Sapientia Lecture Series

Dartmouth Events

Sapientia Lecture Series

Daniel J. Singer (Penn). "Polarization, Forgetting, and a Computational Approach to Social Epistemology." Free & open to all. Reception follows.

Friday, May 4, 2018
103 Thornton Hall
Intended Audience(s): Public
Categories: Lectures & Seminars
Abstract:     "Standard epistemological methodology uses models of agents, reasoning, evidence, arguments, belief, and knowledge but usually in an implicit way. In this talk, I'll argue by example that much is to be gained by making those models explicit and using formal techniques to analyze them. 
It is common, especially among psychologists, to see polarization as the product of human irrationality. Using an agent-based model, I'll argue that the persistent disagreement seen in political and social polarization can be produced by rational agents, when those agents have limited cognitive resources. The main argument for this comes from computer simulations of the model, which show that groups of agents using a rational coherence-based strategy for managing their limited cognitive resources tend to polarize. I'll then introduce an extension of the model to argue that individual memory limitations are often more important than they are typically assumed to be in social epistemology.  How much we can remember and how we forget have large effects on whether groups we're in achieve optimal epistemic outcomes. Forgetting, I conclude, should be a topic of central epistemic importance in social epistemology. But more generally, these two cases show that being explicit about our modelling assumptions and analyzing those models formally can help us better understand the implications of our theories and starting assumptions in epistemology."

Daniel J. Singer is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania, where he also direct the Computational Social Philosophy Lab with Patrick Grim. In Spring 2018, he is a Fellow of the Dartmouth Institute for Cross Disciplinary Engagement. His research is at the intersections of epistemology, ethics, and social philosophy. His work is motivated primarily by two questions: (1) how and why epistemic norms apply to us, and (2) how epistemic norms for groups differ from norms for individuals, investigating both questions using traditional philosophical methods as well as via agent-based computer simulations. He also uses agent-based computer simulations to investigate questions more squarely in political philosophy, social epistemology, and philosophy of science.

The Sapientia Lecture Series is funded by The Mark J. Byrne 1985 Fund in Philosophy.

For more information, contact:
Marcia Welsh
(603) 646-3738

Events are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted.