Molly Brown

Molly Brown
Teaching Fellow in the Humanities
Rosenwald 215
Office Hours: Autumn Quarter: by appointment
PhD, University of Chicago 2022; MA, University of Chicago, 2018; BA, Calvin College, 2014
Teaching at UChicago since 2022
Research Interests: Epistemology, Social and Feminist Philosophy, American Pragmatism, Philosophy of Science

Molly received her PhD in philosophy from the University of Chicago in 2022. Her main philosophical interests concern questions about the epistemology of inquiry, especially norms surrounding hypothesis generation and selection. In her dissertation, she introduces a set of new epistemic concepts and doxastic attitudes which are intended to provide a foundation from which a genuine theory of conjectural reasoning might be constructed. She is developing this project in her current work in directions that involve addressing the role of creativity in inquiry, how inquiry is constrained by social structures and inquirers by their social positions, and ways in which issues of epistemic justice and injustice arise in the “context of discovery”, as it were.

Recent Courses

PHIL 23027 Philosophy of Animal Minds

How did minds evolve? How unique is the human mind in nature? Are humans the only species on this planet capable of thinking? What does this even mean? How could we tell? Can other species form beliefs and concepts about the world? Do some animals possess the capacity for language? Do other species have a rudimentary sense of morality? If so, what challenges would this raise toward traditional notions of “human nature”? Furthermore, what might these questions tell us about our moral obligations to other species? This class offers a detailed look into contemporary debates in the philosophy of animal minds. These debates are inherently multi-disciplinary, ranging from questions in evolutionary biology, cognitive science, developmental psychology, the philosophy of mind, and even questions about the future of artificial intelligence. 

 

2022-2023 Winter

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)

2022-2023 Autumn
Category
Epistemology

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
Category
Epistemology

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