Ph.D., University of Arizona.
Logic, Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Science, Epistemology, Decision Theory
In October, 2010, Glenn Ross presented a paper, "Reconsidering the Lessons of the Lottery for Knowledge and Belief", at the University of Graz in Austria. That paper is now forthcoming in Philosophical Studies. He is teaching three courses this fall term: introduction to philosophy, symbolic logic and a seminar in epistemology. His seminar is focused on topics that are closely related to his current research on the nature of belief, particularly, how logic places constraints on rational belief and whether the obligations of rationality require a robust control over belief formation.
PHI244: Symbolic Logic: Logic is not like any other course you have ever taken. In most courses, you study what is true, or at least what is believed to be true, and much of what turns out to be true didn’t have to be true. Logic, however, is not about claims that depend upon contingencies; it is not concerned with statements that, though true, could have been false instead. For example, it so happens that I have three cats, but I do not have four cats. There is no logical reason why I must have any cat, let alone four cats! Yet, clearly it is necessary that if I have four cats, then I have at least three cats. It would be quite beside the point for you to object to my claim by saying: “But you said you don’t have four cats!” Whatever the number of cats I may happen to have, it would still be true that were I to have four cats, then I would have at least three. This relationship between having four cats and having at least three cats has really nothing at all to do with cats or cat-ownership. Once you understand the necessity of my conditional claim, you are well on your way to understanding the peculiar subject matter of logic. It is the relevancy of the truth or falsity of one claim to the truth or falsity of other claims that constitutes the subject matter of logic. By understanding such logical relationships, we can determine if one statement would have been true had all of the members of some group of statements been true. Similarly, we can see whether individual statements in a pair could ever differ in truth-value: one being false while the other is true. We can tell whether several statements could all accurately describe a single world, a world that is possible even if not actual. In sum, logic is not about what just happens to be, but rather about what must or what could be.
PHI335: Epistemology: Fans of the Matrix movie know how strange it is to think that one's entire life has been nothing but a computer simulation. Philosophers have long been fascinated by such wild scenarios, since they appear to undermine the commonsense view that we have knowledge, or perhaps even reasonable belief, about the world external to our mind. In this course, we will examine the various solutions philosophers have proposed to this problem of skepticism. Our first task will be to reflect upon the nature of knowledge itself. Our focus will quickly turn to the related and difficult notions of truth and belie. At this stage, we will find that some skeptical arguments rely upon presuppositions about the nature of belief that have been seriously challenged. So, our investigation of skepticism will lead us into some fascinating topics in the philosophy of mind. Our search for a convincing answer to the skeptical challenge will then direct us into a consideration of what it takes for our beliefs to be justified. An attractive idea is that knowledge requires our being able to produce reasons or arguments for what we believe. This idea has fallen out of favor with many philosophers who think that knowledge depends only upon external conditions, such as reliability. We will conclude with a careful look at some of the most recent proposed solutions to the skeptical challenge.
PHI337: Philosophy of Natural Science: The theme for this course is an exploration of the case for and against granting science a special status. We shall begin by investigating the boundaries of science. What should count as science? Is there any general account of what sorts of inquiry are scientific? What, if anything, distinguishes some theories-astrological or creationist-from those of conventional science? The traditionalists maintain that science provides us with general theories and laws that are rationally supported by evidence and which explain, and thus allow us to understand, everything as it really is. A discussion of those who propose and those who criticize such answers will bring us a deeper understanding of the nature of a scientific explanation, the relationship between theory and reality, and the possibility of rational principles to select among competing scientific theories. We shall discuss how a scientific world-view can give a place to human values, and how humal values enter into the very activity of science itself.
PHI342: Rational Choice: All of us make decisions. Some of the decisions we make turn out well; others not so well. Either way, we might wonder whether the choice we made was a rational one. This concern gives rise to a philosophical as well as a practical question: what does it take for a decision to be rational? This course will explore theories of rational decision making. Theories of rationality can be divided into theories of practical and theoretical rationality. The subject of this course is practical rationality, which involves the evaluation of actions. Within the domain of the practical, there are three types of choice: the autonomous choice of an individual agent (decision theory); the interdependent choices of individuals in competition with each other (game theory); and the aggregate choice of a group based upon differing individual preferences (social choice theory). As we survey these domains of rational decision making, we shall pay special attention to philosophical puzzles and paradoxes that will test our intuitions regarding plausible principles of rationality.
FYS/PHI172: Philosophy in Film: Film is an effective means of presenting and motivating fundamental philosophical problems. This course introduces philosophy through a close examination of several films that illustrate the challenges of skepticism and relativism, the nature of personal identity, the possibility of moral responsibility, the problem of evil, and the meaning of life.