JEFFRY L. RAMSEY
Associate Professor of Philosophy
Office: Dewey Hall 202
Phone: (413) 585 3425
Syllabus for Thinking About Thinking
Syllabus for Kant's First Critique
Syllabus for Philosophy 125
Syllabus for Philosophy 315
TEACHING AND RESEARCH INTERESTS
Description of Research:
My research revolves around the problems of analytical and computational complexity in the sciences and how these problems affect our understanding of standard topics in the philosophy of science. Since scientists often employ approximations to circumvent complexity, I sometimes describe my research as an examination of the ontology and epistemology of approximations. I have published essays on questions of method, theory construction and evaluation, reduction and explanation, and metaphysics. An overarching theme of my work is that models are sites of interpretive work in the sciences. Models often have their own ontological commitments, and in comparison to theories, scientists often use different epistemological standards to assess their adequacy. In addition, models are often the means by which scientists articulate theory with experiment. A second theme is the limitation of fundamental theory to solve all the problems a scientist might be interested in. Despite widespread agreement on the relevance of a ‘fundamental’ science to a ‘less fundamental’ science, unification at the level of theories, laws, explanations and disciplines does not necessarily follow. In my research, I strive to provide philosophically sensitive rationales for why models are necessary and why fundamentalism, or reductionism, offers an important but incomplete perspective on many problems in the sciences.
My minor area of research involves an examination of the use of scientific information in matters of public policy. Model and parameter uncertainties plague our attempts to understand environmental processes and interactions. Decision making must be sensitive to gaps in our scientific knowledge.