Molly Brown

Previous Education

BA, Philosophy, Calvin College, 2014; MA, University of Chicago, 2017

Research Interests

Epistemology, Pragmatism, Social and Feminist Philosophy


Title: “The Mysterious Art of Guessing: Creativity and Conjecture” 

Committee: Kevin Davey and Anubav Vasudevan (co-chairs), Michael Kremer, and Meghan Page (Loyola University, Maryland)


Papers Presented

“J.S. Mill on Inductive Skepticism and Social Categories,” Women in Philosophy Chicago Area Spring Conference, Northwestern University, May 2018

“Mill’s Feminist Epistemology," Women in Philosophy: Past, Present, and Future (the 6th Annual Conference and General Meeting of Society for Women in Philosophy), University College Dublin, May 2018

Recent Courses

PHIL 28011 Gut Feelings and Fake News

In this course, we will examine the psychological bases of knowledge and inquire into their wider epistemological significance. Our guiding aim is to understand
some of the ways in which our reliance on intuition, heuristics, and gut feelings shape our attitudes toward “fake news”—or deliberate misinformation and manipulation—in its many guises. Three questions will guide our investigation. First, how should insights about the rationality (or lack thereof) of gut feelings inform the way we think about fundamental issues in epistemology? We will consider, for example, justification, the nature of evidence, the reliability of testimony, and intellectual virtues and
vices. Second, might some of the reasoning biases that are typically deemed irrational be, at least in some contexts, rational? Third, insofar as our gut feelings do produce irrational behavior, what lessons should we draw about our own thinking and the ways in which we evaluate and engage in discourse? What normative principles might we adopt that both (a) give due place to our deep dependence upon gut feelings and (b) help mitigate their potentially pernicious effects? (B)

2020-2021 Spring

PHIL 29200-01/29300-01 Junior/Senior Tutorial

Topic: Creativity and the Logic of Discovery

In this course we will explore epistemological issues surrounding the process of discovery. Our investigation will be guided by three questions: (1) Does the stage of inquiry concerned with generating hypotheses or, broadly speaking, novel ideas possess a discernible rational structure? (2) What (if any) general rules, methods, cognitive attitudes, and epistemic standards might be appropriate to this activity across different domains? (3) How should insights about the discovery process inform the way we reason in our everyday contexts? We will think about, for example, what C.S. Peirce called “musement” or “pure play”, a creative activity that he thought to be crucially important for producing the ideas that are converted into scientific and philosophical study. The notion of creativity and the relation it bears to a logic of discovery will also loom large in our discussion of other related topics, which will include: concepts from Gestalt psychology; objectivity and bias in observation; tacit knowledge and know-how in theoretical contexts; usage of metaphor and analogy in representing phenomena in scientific reasoning; and strategic guesswork involved in mathematical problem-solving.

Meets with Jr/Sr section. Prerequisite: Open only to philosophy majors. Intensive-Track Majors should reach out to the instructor to be enrolled manually. No more than two tutorials may be used to meet program requirements.

2019-2020 Spring