Philosophizing About Dependence and Independence
Philosophers have no shortage of questions that involve the concepts of dependence and independence. A few examples: Does morality depend on us and our ways of thinking, or is it entirely independent of such factors? And, are there some fundamental elements of the universe on which everything else depends, such as the smallest subatomic particles or the distribution of matter right after the Big Bang?
Dr. Carrie Jenkins, Canada Research Chair in Philosophy, believes that before there can be any chance of answering such big questions, understanding is needed of what these questions are really asking. This requires an understanding that dependence comes in many varieties, with explanatory dependence one of the most interesting and important varieties.
Her research centres on the hypothesis that a lot of the biggest questions we ask are really questions about “what explains what?”
Jenkins notes that when philosophers wonder whether morality is dependent on the mind, they are wondering whether moral facts need to be explained in terms of our opinions and ways of thinking. The same goes for all sorts of other questions about truth, reality, meaning and knowledge. Explanation is of crucial importance to our understanding of ourselves and the universe around us.
Jenkins’ research lies at the heart of fundamental philosophy and promises to reshape contemporary understanding of some of the deepest and most universal questions people are capable of asking.