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McGivern, Patrick Dr.

Senior Lecturer

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

Overview


My research includes projects in Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Cognition and Philosophy of Medicine. In Philosophy of Science, I focus primarily on problems of explanation and modelling in science, and on related questions about emergence, reduction, and other inter-theoretic relations. These problems arise in physics, chemistry, neuroscience, cognitive science, biology, ecology and many other areas of science. I am particularly interested in the role that scale plays in these problems, and on the frequent need for ‘multi-scale’ models and explanations, involving combinations of perspectives from different spatial and temporal scales.

My work in Philosophy of Cognition also focuses on the significance of scale. Traditional concepts of cognition are often focused on relatively large-scale, complex creatures, such as humans and other mammals. I am interested in ways in which basic features of cognition such as agency and self-preservation might vary with scale, appearing quite differently in cases involving small-scale organisms such as bacteria.


In Philosophy of Medicine, my research focuses on 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.

Top Publications


    Year Title
    2019 Active materials: minimal models of cognition?
    Published in   Adaptive Behavior
    2019 Fundamentality, Scale, and the Fractional Quantum Hall Effect
    Published in   Erkenntnis
    2019 Modeling Emergent Properties in the Brain Using Tissue Models to Investigate Neurodegenerative Disease
    Published in   The Neuroscientist: reviews at the interface of basic and clinical neurosciences
    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

Available as Research Supervisor

Available for Collaborative Projects

Selected Publications


  • Journal Article

    Year Title
    2019

    Published In
    Adaptive Behavior
    2019

    Published In
    Erkenntnis
    2019

    Published In
    The Neuroscientist: reviews at the interface of basic and clinical neurosciences
    2017

    Published In
    The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy: a forum for bioethics and philosophy of medicine
    2017

    Published In
    American Philosophical Quarterly
    2014

    Published In
    Educational Philosophy and Theory
    2010

    Published In
    Synthese: an international journal for epistemology, methodology and philosophy of science
     
    2008

    Published In
    Synthese: an international journal for epistemology, methodology and philosophy of science
     
  • Chapter

    Year Title
    2016

    Published In
    Time and the Philosophy of Action
    Publisher
    New York, United States
    2012

    Published In
    Properties, Powers and Structures: Issues in the Metaphysics of Realism
    2010

    Published In
    Emergence in Science and Philosophy

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 Expecting Better: Feminist Perspectives on the Predictive Processing Framework.
    Doctor of Philosophy The Simple Brain Theory O'Connor, Peter
    Doctor of Philosophy Let me explain: the dynamical alternative Meyer, Russell
    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
    Doctor of Philosophy A Practical Theory of the Concept of Health Lewis-Martin, Jimmy

Professional Service Activities


Education And Training


Keywords


  • Emergence and emergent properties
  • Minimal cognition
  • Multi-scale modeling
  • Theoretical concepts of health and disease

Full Name


  • Dr. Patrick McGivern

Mailing Address


  • University of Wollongong, Building 19

    Northfields Avenue

    Wollongong

    New South Wales

    2522

    Australia

Top Publications


    Year Title
    2019 Active materials: minimal models of cognition?
    Published in   Adaptive Behavior
    2019 Fundamentality, Scale, and the Fractional Quantum Hall Effect
    Published in   Erkenntnis
    2019 Modeling Emergent Properties in the Brain Using Tissue Models to Investigate Neurodegenerative Disease
    Published in   The Neuroscientist: reviews at the interface of basic and clinical neurosciences
    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

Selected Publications


  • Journal Article

    Year Title
    2019

    Published In
    Adaptive Behavior
    2019

    Published In
    Erkenntnis
    2019

    Published In
    The Neuroscientist: reviews at the interface of basic and clinical neurosciences
    2017

    Published In
    The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy: a forum for bioethics and philosophy of medicine
    2017

    Published In
    American Philosophical Quarterly
    2014

    Published In
    Educational Philosophy and Theory
    2010

    Published In
    Synthese: an international journal for epistemology, methodology and philosophy of science
     
    2008

    Published In
    Synthese: an international journal for epistemology, methodology and philosophy of science
     
  • Chapter

    Year Title
    2016

    Published In
    Time and the Philosophy of Action
    Publisher
    New York, United States
    2012

    Published In
    Properties, Powers and Structures: Issues in the Metaphysics of Realism
    2010

    Published In
    Emergence in Science and Philosophy

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 Expecting Better: Feminist Perspectives on the Predictive Processing Framework.
    Doctor of Philosophy The Simple Brain Theory O'Connor, Peter
    Doctor of Philosophy Let me explain: the dynamical alternative Meyer, Russell
    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
    Doctor of Philosophy A Practical Theory of the Concept of Health Lewis-Martin, Jimmy

Professional Service Activities


Education And Training


Keywords


  • Emergence and emergent properties
  • Minimal cognition
  • Multi-scale modeling
  • Theoretical concepts of health and disease

Full Name


  • Dr. Patrick McGivern

Mailing Address


  • University of Wollongong, Building 19

    Northfields Avenue

    Wollongong

    New South Wales

    2522

    Australia