My thesis and the Aletheia start-up are closely related, which means that the work I've been doing in MAPH (the Master of Arts Program in the Humanities) has been benefitting both. Most of the papers I've written for MAPH have been efforts to work out parts of my thesis. Now I'm in the process of wrangling everything together. I'll be turning it in this quarter. 

Here's how the projects relate.

Aletheia—the website we’re creating—is about reasons. For any proposition under the sun, what are the reasons for believing it? We think it's really important for the world to have a central place to see all of the reasons bearing upon any idea. 

My thesis explores how people use reasons in practice. Typically we think of reasons as being equivalent to evidence; but this isn't so. In practice we often hold beliefs without any evidence, or in the face of contradictory evidence. Sometimes we even avoid opening ourselves up to evidence if we sense that it might threaten a dearly held belief.

Interestingly, this is often the rational thing to do. Upton Sinclair said, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it." My thesis explores the rationality and psychology of so-called “prudential reasons.” 

Photography by Chris Kirzeder