Jonathan Lawhead

Title | Organization: 
Graduate Student | Ph.D. program in Philosophy
Student Year: 
6th Year PhD student (Dissertation Phase)
Areas of Specialization: 

Philosophy of science (especially complexity theory and human computation); foundations of climate science; philosophy of technology

Areas of Competence: 

Philosophy of mind (especially artificial intelligence and cognitive science); metaphysics (especially emergence); philosophy of physics; logic



My current research focuses on the emergence of complex behavior in deterministic dynamical systems. My dissertation concerns issues in scientific model-building, highlighting the differences-- both methodological and conceptual—that scientists must confront in the move from modeling simple systems to modeling complex systems. In particular, I attempt to call attention to the role that the insights generated by studying commonalities between diverse complex systems have to play in the politically-charged field of climate science.

I argue that many of the criticisms levied against the methods and claims of climate science stem from a lack of appreciation for the unique challenges that climatologists face in studying a canonically complex system. By offering a clear articulation of the role of complexity in science generally (and climate science in particular), I hope to show why climate science, though qualitatively and methodologically different from fundamental physics, ought to be taken just as seriously. Accurate and widely-accepted modeling of the future of the global climate is pressing in a way few scientific problems of the past have been. Climate science is, in a very real sense, the first high-pressure test of the methods of complexity theory.

More generally, I'm interested in the foundations of the natural sciences, and in naturalism as a broad metaphilosophical position.  I take a primarily problem-solving (as opposed to historical) approach to philosophy, and have particular interests in information technology, complex systems, naturalism as a broad metaphilosophical position, spontaneous order, self-organization, and explanation and lawhood in science.  I'm currently focused on connecting philosophy of science to the ongoing innovations in complexity theory.  My work has been predominantly influenced by John Searle, Philip Kitcher, David Albert, Yaneer Bar-Yam, and Daniel Dennett.