I am a philosopher of social science with a strong interest in China and Southeast Asia. Paying attention to the logical and conceptual issues raised by the social sciences is key to better understanding the modern world. I think philosophers need to interact seriously and extensively with working social scientists and historians if they are going to be able to make a useful contribution.




  • Rob Sellers on Recent Social Psychology

    Sellers Recent Social Psychology

    Scientific fields are shaped by many apparently contingent and capricious facts. This is one of the key insights of science and technology studies. Read more

    Posted on 28 July 2018 SOCIETY
  • Cyber Threats

    Cyber Threats

    David Sanger's very interesting recent book, The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage, and Fear in the Cyber Age, is a timely read this month, following the indictment... Read more

    Posted on 25 July 2018 SOCIETY
  • Downward Causation

    Downward Causation

    I've argued for the idea that social phenomena are generated by the actions, thoughts, and mental frameworks of myriad actors (link). This expresses the idea... Read more

    Posted on 17 July 2018 SOCIETY
  • Shakespeare on Tyranny

    Shakespeare Tyranny

    Stephen Greenblatt is a literary critic and historian whose insights into philosophy and the contemporary world are genuinely and consistently profound. Read more

    Posted on 23 June 2018 SOCIETY
  • Social Generativity and Complexity

    Social Generativity Complexity

    The idea of generativity in the realm of the social world expresses the notion that social phenomena are generated by the actions and thoughts of the individual... Read more

    Posted on 22 May 2018 SOCIETY
  • What the Boss Wants to Hear ...

    What Boss Wants Hear

    According to David Halberstam in his outstanding history of the war in Vietnam, The Best and the Brightest, a prime cause of disastrous decision-making by... Read more

    Posted on 07 May 2018 SOCIETY
  • Regulatory Failure

    Regulatory Failure

    When we think of the issues of health and safety that exist in a modern complex economy, it is impossible to imagine that these social goods will be produced... Read more

    Posted on 23 April 2018 SOCIETY
  • Empowering the Safety Officer?

    Empowering Safety Officer?

    How can industries involving processes that create large risks of harm for individuals or populations be modified so they are more capable of detecting and... Read more

    Posted on 05 April 2018 SOCIETY
  • Mechanisms, Singular and General

    Mechanisms, Singular General

    Let's think again about the semantics of causal ascriptions. Suppose that we want to know what caused a building crane to collapse during a windstorm. Read more

    Posted on 25 March 2018 SOCIETY
  • Machine Learning

    Machine Learning

    The Center for the Study of Complex Systems at the University of Michigan hosted an intensive day-long training on some of the basics of machine learning for... Read more

    Posted on 23 March 2018 SOCIETY
  • Technology Lock-in Accidents

    Technology Lock-in Accidents

    image: diagram of molten salt reactorOrganizational and regulatory features are sometimes part of the causal background of important technology failures. This i... Read more

    Posted on 10 March 2018 SOCIETY
  • Consensus and Mutual Understanding

    Consensus Mutual Understanding

    Groups make decisions through processes of discussion aimed at framing a given problem, outlining the group's objectives, and arriving at a plan for how to... Read more

    Posted on 03 March 2018 SOCIETY
  • Computational Social Science

    Is it possible to elucidate complex social outcomes using computational tools? Can we overcome some of the issues for social explanation posed by the fact of... Read more

    Posted on 27 February 2018 SOCIETY
  • Nuclear Accidents

    Nuclear Accidents

    diagrams: Chernobyl reactor before and afterNuclear fission is one of the world-changing discoveries of the mid-twentieth century. Read more

    Posted on 24 February 2018 SOCIETY
  • Folk Psychology and Alexa

    Paul Churchland made a large splash in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science several decades ago when he cast doubt on the categories of "folk psychology... Read more

    Posted on 11 February 2018 SOCIETY
  • Cold War History from an IR Perspective

    Cold History from Perspective

    Odd Arne Westad's The Cold War: A World History is a fascinating counterpoint to Tony Judt's Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945. Read more

    Posted on 09 February 2018 SOCIETY
  • Declining Industries

    Declining Industries

    Why is it so difficult for leaders in various industries and sectors to seriously address the existential threats that sometimes arise? Read more

    Posted on 30 January 2018 SOCIETY
  • Gaining Compliance

    Gaining Compliance

    Organizations always involve numerous staff members whose behavior has the potential for creating significant risk for individuals and the organization but who... Read more

    Posted on 25 January 2018 SOCIETY
  • Actors in Historical Epochs

    Actors Historical Epochs

    I've argued often for the idea that social science and historical explanations need to be "actor-centered" -- we need to ground our hypotheses about social and... Read more

    Posted on 20 January 2018 SOCIETY
  • The Second American Revolution

    Second American Revolution

    The first American Revolution broke the bonds of control exercised by a colonial power over the actions and aspirations of a relatively small number of people i... Read more

    Posted on 15 January 2018 SOCIETY