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Jorah Dannenberg

Jorah Dannenberg

Assistant Professor

About

I was trained at UCLA and came to Stanford as an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities in 2011.  I joined the faculty in 2013.

I teach courses and write papers in Moral Philosophy.  I also have interests in Political Philosophy, Philosophy of Language, Philosophy of Action, Metaphysics, and Epistemology, especially (though not exclusively) where these areas overlap with Moral Philosophy.  I also have an abiding interest in the history of ethics (especially Hume, Nietzsche, and Kant), which informs both my teaching and my writing. 

At bottom, I am most interested in the basic questions that classically define the subject of moral philosophy: What is the best kind of life, and where does morality fit into it?  What is moral motivation and how does it differ from other ways of being motivated?  How much is morality universal, how much a product of custom, history, and other forms of contingency?  How are we to balance moral values and other kinds of values when they conflict?  How seriously should we take moral skepticism? 

Sometimes I find these big questions a little daunting, however, so in my own work I try to sneak up on them sideways, starting with topics in normative ethics that are a little more mundane.  In particular, I have written about promising (and other forms of word giving), interpersonal trust, and lying.  Of course I think these are topics well worth thinking about in their own right: much of the day to day substance of ethical life  is about keeping your word, not letting others down when they are counting on you, and being as honest as you can with yourself and others.  Moral philosophy, done well, can help a person become better at these things.  Thinking about these topics can provide a unique and powerful way of making progress on moral philosophy’s perennial questions, by helping us to pose and think about the "big" problems in ways that are more familiar, more concrete, and ultimately more tractable.