I'm exploring a move back to academia after ~7 years away. My background is in Philosophy and I will try applying to a few PhD programs early next year. If I am accepted, my eventual goal would be global priorities reserach.
Most programs ask for a written submission of around 5,000 words. My thinking and my areas of interest have changed a lot since undergrad. Among other things I've worked as a programmer and I think a lot more about probability, statistics, rational choice, decision theory, etc. So I plan to write my submission from scratch.
I'm looking for help with picking a topic. I'm trying to avoid the pitfall described in this post:
In the early stage of your research career, 80-100% of your project ideas are bad. You’ll feel like your favourite project idea is great, but then years later, you’ll ask yourself: “what was I thinking?”
Executing an idea requires a large time investment. You don’t want to waste that time on a bad idea.
The OP from that post suggests solving this problem by 1) writing down some ideas, and 2) asking someone senior to rank them. So here are some of my ideas, and if you are/have been a philosopher in academia, I would appreciate your feedback!
- Map some motivations for RDM or robust satisficing as a research method to an interpretation of probability. Consider implications for research in this area.
- Analyze maximising ambition as a heuristic for decision-making when tracking progress/success using optimization of some measurable objective(s) isn't a viable approach to a problem. High-level career choice is one example I could explore.
- Consider the value of Bayesian updating in scenarios where finding a number for
e|his similarly subjective to choosing one's prior. I'd look at successful examples from the forecasting world where there's a reasonably low-latency feedback loop for ranking accuracy.
I wanted to post ASAP but as a result this is a short list, so I'll keep adding to it.
- John Broome (2004), Weighing Lives
- David Thorstad & Andreas Mogensen (2020), Heuristics for clueless agents
- David Thorstad & Andreas Mogensen (2021), Robust satisficing as a decision norm for long-term policy analysis
- Lima, Pedro Nascimento de, Robert J. Lempert, Raffaele Vardavas, Lawrence Baker, Jeanne S. Ringel, Carolyn M. Rutter, Jonathan Ozik, and Nicholson Collier (2021), Reopening California: Seeking Robust, Non-Dominated COVID-19 Exit Strategies
- Barbara Mellers, Philip Tetlock, Nick Rohrbaugh, Eva Chen (2014), Forecasting Tournaments: Tools for Increasing Transparency and Improving the Quality of Debate
- Hájek, Alan (2019), SEP Entry for 'Interpretations of Probability'
- Jan Sprenger (2017), The Objectivity of Subjective Bayesianism
- Paul Weirich (2021), Rational Choice Using Imprecise Probabilities and Utilities
My main concern (aside from are these topics good/will anyone care about them) is whether departments will consider a submission in this area as strictly philosophy.
Thanks to all for any input and advice you provide.
Another question of course is why philosophy PhD programs are the best way to go if OP is more interested in researching robust decision making than other questions in philosophy. Not knowing too much about the field, David Manheim's dissertation for example seems pretty related.