UPDirectory Highlighted Philosopher of April 2017: Monique Wonderly

Monique Wonderly

Post-Doc, Princeton University


Monique_sm2AOS: Applied Ethics, Bioethics/Medical Ethics, Ethics, Moral Psychology, Philosophy of Love and Sex

Broadly speaking, I am interested in puzzles at the intersection of ethics and the emotions. Exploring such puzzles often leads my research in an interdisciplinary direction – much of my work incorporates insights from other fields, including: neuroscience, psychology, the technological sciences, and education. I am especially concerned to investigate how the emotional ties that bind us to other persons and objects help to shape ethical norms and guide moral deliberation. I have published in the areas of ethics, philosophy of emotion, and history of philosophy.

In June 2015, I defended my dissertation on emotional attachment. I identified what I call “security-based attachment” as a philosophically neglected, yet rich and ubiquitous phenomenon, and I developed an account of its nature and value. Roughly, this type of attachment is marked by a felt need of its object and an integral connection between engagement with that object and the attached agent’s sense of security. After articulating its key marks and distinguishing it from related phenomena (e.g., caring), I showed that security-based attachment has important implications for understanding emotion and agency. Specifically, I argued that this attitude illuminates both the specific types of relationship that undergird warranted grief and the particular brands of affect and agential impairment characteristic of grief’s phenomenology. I also argued that contra strong disinterested concern views of love, security-based attachment represents a type of self-interestedness that is not only permissible in, but essential to, some kinds of love.

My research at Princeton will focus on questions concerning moral agency and ethical treatment that arise when considering certain attachment-related pathologies, including psychopathy and (some forms of) addiction. For examples: How might psychopaths’ emotional deficits impact their moral responsibility and/or rights of autonomy? If a “cure” were discovered, could we be justified in forcing a psychopath to undergo treatment against his or her will? How might a theory of emotional attachment inform our understanding of the structure of agency in addiction? What implications would such a theory have for treating addicted agents and holding them accountable for moral and legal infractions?

In the near future, I anticipate making further contributions to the literatures on the metaphysics of emotion (especially, on topics related to trust, forgiveness, and hope) and the normativity of special relationships. Finally, I would also like to do more work in the history of philosophy, where my interests include: Nietzsche – and in particular, his views on morality and the emotions, the 18th century British moralists, Asian philosophy, and Ancient philosophy.