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HANNA KIRI GUNN

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 research falls broadly within the area of "social philosophy" (social epistemology and feminist philosophy). At the moment, my main project involves applying my theory of epistemic agency to the project of building desirable epistemic communities both offline and online.

I am also working on some papers about responsibility in Internet epistemology and ethics. If there are moral duties that arise from information pollution, viral information, filter bubbles and the like, who should be held accountable? I've also recently written a paper on the ethics of applied AI with Cathy O'Neil

 I completed my PhD in philosophy at the University of Connecticut in August 2018, my dissertation committee consisted of Michael P. Lynch (chair), Suzy Killmister, and Daniel Silvermint.  I also served as a research assistant for the Humility and Conviction in Public Life project from 2015-2018.

PROJECTS

  • Summer 2019

    • A paper titled, "Has Googling Made Us Worse Listeners"? for an upcoming special issue of Contemporary French & Francophone Studies: SITES

      • I argue that Google has raised the epistemic stakes for what counts as good listening, and as a result making particular epistemic duties more demanding.

    • A public philosophy blog post, "Do we have the will to change what we believe?", for Open for Debate.

  • Fall 2019

    • A chapter on the relational autonomy and gaslighting

    • A paper on epistemic objectification and social-epistemic agency

      • This paper introduces a theory of social-epistemic respect that I've been working on for awhile now.

    • A chapter on online trolls, lies, and the idea of the "warranting context"

  • Spring 2019

    • A paper on the problem of higher-order evidence and new media

    • A chapter on filter bubbles, echo-chambers, and various other epistemic pitfalls of new media

 

SELECTED PUBLICATIONS

INTELLECTUAL HUMILITY

Gunn, Hanna; Johnson, Casey; Lynch, Michael P.; Sheff, Nathan.

An annotated literature review on intellectual humility, with a focus on philosophical and psychological work. 

Oxford Bibliographies in Philosophy. Duncan Pritchard (ED.), New York: Oxford University Press, 2017.

Published online.

GOOGLING

Hanna Gunn and Michael P. Lynch.

In a recent New Yorker cartoon, a man is fixing a sink. His partner, standing nearby skeptically
asks, “Do you really know what you are doing, or do you only google- know?”
This cartoon perfectly captures the mixed relationship we have with googling, or knowing via digital interface, particularly via search engines. On the one hand, googling is now the dominant source of socially useful knowledge. The use of search engines for this purpose is almost completely integrated into many of our lives. On the other, the point the cartoon is making resonates with nearly all of us: users often recognize that there are risks and trade- off s associated with gaining certain kinds of information via online search.
These facts about googling make it particularly interesting to the applied epistemologist. Our practices involving search engines not only have a distinctive character, that character puts some traditional epistemic questions in a new light. This chapter will examine two of those questions. The first concerns the extent to which googling raises problems similar to familiar quandaries surrounding testimonial knowledge. The second –and more radical –concerns whether googling is a type of distributed or extended knowledge.

The Routledge Handbook of Applied Epistemology. David Coady (Ed.), Routledge: London, 2018. 

(Formerly Titled: "Google Epistemology"). Draft available here.

NEAR TERM AI

Hanna Gunn and Cathy O'Neil

There are several strands of recent work on AI, including a focus on more abstract philosophical problems, e.g., could AI have genuine emotions? Will the Singularity be the end of the species? If we can, should we upload our minds? But there is very important research to be done on person-affecting problems raised by the use of AI systems both in the present day and in the near future. In particular, there is a pressing need to recognise and evaluate the ways that structural racism, sexism, classism, and ableism may be embedded in and amplified by these systems. More generally, there are concerns to be raised about the ways that the adoption of AI ignores the interests and needs of anyone who isn’t part of the development or deployment team.
In this paper we take up the issue of “near term artificial intelligence (AI)”. “Near term AI” is used to denote artificial intelligence algorithms that are already in place in a variety of public and private sectors, guiding decisions that pertain to advertising, to credit ratings, to sentencing in the justice system. Our focus here is to contribute to a critical discussion of the ways that AI is already being widely used in decision making procedures in these areas. We will argue that developers and deployers of AI systems – in senses to be defined – bear a particular kind of responsibility for the moral consequences of near term AI. We will present a tool to aid developers and deployers in engaging in the moral reflection we argue is required of them, in order both to help them to meet their moral obligations and to help address the material risks posed by what we take to be the status quo of actual near term AI development.
 

Forthcoming: Ethics of Artificial Intelligence. S. Matthew Liao (Ed.), Oxford University Press.

THE INTERNET AND EPISTEMIC AGENCY

Hanna Gunn and Michael P. Lynch

For most people, the Internet is now the most dominant source of socially useful knowledge. Its widespread use has made knowledge more accessible, more widely distributed, and more commonly produced. 

But the Internet is also widely seen—and not just by philosophers—as raising a number of distinct epistemological problems. Some of those problems concern the metaphysics of knowledge—the extent to which knowledge via the Internet is understood as outsourced or even extended knowledge. Others concern the type of knowledge the Internet can give us—whether, for example, the knowledge we gain by using our digital devices is a kind of testimonial knowledge.

In this paper, we will focus on a third issue: how our uses of the Internet to gain information affect our epistemic agency—or our capacity to take responsibility for our own epistemically relevant mental states and our wider contributions to our epistemic environment.

Forthcoming: Applied Epistemology. Jennifer Lackey (Ed.). Oxford University Press.

 

PRESENTATIONS

 

EPISTEMIC OBJECTIFICATION AND SOCIAL-EPISTEMIC RESPECT

October 2018

In this talk, I discuss the concept of epistemic objectification in order to motivate a general category of epistemic disrespect. I provide what I call a "social-epistemic" explanation of epistemic disrespect and epistemic objectification, by introducing an account of social-epistemic recognition respect and appraisal respect. I show that social-epistemic recognition respect is a condition for social-epistemic agency because being shown this kind of respect is a pre-condition for being included in communicative and epistemic life.

Presentation, Seaman Lecture Series, University of Idaho.

THE AGENCY BASED APPROACH TO EPISTEMIC INJUSTICE

September 2018

In this talk, I introduce my approach to cases of epistemic and communicative injustice as a problem of action. I argue that many communicative and epistemic acts, e.g., giving testimony, teaching, debating, participating in a research lab, depend for their success on how others respond to us. I give an overview of my relational theory of agency, claiming that in order to be capable of bringing about communicative and epistemic change through our actions we are both causally and constitutively dependent on other people. Causally, because we need their support in the development of agential competence. Constitutively, because we need other people to actively support our attempts to perform communicative and epistemic actions. 

Presentation, Vanderbilt Philosophy Department Colloquium Series.

EPISTEMIC COMMUNITIES, AGENCY, AND ONLINE DISCOURSE

We’re in a bit of a double-bind with the Internet. From high to low risk queries, it’s a dominant source of knowledge for most of us. At the same time, we recognise that there are many risks and trade-offs with looking for information online. Fake news, lies, trolls, and viral information seem to demand paternalistic oversight, but many of our ideals of a free Internet oppose this. In this talk, I argue that we should think of this mixed relationship with the Internet as an epistemic community building process. Plausibly, good epistemic communities are ones where epistemic agents can flourish. By focusing on the special role of listening for epistemic agents, I outline some norms for epistemic communities and barriers for realising these online. ​

Presentation, Northeastern University.

March 2018

EPISTEMIC AGENCY & THE POSITIVE OBLIGATION FOR EPISTEMIC CARE

Presentation, Political Epistemology Workshop, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

December 2017

ARGUMENTS FOR WHY WE OUGHT TO CARE ABOUT DIGITAL INFORMATION PRIVACY

Fall 2017

University of Connecticut PGSA Grue Series.

COMMUNICATIVE AGENCY AND COMMUNICATIVE INJUSTICE

December 2016

Presentation, Pathologies of Public Discourse Workshop, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

TEACHING

Instructor of Record

FEMINIST EPISTEMOLOGY

THEORIES OF KNOWLEDGE

Graduate Seminar

Spring 2019 
Vanderbilt University

Undergraduate

Spring 2019 
Vanderbilt University

PHILOSOPHY OF LANGUAGE

Undergraduate

Fall 2018 
Vanderbilt University

This course is a survey of some of the classic and contemporary issues and debates in the philosophy of language.
Some of the classics include: how do only some squiggles on the page and sounds in the air have "meaning"? Why do they have the particular meanings that they do? How do we perform actions with our words? Some of the contemporary questions include: what makes something a lie, instead of bullshit or deception? Ought we try to preserve languages? How do we discriminate against certain speakers, and in what ways?

PHILOSOPHY OF MIND

Undergraduate

Fall 2018
Vanderbilt University

What is consciousness? How do we study it? Where does it fit into the natural world? How do we understand the minds of animals, if they indeed have minds? We will discuss these questions in roughly the first half of our course. In the second, we will focus on two topics: the possibility of machine minds and the nature of qualia.

We will explore central issues in feminist epistemology concerning the often political and ethical aspects of knowledge. We will look at various positions in feminist epistemology concerning the relationship between gender and knowledge, including, e.g., feminist empiricism and standpoint theory. We will also look at contemporary debates in feminist epistemology that coincide with feminist philosophy of language, and in particular, issues of epistemic oppression, epistemic injustice, and epistemic violence. The goal is to develop and understanding of how feminist philosophy contributes to and modifies traditional theories of knowledge, and to understand the social or applied topics within (broadly) social philosophy from feminist philosophers. Given the nature of these applied debates, we will venture somewhat into other issues of identity such as race, class, and other socially significant interest groups.

What is knowledge? When do we have it and how do we know? In this class, we will (hopefully) find out what distinguishes mere opinions from knowledge. We'll look at whether or not there are different kinds of knowledge -- scientific, religious, and moral. We will (hopefully) find out what grounds our reasons as good ones for belief and action. A fair amount of the course is on applied topics in epistemology, including the epistemology of the Internet, testimony, implicit biases, and some other more weird things like cold-reading. 

The class is organised into four parts: What to believe? When to believe? Who to believe? How to believe? And into two kinds of meetings. Classes will involve a combination of discussion based lectures and workshop-style meetings on real-world epistemic issues: truth, conspiracies, pseudoscience, propaganda, etc.

DISAGREEMENT AND DEBATE: SCIENCE, RELIGION, AND PUBLIC DISCOURSE

Undergraduate

Spring 2018, Fall 2017, Fall 2016
University of Connecticut, Storrs

There is a seemingly deep, apparently entrenched, and oftentimes public tension between religion and science. This tension manifests in disagreements over public policy, science education, human rights and our most basic ways of interacting with each other. In this course we will pursue several questions related to this issue: What makes something true? Can there be productive public discourse about science and religion? What kinds of characteristics contribute to such discourse? The goal is to better understand the tension between science and religion and to investigate steps toward productive discourse across this divide.

PHILOSOPHY AND SOCIAL ETHICS

Undergraduate

Fall 2017, Summer 2017, Summer 2016, Spring 2016 (Honours), Summer 2015
University of Connecticut, Storrs

Do we have an obligation to give to charity? Are we responsible for the suffering of those living in poverty? Should non-human animals be subjected to medical experiments designed to benefit human beings? Should we harvest the organs of one individual to save the lives of 10 others? Is patriotism a virtue? What are the moral requirements, if any, of businesses? Should you need a license to have children? These are among the topics we will explore in this course. This course is largely topic based, covering a wide range of ethical problems that arise in our lives. This course includes an introduction to ethical values and principles, ways of dealing with moral disagreements, and reflection on what it means for something to be worth moral consideration.

 

TEACHING

Teaching Assistant

PHILOSOPHY AND LOGIC

Spring 2014, Fall 2014
University of Connecticut, Storrs

Professor: Dave Ripley

PHILOSOPHY AND SOCIAL ETHICS

Spring 2015, Fall 2013
University of Connecticut, Storrs

Professor: Paul Bloomfield

SCIENCE, GOOD, BAD, BOGUS

2013
University of Canterbury

Lecturer: Doug Campbell

BIOETHICS: LIFE, DEATH, AND MEDICINE

2013
University of Canterbury

Lecturer: Carolyn Mason

 

SOME NON-PHILOSOPHY EXPLOITS

3D printing; running in rural Connecticut; knitting; bread-making; occasionally hiking; and attending Bad Plus jazz gigs with fellow philosophers & friends.

 

CONTACT

H Gunn at UCMerced dot edu