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Meet the Fellows: 2019 Newcombe Fellow Keshav Singh

The Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship is the nation’s largest and most prestigious award for Ph.D. candidates in the humanities and social sciences addressing questions of ethical and religious values. The 2019 class of Fellows includes Keshav Singh, a doctoral candidate in philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Keshav describes the evolution of his research:

Although my current work is on the more theoretical side of ethics, I initially became interested in ethics through politics. I was highly politically involved in high school, working on Barack Obama’s first campaign and attending the Democratic National Convention in 2008. At that point, I wasn’t really thinking about studying philosophy in college, let alone going on to pursue a career in academia. I was actually starting to pursue a career as a professional jazz musician, but that’s another story.

In college, I quickly became interested in applied ethics because of its overlap with political issues. But the deeper I got into ethics, the more I started to become interested in the underlying theoretical issues. I ended up writing my undergraduate senior thesis on the nature of reasons, which is an issue in metaethics—the branch of ethics that addresses its most foundational questions. My attempt at tackling these foundational questions left me deeply unsatisfied. So, I decided to go to graduate school.

In graduate school, I continued to be interested in metaethics, but became more interested in an approach to normative philosophy that tries to construct unified theories of different normative domains. I became fascinated with the prospect of analyzing the standards that apply to actions, beliefs, and feelings all at once. That’s ultimately what led me to my dissertation project. Looking back on it, my trajectory has very much been one of finding myself further and further down the rabbit hole. Now that I’m down here, I think this is where I’ll stay.

Keshav’s dissertation, titled Rational Agency and Normative Achievement, argues that we deserve credit for acting rightly, believing the truth, and satisfying other standards, when we meet those standards in virtue of responding to the reasons that ground them. For more information on the 2019 Newcombe Fellows, click here.


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