Emily Sullivan

Research Theme

​My research focuses on our practices of giving and receiving explanations or information. This includes the epistemology and structure of explanations and information sharing.  

Are there ways of spreading information that promotes epistemic goods or epistemic ills? In what way does society and political beliefs impact information sharing? What is the social function of understanding?

How can falsehoods or idealizations lead to epistemic goods like understanding?  At what point do scientific or social-scientific idealizations or abstractions lose their causal tether? What does this say about the sort of understanding we gain from these explanations?



I worked on a whitepaper commissioned by the Dutch Government on the influence of social media on the 2018 Dutch Municiple Elections 

I was interviewed by Danish media on understanding and machine learning models (in Danish) 


Upcoming Talks 

2018 Oct: "Social Network-Epistemology"

          IEEE eScience; Amsterdam

2018 Nov: Commentator on "Diversity-Aware 

       Reccomender Systems"  by Nava Tintarev

        ZiF Bielefeld University; Germany  


Working Papers

(Drafts available upon request)

Epistemic Value and Understanding

I argue that the value of understanding lies in its social function as a marker of epistemic authority. 

Understanding and Grasping

I survey the extent to which a theory of grasping has been put forward in the understanding literature and make progress toward building such a theory.

Causal Explanation and Universality

In this paper I argue that renormalization group explanations of critical phenomena are causal explanations. 

Machine Learning and Understanding

In this paper, I explore what sort of understanding of phenomena we can receive from opaque machine learning models

Formal Network Epistemology

Working with the DHEPCAT team at TU Delft and TU/e, we argue in favor of a formal graph-theoretical approach to testimonial networks and apply this approach to discussions of vaccine safety on Twitter.

Published Papers

Idealizations and Understanding:

Much Ado About Nothing?

2019, Australasian Journal of Philosophy

with Kareem Khalifa

Can Real Social Epistemic Networks

Deliver the Wisdom of Crowds?
2019. Oxford Studies in Experimental Philosophy.
First author, with Sondag, M., Rutter, I., Meulemans, W., Cunningham, S.,

Speckmann, B., & Alfano M. 

Understanding: Not Know-How

2018,  Philosophical Studies 

Same, Same, but Different: 

Algorithmic Diversification of

Viewpoints in News

2018, ACM UMAP’18 Adjunct Proceedings  

Second author, with Nava Tintarev, Dror Guldin, Sihang Qiu, and Daan Odjik