Hello! My name is Hun Chung. Welcome to my website!
I received my first PhD in Philosophy at Cornell University in 2012.
I received my second PhD in Political Science at the University of Rochester in December, 2017.
I work at the intersection of Political Philosophy and Formal Theory (Game/Social Choice Theory).
In short, PPE (Philosophy, Politics, & Economics).
Specifically, I construct analytic formal models (utilizing the tools of game/social choice theory) to derive important normative insights that may help answer foundational questions in democratic theory, distributive justice, political/democratic legitimacy, political stability, liberal rights, and the interpretation of major figures in the history of political philosophy.
THEN, WHY APPLY FORMAL MODELS TO POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY?
First, applying models for the purpose of doing political philosophy is nothing new. Political philosophers have long been using “informal” models – or what is better known as “thought experiments” – in their philosophical research. Famous examples are Hobbes's "State of Nature" and Rawls's "Original Position", etc.
A thought experiment is basically a representation of either a hypothetical or a counterfactual situation that the author deems important for his/her philosophical/normative purposes. It is easy to discover that a thought experiment has a very similar logical structure to that of a formal model. There are initial conditions or assumptions (regarding the agent’s environment, the agent's rationality, preferences, state of knowledge, etc.) and results that are purported to follow from these initial conditions.
In many cases, thought experiments perform a very important justificatory role.That is, the results of the thought experiment are used to justify a given normative conclusion. For instance, Hobbes's justification for the existence of governments crucially depends on the purported fact that the state of nature will necessarily descend into a state of universal war. Rawls's justification for his two principles of justice crucially depends on the purported fact that the parties in the original position will choose his two principles of justice over any form of utilitarianism behind the veil of ignorance.
Therefore, it is very important that the thought experiments really do produce the results that the author claims it to produce. If it does not, the very justification for the author’s normative claim will become significantly weakened.
However, in many cases, it is very hard to precisely assess the validity of a given thought experiment by solely relying on philosophical analysis. This is where I believe having the ability to construct (and solve) formal models become extremely valuable.
Simply put, a formal model is just a thought experiment that is described in more precise mathematical language.
When constructing a formal model, one is forced to state all of the assumptions/conditions in precise formal language, and after one states all of the assumptions/conditions in precise formal language, one could use logic instead of relying on intuition to derive their logical consequences. Sometimes the formal model confirms the original author’s intuitions; other times, the formal model disconfirms the original author’s intuitions. In this sense, a formal model can be used as a critical test to adjudicate between competing philosophical intuitions.
Next, a formal model can also help identify the causal mechanisms underlying a given philosophical thought experiment. When one “solves” a formal model with a given solution concept, the solution is usually expressed in terms of the parameters of the model. We can then examine how the solution changes when the value of a given parameter increases or decreases. This exercise is called comparative statics. By performing comparative statics, we will be able to identify the specific causal mechanism that underlies a given philosophical thought experiment.
Lastly, a formal model can generate unexpected results that may have important philosophical implications and lead to new lines of philosophical research.
All in all, I believe that knowing how to construct and solve formal models is an extremely useful tool that could complement the traditional ways of doing political philosophy such as textual interpretation, conceptual analysis, and philosophical reflection.
I think that it will not be long until formal theory establishes itself as a mainstream methodology employed in political philosophy/theory provided that more and more political philosophers/theorists get the right kind of exposure to formal theory. I hope to serve as a small but meaningful catalyst toward that trend.
In the 2015-2016 academic year, I was a Postdoctoral Fellow in Philosophy, Politics, & Economics at the University of Arizona.
In the 2014-2015 academic year, I was a Visiting Assistant Professor in Philosophy at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.