Research into the standards of reasoning, and into the foundations and dynamics of science, is translated by Utrecht’s philosophers into societally relevant questions. These activities are structured via three broader topics:
- How can non-experts attain reliable information about an increasingly complex world, and how can we design trustworthy institutions that make the creation and dissemination of that information possible?
- To what extent, and in which way can our scientific knowledge (about the neurophysiological functions of the brain, about evolutionary shaped behavioural dispositions, about the nature of biological processes, etc.) be of relevance for our self-understanding?
- How can research on artificial intelligence applications (including application of wide societal impact) benefit from philosophical insights?
(a) A paradigm example for the first topic is a recently established research line devoted to the rationality of conspiracy theories, the authority of expert testimony, and the epistemic impact of rumour, filter-bubbles and fake news. On these topics, Utrecht’s philosophers engage directly with the broader public, but also indirectly through cooperation with other research teams, in particular in the context of the strategic theme “Institutions for Open Societies”.
(b) With respect to the second topic, Utrecht’s philosophers are engaged, for example, in the free will debate, debunking naïve, unreflected scientistic claims through public talks, publications in newspapers, and blogs.
(c) Our researchers in artificial intelligence and logic conduct research on how to make intelligent systems more responsible. In the field of creative industries we contribute to discussions on how philosophical insights in embodied cognition can help design better learning techniques in education. Utrecht’s logicians also aim to present their abstract formal work in the study of proof theory and model theory to audiences that work on technical applications (such as expert systems) in order to also make their most foundational research available for practical implementation.