For students

I use kaizena to provide feedback on written work for students. Please hand in your essay or other written work on my kaizena page.

I recommend the following guide to writing philosophy essays: http://www.phil.cam.ac.uk/curr-students/IA/curr-students/writing-skils/

University of Bayreuth

Please contact me if you are interested in the reading lists and seminar descriptions for the interdisciplinary seminars below, designed for BA and MA students of philosophy and economics, economics, and development economics.

The Ethics and Governance of Algorithmic Decision Making

Summer 2017

with Carsten Jung

Human decision makers are increasingly replaced by self-learning computer algorithms in economic decision making. Such algorithms use personal data (ranging from one’s post code to medical history and Facebook friends) to score and rank people. Such rankings, in turn, can determine who gets offered a job, who gets offered a loan and under what conditions people can insure themselves against illness. Algorithms hold the promise of overcoming human bias and make smarter and more informed decisions. But can we really leave a large number of economic decisions to algorithms? How can we make sure they make good decisions? And how do we ensure they make fair decisions?

In this seminar, we investigate some novel ethical questions raised by algorithms. Our aim is to develop a framework to think through the merits and dangers of using algorithms in decision making, and to decide how the use of algorithms should be governed. We start by developing a model of human decision making, differentiating between the phases of information gathering, belief-formation, and judgement. In a second step, we investigate how self-learning computer algorithms function, and compare our model of human decision making to the way algorithms process information. We will investigate in detail how scoring algorithms in finance, health care, and human resources already inform critical decisions. This allows us to weed out ethical concerns based on misunderstandings of how algorithms work, and to identify truly new problems raised by algorithmic decision making, in contrast to problems that are raised by any kind of decision maker.

The Efficient Market Hypothesis

Summer 2016

with Carsten Jung

In its most popular form, the efficient market hypothesis (EMH) is the claim that asset prices reflect all publicly available information. The EMH is an important cornerstone for most asset pricing models. But it is also highly controversial. Critics claim that models based on the EMH are to blame for the inability of predicting and avoiding the global financial crisis of 2008/9.

In this seminar, first, we discuss the the key arguments for and against the EMH. Exploring the persistent controversy around the EMH will lead us to a core issue in the philosophy of science: the question of whether one can ever falsify a single hypothesis. We will explore this using case studies on the reaction of financial markets to the disaster of the Challenger space shuttle, and the futures market for oranges.

Second, we will look at the role the EMH plays in financial markets today. Who is using it, how are they using it and does it matter? We will discuss two arguments stating that the ‘false belief in efficient markets’ (i) causes financial crises and (ii) leads markets to be short-­termist.

Third, we will discuss alternatives to the EMH which have been suggested by economists and behavioral psychologists. We will discuss the implications of their work for financial regulation and for public debates about the financial system.

The Complexity Science Approach to the Financial System

Winter 2015/16

with Carsten Jung and Kate Vredenburgh

Complexity science provides new ways of modelling the financial system as a complex system. It challenges dominant views of linearity, predictability, and responsibility in finance. On the philosophical side, this could have implications for how we think about morality in financial markets. On the policy side, the complexity approach could require a rethinking of how we regulate the financial system.

In this seminar, we first provide an introduction to some key concepts and the mathematical foundations of complexity science. Drawing on resources from the philosophy of science, we then ask what we can possibly expect to learn from models of complexity. We also ask if the financial system is really ‘complex’. We’ll spend a lot of time investigating some specific complexity  models. Finally, we discuss the implications of these approaches for the ethics of finance and for financial regulation.

Debt and Democracy

Summer 2015

with Till Cordes, Carsten Jung, and Jens van’t Klooster

How can we respond to sovereign debt crises in a fair way? In this seminar, we will tackle core philosophical and economic questions that arise in sovereign debt crises, with a special focus on Europe, and in particular on Greece. We’ll tackle the following normative issues:

  • In what way are states morally bound by sovereign debt contracts?
  • Should debtor countries always repay their debts? If not, under what conditions?
  • Should creditors try to enforce debt repayment and should they impose conditions in return for bailouts?
  • Who should pay the burden for excessive debt levels?

These questions are normative in the sense that they require more than analyzing economic data; they plainly also presuppose a theory of what is just regarding sovereign debt. But answering these normative questions crucially presupposes answering a lot of vexing economic questions first as well. We will deal with the following:

  • Why do sovereign states repay their debt at all given the limited legal enforcement procedures?
  • Which conditions does the Troika impose on Greece, and how do they limit the democratic sovereignty of Greece?
  • What are the different policy options of how European countries can reduce their debt levels at the current juncture?

The aim of the seminar is to equip participants with analytical tools and empirical background to analyze sovereign debt crises. Participants are encouraged to attend the Finance & Philosophy Lecture Series on the same topic this Summer Semester.

Achieving Financial Stability?

Winter 2014/15

with Carsten Jung

The financial crisis has brought financial stability to the forefront of economic policy debates. New institutions with the mission to pursue financial stability have sprung up, financial regulation has been reformed, and a major stress test of European banks is under way to assess the resilience of the financial system. But what is financial stability, and why does it matter? How do regulators pursue financial stability, and what can be done to make the financial system safer? Can financial instability be observed before it leads into crisis? We pursue these questions in the spirit that financial regulation is not merely a technical exercise. Rather, we want to bring out the way financial regulation shapes the economy and evaluate current practice and proposed alternatives with a view to the ethical and political values expressed in alternative regulatory regimes.

Risk in Finance

Summer 2014

What kinds of risk are there in the financial system, and how should financial regulators deal with them? Complex financial systems create credit and enable businesses, households, and states to share risks, but they are also prone to financial crises. Financial regulators seeking to achieve financial stability need to assess systemic risks in the financial system, and strike a balance between the goal of minimizing systemic risk and the goal of supporting credit creation. Philosophical work on the nature of risk and the ethics of risk imposition can help in defining the goals of financial regulation and assessing regulatory measures. We will explore how financial regulation works, think philosophically about risk and the morality of risk imposition, and apply these insights in a cases study on the stress testing of European banks.

The Philosophy and Economics of Sovereign Debt

Winter 2012/13

with Till Cordes

In dem Seminar wird es um die Verantwortung von Schuldnern und Kreditgebern in Staatsschuldenkrisen gehen. Dabei dient die derzeitige Europäische Schuldenkrise zwar als zentrales Beispiel, wir werden jedoch auf zahlreiche andere Staatsschuldenkrisen eingehen.

Ziel des Seminars ist es, empirisch mit den Studierenden die polit-ökonomischen Ursachen und Kosten von Staatsschuldenkrisen zu erarbeiten und diese mit philosophischen Verantwortungstheorien zu verbinden: Wer trägt die Kosten von Staatschuldenkrisen und wer sollte diese Kosten tragen? Sollen allein die Verursacher die Kosten einer Schuldenkrise tragen? Wie viel Austerität können Kreditgeber von Schuldnerländern verlangen? Sollen offizielle und private Kreditgeber in Umschuldungsmaßnahmen gleich behandelt werden ? Sollen Kreditgeber die Bürger eines Staates für die Entscheidungen vorheriger Regierungen zur Verantwortung ziehen?

University of Cambridge

I have taught moral philosophy, political philosophy, and early modern philosophy in the supervision format that is used to teach undergraduates in Cambridge. Students meet their supervisor once a week one-on-one for one hour to discuss the topic set for the week and receive feedback on an essay written for each supervision. I have also supervised extended essays in ethics and political philosophy.

University of Oxford

I have supervised a student in medieval philosophy; the supervision system is similar to the system at Cambridge.

Judge Business School Cambridge

I have given a lecture on moral psychology for the course “Philosophy and Business” in the MBA and EMBA programme of the Judge Business School.