What I said on the socials

My department has been posting Faculty Spotlights on its social media feeds. I was the target earlier this month, and here’s what I said about myself. To be clear, the hashtags were added by Marcus (who posted them) and were not part of what I originally wrote.

Broadly speaking, my research is in applied metaphysics & epistemology: What is there and how do we know about it? In the philosophy of science, for example, when do scientific taxonomies tell us about the world and when are they just a rough-and-ready way of dividing things up so that scientists can get to work? In the philosophy of music, how has recording technology changed both what music is and our relation to it? In the epistemology of technology, how are new sources like Wikipedia and #AI chatbots different than the kind of sources we had before?

I have recently been thinking about the way that AI chatbots (like #ChatGPT) disrupt our usual epistemic practices. We do not believe everything we read, of course, and we have a range of strategies for evaluating what we read. But the text that comes out of a chatbot can frustrate those strategies if we aren’t careful.

I enjoy teaching Understanding Science. Students often have some vague memory of the so-called scientific method which they were taught in middle school, or they think of science in terms of particular technical methods they have learned in their college-level science classes. But the course leads them to realize that science cannot be defined in those terms. Science is ultimately a social accomplishment, rather than a thing that an investigator does in isolation. The course addresses what this means for our thinking about science, about who counts as an expert, and about the relation between science and other institutions.

Philosophy courses involve thinking about things in a different way than in other courses. In a science course, for example, it is entirely appropriate to just learn the technical methods of that discipline. So I encourage students to try a philosophy course early in their college careers. It will broaden their thinking. If they find that they like it, they can take more.

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