Lisa's Notebook

Writing Exercises by Lisa McNulty.

The Article-A-Day Challenge

A recommendation/challenge has emerged from Dr Olivia Rissland on Twitter to read one academic article a day and keep a record of it On Jan 1, 2018, I decided to read more papers and started trying to read a paper a day. As of today, I have read 899 papers in 899 days. I never would have imagined 2.5 years ago how much I would learn through this and how this would make me a better scientist and human.

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June Reading

As I said at the end of May, I plan for the last entry of every month to be a record of the reading I’ve done that month. This is my list for June. Novels The Hollow Lands (Dancers at the End of Time part II), Michael Moorcock In which Jherek Carnelian continues to be in love with Mrs. Amelia Underwood, travels to nineteenth century London to find her, accidentally becomes a criminal, doesn’t die, and continues with Various Adventures.

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Drabble: Mary Healy on Children’s Friendships

In Should we take the friendships of children seriously?, Healy presents the three forms of Aristotelian friendship. Firstly: ‘friendships of utility’, which perform a function, such as ‘someone to play with’. Secondly: ‘friendships of pleasure’, deeply felt and yet often transitory: whilst you enjoy their presence, you don’t regret their absence. Finally there are ‘character friendships’: committed friendships where the flourishing of one friend is interconnected with the flourishing of the other.

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Reading Badly; or Goodhart’s Law

Lockdown has produced in me, as it has in many people, a certain urge to Use the Time for Self-Improvement. This has, amongst other things, included a significant up-swing in the amount of reading I’ve done. I was very much a reader when I was younger, but a combination of parenting a small child, an obligation to read a lot for work, and the ease of screentime, have drastically diminished the amount I read for recreation.

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Phantom Opinions

I am going to do something deeply uncharacteristic here. I’m going to coin a term for a fallacy. Yes yes, I know, but consistency is the enemy even here. Whilst I maintain that being able to describe this argumentative problem is better than being able to name it, perhaps the existence of a name is nonetheless a hermeneutical tool of some use. Let’s find out. There is a phrase I keep coming across, in conversation, in student essays, and sometimes even in academic papers, which goes something like this:

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Marking and Modesty

As someone with a philosophy background who has recently come to work in an education department, I am teaching - and more recently, marking papers - in areas that I am not an expert in myself. This wasn’t such an issue in the first term, as I was teaching one general introduction/student skills course, and one philosophy of education course. It was relatively straightforward to adapt to these. However, one of the courses I am marking this term requires me to assess research portfolios including a semi-structured interview.

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Unknown Knowns

The concept of unknown unknowns is something that I will come back to in the last section of my Sherlock series, but for now I’m just going to give it a brief spell in the spotlight by itself, and introduce a related concept of my own: ‘unknown knowns’. The phrase ‘unknown unknowns’ comes from a response that Donald Rumsfeld gave to a question put to him at a US Department of Defence news briefing.

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Being Inconsistent about Consistency

Something odd is happening to me. I seem to be developing routines. (This is a young and delicate flower and may not live long, I make no promises whatsoever). Now, I hate routines. One reason I hate them because of how easily they can fail. Particularly they can fail if you are a parent. It is not possible to predict when a child will ask for help, a snack, or just generally some attention, so if you are committed to doing certain things in a certain order (self-care routines, housework, working from home) then you will be perpetually frustrated by your inability to do so.

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How Not to Think like Sherlock Holmes [Part Four]

The latest in my ongoing project to ruin Sherlock Holmes’ reputation: Holmes tries to think by himself, and this is a terrible idea. The longer way of saying this is that Holmes’ reasoning skills are compromised by his epistemic isolation. This comes in two forms. The first is an extreme degree of specialisation, accompanied by a more general ignorance (which he deliberately chooses). The second, connected issue is the social isolation that arises from his ‘solitary genius’ status, which prevents him benefiting from full membership in an epistemic community.

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Drabble - Susan Haack’s Foundherentism

Foundationalism holds that certain beliefs are self-evident. Other beliefs are justified with reference to these. According to coherentism, foundational beliefs don’t exist. Instead beliefs justify each other, like puzzle pieces fitting together. Haack argues that scientific investigation actually progresses like completing a crossword puzzle: it needs foundations (observations) and coherence (an overall theory). You read the clue (look at the results of your experiment), and complete the answer. If it doesn’t fit with other answers already completed, first check the clue again (for a potential anomaly); only then check the accuracy of the other answers (overall theory).

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