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McGivern, Patrick Dr.

Senior Lecturer

  • Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts
  • School of Humanities and Social Inquiry

Overview


I specialise in Philosophy of Science, Epistemology, and Philosophy of Computing. My research focuses primarily on problems of explanation and modelling in science, and on related questions about reduction, emergence and other inter-theoretic relations. These problems are widespread in different areas of science, appearing in discussions of the relationship between different branches of physics, in arguments about the significance of individuals and groups in evolutionary biology, and in problems involving the relationship between psychology and cognitive states and the underlying brain states and processes that realize them. My research concentrates on the role that scale plays in these problems, and in particular on the frequent need for ‘multi-scale’ models and explanations.

In addition to this, I also have research interests in Philosophy of Medicine, in particular concerning concepts of health and disease. One aspect of this work is aimed at giving a multi-level account of these concepts, exploring how they inter-relate from the molecular level to the social level. Another aspect is concerned with examining the basic concepts of health and disease themselves and their connection with other concepts, such as harm.

My work has appeared in journals such as American Philosophical Quarterly, Philosophy of Science, and Synthese. I am available to supervise HDR research projects in Philosophy of Science and related topics in Metaphysics and Epistemology.

Top Publications


    Year Title
    2017 Harm and the boundaries of disease
    Published in   The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy: a forum for bioethics and philosophy of medicine
    2017 Information, veridicality, and inferential knowledge
    Published in   American Philosophical Quarterly
    2016 Updating the story of mental time travel: narrating and engaging with our possible pasts and futures
    2014 Emergent Expertise?
    Published in   Educational Philosophy and Theory
    2012 Levels of reality and scales of application
    2010 Hierarchies and levels of reality
    Published in   Synthese: an international journal for epistemology, methodology and philosophy of science

Available as Research Supervisor

Selected Publications


  • Journal Article

    Year Title
    2017

    Published In
    The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy: a forum for bioethics and philosophy of medicine
    Volume
    42
    Pages
    467 - 484
    ISSN
    0360-5310
    2017

    Published In
    American Philosophical Quarterly
    Volume
    54
    Pages
    61 - 75
    ISSN
    0003-0481
    2014

    Published In
    Educational Philosophy and Theory
    Volume
    46
    Pages
    692 - 708
    ISSN
    0013-1857
    2010

    Published In
    Synthese: an international journal for epistemology, methodology and philosophy of science
    Volume
    176
    Pages
    379 - 397
    ISSN
    1573-0964
     
    2008

    Published In
    Synthese: an international journal for epistemology, methodology and philosophy of science
    Volume
    165
    Pages
    53 - 75
    ISSN
    1573-0964
     
  • Chapter

    Year Title
    2016

    Published In
    Time and the Philosophy of Action
    Publisher
    New York, United States: Routledge
    Pages
    167 - 185
    ISBN
    9780415735247
    2012

    Published In
    Properties, Powers and Structures: Issues in the Metaphysics of Realism
    Publisher
    Routledge
    Pages
    45 - 59
    2010

    Published In
    Emergence in Science and Philosophy
    Publisher
    Routledge
    Pages
    213 - 232

Available as Research Supervisor

Potential Supervision Topics


  • I am available to supervise Honours, Masters, and Doctorate work in Philosophy of ScienceEpistemology and Philosophy of Medicine.

    In Philosophy of Science, I am interested in projects on topics such as:

    • Explanation and modeling in science (especially in physics, but in other areas of science as well)
    • Idealization and approximation
    • Scientific realism
    • Emergence, reduction, scale, and multi-scale modeling
    • Universality and universal phenomena

    In Epistemology, I am interested in projects on topics such as:

    • The role of thought experiments in science
    • Narrative explanation
    • The epistemic value of fiction and falsehoods

    In Philosophy of Medicine, I am interested in projects on topics such as:

    • Concepts of health and disease
    • Multi-level models of health
    • Cognitive ontology
    • Philosophy of psychiatry

    Here are some preliminary descriptions of projects that could be developed into interesting theses:

    Multi-scale modeling and big data. Multi-scale modeling and big data form two dominant paradigms in contemporary science. Both involve integrating information from a variety of sources to reveal underlying patterns and explanations that would not otherwise be possible. However, there have been few discussions of the relationship between the techniques associated with each approach. A project would be to describe the overlap between them and to investigate the relevance of concepts of scale to data-based science.

    Perspectivalism and scientific integration. Many philosophers and scientists advocate perspectivalist and/or integrationist view, which are supposed to recognise the value of distinct epistemic perspectives (for instance, from different branches of science) without impose strict conditions connecting those perspectives. These views seem to aim for mid-way positions where different approaches to problems can interact without being entirely equivalent. However, precisely articulating such a position is difficult. A good project would be to attempt to do this with a very specific scientific problem in mind.

    Toy models and model organisms. Philosophers usually distinguish between various types of models in science, and explain their epistemic value in different ways. One way of explaining the value of a model is in terms of shared features: models are valuable when they share certain features with the systems they represent, and that commonality explains why results obtained in a model system can be applied to the real system of interest. However, not all models are like this. In particular, toy models and model organisms don't seem to be easily understood in terms of shared features: in both cases, there are often relatively few features in common between the model and the target system. Various attempts have been made to justify the use of toy models and the use of model organisms, but an interesting project would be to examining the possibility of a common approach that would explain toy models and model organism in the same way.

    Are thought experiments experiments? Thought experiments are routinely used in many areas of science and in philosophy. Much philosophical work has been directed at understanding the epistemic value of thought experiments, trying to explain how an imaginary exercise can be a useful source of information about the world. One way to approach this problem would be to consider whether or not thought experiments could be evaluated as experiments - i.e, whether or not criteria or virtues that are ordinarily associated with real experiments could applied to thought experiments as well.

    Health and disease in the non-human world. Most discussions of the concepts of health and disease begin with the case of humans and then develop an account that may or may apply to other kinds of organisms (or non-organisms!) as well. For example, many accounts focus on the achievability of certain 'vital goals' and other measures of life satisfaction. We may wonder whether such features could be found in organisms such as plants and bacteria. At the same time, it seems clear that plants and bacteria (along with many other things) can vary between states of health and disease. An interesting project would be to develop an account of health and/or disease that begins with such cases, rather than beginning with the more familiar case of human health.



Advisees


  • Graduate Advising Relationship

    Degree Research Title Advisee
    Doctor of Philosophy Rethinking the cogs of cognition: A critical assessment of functionalism in light of cognitive science's interactive turn
    Doctor of Philosophy The Simple Brain Theory O'Connor, Peter
    Doctor of Philosophy Having Gender in Mind: How can we have and embodied and enactive accounts of gender norms (and why should we?) Brancazio, Nick
    Doctor of Philosophy Hedonistic Theories of Well-Being and Nozick's 'Experience Machine' Ramsay, Justin
    Doctor of Philosophy Digital Discrimination: Why privacy is the wrong tool for dealing with big data Reynolds, John
    Doctor of Philosophy Explanation in psychiatry Rosenman, Stephen

Professional Service Activities


Education And Training


Full Name


  • Dr. Patrick McGivern

Mailing Address


  • University of Wollongong, Building 19

    Northfields Avenue

    Wollongong

    New South Wales

    2522

    Australia

Top Publications


    Year Title
    2017 Harm and the boundaries of disease
    Published in   The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy: a forum for bioethics and philosophy of medicine
    2017 Information, veridicality, and inferential knowledge
    Published in   American Philosophical Quarterly
    2016 Updating the story of mental time travel: narrating and engaging with our possible pasts and futures
    2014 Emergent Expertise?
    Published in   Educational Philosophy and Theory
    2012 Levels of reality and scales of application
    2010 Hierarchies and levels of reality
    Published in   Synthese: an international journal for epistemology, methodology and philosophy of science

Selected Publications


  • Journal Article

    Year Title
    2017

    Published In
    The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy: a forum for bioethics and philosophy of medicine
    Volume
    42
    Pages
    467 - 484
    ISSN
    0360-5310
    2017

    Published In
    American Philosophical Quarterly
    Volume
    54
    Pages
    61 - 75
    ISSN
    0003-0481
    2014

    Published In
    Educational Philosophy and Theory
    Volume
    46
    Pages
    692 - 708
    ISSN
    0013-1857
    2010

    Published In
    Synthese: an international journal for epistemology, methodology and philosophy of science
    Volume
    176
    Pages
    379 - 397
    ISSN
    1573-0964
     
    2008

    Published In
    Synthese: an international journal for epistemology, methodology and philosophy of science
    Volume
    165
    Pages
    53 - 75
    ISSN
    1573-0964
     
  • Chapter

    Year Title
    2016

    Published In
    Time and the Philosophy of Action
    Publisher
    New York, United States: Routledge
    Pages
    167 - 185
    ISBN
    9780415735247
    2012

    Published In
    Properties, Powers and Structures: Issues in the Metaphysics of Realism
    Publisher
    Routledge
    Pages
    45 - 59
    2010

    Published In
    Emergence in Science and Philosophy
    Publisher
    Routledge
    Pages
    213 - 232

Potential Supervision Topics


  • I am available to supervise Honours, Masters, and Doctorate work in Philosophy of ScienceEpistemology and Philosophy of Medicine.

    In Philosophy of Science, I am interested in projects on topics such as:

    • Explanation and modeling in science (especially in physics, but in other areas of science as well)
    • Idealization and approximation
    • Scientific realism
    • Emergence, reduction, scale, and multi-scale modeling
    • Universality and universal phenomena

    In Epistemology, I am interested in projects on topics such as:

    • The role of thought experiments in science
    • Narrative explanation
    • The epistemic value of fiction and falsehoods

    In Philosophy of Medicine, I am interested in projects on topics such as:

    • Concepts of health and disease
    • Multi-level models of health
    • Cognitive ontology
    • Philosophy of psychiatry

    Here are some preliminary descriptions of projects that could be developed into interesting theses:

    Multi-scale modeling and big data. Multi-scale modeling and big data form two dominant paradigms in contemporary science. Both involve integrating information from a variety of sources to reveal underlying patterns and explanations that would not otherwise be possible. However, there have been few discussions of the relationship between the techniques associated with each approach. A project would be to describe the overlap between them and to investigate the relevance of concepts of scale to data-based science.

    Perspectivalism and scientific integration. Many philosophers and scientists advocate perspectivalist and/or integrationist view, which are supposed to recognise the value of distinct epistemic perspectives (for instance, from different branches of science) without impose strict conditions connecting those perspectives. These views seem to aim for mid-way positions where different approaches to problems can interact without being entirely equivalent. However, precisely articulating such a position is difficult. A good project would be to attempt to do this with a very specific scientific problem in mind.

    Toy models and model organisms. Philosophers usually distinguish between various types of models in science, and explain their epistemic value in different ways. One way of explaining the value of a model is in terms of shared features: models are valuable when they share certain features with the systems they represent, and that commonality explains why results obtained in a model system can be applied to the real system of interest. However, not all models are like this. In particular, toy models and model organisms don't seem to be easily understood in terms of shared features: in both cases, there are often relatively few features in common between the model and the target system. Various attempts have been made to justify the use of toy models and the use of model organisms, but an interesting project would be to examining the possibility of a common approach that would explain toy models and model organism in the same way.

    Are thought experiments experiments? Thought experiments are routinely used in many areas of science and in philosophy. Much philosophical work has been directed at understanding the epistemic value of thought experiments, trying to explain how an imaginary exercise can be a useful source of information about the world. One way to approach this problem would be to consider whether or not thought experiments could be evaluated as experiments - i.e, whether or not criteria or virtues that are ordinarily associated with real experiments could applied to thought experiments as well.

    Health and disease in the non-human world. Most discussions of the concepts of health and disease begin with the case of humans and then develop an account that may or may apply to other kinds of organisms (or non-organisms!) as well. For example, many accounts focus on the achievability of certain 'vital goals' and other measures of life satisfaction. We may wonder whether such features could be found in organisms such as plants and bacteria. At the same time, it seems clear that plants and bacteria (along with many other things) can vary between states of health and disease. An interesting project would be to develop an account of health and/or disease that begins with such cases, rather than beginning with the more familiar case of human health.



Advisees


  • Graduate Advising Relationship

    Degree Research Title Advisee
    Doctor of Philosophy Rethinking the cogs of cognition: A critical assessment of functionalism in light of cognitive science's interactive turn
    Doctor of Philosophy The Simple Brain Theory O'Connor, Peter
    Doctor of Philosophy Having Gender in Mind: How can we have and embodied and enactive accounts of gender norms (and why should we?) Brancazio, Nick
    Doctor of Philosophy Hedonistic Theories of Well-Being and Nozick's 'Experience Machine' Ramsay, Justin
    Doctor of Philosophy Digital Discrimination: Why privacy is the wrong tool for dealing with big data Reynolds, John
    Doctor of Philosophy Explanation in psychiatry Rosenman, Stephen

Professional Service Activities


Education And Training


Full Name


  • Dr. Patrick McGivern

Mailing Address


  • University of Wollongong, Building 19

    Northfields Avenue

    Wollongong

    New South Wales

    2522

    Australia