A Short Interview With Fritz Allhoff, Ph.D.
1. What are your HPS research interests?
My main interests lie at the intersection of philosophy of biology and ethics: I'm trying to work out an account of the implications that evolutionary accounts of the moral sentiments have for the metaphysics and epistemology of morality. I'm also interested in ethical questions that arise from emerging technologies, especially biotechnologies (e.g., stem cell research, genetic interventions, and human reproductive cloning) and nanotechnologies.
2. What are your HPS teaching interests?
I teach an undergraduate philosophy of science course and am developing a philosophy of biology course. In the future, I will teach graduate seminars on philosophy of biology and perhaps some elements of philosophy of science.
3. What do you think are some of the most important questions in HPS today?
HPS is such a fertile field and there are so many promising areas of research. Philosophy of biology is, in my opinion, the hottest branch of HPS, having displaced philosophy of physics over the past decade or so. Philosophy of probability and confirmation theory are both extremely active and drawing very talented researchers.
4. How did you become interested in HPS?
My undergraduate degree was in physics (with a minor in math), and I always thought that I'd be a physicist. Somehow I ended up in graduate school in philosophy and landed at UC Santa Barbara, the epicenter of evolutionary psychology (where John Tooby, Leda Cosmides, and Donald Symons virtually founded the field). Through theirs and related work, I became interested in biological bases of morality, which ultimately became my dissertation. I've since been very active in ISHPSSB (the International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology), which has furthered my interest in philosophy of biology as well as helped me to interact with a lot of practitioners in those fields.
5. What are your goals and/or expectations for WMU HPS?
I want us to become one of the top HPS Centers in the world. We have extremely talented researchers in our department, as well as outstanding graduate students. By drawing from the wider campus community (and with the support of the administration, which has been great), we really have the resources to make an international impact with our work.
6. Why do you think that HPS is important?
The history and philosophy of science is somewhat unique in all academic disciplines insofar as it links the sciences and the humanities. HPS helps science students understand *what* they're doing (as well as the historical context), as well as *why* it works. Humanities students who might otherwise have little exposure to the sciences can study HPS without fully committing themselves to studies of the sciences; these former studies might provide more meaning to some of them than the latter.
7. What advice would you have for students (undergraduate or graduate) who are interested in pursuing HPS studies?
Despite what I said above, I think that anyone who really wants to make an impact in HPS (either professionally or to pursue graduate studies) needs to learn the science on which their fields will be based. Philosophy of science is becoming increasingly technical, and it's often hard to distinguish the work in philosophy of the special sciences (e.g., philosophy of biology, philosophy of physics, etc.) from the sciences themselves. To do well in these fields, students need strong backgrounds in the sciences.