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PhD, Philosophy

I am an assistant professor in the Department of Cognitive and Information Sciences at UC Merced.

The philosophy homepage can be found here!
I was Mellon assistant professor of philosophy for the AY2018-2019 at Vanderbilt University 

My primary research areas are applied ethics (technology, new media, & broadly the internet) and social epistemology (normative epistemology, public discourse, epistemic agency).

My primary teaching areas currently include ethics and technology, bioethics, and epistemology.

Some recent publications include: "Reflections on Boundary Work in Social Epistemology" (2020) at SERRC, "Has Googling Made Us Worse Listeners?" (2020), and "An Intellectually Humbling Experience: Changes in Interpersonal Perception and Cultural Reasoning across a Five-Week Course" (2019).

I've also recently written a paper on the ethics of applied AI with Cathy O'Neil that's in S. Matthew Liao's new book, "The Ethics of AI". Preview our piece here

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Drafts are available on request, please email me!

“Exclusion and Epistemic Community". (Forthcoming). Revue Internationale de Philosophie; Invited Contribution for Special Issue: Post-truth.

“Filter Bubbles, Echo Chambers, and Online Communities". (Forthcoming). The Routledge Handbook of Political Epistemology, Routledge; Eds. Michael Hannon and Jeroen De Ridder.

“The Internet and Epistemic Agency" (Forthcoming). Applied Epistemology, Oxford University Press; Ed. Jennifer Lackey. Co-authored with Michael P. Lynch.

How Should We Build Epistemic Community?". (2020). Journal of Speculative Philosophy, 34(4):561–581; Invited Contribution for Special Issue: Truth.

Has Googling Made Us Worse Listeners?". (2019; Online 2020). Contemporary French & Francophone Studies; Invited Contribution for Special Issue: The Google Era?/L’ére Google?

“Near-Term Artificial Intelligence and the Ethical Matrix". (2020). In Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, Oxford University Press; Ed. S. Matthew Liao. pp.235-269. Co-authored with Cathy O’Neil. Preview here.

An Intellectually Humbling Experience: Changes in interpersonal perception & cultural reasoning". (2019). Journal of Psychology and Theology; Special Issue: Cultural Humility; Co-Authors: Benjamin R. Meagher, Nathan Seff, Daryl Van Tongeren.

“Googling". (2019). In Routledge Handbook of Applied Epistemology; Ed. David Coady. Co-authored with Michael P. Lynch.

Intellectual Humility". (2017). Oxford Bibliographies in Philosophy; Ed. Duncan Pritchard. NY: OUP.; Co-authors: Casey Johnson, Michael P. Lynch, Nathan Sheff.

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Works In Progress

Abstracts available on request, please email me!

  • A paper on deep fakes, online manipulation, and epistemic agency

  • A short paper that overviews the present gaslighting literature

  • A paper exploring what duties we may have to listen to one another

  • A paper on the idea of "extreme belief" and related concepts in polarisation research

  • And continuing various projects developing theories of both epistemic community and social-epistemic respect

Some pieces that will be published soon:

  • "Exclusion and Epistemic Community"

  • "The Internet and Epistemic Agency"

  • "Filter Bubbles, Echo Chambers, and Online Community"

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Unlike most philosophers who are housed in philosophy departments, I'm a faculty member of the graduate group in Cognitive and Information Sciences. This is an interdisciplinary department that includes a wide range of experts, methods, and approaches from a variety of cognitive science related disciplines, e.g., philosophy, computer science, neuroscience, linguistics, psychology. Please visit this page for further details on the interdisciplinary nature of our PhD and MA programs:

Students who are interested in possibly working with me will likely be interested in working on interdisciplinary projects about choice and decision making; the manipulation, coercion, or persuasion of actions and beliefs; belief formation and belief maintenance; the ethical development of artificial intelligence (with a focus on expert learning systems, big data); or broadly themes within social, applied, and political epistemology. (See below for more details).

Potential graduate students who are considering working with me should understand that I am a trained philosopher within a CIS graduate program. I would strongly recommend any potential graduate students look at the work of my colleagues in the CIS program for another co-equal advisor who does experimental work in cognitive science. (Link to our faculty page: While I have my own background training in cognitive science, it is heavily theoretical and not experimental. Please email me if you have questions about this!

The following list of topics provides a sense of the kind of work that I do that connects with projects in cognitive science. I've written these lists as possible questions one might be interested in within the various areas:

  • Choice and decision making (Broadly about actions)

    • What does it take for someone to make a free, informed choice? How might personalisation algorithms be supporting or undermining our ability to make these kinds of choices?

    • In what ways are we giving up human choice and decision making, and replacing it with algorithmic alternatives? Is this rational? Is this ethically defensible?

  • Changing other's minds (Broadly about beliefs and desires , i.e., our cognitive attitudes)

    • We can't help but change other people's minds, but there are surely limits on when this is acceptable.

      • What's the difference between rationally persuading someone to believe something, and manipulating or coercing them to believe it?

      • Can manipulation or coercion produce justified belief?

      • Is it always wrong to manipulate or coerce someone into believing something?

    • What is gaslighting, and how might we explain the moral and epistemic badness of gaslighting others?

  • Belief formation and belief maintenance

    • What should we believe, and why? How is social media changing the epistemic landscape that we occupy?

    • Why do viral beliefs seem to be more memorable?

    • What are echo chambers and filter bubbles? How might algorithms be causing these? How might our choices be causing these?

    • What is belief polarisation and what are its causes? What is political polarisation and what are its causes?

    • We take some personality traits or dispositions to be especially valuable for belief formation and belief maintenance, intellectual humility and open-mindedness are two. So,

      • What is intellectual humility? How does the intellectually humble person act? What might make people more or less intellectually humble? All of these same questions we can ask about open-mindedness.

      • What is it to be intellectually arrogant, dogmatic, or close-minded? How do these people act? What might make people more or less intellectually vicious in these ways?

  • The ethical development of artificial intelligence

    • The status quo in the design, development, and deployment of artificial intelligence systems places low priority on ethical questions. What tools can be developed to support holistic, informed, and responsible development of these tools?

    • In what ways do pre-existing social and cultural biases manifest in and emerge from AI?

    • What kinds of policies and procedures can safeguard data sharing practices, especially across private and public sectors?

      • How should we understand rights to privacy in big data research?

      • What alternatives to informed consent processes are there for online applications?

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Courses at University of California, Merced



Fall 2021, PHIL102

What is knowledge? When do we have it? How do we know? Is knowledge valuable? In addition to answering these questions, we’ll look at whether science, religion, and morality are sources of knowledge. We will consider whether it can be immoral to have certain beliefs. We’ll hear out skeptical arguments against the very idea that we can know anything at all. While many of these topics can be abstract, this class will always have an eye towards believing in everyday life: we’ll consider conspiracy theories, cold-reading, fake news, and trying to know in the age of social media.

Previous semesters: Fall 2019



Fall 2021, PHIL122

This course provides an introduction to several areas of bioethical research. Bioethics is the study of moral problems in biotechnology, environmental ethics, healthcare, and medical research. We consider a broad range of issues, including: research on humans and non-human animals; reproductive  technologies, such as surrogacy and transhumanism; life and death decision making, including euthanasia and cross cultural perspectives on euthanasia; climate change, including topics concerning global justice.



Spring 2022, PHIL008

Discusses the ways that attitudes about love, sex, and gender shape our lives. We
begin with covering basic tools related to argumentation, and introducing key
concepts and ideas to guide our critiques. We will then discuss a wide range of familiar and unfamiliar topics about love, sex, and gender. Topics may include monogamy and marriage, unconditional love and true love, prostitution, deception & consent, and gender stereotypes & personal identity.

Previous semesters: Spring 2021



Previous Semesters: F 2019, F 2020

Undergraduate Course

This class provides an introduction to the applied ethics of technology. We begin with a primer on core concepts in ethics that provides us with a toolkit for evaluating specific technologies for the rest of the course.
We will largely focus on new digital
technologies, including surveillance and big data. We will consider how new technologies intersect with our rights to privacy and autonomy. We will discuss whether or not the polarisation effects of new media warrant paternalistic interventions. We will also consider how to evaluate technologies that impact future generations genetically.



Previous Semesters: F 2020

Graduate Course
The overarching aim of the course is to learn ethical theory and apply it to real world issues in technology. We will spend time over the semester learning about normative moral theories, these are theories that aim to explain how one ought to live and act. The kinds of ethical applied issues will be focusing on prejudice, marginalisation, and injustices caused by a failure to take seriously our moral responsibilities to one another. We won't spend too much time on metaethics - the study of what makes ethical claims true or justified - unless students are interested in exploring these deeper, and difficult, philosophical problems.

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A group of trained philosophers explore the philosophical dimensions of contemporary politics, and make the case for progressive politics.

The Badlands is a podcast and website devoted to examining the philosophical dimensions of contemporary political issues, and exploring the philosophical foundations of modern progressivism–and doing so in a way that is useful for non-experts. We aim to contribute to the political discussion by bringing out into the open the philosophical issues that underlie our political debates–and which have been mostly ignored in popular discourse.

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H Gunn at UCMerced dot edu

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