Ten paper topics in philosophy and history framed by ChatGPT

An earlier post considered the question of how to assess the quality of ChatGPT as an academic writer. One particular concern shared by professors in humanities and social sciences is whether ChatGPT will lead to "AI-plagiarism" in which students substitute ChatGPT sessions for their own work. This particular worry seems unjustified at present, but there …

ChatGPT as an academic writer

I've taken the view that the hoopla about ChatGPT is overblown, and that the texts generated by large language models in response to "prompts" are nothing more than strings of sentences, without coherent meaning. But now that I've spent an evening playing with the tool, my opinion is changed. I'm frankly amazed at how informative …

Philosophy of public administration?

Philosophy has well-developed theories about the foundations of government — the moral principles that underlie the legitimacy of government; the nature of rights and duties of citizens; the limits of government authority; and so on for a large number of issues. These debates take place within social and political philosophy, a field whose lineage extends back …

Is ontological individualism still a viable social ontology?

image: a flat social ontology: actors and structures Over the years I've continued to advocate for the position of ontological individualism -- the idea that social entities, powers, and conditions are all constituted by the actions, thoughts, and mental frameworks of individual human beings, and nothing else. I'm no longer entirely confident that this is …

Atomism versus holism in social ontology

Frank Jackson and Philip Pettit addressed the micro-macro question in an essay called "Structural Explanation in Social Theory" (link), included in Reduction, Explanation, and Realism (1992, ch. 4). Particularly interesting is the brief distinction that they draw between two senses of individualism: atomism versus holism, and individualism versus collectivism. They believe that these two distinctions are quite …

Guest post: Varieties of realism by Jamie Morgan

[Jamie Morgan accepted my invitation to contribute a guest post to Understanding Society on the topic of the varieties of realism in the philosophy of social science. Jamie is Professor of Economic Sociology at Leeds Beckett University. He co-edits the Real-World Economics Review with Edward Fullbrook. He has published widely in the fields of economics, …

Pinpointing responsibility for Russian atrocities in Bucha

In November I wrote a blog post asking the question, "What organization and what commanders have directed the campaign of atrocity, murder, rape, mutilation, torture, and abduction in Ukraine? Is there good investigative reporting on where orders for these unspeakable atrocities and crimes against humanity are coming from?" Now, thanks to some stupendous reporting by the New York …

Sherwood Eddy’s treatment of Marx

Sherwood Eddy was an American Protestant activist and missionary in the early twentieth century. (Here is a brief biography and bibliography of Eddy; link.) He was educated in elite American institutions but acquired a deep empathy for the less-well-off members of society, both in the US and Asia. He was drawn to Communism, though never a …

Lies and myths in the social world

An earlier post mentioned the topic of folk psychology and its relation to cognitive science. Scholars like Paul Churchland question whether there is a realistic correspondence between the properties identified by our folk-psychological understanding of each other and the real underlying cognitive processes on the basis of which we operate. My interest here is a parallel question for social …

Frameworks and stereotypes

It is evident that we approach the social world, and specific social settings, with a body of "framework" assumptions about what is going on, and how we should behave. Here is how I put the point in an earlier post: It seems clear that human beings bring specific frameworks of thought, ideas, emotions, and valuations …

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