A handful of people have asked me about my daily and weekly work routine. Some people just want to know what philosophers do all day. Others — e.g., my fellow grad students — are looking for ways to impose structure on their work week. In this post, I will share three rules of thumb that have helped me be more productive and less stressed. I’ll organize the rules according to the (somewhat fictional) work/life distinction.
I was just on the I Can’t Believe It’s Not News podcast talking about fake news, academic fake news (e.g., fake conferences, scam publishers), open access publishing, and what it’s like to look like Neil Patrick Harris. I had a great time. The hosts, Beth and Elizabeth, are very fun and resourceful. You can preview and listen to the podcast below.
You can listen to the podcast in the player below. (In case you care, I join the podcast somewhere around 4:10 and leave around 52:30.)
Did you enroll in a philosophy class? Cool! You might have heard a few things about philosophy. But — on average — few people know much about academic philosophy. So here’s a quick introduction to your first philosophy class. It’ll cover the basics of what your philosophy teacher cares about and what they probably expect from you.
1. Forget What You Already Believe
Good judgment matters in many contexts. It matters when we’re voting, when we’re raising children, and when deciding how to spend our time, etc. In each of these cases, we need to be able to
- find information.
- understand information.
- explain information.
- evaluate information.
And this is similar to what we will do in a philosophy class. So your grade in a philosophy class is a matter of how well you understand, explain, and evaluate information — where “information” is just the stuff you read and discuss for class.
But that’s not very specific. You probably want to know how to evaluate and explain the information we come across in a philosophy course. For instance, is it enough to say, “I disagree with So-and-so because I believe that _______”? The short answer: no.
In a philosophy class, it doesn’t really matter what we believe. Academic philosophers care more about Continue reading 3 Tips For Your First Philosophy Class
Last week, the Free Will & Science course finished up their poster sessions. It was one of the most enriching classroom experiences I’ve ever witnessed.† In case you’re interested, here’s a post about the why and how of classroom poster sessions — including templates for your own classroom. Continue reading Classroom Poster Sessions: A win for you and your students
Daniel Kahneman talks extensively about how we make reasoning errors because we tend to use mental shortcuts. One mental shortcut is ‘substitution‘. Substitution is what we do when we (often unconsciously) answer an easier question than the one being asked. I find that I sometimes do this in my own research. For instance, when I set out to answer the question, “How can X be rational?” I sometimes end up answering easier questions like, “How does X work?”. In an effort to avoid such mistakes, I will (1) explain the question substitution error, (2) give an example of how we can distinguish between questions, (3) give a personal example of the substitution error, and (4) say what we can do about it.
In case you’re not familiar with Kahnemen’s notion of ‘substitution’, here is some clarification. In short, substitution is this: responding to a difficult question by (often unintentionally) answering a different, easier question. People use this mental shortcut all the time. Here are some everyday instances:
|Difficult Question||Easier Question|
|How satisfied are you with your life?||What is my mood right now?|
|Should I believe what my parents believe?||Can I believe what my parents believe?|
|What are the merits/demerits of that woman who is running for president?||What do I remember people in my community saying about that woman?|
For further discussion of mental shortcuts and substitution, see Part 1 of Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow (2012).
Now, how does this mental shortcut apply to research? Continue reading Research Questions & Mental Shortcuts: A Warning
“I would use the Department of Education … to monitor our institutions of higher education for extreme political bias and deny federal funding if it exists.” –Ben Carson
1. Everyone has biases — political and otherwise.
So denying funding on the basis of any political bias would be tantamount to denying all federal education funding. That’d be problematic. So — if we assume a charitable interpretation of Carson — that’s surely not the Republican plan (…or is it?). So let’s assume that Carson is not out to defund any educational institution that exhibits just any political bias.
Instead, maybe Carson’s plan is to monitor for particular biases. The idea here would be that only institutions with certain biases should be defunded. But even that would be problematic. After all, Carson is a human. And humans are more likely to notice and take issue with others’ biases (Corner et al 2012; Lord et al 1979) or biases that merely seem like others’ biases (Trouche et al 2015, 2018). So Carson might be more attuned to and dismissive of others’ biases than his own. And that itself is a political bias.
To overcome that bias, we would need to make sure that Continue reading Politicians Defunding Based on Political Bias? Sounds Biased
Lots of people pay close attention to the US News National University Rankings. But some academics want field-specific rankings. And some academics have created their own. In philosophy, we created the Philosophical Gourmet Report to rank philosophy Ph.D. programs. For many reasons, academic philosophers are becoming more vocal about their criticism of these philosophy rankings (e.g., Bruya 2015, De Cruz 2018). In this post, I will propose a new system. This system will address common complaints about philosophy’s existing ranking system: It will be more versatile, up-to-date, and generalizable.
1. THE COMPLAINTS
The complaints about the rankings are voluminous — what else would you expect from philosophers? In lieu of an outline of every blog post and every public statement, I provide a list of major themes that fall into three different categories: the practice of ranking, the current process of ranking, and the current leadership of the ranking.
Complaints About Ranking
- Rankings might misrepresent the magnitude of the differences between departments.
- Rankings might indicate a false sense of hierarchy and/or prestige.
- Ordinal lists just aren’t that informative.