Arnel Blake B
- Research Program Mentor
PhD Doctor of Philosophy candidate
Epistemology, philosophy of language, philosophy of psychology, and philosophy of science
Are you a computer?
Does a person's mind relate to their body as a computer's software relates its hardware? Those who answer ``yes'' endorse the Computational Theory of Mind (CTM). CTM commits you to the view that many, if not all, of a person's mental processes (e.g., their thinking and reasoning) are computer softwares executed by their brain. CTM is fascinating because it gives a unifying answer to a wide array of questions from across the history and philosophy of psychology. Nevertheless, there is broad disagreement over whether CTM is a genuine scientific organizing principle or a merely convenient metaphor. We'll start by familiarizing ourselves with the origins and content of CTM. After that, we'll branch out in accord with your interests. Whichever way we go, we'll strive for a deeper philosophical understanding of how our mental processes facilitate our capacity to navigate and alter our environment. Pre-requisites: A curiosity for the relationship between the mind, body, and environment is all that's required. We will start with thoughtful columns, podcasts, or videos authored by science communicators and public philosophers and engage with recent research and historical movements where needed.
What are games good for?
``Common sense'' wisdom alleges that games are a waste of time, if not a social ill. Playing games allegedly weakens our character and stymies our goals. Social media platforms allegedly ruined political discourse by turning them into games. In contrast, some sciences and their associated philosophies value games as vehicles for exploring and explaining their subject matter. Economists and ecologists often ``model'' certain behaviors as optimal strategies for winning games with certain pay-off structures. Linguists often ``model'' types of conversations as ``language games'' with distinctive goals, rules, and scoreboards. But are games good for their own sake? Is there a characteristic good or value to ``just playing a game''? Together we'll look at discussions by artists, game designers, and philosophers about how games comprise a distinctive artform valuable for their own sake. From there, we'll branch out in accord with your interests. Whichever way we go, we'll strive for a deeper philosophical understanding of just what it is games are good for. Pre-requisites: A curiosity for what makes games, arts, or scientific explanations special is all that's required. We will start with thoughtful columns, podcasts, or videos authored by science communicators and public philosophers and engage with recent research where needed.
What is knowledge and what is it good for?
What is knowledge? What is the value of knowing something? How should answers to these questions inform our practice of explaining people's actions and animal behaviors by referencing what they know? We will start by familiarizing ourselves with contemporary discussions about the composition and value of knowledge. From there, we can branch out in accord with your interests to investigate such topics as knowledge in non-human animals, knowledge as a social good, or the scientific method as a distinctive way to gain knowledge. Pre-requisites: A curiosity for the role of knowledge in our mental lives is all that's required. We will start with thoughtful columns, podcasts, or videos authored by science communicators and public philosophers and engage with recent research and classic literature where needed.
How can we write rules for a language game?
We do so much with words. Consider, for instance, our practice of questioning and asserting. In raising questions, we determine what problems to resolve. In asserting propositions, we resolve questions by present things as being certain ways rather than others. Our practice of questioning and asserting can have profound effects on others. In skillfully questioning and asserting, we can achieve equitable agreements, well-coordinated actions, and insightful research. In abusively questioning and asserting, we reap such harms as silencing, unwarranted subordinating, gaslighting, and propogating misinformation. How should we scientifically explain our ways with words? Many linguists and philosophers explain them as being moves in a rule governed language game. Others reject language games as unhelpful metaphors. Together, we'll examine both sides to understand what we explain when writing the rules of a language game. Pre-requisites: None. All you need is a curiousity for how our words bear meanings and how we can use our words to effect substantive change. We will start by reading classical philosophical works in the philosophy of language, foundational texts in linguistics, and thoughtful reflections by public intellectuals and then engage with recent research as the project develops.