hard going since I returned to teaching in January, as the commute to Boulder three times per week just saps me of mental strength. These past few weeks have been nearly unbearable.

Moreover, I’m very happy with the quality of work I’ve done. While academic projects often narrow down to little of interest over time, I managed to complete the whole grand project that I aimed to do. By drawing on and developing Aristotle’s theory of moral responsibility, I have solved the problem of moral luck in all its various forms. In the process, I’ve made some rather fascinating discoveries about moral responsibility, moral judgment, and moral character.

However, my work is not yet done. I have two major rounds of editing to left to do. I will be doing substantial revisions for a second draft — not just in response to feedback from my advisor and committee but also based on my own better understanding of the issues. After that, I will do another round of minor edits.

Unfortunately, the writing has required more time than I hoped. I will not be done with the editing in time to defend in early April and graduate in May, as I’d hoped to do. However, I expect to be able to defend in May, then officially graduate in August. (If I defend in May, as opposed to at some later point in the summer, I won’t need to pay summer tuition.) I’m not delighted with that new schedule, but I can live with it.

Frankly, I’m amazed by all that I’ve done. It’s pretty freakin’ awesome.

Oh, and to answer the inevitable question: I might not make the final version of the dissertation freely available on the web, as I’m seriously considering editing it for publication as a book. However, I will make it available to anyone who cares enough to e-mail me about it.

Chapters Seven and Eight

 Posted by on 8 January 2009 at 5:10 pm  Dissertation
Jan 082009

Today, I finished the first draft of chapters seven and eight of my dissertation. Originally, these two chapters were supposed to be just one chapter on resultant moral luck. However, after writing 55 good pages (!), I realized that the best course would be to divide the chapter into two. So chapter seven develops my general theory of responsibility for outcomes, and then chapter eight uses that theory to solve the problem of resultant moral luck.

Hooray me!

I’m really happy with how these two chapters turned out, as I think I’ve done some very robust, innovative, and useful work. Not only have I dispensed with the most difficult kind of moral luck, but my general theory of responsibility for outcomes provides tort law with a much-needed and wholly new account of the nature and limits of responsibility for harms done. (Yeah, wow.) The theory definitely requires some further development to address the kinds of problems routine in the law. (For now, my focus is only on solving the problem of moral luck.) However, I believe that I have the essentials well-drawn, thanks to the rational foundation provided by Aristotle.

So I’m pleased — but now I have to frantically prepare to teach my section of “Introduction to Philosophy” starting on Monday. Yikes!

Six Down, Two to Go

 Posted by on 20 November 2008 at 11:00 am  Dissertation
Nov 202008

Last night, I finished the first draft of Chapter Six of my dissertation. Today, I have the day off. (Wowee!! I get to do laundry! Then go see the new Bond movie!) Tomorrow, I begin work on Chapter Seven.

Chapter Six is the first of the final three chapters in which I’m cashing out all the work I’ve done on the foundations of moral responsibility and judgment by actually solving the three proposed kinds of moral luck. This chapter concerned the easiest kind thereof, namely circumstantial moral luck. I’m pleased with how it turned out, particularly as I think I have some interesting insights about moral judgment in it.

I have to work fast over the next few weeks, as I need to finish the final two chapters by the end of the calendar year. Yikes!

A Good Day

 Posted by on 3 November 2008 at 8:38 am  Abortion, Activism, Dissertation
Nov 032008

Today is a good day.

(1) Last night, I finished the first draft of the fifth chapter of my dissertation. It was a 43-page chapter articulating, developing, and defending Aristotle’s theory of moral responsibility. I’ve now written 148 pages, and I probably have about 80 left to write, in the form of the final three chapters applying my Aristotelian account of moral responsibility to the various cases of circumstantial, resultant, and constitutive moral luck. I’m going to have to crank them out fast — before the end of the calendar year. (For some background on my dissertation, see this post on my prospectus.)

(2) The Rocky Mountain News unexpectedly published my op-ed against Colorado’s Amendment 48 in defense of abortion rights today. You can read it — and leave a comment — here: There’s nothing wrong with abortion, but 48 is wrong. (That’s not my title, but I’m not complaining.)

(3) In celebration, I’m going to take today off. I have a slew of household chores to catch up on, plus some fun cooking to do. I’ll be making homemade applesauce, as well as roasting the seeds from one of the delicious pumpkins I grew in my garden this year.

Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha