I am a Distinguished Professor and Head of Department at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. After earning my Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1993, I taught at the State University of New York at Buffalo, and then at the University of utah, before joining the faculty of the University of Tennessee Department of Philosophy in 2018. I describe myself as primarily a Philosopher of Science, focusing on physical, decisional (including formal decision and game theories) and human sciences. But I am also active on philosophical topics around practical reasoning, including action theory, phenomenology and theories freedom.…
I am a Distinguished Professor and Head of Department at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. After earning my Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1993, I taught at the State University of New York at Buffalo, and then at the University of utah, before joining the faculty of the University of Tennessee Department of Philosophy in 2018. I describe myself as primarily a Philosopher of Science, focusing on physical, decisional (including formal decision and game theories) and human sciences. But I am also active on philosophical topics around practical reasoning, including action theory, phenomenology and theories freedom. There is no one single key or unifying element to my work, but there is in it a general concern for resisting a tendency (in philosophy and elsewhere) to oversimplify via reductionist agendas.
I conceive of the antithesis to reductionism as a positive view about the plurality of scales at which entities interact in the universe. This is the major theme of my monograph Without Hierarchy; The Scale Freedom of the Universe, (Oxford, 2013). It’s simply not true, as I argue in that monograph, that all “activity” (as I call it) transpires at the most minute spatial scale (if there is even such a thing). The antithesis of reductionism is assertion of the scale freedom of the universe, the assertion that the universe is active at every size scale, which has a consequence that interactions of macro entities are emphatically not to be viewed under a cipher or code that “interprets” or otherwise “translates” for beasts who live at our size scale the putatively “true” interactions of the universe—the “causal” interactions among the micro entities. Throughout my work I have criticized (by invoking findings represented by features of our best-confirmed quantum theories) causal theories that are committed to the conception of the universe as active only at the most minute size scales; I have advanced work on scientific explanation that resists reduction; I have articulated a notion of fundamentality as a genus term, embracing the many disciplines of social science (including economics) in a democratic rather than hierarchically organized scientific enterprise; and when it comes to causation, I have offered a positive account of it that is compatible with a nonreductive framework.
My second book, A Social Theory of Freedom (Routledge, April 2016), offers a new answer to the timeless philosophical question of human freedom, one that engages with social science but repulses the relevance of questions around determinism, biological and otherwise. It advances the cause of an existential theory of freedom in new ways—and it does so without denying the relevance of science, especially social science, for illuminating human agency. For a non-specialist treatment of my conception of freedom, you can read an article in Aeon Magazine: https://aeon.co/essays/more-than-having-options-freedom-is-being-true-to-yourself, and listen to an interview with Matt Teichman here: https://lucian.uchicago.edu/blogs/elucidations/2018/09/14/episode-108-mariam-thalos-discusses-freedom/. You can also read a more wide-ranging interview with Richard Marshall in 3ammagazine: https://316am.site123.me/articles/multi-scale-existentialist-freedoms?c=end-times-archive.
I apply as much of my findings as I can to issues of public policy. I am currently being funded by the NSF to study precautionary decision making in relation to catastrophic risk, especially in public contexts. The goal is a prescriptive theory of precaution (an account of how best to proceed in the context of major uncertainty) that does more than simply endorse aversion to risk. And I'm developing these ideas in the context of a larger book-length project: Foundations for a comprehensive decision science (see more on this below).
I’ve authored numerous articles on causation, explanation and how relations between micro and macro are handled by a range of scientific theories; as well as articles in political philosophy, action theory, metaphysics, epistemology, logical paradox and feminism. My work has won the Royal Institute of Philosophy inaugural Essay Prize (2012), and again in 2013, and the American Philosophical Assn’s Kavka Prize (1999). I’m a former fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Advanced Studies of the Australian National University, the Tanner Humanities Center, the University of Sydney Center for Foundations of Science, and the Institute of Philosophy, University of London. At my site on Academia.edu, you will find (among other things) pieces and chapters of my work in progress. Here you will find electronic copies of some of my publications.