How did you come to be an academic?
I enjoy asking questions. I gradually asked more and more questions. It’s now got out of hand and that’s all I do all the time.
What is your research about?
My research is about referendums. I am particularly interested in the nature of voting and especially how the nature of voting affects the political and legal character of referendums. For example, is it really right to say that people ‘act together’ when they vote? I do not think it is. Consequently, I am very doubtful about claims of ‘we the people;’ particularly in the context of referendums. The difficulty is that ‘we the people’ is a foundational democratic myth, what might be left of democracy without it?
What are your views on the connection between referendums and democracy?
I have argued that referendums cannot be understood as exercises in direct democracy because the most they can do is provide additional direction to representatives. To suggest referendums are directly democratic is misleading. Following from this argument, I make all kinds of practical claims about the roles referendums can and cannot play in democratic constitutions. Principally, I argue that referendums must approve rather than begin processes of constitutional reform.
What do you find most exciting about your research?
It is very interesting (although often also troubling) to see the big philosophical questions I am interested in playing out in politics and law around the world.
What are some big trends in Jurisprudence these days and how do you feel about them?
I think current research on collective intentions is very interesting and important, as is the increasing recognition of the value of feminist legal theory.
What would you like to see change in academia?
I would like to see greater representation of philosophers from a wide range of economic, social, and cultural backgrounds.
What are some of your non-academic interests, pursuits, or hobbies?
I enjoy (and need to) meditate every day. I like to experiment in the kitchen. I am currently learning to make my own naan bread!
If you had to pick a desert island book, music album, or film, which one would it be?
I grew up on a farm but was never very good at fixing or building things. Consequently, I think some sort of guide to surviving on a desert island would be essential. Failing that, I would bring Northern Lights because it is my partner’s favourite book and reading it would bring me joy if I couldn’t see him every day.
This interview was conducted in May 2019 by Carolina Flores (St. Hugh's, MMathPhil, 2016) who is a philosopher working in epistemology and social philosophy.