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Faculty Profile

Chauncey Maher

Professor of Philosophy (2008)

Contact Information

maherc@dickinson.edu

East College Room 201
717.245.1791
https://sites.google.com/view/chauncey-maher/chauncey-maher

Bio

I have written two books on philosophical issues about “the mind.” In **The Pittsburgh School**, I introduce some ideas of three influential philosophers from the University of Pittsburgh: Wilfrid Sellars, Robert Brandom, and John McDowell. They disagree with each other about many important things, but they agree that we humans are unlike other creatures because we are responsive to norms, to what should or should not be so, to what is right or wrong, to what is a good or bad reason. They contend that genuine conceptual thinking requires being governed by and responsive to norms. They contend further that being responsive to norms requires being able to speak a language. These claims are provocative in part because they suggest that nonhuman animals don’t think conceptually, which puts these Pittsburgh philosophers at odds with many cognitive scientists. In **Plant Minds**, I turn away from humans to organisms that are allegedly much simpler and less sophisticated. I clarify and evaluate the suggestion, made by a small but vocal minority of plant biologists, that plants have minds or are “cognitive systems.” I canvass some evidence in favor of thinking that plants perceive, remember, feel, and act. Most contemporary cognitive scientists and philosophers of mind hold that these mental abilities require inner representations of the external environment. But, so far, there is not good reason to think plant behaviors involve such representations. Despite this, in the end I contend that there is a good reason to think that plants do have minds. They are self-creating and self-maintaining in the face of scarce resources and variably threatening conditions. I regularly teach Logic (PHIL103) and Ancient Philosophy (PHIL201). Intermittently, I teach courses on: free will and moral responsibility; philosophy of language; and philosophical logic. In spring 2022, in collaboration with our Data Analytics majors, I launched a new course, Philosophy of Data (PHIL258), introducing students to some of the philosophical aspects of data sciences. You can find fuller descriptions of my research and teaching on my webpage.

Education

  • B.A., University of Maryland, 2001
  • M.A., University of Chicago, 2002
  • Ph.D., Georgetown University, 2008

2022-2023 Academic Year

Fall 2022

FYSM 100 First-Year Seminar
The First-Year Seminar (FYS) introduces students to Dickinson as a "community of inquiry" by developing habits of mind essential to liberal learning. Through the study of a compelling issue or broad topic chosen by their faculty member, students will: - Critically analyze information and ideas - Examine issues from multiple perspectives - Discuss, debate and defend ideas, including one's own views, with clarity and reason - Develop discernment, facility and ethical responsibility in using information, and - Create clear academic writing The small group seminar format of this course promotes discussion and interaction among students and their professor. In addition, the professor serves as students' initial academic advisor. This course does not duplicate in content any other course in the curriculum and may not be used to fulfill any other graduation requirement.

PHIL 103 Logic
The study and practice of forms and methods of argumentation in ordinary and symbolic languages,focusing on elements of symbolic logic and critical reasoning, including analysis and assessment of arguments in English, symbolizing sentences and arguments,constructing formal proofs of validity in sentential and quantificational logic.Offered every semester, or every three out of four semesters.

DATA 198 Philosophy of Data
Cross-listed with PHIL 258-01. This an introduction to philosophical issues arising in data science. Students will discuss, read and write about some important ethical issues that arise in the practice of data sciences, such as discrimination, privacy, consent, trust, and justice. To help clarify those issues, students will also learn about some connected issues in the epistemology and metaphysics of data science, such as the nature of statistical inference and of algorithms. Prerequisites: DATA/COMP/MATH 180. This course is cross-listed as PHIL 258.

PHIL 258 Philosophy of Data
Cross-listed with DATA 198-01. This an introduction to philosophical issues arising in data science. Students will discuss, read and write about some important ethical issues that arise in the practice of data sciences, such as discrimination, privacy, consent, trust, and justice. To help clarify those issues, students will also learn about some connected issues in the epistemology and metaphysics of data science, such as the nature of statistical inference and of algorithms. Prerequisites: DATA/COMP/MATH 180. This course is cross-listed as DATA 198.