This post is part of a series of interviews with our incoming class for the “Virtue & Happiness” 2016 Summer Seminar. Leland Saunders is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Seattle Pacific University.
Valerie Wallace: Where are you from?
Leland Saunders: I currently live in Seattle, where I’ve been for the past four years. Though, when people here ask me where I’m from, I tell them I’m from Baltimore.
VW: Tell me about your research.
LS: I’ve mostly been working on areas related to empirical approaches to moral psychology. I’m interested in what psychological and neurological research can and cannot contribute to our understanding of moral psychology. Some of my recent work has been focused on addressing what I take to be some pretty fundamental conceptual questions that often get overlooked in some of these debates, in particular, what sort of psychological process or processes get labeled “reasoning.” This relates to another, broader concern I have to respond to a certain kind of debunking project being pursued by some fairly prominent empirical moral psychologists who argue that reasoning has such a limited role in our moral psychology that it cannot possibly satisfy the normative conditions for moral justification. Beyond that, I am interested in pursuing an empirically-informed virtue ethical account of moral psychology. I’ve started developing some ideas in this area, and I’m excited to flesh them out more during this summer seminar.
LS: Three things, really. The first is related to my research interest, and getting to talk to some really smart people about the relationship between empirical moral psychology and virtue ethics. The second, relatedly, is just to get to know some really interesting people who enjoy thinking about the same things I do. And third, to learn about some new new directions in research in virtue and happiness.