About Dr. McKinnon
A Welcome Message
As of May 2013, I'm a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Philosophy at the University of Calgary. I obtained my PhD from the Department of Philosophy at the University of Waterloo in 2012. My research focuses on the relationship between knowledge and action. Specifically, much of my research currently focuses on the norms of assertion. I am interested in understanding the epistemic dimensions of what we assert to each other, and the relevant norms potentially governing the practice. This work includes working on how to properly evaluate performances such as placing wagers, shooting an arrow, and making decisions. It also includes work on the nature of luck and its role in our evaluations of performances.
I've been awarded a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship.
I've been awarded a 2 year postdoctoral fellowship by the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSRHC), which I will take up beginning in May 2013 at the Department of Philosophy at the University of Calgary. The fellowship is meant to help with my research on extending my analyses of the norms of assertion into a parallel debate on the norms of practical reasoning. This is a natural extension of my work, and it builds on some publications, such as my most recent papers in Logos and Episteme and Metaphilosophy. In broad outline, I think that reasons motivating rejecting a knowledge norm of assertion will also work for rejecting a knowledge norm of practical reasoning. And while there are a number of people taking the view that the norms of practical reasoning parallel those of the norms of assertion, I don't think that this is the case.
During my time at the University of Calgary, I'll also be teaching an undergraduate/graduate split course (PHIL 561/661) in the Winter 2014 term on my first book: The Norms of Assertion.
My paper with Mathieu Doucet "This Paper Took Too Long to Write: A New Puzzle for Weakness of Will" is now forthcoming in Philosophical Psychology
Abstract: The most discussed puzzle about weakness of will (WoW) is how it is possible: how can a person freely and intentionally perform actions that she judges she ought not perform, or that she has resolved not to perform? In this paper, we are concerned with a much less discussed puzzle about WoW: how is overcoming it possible? We explain some of the ways in which previously weak-willed agents manage to overcome their weakness. Some of these are relatively straightforward: as agents learns of the real costs of weakness, or as those costs mount dramatically, they can become strongly motivated to do what they already judged best. But other cases are more difficult to explain: sometimes, agents with a long history of forming and then weakly abandoning resolutions manage to stick to their guns. We argue that these cases can be explained by combining George Ainslie's model of agents as multiple preference orderings competing in game theoretic interactions along with the insights of evolutionary game theory. This can explain the puzzling cases where agents suddenly adopt successful strategies for avoiding weak-willed behavior, especially where agents gain no new information about themselves or the consequences of their actions.
My paper "Getting Luck Properly Under Control" is now forthcoming in Metaphilosophy
Abstract: In this paper I propose a new account of luck and how luck impacts attributions of credit for agents' actions. I propose an analogy with the expected value of a series of wagers and argue that luck is what we call the difference between actual outcomes and expected value. The upshot of my argument is that when considering the interplay of intention, chance, outcomes, skill, and actions, we ought to be more parsimonious in our attributions of credit when exercising a skill and obtaining successful outcomes, and more generous in our attributions of credit when exercising a skill but obtaining unsuccessful outcomes. Furthermore, I will argue that when agents skillfully perform an action, they deserve the same amount of credit whether their action is successful or unsuccessful in achieving the goal.