My main current research project is in ethics; I pursue this project in the book I am currently finalising, Knowing What To Do: Reflection and Decision in Ethics, for which I have had a £40,883 AHRC personal research-leave fellowship (August 2011 to January 2012). In this book I hope to return moral philosophers’ attention to what is really a very simple and obvious question, although (as such) it has not recently been pursued as much as it might have been: “What makes a good decision?”. Good answers to this question are unlikely to be either simple or obvious, whether one is seeking to grasp them for oneself or to pass them on to others; nor are they likely, pace the decision theorists, to consist in operationalised algorithms. The heart of my book is a historically-based exploration of the reasons why that might be, and of the ways in which moral philosophy, especially when it takes a defining and systematising turn, can make plausible answers to the question even harder to come by than they are anyway.
My own approach to the question—which I was just beginning to develop in the last chapter of Ethics and Experience, and now hope to articulate more fully—draws extensively on the work of Plato and Aristotle. It is broadly an anti-theoretical approach, though one might also call it a Platonistic virtue ethics. Central to it is the notion of moral imagination—or rather notions, since I see a number of different interesting ideas all of which might come under that heading.
My book combines a Wittgensteinian emphasis on the diversity and particularity of our practical reasons with a stress on the central place in ethics of two things: first, a notion of contemplation or attention as the essential precursor of any truly worthwhile action, rather like Iris Murdoch's and Simone Weil's; secondly, a stress on the importance in ethics, not only of propositional knowledge, but also of knowledge by experience and knowledge-how. Propositional knowledge is the most usual focus in metaethics, but I argue that, important as the question is whether there can be objective moral knowledge of this propositional form, it is also worthwhile to explore the prospects for objective experiential knowledge and ability knowledge in ethics. The case of ethics draws, or ought to draw, our attention to the varieties of knowledge; that is one of many things that makes ethics such a philosophically interesting case.
Here are some of my research interests, with links to late-draft versions of work I have published in the area:
Go here for “Option Ranges” [Word document 94 KB] ( Journal of Applied Philosophy 2001)
And here for “Persons in Time” [Word document 101 KB] (in Heather Dyke, ed., Time and Ethics (Kluwer 2003)
Go here for a draft version of my paper "Glory as an ethical idea" [Word document 135 KB] (Philosophical Investigations 2011)
Go here for TDJC’s Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews discussion of Jonathan Dancy, Ethics Without Principles
Go here for his “Moral Perception” (Philosophy 2008)
And here for a draft of "There are no thin concepts" [PDF, 135KB], forthcoming in Simon Kirchin, ed., Thick and Thin Concepts (publishers TBC)
Timothy Chappell is the author of the Philosophy of Religion book for the new second-level philosophy course A222 Exploring Philosophy. His publications in philosophy of religion include the following.
"Why is faith a virtue?", Religious Studies 1996 (argues that faith isn't a virtue unless God exists)
"Infinity goes up on trial: must eternal life be meaningless?", European Journal of Philosophy 2007
"Theism in historical perspective", forthcoming in Charles Taliaferro, Victoria Harrison, Stewart Goetz, The Routledge Companion to Theism [Word document 90 KB]
Go here for work in progess on Augustine's ethics [PDF, 166 KB]
Go here for "Arguing with Socrates", a talk that often comes up at AA100 Day Schools [Word document 34 KB]
And here for “Socrates and Antigone: two ways not to be martyred” (Prudentia Special Issue May 2001)
And here for “Reading the Peritrope” [Word document 188 KB] ( Phronesis 2006)
And here for “The Good Man is the Measure of All Things” [Word document 121 KB] (in Moral Objectivity in the Ancient World, ed. Christopher Gill (Oxford UP, March 2005)
He is increasingly interested in political philosophy in the ancient world “Why wasn’t Socrates a cosmopolitan?” [PDF 80 KB] (draft; final version in Ratio 2009).
He is also increasingly sceptical about the role of systematic moral theory in doing ethics: “Ethics beyond moral theory” [PDF 205 KB]. (draft; final version in Philosophical Investigations 2009).
Listen to Professor Chappell discussing Socrates: Man and Myth with Grant Bartley, Assistant Editor at Philosophy Now and M.M. McCabe from King’s College London. This was first broadcast on Resonance FM on 31 January 2012.
Deliberation and moral knowledge in the Protagoras [PDF, 173 KB]. In this paper he argues that Socrates' famous question "What does Protagoras teach, and why is it worth knowing?" is a question which tells us as much about Socrates as it does about Protagoras - and that though neither Socrates nor Protagoras is able to answer it, it doesn't follow that the question has no answer.
Listen to Professor Chappell giving a talk at the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion in Oxford in November
Go here for “Two distinctions that do make a difference” [Word document 106 KB] (Philosophy 2002)
And here for the paper "On the very idea of criteria for personhood" [Word document 216 KB] (Southern Journal of Philosophy 2011)
Professor Chappell explores the question what varieties of knowledge there might be, and how answers to that might bear on the prospects for e.g. ethical, aesthetic, interpersonal, and maybe even religious knowledge, in a talk he gave about this in Mexico City entitled 'Science, non-science, and nonsense'. This paper is available online [Word document 344 KB] and you can also watch the talk on YouTube.
He would be delighted to hear from anyone who would be interested in doctoral study in any of these areas.
He has published ten books:
See also Open Research Online for further details of Timothy Chappell’s research publications.
Internationally, Timothy Chappell has been a Visiting Professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, at the University of Oslo, and at the University of Reykjavik. In Britain, he has been a Visiting Fellow twice in St Andrews (in the School of Latin and Greek, and in the Centre for Ethics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs) and once in Edinburgh (at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities). Since 2000 he has been Treasurer of the Mind Association, and Associate Editor and Reviews Editor of The Philosophical Quarterly. The latter role gives him some insight from the journal's side into a minor literary genre that every academic knows from the author's side – the rejection slip. Between 2006 and 2012 he was Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Philosophical, Anthropological, and Film Studies at St Andrews. He held AHRC research-leave fellowships in 2001-2, 2005-6, and 2011-12, and was the Director of the AHRC Scottish Ethics Network in 2006.
Timothy Chappell likes cycling, skiing, hillwalking, and climbing (but not falling off) [PDF, 66 KB].
He writes poetry [PDF 1332 KB], some of it published, with a particular interest in translation. He has recently completed a translation of Aeschylus' Prometheus Vinctus [PDF 82 KB] and Agamemnon [PDF 660 KB]. He is married with four daughters, and is an active member of All Souls’ Episcopalian Church, Dundee. He is a paid-up member of Affirmation Scotland.
Timothy Chappell can be contacted electronically by anyone who can type his first initial, a dot, his surname, the usual ‘at’ sign, and the ‘open.ac.uk’ suffix, in that order.
Timothy Chappell blogs on the OU Ethics Centre blog: