27: Ted Shear



Program and Year of Study

PhD, 7th year

Previous degrees and colleges

BA Philosophy (Hons.), Linguistics, University of British Columbia 

Where did you grow up?

While I lived in Marblehead, MA until the age of 15, I would really say that I grew up in Vancouver, BC, where I completed high-school and college. 

Where do you live now?

Brisbane, QLD, Australia! I started a post-doc in the Economics Department at the University of Queensland in January 2017 and will be defending my dissertation in October 2017. 

What's your favorite spot in Davis?

Sophia’s Thai Bar and Kitchen

How do you relax?

I am an avid rock climber and, in a former life, was a member of the US national badminton team.

What was the last book you read for pleasure?

I honestly can’t remember. Maybe something by Terry Pratchett.

What TV show are you currently binge-watching?

Since moving to Australia, I have become a huge fan of Australian television. Two notable favorites include Utopia, which provides an amazing (and accurate) view of the dysfunction of the Australian government, and Black Comedy, which is a sketch comedy show that provides poignant and probative commentary on race relations in Australia.

Research interests

Broadly speaking, I am interested in the normative aspects of belief and belief change. However, as a philosophical naturalist, I am committed to understanding these aspects of human behavior in a way that is consistent with the best science. Accordingly, I also have research interests in philosophy of cognitive science and philosophy of mind. I also work on various issues in philosophical logic and the foundations of probability theory.

Dissertation title or topic

The Difficult Business of Belief Change: Prospects for a Realistic Theory of Belief Revision Beyond AGM

Please share a surprising or noteworthy fact or finding from your research

In a paper, co-authored with Branden Fitelson (Northeastern), we prove that the inverse of the Golden Ratio is a lower bound on a particular function relevant for rational belief change. While the details are too complex to explain in this short reply, needless to say, this result was indeed surprising. It also led me to spend a good amount of time digging around on especially weird parts of the internet.

Which professor or class inspired you to pursue graduate studies?

As an undergraduate at UBC, I was inspired by the courses in the philosophy of language that I took from Ori Simchen. This led me to think that I’d wished to pursue graduate work in the philosophy of language; however, it was only after completing my BA in linguistics and two years of graduate study at UCD that I realized that natural language was far less well-behaved than I’d been led to believe through my studies of early/mid-20th century philosophy of language.

Which scholarly text do you wish you had written? Why?

Fred Dretske’s Knowledge and the Flow of Information. It not only played a formative role in my philosophical development, but its preface also includes perhaps my favorite quote from any work: “Words are the tools of philosophers, and if they are not sharp, they only disfigure the material.” 

Which other researchers at UC Davis are doing work that particularly interests you?

My former adviser G. Aldo Antonelli (1962-2015) was a personal and professional mentor to me. But, the work done by Zoe Drayson, Hanti Lin, and Bernard Molyneux in the Department of Philosophy is of central interest to my own research. Additionally, I admire the work done by Giacomo Bonanno (Economics).

What’s the best thing about being a grad student?

Being part of and contributing to a research community.

What's the worst?

Being poor and the insecurity that comes with the position.

If you weren't a grad student, what would you be doing?

Wishing I was.

Finally, please ask yourself a question

Why do you work on what you do?

Because it’s fun!


—November 2017


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