Sarah Cyr, a double major in philosophy and history, describes herself as a “huge nerd.” Sarah elaborates, “My academic interests are all over the place – I’m a former biological anthropology major, so I’m interested in human evolution, anatomy, and osteology (the study of bones), as well as the history and philosophy of science.”
Sarah got interested in philosophy through her study of the history of science. She thinks, “You really can’t understand the history of science without getting into the philosophy side as well. Historically, science and philosophy were, in many respects, two sides of the same coin — just two approaches to making sense of the world.” To understand how scientists of the past arrived at their conclusions, in addition to understanding their techniques and hypotheses you have to understand their philosophical worldviews. Sarah quips, “So, as infuriating as it can be, historians of science do often have to think like philosophers.”
Sarah also values philosophy on its own terms: “Now I like philosophy because of how unique it is – more than any other discipline I’ve worked in, it encourages you to think carefully and creatively at the same time, and to develop and defend your own ideas. That kind of intellectual freedom is so engaging.”
Sarah has applied this careful and creative thinking to a new article that has been published in Stance, a peer-reviewed international undergraduate philosophy journal. Sarah’s article, “Love and Rationality: A Faith-Based Account of Epistemic Partiality in Friendship,” focuses on an issue that has become prominent in contemporary epistemology: the question of whether it’s possible to be both rational and a good friend.
In the article, Sarah explains how philosophers generally agree that maintaining healthy relationships with people we love is crucial to living a good life. However, it is considered equally important to be epistemically rational and to form beliefs about the world based on good reasons and evidence. Sarah explains how these two things can come into conflict: “Given how prone we as humans are to thinking well of our friends even when reason might tell us not to, there seems to be a tension between these two important virtues.”
Sarah tries to resolve this tension between friendship and epistemic rationality in her article. She attempts to provide a novel explanation of our epistemic treatment of those close to us by highlighting the connection between our emotional commitments and our belief-forming processes. “Essentially, I try to make it possible to be both rational and a good friend – a true philosopher’s dilemma!”
When not doing philosophy or understanding history, Sarah writes novels, loves hiking, and has a day job working with dogs. She’s looking forward to getting back to campus this fall, her last semester. “I miss being present on campus and seeing my friends and professors in-person, and I’m hoping that my last semester can be maybe a slightly less chaotic experience!”