Shane Ryan
Assistant Professor
Office Phone:
(69) 4749

Research Interest

The concern of my research is the conduciveness of our physical and social environment to our attainment of valuable epistemic goods such as intellectual virtues, knowledge, and wisdom.

Selected Publications
Courses Offered

I was awarded my PhD from the University of Edinburgh. My PhD thesis concerns the nature and value of knowledge and the epistemic environment. The thesis was supervised by Professor Duncan Pritchard FRSE and Professor Jesper Kallestrup and examined by Professor John Greco.

The concern of my research is the conduciveness of our physical and social environment to our attainment of valuable epistemic goods such as intellectual virtues, knowledge, and wisdom. My purpose is not only to make assessments of that environment, our epistemic environment, but rather to propose ways in which our epistemic environment might be protected and improved. I call this epistemic envoronmentalism. Recent political and cultural developments, such as the increased consciousness of fake news and its negative effects on political discourse, seem to underscore the importance of this project.

My project grew out of recent work on the value of knowledge, often regarded by epistemologists as an especially valuable epistemic good. My own research on the topic, “Why Knowledge is Special”, was published in Philosophy in the first half of 2017. The paper examines the presentation of the topic by Socrates in the Meno and considers Greco’s virtue epistemological approach before making the case for my own approach. My approach emphasises the value of goods, like knowledge, for which virtue is necessary but not sufficient.

While having an account of the value of knowledge, as well as other epistemic goods, is important for epistemic environmentalism, because of the applied nature of the project, the project is not purely epistemological. It is necessary to make the case for the appropriateness of actors like the state playing a role in the epistemic environment. This has led me to undertake research into justificatory frameworks for the sort of interventions that the epistemic environmentalist may envisage for the sake of a good epistemic environment. In particular I have focused my attention on paternalism. This focus has resulted in the publication of two articles in leading philosophical journals in two years. “Paternalism: An Analysis” in Utilitas provides an analysis of the paternalist act, while “Libertarian Paternalism is Hard Paternalism” in Analysis builds on that analysis to make the case that libertarian paternalism or nudging, recently popular with policy makers, is in fact a form of hard paternalism. My paper also proposes a reformed libertarian paternalism that wouldn’t qualify as hard paternalism and would so avoid the criticisms hard paternalism faces.

At the end of 2017 my paper “Epistemic Environmentalism”, which provides an account of my applied epistemological framework, was accepted for publication by the Journal of Philosophical Research. This paper examines the nature of the epistemic environment and the role epistemic value theory and social epistemology play in informing and motivating epistemic environmentalism. “Epistemic Environmentalism” also considers a form of state supported sanction against dishonest testifiers occupying positions of sensitivity, such as media and experts, in the epistemic environment. In the last year, I’ve presented different aspects of epistemic environmentalism at the Trust, Expert Opinion and Policy Conference at University College Dublin and at the Budapest Workshop on Philosophy of Technology at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics. In the next year I aim to complete a draft of my book on Epistemic Environmentalism.

I also have experience teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate level at the University of Edinburgh and Soochow University in Taipei.