Kyle Burchett

Research Interests:

Ph.D., Philosophy, University of Kentucky (Lexington, KY), 2016.

Graduate Certificate in Cognitive Science, University of Kentucky (Lexington, KY), 2011.

M.A., Philosophy (Qualifying Area: Environmental Philosophy), University of Kentucky (Lexington, KY), 2011.

B.A., cum laude, Philosophy & Psychology, Departmental Honors in Philosophy, University of Kentucky (Lexington, KY), 1990.


I was born in western Kentucky and grew up on a farm there.  Unlike my peers, I never had inclinations to hunt or kill animals in forests or in fields.  Instead, I wanted to observe or befriend them.  I have always been fascinated by the process of life and by the 'deep' sorts of questions that historically transfix philosophers.  My experience in 'the real world' (outside of academia) includes living and working in New York, Osaka, and Kobe.  Among my favorite leisure activities are snorkeling, camping, and engaging in philosophical thought experiments.


In my dissertation, Anthropocentrism as Environmental Ethic, I defend a worldview that I refer to as ecological anthropocentrism. The central concern of such an anthropocentrism is the indefinite evolutionary success and flourishing of Homo sapiens and its successors. I argue that the appropriate scale to morally evaluate individual and collective human actions is both spatially and temporally geologic. Only at this scale, encompassing the entirety of our planet and its history, can the tragedy of anthropogenic extinctions and ecological degradations be fully ascertained. I argue that such acknowledgment is a plausible reason for experiencing immense existential regret. Despite misanthropic rhetoric from self-proclaimed nonanthropocentrists that the Earth would indeed be better off without humans, however, such regret does not preclude them from tolerating and favoring our species’ continued existence. I argue that this demonstrates that anthropocentrism is an inherent component of any rationally defensible environmental ethic. I also argue that when coupled with a not-so-ignorant,  intertemporal Rawlsian veil, existential regret can be a useful tool for determining what current environmental policies and sociocultural practices rational environmentalists of the indefinite future would universally condone or condemn. I suggest that here one discovers a negative, contextual formulation of the categorical imperative. Instead of morally permissible actions being those that proceed according to maxims that would be condoned by all rational beings regardless of context, morally permissible actions are those that, considered within their contexts, would not be condemned by all rational beings.


My next research project will involve the intersection of ethics, philosophy of biology, cognitive science, and philosophy of mind. I will explore the ethical implications of a post-Darwinian conceptual revision of mind and value. I am particularly interested in questioning the evolutionary continuity of perceptually-based social engagements, from microbes to mammals, and the possibility that such engagements are an enactment of a continuum of values—moral and otherwise—that differ not in kind but by degrees.


Graduate Training

Graduate Certificate in Cognitive Science, University of Kentucky (Lexington, KY), 2011.

Selected Publications: 

"Anthropocentrism as Environmental Ethic" (2016).  Theses and Dissertations--Philosophy. Paper 12.

Anthropocentrism and Nature:  An Attempt at Reconciliation.”  Teoria, Rethinking ‘Nature,’ 2 (2015): 119—137.

Seeing the Na’vi Way:  Respecting Life and Mind in All Organisms.”  In Avatar and Philosophy: Learning to See, edited by George A. Dunn, 89—103. Wiley-Blackwell, 2014.


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