I am happy to supervise dissertations in any of the following areas: epistemology, moral psychology (especially trust, love, faith, the self), philosophy of psychology, philosophy of religion (especially epistemology and moral psychology), feminism, philosophy of race, and digitalization.

Some Courses

Conspiracy theories are proliferating, as well as accusations of conspiracy theorizing. But what are conspiracy theories? Conspiracies do indeed sometimes exist, for example in politics, so some conspiracy claims are justified. But when are such claims justified, and when are they outlandish? Is there a danger that the overhasty application of the word “conspiracy theory” risks undermining important social critiques? Or should all conspiracy talk be treated with suspicion? Using tools and literature from contemporary philosophy and philosophy of science, we will address these and other questions about conspiracy theories. We will also have the opportunity to apply these theoretical tools in relation to common so-called conspiracy theories from contemporary public discourse.
Racisim is as old as humanity, but takes on different forms in different contexts. What does racisim look like in our society today? And what is racism to begin with? Is race itself a legitimate category? Is racisim something that we can as individuals choose to reject, or does addressing it require wholescale social change? We will read a variety of classic and contemporary texts on racism, with the aim of thinking openly and critically about an issue that is relevant to all of us.
The increasing digitalization of our society upends traditional ways of thinking and actiong. This generation has both the opportunity and the responsibility to understand and shape these developments. What factors determine our right to digital privacy? What is the effect of digitalization on democracy? Who bears respon-
sibility for accidents of self-driving cars? What does friendship mean in an online context? How can we invest rational trust for online information? How do online platforms subtly structure our thought? Students will not only discuss these and similar important questions, they will develop the critical thinking abilities needed to negotiate life in a digitalized world.
The digital age offers unprecedented opportunities to increase our knowledge. But it also presents unprecedented dangers of manipulation and misinformation. This course explores the epistemological issues of the digital age. We look at how social-media “echo chambers” create a sharp selection bias, and how impersonal online sources are less accountable and thus make recipients more vulnerable to misinformation. We explore the cognitive biases that incline us toward believing indiscriminately, and the groupthink effects that social media plays on. We discuss what measures we can take to preserve our agency as thinkers.
An introduction to philosophical thinking. We learn and practice important “informal” philosophical and critical-thinking skills, both deductive and probabilistic. We learn to isolate the premises of arguments and examine how they fit together, look at argumentative methods and fallacies, and identify and evaluate different types of argument. We also learn about the heuristics and biases that make our thinking faster but less accurate.
An exploration of whether and how our gender, ethnicity, or other aspects of our social location exert epistemic influence. Do they influence the forms of knowledge that are available to us? Might there be objects of knowledge to which a particular social group has privileged or underprivileged access? Do certain social structures lead systematically to “epistemic injustice” against particular social groups? This course explores the tight connection between knowledge and social power.
Trust is as essential to our flourishing as the air we breathe. But like air, it is invisible – we only notice it when it is gone. What is trust, and what makes it good or bad, appropriate or inappropriate, wise or unwise? Some think that trusting someone is just calculating that she will help you achieve your aims. But others think this conception far too narrow, insisting that trust is an inherently moral concept that gets at the heart of what it is to be human. Some think that evidence destroys trust, whereas others think that trust should be based on evidence. It is even worth asking whether there is any single thing called “trust”. This course examines a variety of puzzles surrounding this vital yet slippery attitude.
In a world with horrendous suffering and massive religious and secular diversity, religious faith and the beliefs that accompany it face many challenges. And religion is not like natural science – its truth claims do not lend themselves to experimentation. How can we think about religion and faith for ourselves? This class presents some important epistemological tools for thinking about these issues. Students are encouraged to develop and articulate their own views.
A non-technical introduction to the basics of probability theory, and an exploration of ways in which it has been used to shed light on epistemological issues such as dogmatism, self-locating belief, transformative experience, and scientific reasoning. Intended to bridge the divide between formal and traditional epistemology, and to teach probabilistic reasoning to students with little or no mathematical background.
We rely on other people for much of our information: our parents, teachers, peers, the government, the media, and the internet. Are other people an important source of knowledge or a dangerous threat to our autonomy as thinkers? We explore these issues by discussing questions such as: how can you responsibly accept a belief from another person? What should you believe when experts disagree about an important matter? How does the diversity of opinions in politics, morality, and religion affect your own rationality in believing what you do?
Philosophy of religion has traditionally discussed arguments for and against God, whether religious belief can be rational, and whether God is compatible with evil. Recent discussions have updated these issues for a contemporary context, as well as asked entirely new questions, such as: What is a religious ritual? Can atheists be spiritual? Does the diversity of religious and secular worldviews threaten your own beliefs? What is religious faith? Might religious reality (if there is one) be polytheistic? If there is a monotheistic God: might he not be a person after all? Why does he hide his existence from human beings? This course examines the foundations of ultimate reality and our relationship to it.
Feminist theories of knowledge sometimes have the reputation of being ideological and thus unscientific. Is this objection fair, or can feminism offer important insights? Students will learn that feminism is not a monolith but comes in a broad array of flavors, including relativism, empiricism, naturalized epistemology, and standpoint theory. One theme is that, although feminist epistemology is often regarded as pertaining only to women, it is in fact concerned to bring to the table all manner of traditionally marginalized viewpoints, including those of racial and ethnic minorities and the economically underprivileged.