SFS-Q Professor Jeremy Koons Studies Intersection of Human Values and Science

A Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar (SFS-Q) professor and Georgetown University alumni are offering insight into the intersection of ‘oughts’ and the observable world in a new book. In The Normative and the Natural, Professor Jeremy Koons and co-author Dr. Michael P. Wolf argue that scientific views and society’s opinions on correct or expected actions can be reconciled.

The book is a culmination of years of study and discussion, and began after Koons and Wolf, who both received their Ph.D.’s from Georgetown University, discovered their shared interest in the subject. “We decided we should write a paper together on this topic,” explains Koons. “Well, the paper kept growing and growing until it was obviously too big to be a paper anymore. At that point, we decided we had too much to say to fit in a paper, and decided we should just keep going and write a book.”

Koons, an associate professor at SFS-Q, and Wolf, now an associate professor at Washington and Jefferson College, were able to take advantage of each other’s strengths in a collaborative way while writing the book. The authors also received input from renowned scholars in the field, after their draft manuscript was the subject of a one-day seminar hosted by SFS-Q’s Center for International and Regional Studies in 2015.

“A dominant view in philosophy is that we should defer to the sciences in describing the world,” explained Koons. “But many philosophers also have trouble finding values in the world described by science – whether these are moral values, or prudential values, or prescriptions about how to form beliefs, or what have you. Michael and I argue, essentially, that there is no conflict between the perspective of science, and the perspective of values – that you can have your cake and eat it, too. So we are hoping to put readers’ minds at ease about the possibility of reconciling these two important projects – the project of science, and the project of inquiry into values.”

The Normative and the Natural is Koons’ second book, and follows a number of research articles on normativity, morality, and pragmatic movement. He teaches philosophy at SFS-Q.