I am a visiting professor of philosophy at Western Kentucky University. My research focuses on the metaphysics of science, addressing classic problems in metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of science. I'm also very interested in philosophy of religion, epistemology, and the history of philosophy. 

 

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Research

My research interests include philosophy of mind, metaphysics, philosophy of science, and philosophy of religion. I am interested both in projects that are exclusive to these sub-disciplines and projects where these sub-disciplines intersect. Drafts of papers are available upon request.

 
 Publications 

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With Roger Sansom (2018). Asymmetry and the Unification Theory of Causal ExplanationSynthese 195 (2): 765-783. 
Review of Jason Waller, Cosmological Fine-Tuning Arguments: What (if Anything) Should We Infer from the Fine-Tuning of Our Universe for Life? (Routledge, 2020). In Religious Studies Review 46 (3), September 2020: 393.
Forthcoming. "Representing the Parent Analogy." European Journal for the Philosophy of Religion.
 
Works in Progress
No Fundamental Determinables (under revision, copy available upon request)
Avoiding the Collapse Problem for Substance Emergentism (under revision, copy available upon request)
Dissertation
 

My dissertation identifies a problem for contemporary science and philosophy: Both speak frequently of levels – the quantum level, cellular level, or neuroscientific level – but all the accounts of what levels are and what conditions are responsible for them are inadequate. Some have thought that levels come about when parts come together to form wholes, while others have thought that constitution, the relation said to hold between a statue and its clay, is responsible. Reductivist materialism implies that there are no levels of being, just levels of explanation or something else less ontologically weighty; nonreductivist materialists, on the other hand, have argued that so-called higher-level things (like organisms) have unreducible characteristics, and the conditions that give rise to them are responsible for levels. I argue that each of these views is wrong. Emergence is necessary for levels, and this better accords with science's success at giving reductive explanations and its inability to give them in recalcitrant cases. See here for more details.

 

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Teaching

Teaching Statement

Philosophy is for everyone, and I try to teach it in a way that invites everyone into philosophical reflection. As the only field that encourages examination of all assumptions, it is a vital tool in answering the important questions that most people care about, regardless of race, gender, or background. Philosophy enriches students’ pursuit of knowledge and truth. It deepens the strength of other disciplines by encouraging critical reflection on claims—as well as the evidence given in support of those claims—and enables students to be better scientists, historians, doctors, lawyers, and entrepreneurs. Click here to read the full statement with evidence of teaching excellence.

Evaluations

All WKU Evaluations

Philosophical Inquiry: The Big Questions, Fall 2017

Science and Theism, Spring 2017

Reasoning and Writing in the College, Spring 2017

Science and Religious Faith, Fall 2016

All Evaluations from 2014-Spring 2016

Courses Taught

Logic, Argument, and Reasoning, Western Kentucky University, PHIL 214, Fall 2020

Advanced Logic, Western Kentucky University, PHIL 415, Spring 2021

Philosophy of Religion, Western Kentucky University, PHIL 315, Spring 2020

 

This is a survey course in general philosophy of religion, focusing on crucial questions within the history of the field. Our topics: 1. Does evil undermine the possibility of justified belief in God (problem of evil)? 2. Arguments for God’s existence (ontological argument, Aquinas’s five ways, Argument from design, the moral argument, religious experience), 3) Freedom and Providence.

Philosophy of Science, Western Kentucky University, PHIL 330, Spring 2021, Spring 2020, Spring 2019

This is a survey course in general philosophy of science, focusing on crucial questions within the history of the philosophy of science. Our questions: What separates science from non-science? Do scientific explanations work because they tell us about laws, or because they tell us about causes, or for some other reason? How do “scientific revolutions” occur, and is science value-neutral? Are scientific theories really true? Do they describe real entities, or are they merely theoretically useful?

Philosophy of Mind, Western Kentucky University, PHIL 332, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Fall 2020

The philosophical study of the mind encompasses many specific topics, but the common thread is exactly what you would expect:  to provide a philosophical account of the nature of the human mind.  One of the most general issues in the philosophy of mind is the mind-body problem, which is the problem of saying what exactly a mind is, and how the mind is related to the physical world, especially the human brain.  To get a feel for the question, suppose that scientists arrive at a perfect physical description of the brain (a task that is nowhere near complete).  Will they have thus provided a full accounting of the mind?  That is, would a perfect physical description of the brain also be a description of every specifically mental phenomenon, such as desire, belief, memory, sensation—and especially the conscious aspects of these phenomena?  The attempt to answer this question is a major part of the mind-body problem.

Metaphysics and Epistemology, Western Kentucky University, PHIL  404, Fall 2019

This is an upper level philosophy course, especially aimed at introducing philosophy majors and other interested students to metaphysics and epistemology. The first half of the class will be spent on major topics in Epistemology, which is the study of knowledge (Episteme). The second half of the course will be spent on major topics in Metaphysics—which is the study of the world beyond the empirical—beyond physics and science. Most generally, it is the study of being and existence. We will thus begin with Ontology, the study of being.

Truth and Relativism, Western Kentucky University, PHIL 101, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2021

First and foremost, this course aims to show students that truth is important (Otherwise, I’d be wasting your time by teaching a whole class about it!). But, if it is important, we need to learn about what exactly it is. With the goal of further elucidating truth, we will examine some of the deepest thinkers about the topic. These include Aristotle, Anselm, Aquinas, postmodern philosophers, and George Orwell. Throughout the semester, we will think about how abstract theories of truth relate to real world applications.

 

Philosophical Inquiry: The Big Questions, Nazareth College PHL.Q 101, Fall 2017

 

This is Nazareth College’s introductory philosophy course, which introduces students to Aristotelian and Stoic logic with a view to understanding the role of logic in philosophical inquiry. Using Plato’s Five Dialogues, this section acquaints students with philosophy and logic by thinking about the nature of the universe, morality, and knowledge.

Science and Belief, Fall 2017

Thomas Huxley, known as Darwin’s Bulldog, said, “The man of science has learned to believe in justification, not by faith, but by verification.” Many today agree, adding that assessing claims scientifically precludes faith. Others, however, think they are compatible, or that science is evidence for religious belief. How might we articulate such views? What are their strengths and weaknesses? And, how should we understand science and religious belief in the first place? Interacting with the writings of Darwin, atheist Richard Dawkins, as well as great Christian, Islamic, and Chinese scholars, we will engage these questions with an eye toward developing the skills of argument and writing.

Science and Religious Faith: WRT 105A, Fall 2016, Fall 2017

This is a freshman level class that that I designed, targeting international students and domestic students who are not confident academic writers, teaching argumentative academic writing and critical reading through philosophical engagement with literature on science and religious faith.

Reasoning and Writing in the College: WRT 105B, Spring 2017

The second-half of the WRT 105A-WRT 105B sequence, WRT 105B immerses students in the experience of academic writing, with a particular emphasis on analyzing, using, and documenting scholarly and non-scholarly texts. It provides instruction and practice in constructing cogent and compelling arguments, as students draft and revise a proposal and an 8-10 page argumentative research paper.

Science and Theism: Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017

This is a freshman level class that I designed especially to teach argumentative writing via the examination of philosophical literature about the relationship between science and theism. Students should have a basic understanding of academic writing upon completion of the course.

Jannai Shields

Ph.D., Philosophy

jannaishields - at - gmail - dot - com

1906 College Heights Blvd.

Bowling Green, KY  42101-1086

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