Marshall Abrams

Associate Professor This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
University Hall 5004
(205) 996-7483

Pronouns: he/him

Research and Teaching Interests: Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Biology, Philosophy of Probability, Philosophy of Social Science, Philosophy of Cognitive Science, Philosophy of Mind, Metaphysics, Epistemology, Symbolic Logic

Office Hours: 3:30-4:30 Monday and Friday (Zoom); by appointment

Education:

  • AB, University of California Davis, Ontology and Cognition
  • PhD, University of Chicago, Philosophy

I grew up on the South Side and North Side of the City of Chicago, with a warm family life that led me to an interest in exploration—exploration of ideas, places, people, work, and social issues. I didn’t go straight to college after high school, and I didn’t go straight through college—my undergraduate studies were at three different universities—because of that exploratory interest. In college, I eventually I decided that I would develop an individual major so that I could continue exploring courses in different disciplines. But to do that, I had to figure out what questions were most important to me, so that I could organize the major around those questions. That’s when I realized what interested me most were philosophical questions about reality, evolution, mind, and culture. And that’s what led me to my current interests in philosophy of biology, philosophy of probability, and philosophy of cognitive science and culture. Later, in graduate school, I worked as a professional computer system administrator and programmer, and that led to my interest in computer modeling, both as a philosophical topic and as a tool for doing philosophy.

I love thinking about philosophy of science and other areas of philosophy. Philosophy of science is the area of philosophy that investigates how scientific knowledge depends on the ways that scientists design and perform experiments, observe nature, formulate their ideas, and use mathematical models and computers. Even though science is woven into our lives, few people stop to think about the deep philosophical questions that it raises.

Philosophy of science overlaps with other philosophical areas, including epistemology (the study of knowledge and justification), metaphysics (the study of the nature of reality), and ethics (because science can depend on choices that involve ethical issues). Although philosophy of science is one of the core areas of philosophy, it's also fundamentally interdisciplinary: In addition to studying philosophy, philosophers of science study sciences. History and other social sciences also play an important role in philosophy of science.

By the way, my courses usually don't assume that you already know about any of the things mentioned above! All that you need is an interest in philosophy — or in science. I teach courses on general philosophy of science, philosophy of biology, philosophy of mind and artificial intelligence, philosophy of social science. I also teach interdisciplinary courses that integrate philosophy with other areas of study.

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Scholars @ UAB Profile

  • Recent Courses
    • Evolution and Human Life
    • Minds and Machines
    • The Scientific Enterprise
    • Philosophy of Mind
    • Meaning, Emotion, and Society
    • Holding Together: Coherence in Culture, Reason, and Action
    • Introduction to Philosophy
    • Contemporary Moral Issues
  • Select Publications
    •  "Probability and Manipulation: Evolution and Simulation in Applied Population Genetics," Erkenntnis 80 (No. 3, supplement, December 2015).
    • “Coherence, Muller's Ratchet, and the Maintenance of Culture,” Philosophy of Science 82 (No. 5, 2015).
    • “A Moderate Role for Cognitive Models in Agent-Based Modeling of Cultural Change,” Complex Adaptive Systems Modeling 1 (No. 16, 2013).
    • “Implications of Uses of Wright's Fst for the Role of Probability and Causation in Evolution,” Philosophy of Science 79 (No. 5, 2012).
    • “Measured, Modeled, and Causal Conceptions of Fitness,” Frontiers in Genetics 3 (No. 196, October 2012).
    • “Mechanistic Social Probability: How Individual Choices and Varying Circumstances Produce Stable Social Patterns,” in Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Social Science, Harold Kincaid, ed. (Oxford University Press, 2012).
    • “Mechanistic Probability,” Synthese 187 (No. 2, July 2012).
    • Yann C. Klimentidis, Marshall Abrams, Jelai Wang, Jose R. Fernandez, David B. Allison, “Natural Selection at Genomic Regions Associated with Obesity and Type-2 Diabetes: East Asians and Sub-Saharan Africans Exhibit High Levels of Differentiation at Type-2 Diabetes Regions,” Human Genetics 129 (No. 4, 2011).
    • “Fitness ‘Kinematics’: Biological Function, Altruism, and Organism-Environment Development,” Biology and Philosophy 24 (No. 4), September 2009.
  • Academic Distinctions and Professional Societies
    • American Philosophical Association
    • Philosophy of Science Association
    • International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology
    • Society for Exact Philosophy
    • Human Behavior and Evolution Society
    • Evolutionary Anthropology Society
    • Society for Anthropological Sciences
    • American Anthropological Association