Episode 48 - Ann-Sophie Barwich
Nick: Hello and welcome to Episode 48 of the SCI PHI Podcast. From Bloomington, Indiana, I'm Nick Zautra.
On today's podcast I am pleased to welcome Indiana University Bloomington’s very own Dr. Ann-Sophie Barwich, Visiting Assistant Professor in the Cognitive Science Program here at Indiana University Bloomington. Ann is a cognitive scientist and empirical philosopher and historian of science, technology, and the senses. Her book project highlights the importance of thinking about the sense of smell as a model for neuroscience and the senses, and is under contract with Harvard University Press.
Ann's research in the philosophy of Olfaction investigates a number of questions including; how does the brain make sense of sense? What are the perceptual dimensions of smell? And what are the epistemic, empirical, and social factors that define ongoing science in comparison with the philosophical study of historical episodes?
Previously Ann was a presidential scholar in society in neuroscience at the center for science and society at Columbia University. There she was the resident philosopher in the laboratory of neuroscientist Stuart Firestein. Further Ann held a research fellowship at the Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution Cognition Research in Vienna.
She received her PhD in philosophy at the Center for the Study of the life sciences at the University of Exeter for her thesis titled, “Making Sense of Smell: Classification and Model Thinking in Olfaction Theory” and holds an MA in philosophy and literature theory from Humboldt University in Berlin with a thesis on causality in Leibniz and its relevance for theories of biological classification.
When Ann is not working on smell, she's also fascinated by the history of magic for its implications in understanding the effects that conjuring tricks can play on our minds.
And thus without further ado, let's bring in Ann.
Dr. Ann-Sophie Barwhich, welcome to the SCI-PHI Podcast. How are you this morning?
Ann: I’m well, thank you. How are you?
Nick: I'm doing fine. You know, taking in the Bloomington weather which is, you know…
Nick: Yeah. Exactly, exactly. So… yes so for our listeners to know, Ann holds a position in the Cognitive Science Program here at Indiana University at Bloomington. How is that going so far?
Ann: Actually pretty well, I'm absolutely enjoying it. Mainly because of the people, because the cognitive science program is so diverse. And then also the History and Philosophy of Science Department as well. So I'm kind of living the dream, the best of both worlds.
Nick: Yeah, yeah. How did you come across this, your sort of like position, or idea to you know, come over and take this on?
Ann: It was actually Peter Todd's ideas. So I met him a couple of years ago at a conference organized by Tom Nichols. It was about heuristic approaches the frontiers of research, and Peter was there and we had a longer chat and he seemed to like my work and invited me, and I also knew new Jutta of course; Jutta Schickore from the HPS Department.
Ann: So apparently they secretly had this plan to get me over for a year and they wanted to have somebody who combines cognitive science and history and philosophy of science, kind of a practical approach to it. And I would say when they said well do you want to come over? I thought, “oh, hell yes.”
Nick: [Laughter]. Alright. Well that's wonderful. Okay. Well that's great and yeah, how are you liking Bloomington so far? Have you settled into the town, and getting used to the college feel of it?
Ann: I actually do. So I was totally surprised when I arrived here, first of all how many people do sports here. I was a couch potatoe. And everybody is doing some extreme sports here. I’m starting to get into the… you know, “when in Rome do as the Romans do.” So I'm getting more and more into sports.
Ann: Or trying to. At least the cycling. I saw many people cycle here or swim or do some other crazy stuff. But it’s also very… one thing which I kind of saw under the research is it's a very vibrant food culture here. So you have all these kind of different beer breweries, these microbreweries. You create new flavors, and they're incredibly proud of that. And the flavor variety you can do here; it’s amazing actually.
Nick: Great, great. Well I'm glad you're enjoying it so far and yeah, we'll be looking forward to spending some time together for the next, you know, hopefully a year, hopefully an extension, we'll see. But yeah, we're very happy to...
Ann: I’ll hopefully be here as long as possible.
Nick: Exactly, yeah. We're very happy to have you. Yeah. Well let's go ahead and take a step back Ann and talk a little bit about your origin story, kind of where you came from, how you got into philosophy. So Ann where did you grow up?
Ann: So I always wanted to say this, but I was born in a country that doesn't exist anymore.
Nick: Oh, that's so cool. And I'm sorry.
Ann: It's… well actually it’s for the better. So I was born in East Germany. So I'm actually very happy that the wall came down because otherwise I wouldn't be here because you couldn't leave the country back then.
Ann: But I was born in a very small town, very picturesque town called Weimer after which the Weimer Republic was named. So it’s a very picturesque tourist town with lots of great history in terms of Goethe-Schiller and these kind of more literature approaches to classic literature, but also a more darker side in terms of the bad side of German history. So you had kind of the good and the bad integrated into the history of the town. And this is where I grew up for 18 years, and as soon as I could I left.
Nick: Right, right. So yeah, what was going on in East Germany? What did your folks do?
Ann: So my father was a mechanic and my mother is a school teacher, she teaches German literature.
Nick: Oh, okay.
Ann: Well she speaks Weimer, yeah. So…
Nick: Cool, cool. And so yeah, growing up in East Germany. What were some of your interest growing up?
Ann: Literature mainly.
Ann: So completely disconnected from what I'm doing today, but I was obsessed with literature. My mother ruined me for life because instead of reading me Fairytales when I was a kid, she was reading me ballads by Goethe-Schiller. And I think that kind of really ruined me for life.
Nick: Mm-mm… [Laughter].
Ann: You see they’re not always…well if you look at the ballads, they don't have a nice ending all the time. They’re very tragic.
Nick: So I'm not super familiar. So what are these ballads like? What kinds of… what are the themes? What kind of stories do they tell?
Ann: So one ballad in particular which was one of my favorites is “The Elvenking," which I'm not quite sure how to translate, it but it's a poem about a father who's riding through the middle of the night with a sick child to get to a doctor. And the child is hallucinating about this fairy tale creature, the king of certain trees like it's a specific kind of tree. And it ends very badly because as soon as the father finally arrives at the safe-haven, he's trying to kind of rescue the child. The child dies actually at the end.
Ann: So yeah, it's not a very positive story to be growing up with. But a better one is actually Schiller's Ballad of a guy who tried to impress a princess.
Ann: She challenges him by like, there's an arena with lots of animals and she throws her handkerchief into the arena.
Ann: And he gets the handkerchief going through lions and tigers and bears. And he gives her the handkerchief but says, “I actually don't need this challenge; thank you very much, but no thanks.”
Ann: So it’s a very, very modern ballad actually.
Nick: Wow, Wow. So were these, you know, these reading and literature… yeah, like, you know, so was this interest in a sense of studying and analyzing the text, or was this something you were interested in writing about it like in a professional way, like what did you want to do?
Ann: Don't laugh. When I was younger, I wanted to become a writer. I wanted to become a poet, writing all this kind of stuff. But it turns out it's even harder to make a living with literature than philosophy. So I started out actually with literature theory before I turned to philosophy and then philosophy of science.
Nick: Yeah, yeah. And so, okay. So did you ever even write or publish any works or have anything of some favorite works growing up?
Ann: I have a novel in the desk drawer, I’ve a hymn novel which is in German though. Maybe one time, maybe one day, yes.
Nick: Yeah. Well you know I'm sure you've probably met a few philosophers, working philosophers who have a side page on their website as professional authors in some way. You know, who have written novels and so… well that’s really great, yeah, okay. So yeah, so tell us about you know the turn toward… you know, when did philosophy come on the scene? When where you first introduced?
Ann: By accident. I have to warn you, a lot of the parts in my trajectory that were influential actually accident. And in this case I needed a second subject to sign up for my major at Humboldt back then in Berlin. And I was always interested in philosophy but never so explicitly I thought well a literature and I need a second subject and that would fit, but it took over.
Ann: It really took over during my time and I got more and more interested precisely in a lot of interpretive questions, where you can see the overlap. Where it’s about methodology, how do you actually analyze text? How do you analyze the text well and how do you understand the author better than perhaps the author him or herself?
Nick: Yeah, yeah. Do you…
Ann: So kind of very [inaudible 00:10:05] it was common interest.
Nick: Okay. Do you recall any original authors that you read or you know, a class or something like that?
Ann: Oh, yes. So I was lucky because back then it wasn’t such a school system as it is today. It was very, very free. I could do whatever I wanted, and I did. So I did for instance a study of Habermas, Hannah Arendt, but also Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle. I loved Leibniz back then.
Ann: But also more in terms of history of science/philosophy in terms of Galileo for instance or also how Einstein saw his own work. So reading the kind of original articles from 1905 to 1915. So actually everything that I could get my hands on, it was a very exploratory phase.
Nick: Great, great. And so was this… Ann I'm sorry. Was these in secondary school or was these in the university?
Ann: Oh, that was in university.
Ann: And In secondary… in school, I didn't have philosophy as a subject. I had religious studies but my religious teacher actually was much more interested philosophy and I think he triggered that kind of interest.
Nick: Yeah, yeah. And so is this something you know, your folks were encouraging of you to you know pursue philosophy something like that or was this kind of like you're on your own and you're doing your thing you know?
Ann: That’s a good question. So my mother always encouraged me to read. My father was not so much a big reader, who kind of shaped that sort of interest was partly my mother and partly my uncle. So my uncle was always very well-read and he still is very well-read, and he challenged every opinion I had. And at some point he showed that knowledge and achieving knowledge can give you a certain form of freedom, freedom of action. You see, he deconstructed any opinion I had which it was especially frustrating when I was a teenager I can tell you that.
But at some point I found something he didn't know, and he realized that and he was quite impressed said, “Ha! I didn't know, actually let’s talk about that.: And that changed a lot of my understanding of what you can do with knowledge. It's not a matter of overpowering someone or being better or wiser at something, but actually to open up a new form of dialogue. And that impressed me quite a lot, and since then I’ve being more and more obsessed with just reading things.
Nick: Yeah, yeah. That's a really great story. So what is it… so in a university… yeah tell us a little bit about yeah your experience there? Where did you go, you know, what were you studying? What was going through your mind at that time?
Ann: Oh, that's a good question. So I was studying at the Humboldt University in Berlin and I took my time studying there and the nice thing is I could study whatever I wanted, so the system was very flexible. What I did was actually cruising around, I did mainly philosophy but also took courses in biology, in theology, in linguistics, German literature study, medieval studies, everything… I often had a theme for the semester and then explored different courses subsumed under the question.
And what I liked in particular was for instance like this was for instance Leibniz and also the history of science from philosophical perspective. But also especially medieval studies. There was a time I was quite interested in the combination of Aristotle and Aquinas and the medieval perspective on the ancients for instance. But that interest shifted quite a lot and there was also sometimes ethics when it came to [inaudible] or discursive ethics by Habermas.
Ann: Hannah Arendt…several things actually.
Nick: Wow! Okay, okay. So was it…
Ann: I can’t easily decide what I wanted to do, let's put it that way.
Nick: Right. Where there any particular philosophical questions that were of interest to you at that time?
Ann: So I suppose one question I was very early interested is the notion of time and space. There was always something I thought incredibly fascinating to see how it changed over time. I loved looking at Aristotle where what puzzled me in particular is something like when you read his physics, he described the principles which later Newton became famous for almost perfectly. And I wanted to say if he could already describe them and understand them, why did he refuse them or reject them?
Ann: I mean it was even possible to understand them, so what was the big difference? And it turns out he goes back to this notion of change as the kind of fundamental basis of his whole physics and metaphysics. And that intrigued me, that from this notion of change time and space for instance developed. And then you look a little later at Galileo who had a complete different conception. Then you go back to Leibniz who is actually much closer to Aristotle than to Galileo and it kind of moved on and that fascinated me, this history of ideas.
Nick: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, absolutely I can certainly relate with that. So and…so in doing that….Were there any other career path you were considering? Or at this time had you decided this is what I'm doing: I'm studying philosophy?
Ann: Don't laugh, don’t laugh. There was a time and it sounds absolutely naff, but I wanted to become an actress.
Nick: Okay. Tell me about that?
Ann: In theater. So not film, but theater. It’s something that always fascinated me because you understand and explore a lot about the psychology of people through interaction.
Ann: Sort of like what Arendt called the human condition is that way about the way people think, judge, perceive and especially the distance between you and certain characters.
Ann: And if you learn about a character, you often realize either how close you're also how different you are. It gives you a different understanding about human interaction and that I always find fascinating.
Nick: Yeah. Did you do any, I guess, did you act in any plays in secondary school in college?
Ann: In secondary school yes.
Ann: I actually always… one of the roles which I really enjoyed was a very, very weird priest for instance. For some reason I got the weird man role, so I got the priest who actually didn't like a river because he saw it as full of sin with all [inaudible 00:16:22]. And the other role was actually a drunk… a new [inaudible 00:16:29] guy who was treating his wife badly, which was the role I got to say which was the weirdest to play because he was actually very afraid of that. And my… so the girl…
Nick: Yeah I got it, that’s important.
Ann: Should not be evil to me, like I can't! So there was a little bit where you realize okay it’s actually strange to get over your fear to be seen as something else you don't want to be, but in that moment it just mattered because the audience wants you to see the role you're portraying and not your own fear of being perceived as precisely the same, I mean, to jump that gap.
Nick: Yeah, yeah. That's fascinating. I think that's a really good point you make about the exploration of characterization and you know, you hear from interviews with other actors of how these kinds of more twisted and complex characters, the ones they really seek out. So I think that's a sign of like a true actor, or someone who's… yeah. Okay, okay. Well I think that’s great to me, you know I mean acting is fun, it can be a good time. Okay, so you were considering acting, considering writing. Yeah, what came next in sort of the decision process post University, what did you decide?
Ann: So I was actually quite lucky because this is also how I got into the philosophy of science. So I never got philosophy and science so closely together as I do now, there was a change initiated through an internship I did at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences. And at the project coordinator within my work was a biologist who so to speak went to the dark side of philosophy, and she showed me how close these topics are related.
For instance one of the things she was interested in… so her name is Erkovitz, and one of the things she was interested in was how the notion of development influenced both biology but also for instance political philosophy. Marx actually use the notion of development from biology to apply to societies, and that kind of interaction got me interested. You say, okay! You can actually leave the house transition back and forth between the humanities and the sciences.
Ann: And that got me further interested in the philosophy of biology, in philosophy of science in general.
Nick: Wow, wow! Okay. And was this later in the university career or was this…?
Ann: And that was at the end of my career.
Nick: Okay, okay. Yeah well I can see… so that's yeah, that’s the reason. So we have a lot of folks to come from the sciences, you know come for you from philosophy. But so this sounds like a little bit of a different path for you yeah. Okay, great. So all right. So what’s you know in deciding to go on to graduate school yeah, how did that decision come about, how did you decide this is what you know this is what I want to do?
Ann: It actually comes to the same story because one of the conferences organized during my internship. One of the people invited was John Dupre, we then would become my PhD supervisor. And when I met him, he was incredibly kind and we had a long discussion that actually initially started with Monty Python. But actually with philosophy of science, so usually it's the other way around but in this case it fascinated me. And the more I read about the philosophy of biology, the more I got interested. And he actually jokingly said, “well if you ever consider doing a PhD, drop me an email.”
And a year later, I actually send him an email with a Monty Python crowed like no one expects the Spanish Inquisition. And he said yes! So he's like go on, come on send me a proposal and we talked about this. So I sent him a proposal, I revised it several times because he recommended some changes and this is how we got in contact and how I ended up being in Exeter doing a PhD in the process biology.
Nick: Fantastic, okay. Great, great. That's yeah, that's how it can happen. You meet somebody that can be a great mentor and yeah, you can find your way into the field. I forgot to ask yeah, so this internship at this Center. Is this Center still around, are they still…?
Ann: Oh, yes! So it started out as Egenis and it still exists as Egenis. As the Center for the study of the life sciences.
Ann: And it still exist actually, yep. A lot of the same people are there, a lot of new people, so it’s like a Wittgenstein family relation. It's the same but not the same at the same time.
Nick: Cool, cool. So what was your experience like at Exeter and yeah maybe you can tell me a little bit about that and then maybe a little bit about you know what kind of work did you end up getting into there?
Ann: So actually there was an interesting development because I started with a different PhD topic and I ended with a different topic. I changed my topic halfway through and I have to thank John actually for allowing me to do that. Not many supervisors would have possibly agreed to that but it was the best decision in the end. But Just not…
Nick: Oh, I have to hear this story because this is something… yeah, yeah.
Ann: It's… I wouldn’t recommend this to any PhD student, unless you’re really certain that this is what you really want to do. I started out with the notion of biological individuals. So I wanted to understand the difference between species, biological individuals, organisms, these kind of categorical distinctions. And I wanted to use Leibniz notion of identity which is sequential rather than set-theoretic. And at that time Justin Smith, like another philosophy of science and apparently was working on a similar project on the book. I just thought that I just don't want to write a lesser version of someone else’s book for my thesis. So I was very frustrated. And it was right in the first year of my PhD, so I had a huge crisis like, what do I do?
Ann: And I couldn’t answer simply question like so Ann, what do you do? I could do this but what's the point? And I think John was maybe a little bit worried about me because I didn't write much in the first year. I didn’t do much in the first year, I was just frustrated. So I was reading out about and at some point I was reading anything that I could get my hands on. From semiotics to some stories in chemistry in the history of science, and then I stumbled about smell by accident.
Ann: And I realized I have no idea how we smell like actually. And then I realized wow actually not many people do because it's an open field there, there has been lots of development over the last couple of years but so many open questions still. And it was actually more kind of a private hobby and my night time reading over took my daytime reading. So I went to John I said well we have a problem, I think I want to change my PhD topic. And he just looked at me you're halfway through and you can’t, oh my goodness! You can’t… you're killing me. And I've told him I can't really rationally justify, it's more the hunch, it's a gut feeling.
Ann: I could reconstruct an explanation but I really think this is the right decision. And I basically gave him something to read I said this is the reason why I got into this. And he came back after Christmas is like, “You know what? First of all I'm pretty sure I can't convince you otherwise knowing you have won, and second of all actually I think I know what you mean go for it.” And that's how it all really started.
Nick: Great. Alright, so yeah. So you came across you know going from this sense and notion of biological individuals, the alignments. So what was it about smell? You know how… yeah, so what were these some of these initial questions related to smell? Obviously they’ve kind of gotten more nuanced and we’ve had conversations about this. But you know, what’s some of those initial aha moments, that made you think this is what I want to do?
Ann: Oh, that's a very good question. If I think that it was the realization that we have such an elaborate knowledge of many physical process, like if we look at physics, the philosophy Physics. But we actually have no good clue how we smell but in popular understanding. If you would ask somebody, do you know how your sense of smell works? People would have actually very bad opinions of it. Oh it's not very good, it’s evolutionary declining and all these things are actually wrong. And on the other hand also insides the story is much more complex than initially thought.
Okay, they're chemicals that interact with our nose. But as soon as you delve into the details, you suddenly see a beautiful subtlety emerging especially when it comes to the nature. How does biology perceive chemistry? Should we think of it differently from the system in terms of the systems theoretic perspective rather than how a chemistry would model for instance synthesizing molecules? There are lots of open questions that got me into it. And it changed in the sense that I got more and more interested like away from the chemistry towards the biology of the system especially the neuroscience.
Ann: How does the brain actually make sense of this plethora of information?
Nick: Yeah, yeah. [Laughter] very good questions. So what is it about… so you know there's folks who are studying smell and olfaction in the neurosciences, you know they're studying it from a scientific… you know a very empirical point of view, they might do animal studies, you know they’re studying you know finding neural correlates, they’re finding brain areas, they're doing Connectome research, you know, whatever they're doing. So what is it about philosophy that can contribute to the science, to let’s just say to smell, to considering about smell?
Ann: So this is precisely where I was incredibly surprised how much philosophy can do in science. And I realized that by working with the scientists because their questions are still essentially philosophical questions. It was so to speak the scientist who made me a better philosopher because I worked for three years with Stuart Firestein who is an Olfactory neuroscientists in his laboratory, day to day. So three years in the neuroscience lab, and I also ventured and visited other laboratories. So I work with and I still work with Terry Acree for instance [inaudible 00:26:07] at Cornell, and a couple of others. And I realized the open questions are deeply philosophical such as, what are the perceptual dimensions of smell? And depending like who you are, so you’ve different answers. Sometime is always one dimension.
Nick: And you say… I'm sorry perceptual dimension. Sorry Ann we are connection a little bit fuzzy, I just want to make sure we are safe here. Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Right, right. So in case you're… those are you’re like what are they, right? And so we can categorize and cut them up scientifically but…
Ann: Its nuances depending on when you ask. So some people say… some scientists would say one, some scientist would say thirty-two, others four hundred, others one trillion and actually I really, really kid you not about the one trillion. So it's clear that there are different things been meant by perceptual dimension. And that's what philosophers are good at. To disentangle the conceptual differences and to see how they are actually grounded in the observations, what are the differences, how can we combine them, what can we study further, how can we integrate them, and also what is smell? Like, is there, are there perceptual boundaries, how should we understand the categorization processes, how should we understand how our understanding of perception relates to what we consider the neural underpinnings?
Nick: Yeah. So working in… so you mentioned working with Stuart Firestein. This is a… so having looked at your… knowing little bit about your background. After completing your PhD at Exeter you ended up doing a postdoc at Columbia, is that right?
Ann: Actually first at the KLI, the Konrad Lorenz Institute in Vienna.
Nick: Oh, yeah.
Ann: So [inaudible 00:27:42] before interview started at about… the interviews he did with scientists and also philosophers.
Ann: And he also got me into the idea to interview scientists. To look at precisely how the field of smell olfaction science developed because it developed mainly over the last three to four decades. So all the people forming the field, they still alive, they're still forming research this is a great opportunity for philosophers, an historian of science to witness a field. How it’s maturing and emmerging, developing, and why it is actually progressing. And you can talk to the actors who shaped it.
Ann: So you have people like Gordon Shepard, Linda Buck, Stuart Feinstein, Richard Axel, like lots of people who were there and were there all the time. Maxwell M. Mozell, the founder of the association of chemoreception sciences. So all of them are still there.
Nick: Wow. So can you maybe tell us a little bit about what you learned during all of these interviews? So before you were working in the neuroscience lab, you were meeting with scientists?
Ann: Oh, that happened actually like during the time I was at Stuart's lab. So at the KLI I was still more the history side where I explored for instance how the science of smell emerged. I got obsessed with the discovery of the olfactory receptors, especially how Linda buck used degenerate primers in PCR to discover this family. Which back at the time was the worst method you could have picked, and in hindsight it was genius. And I was interested in how do scientists think through problems? The creativity at the bench because in hindsight we all know better. But I wanted to understand the context of discovery a bit better through the practice of discovering.
Nick: Yeah, okay. And so I guess is there anything about the history of smell that you can say that you haven't already said that could be I don't know, that we might find, you know, a little bit different than what we think about smell?
Ann: What do you mean?
Nick: I guess I just… well I suppose not a lot of us do know about the history of smell. I guess I'm just wondering if there's anything, you know, an interesting anecdote, or an interesting, I don't know, a story that you can share with us.
Ann: Oh, there’s tons! So the history of smell, the science of smell — I will make it short because otherwise we would sit here until tomorrow. It's not very well recorded but there are some — because it never was a tradition in terms of a school or an instrument or certain materials, it changed all the time, and it all abound to individual interests. But you had the great names of science actually being associated with some studies of smell.
Robert Boyle did twelve experiments on the mechanical production of odors for instance. Linnaeus did one of the first systematic classifications of odors in plant materials, and the interesting thing is that the way he classified smells is different from how he classified everything else. So he has this beautiful system of the nested hierarchy, he didn't do that for smells. He arranged them in opposites with a kind of gradual difference. Nobody knows why smells are different than let's say sex or species or whatever, it's very strange.
But my favorite episode is actually about a forgotten female pioneer in the history of science and the history of psychology, Eleanor Gamble. And she was the first who experimentally tested smell to make a kind of experimental psychology of smell. And she applied Bieber's law to smell. And she was the first to measure that just noticeable difference in perception, at the end of the 19th century.
Nick: Wow. So what went into her sort of like, long-forgotten, you know, like what was it about you know so doing history of science that has allowed us to like, greatly appreciate this woman's work?
Ann: So she was actually a student of Eduard Titchener, so one of the famous founders, like co-founders of experimental psychology.
Ann: But back then women weren't taking it serious. But her work is still very, very interesting if you looked precisely how she reasoned her way through measuring smell, I mean, how do you measure smell? Especially like well how do you say something is a weaker smell, how much weaker, what is even weaker as a concept, how do you compare whether it's the same smell? All these kind of issues of sensory measurement in general and it is with vision you can control the stimulus better. While we smell there's so many factors and she already realized that. And she was methodologically very precise, she described all the difficult issue she was having, too.
Nick: Yeah. Wow, wow. Cool. Very cool, very cool. So you were there at this Institute for about a year or two is that right?
Ann: Yes. I was near two years in Vienna, it was it was a wonderful time yeah.
Nick: Yeah. Do you have any other I don't know favorite times there, things that you did I don't know, particularly important moments?
Ann: So for me important moment in Vienna really near Vienna was really the Institute itself and especially Werner, who unfortunately then died during my time there in 2014, and he was a great mentor. And what he did was to allow me to… and he did that with all his fellows. To allow me to find my own voice as a researcher especially when you come fresh out of your PhD, it's nice to have one to two years for yourself in a good environment with supportive colleagues, who work on similar but different things to actually to find your interest, to find your voice. And to really see what is it that I want to do next to explore things? And that kind of freedom is very rare today.
Nick: Yeah. So how did you go about finding your voice? I mean, obviously you have this very passionate, you know, interest in this history, philosophy, the science of smell. But what was it about your own voice in terms of, you know. mainly, like how do you approach doing the work? I suppose it's sort of the way with your voice kind of unfold in some ways but maybe it unfolds in other ways, can you tell me a little bit more.
Ann: That's a very good question. I think the best way to describe it is I'm often puzzled by a problem and I don't go about in terms of a disciplinary setting. So some people have a certain disciplinary frame and they identify issues that are part of their discipline and I often have a question which I'm trying to understand and if I realize that my own discipline might not be enough, I start to switch disciplines. So this is perhaps one of the reasons why I have this kind of nonlinear trajectory.
And with smell I started out more from the, you could say, the interest in terms of the chemistry of smell, it became more and more shaped towards the biology and werner was one of the people who pushed me towards this. Because I look at what smell is for, look at the evolutionary history, look at the behavioral aspects, broaden your understanding. And at that time I was very lucky because this is when I met Stuart by beautiful, beautiful coincidence because he was at that time in Cambridge for sabbatical.
Ann: And my PhD examiner Hasok Chang, he's in Cambridge and he met Stuart. He says, “you work on smell? What a coincidence. I just examined a thesis on the history and philosophy of smell.” So he got us into contact and that is how actually really my life started as I would describe it today. Because Stuart send an emails he say you know if you come back to England, let me know, let's meet up, let's have a chat. So I said well I'm actually coming back to England for my graduation ceremony. So I thought, well, I’m taking a train from Exeter to Cambridge, and we hit it off right away.
I could ask him any question about smell, and suddenly I realized through that conversation how fast this field is developing, and you could really see… the philosophical implications unfolding live stream, and that intrigued me. And I thought okay, this is really what I got to do. And Stuart is not your garden-variety scientist, he really is philosophically interested as well, he has a broad conception of the history of science as well. So it was kind of I like to say a meeting of the minds.
Nick: Yeah, that's great. That's a wonderful… that makes a lot of sense. I was really intrigued by what you said in terms of the nonlinear approach. So what this means I mean if I'm not mistaken is essentially you said hopping from, you know, the chemistry to the biology you know and kind of drawing that way. Does that mean you know coming to really understand I mean the scientific papers, the things you know, like I mean, you can only do so much, but is that what you're doing? How much do you need to know in order to really make a contribution here?
Ann: That is an excellent question because I think you actually need to know a lot. So what I realize quite often is that, and this is a challenge, this comes on a little bit already to your interest in what's the challenge for philosophers of science today? It’s expertise. It’s expertise because it took me several years, we're talking now almost eight years that have been working in and around the science of smell with smell scientists. Towards a degree that what Harry Collin’s would call interactional expertise.
So when you start to read the scientific papers you get to understand them better and you identify sometimes weaknesses and strengths in scientific papers as well. How do they compete you understand the contextulity, the outlook. It's more than one could say there's a difference between two approaches of philosophy science, which are currently side-by-side. One is where you try to solve philosophical questions and you supplement the arguments with scientific papers. That's one way to do it but I'm not so sure this is always the best approach.
What might be more interesting is to identify and evolve the philosophical questions arising out of scientific practice. And my favorite example here who inspired me a lot is Patricia Churchland, for instance, but also Daniel Dennett because rather than just looking at problems of the mind and finding some examples from neuroscience to supplement the ideas of how the mind works, they did it otherwise.
Ann: They look at how the science…how neuroscience really emerged, how much it discovered, how much it challenges philosophical assumptions and to say okay, how should we think about philosophical questions about the mind throughout this kind of emergence of knowledge in neuroscience? And I think it's similar for philosophy of science in general that science has changed so much that we might want to rethink also our philosophical understanding of science, of what philosophy can do not only in correlation to science but also in terms of what new philosophical questions we can think of.
Nick: Yeah, yeah. Very good, very well put. Are you familiar with the philosophy of science and practice, the Society for them?
Ann: Yes, yes, yes.
Nick: Okay. Yeah, I imagine. I mean it's a pretty popular group but yeah, it sounds very similar to like that kind of approach. So, okay. So you mentioned you know working in a neuroscience lab and I was curious if you could tell me in terms of like working in and finding those philosophical problems in the lab. What was it like, your experience in the lab? How did it inform your views? How did it enlighten you in some ways in terms of you know getting really into the trenches and working as a philosopher in a neuroscience lab?
Ann: You could say it was actually a transformation. When I entered the lab, I had no idea how this was going to end, I was very nervous.
Nick: [Laughter] Sure.
Ann: And I felt little bit out of place at first but I was lucky because my lab was super friendly and they got me into it. And the more I understood about especially the open question and I could see science and practice and trust me when I did my first Western blot, I was amazed. There's a joke that nobody manages to do a Western blot correctly in the first time. That is true, I messed up the whole protocol but I still managed to do it successfully the second time when I did it. I did it correctly and nothing worked. So this way I realized the whole approach of tacit knowledge, so the essence certain skill involved in experimental practice…it’s really hard to understand unless you do it. But it changed my outlook first of all also what philosophy of science does. Quite often I realize actually that philosophy of science failed me. That was the big surprise.
Nick: How did it fail you?
Ann: It failed me in the sense that if you look at ongoing science where the questions are still open and where there's a huge dynamic and sometimes you've got a question you ask three scientists, you get five answers. There's an uncertainty, there’s different models hanging around but we also describe model competition or certain developments in science through concepts we derived from the history of science. If we think of model choice, we often like to compare let's say empirical success by criteria such as prediction, instrumental reliability or data accommodation. They're good criteria but the way we implement them and analyze them is often seen in this kind of accumulated way where we weigh things against each other, and lots of people have done that.
But the problem is that in practice this often changes and you have to really see why a certain experiment might not weigh as much as another based on the disciplinary objectives, based on — maybe it would have been more evidential in say 10 years ago but in these 10 years something new happened. They changed the way the impact and also the evidential relations between experiments. So these kind of dynamics require a much more contextual approach and this is where we realize well, philosophy of science doesn’t fail me generally but its implementation needs to be much more refined. We need to revisit it as a kind of ongoing, more flexible practice.
Nick: All right. Fair enough, fair enough. So sounds like the experience in the lab as you describe was transformational. So but this is you know previously prior to coming to IU, maybe you can take… now might be a good time to shift toward some of your favorite work so far. You know if you can talk about the dissertation, talk about the maybe one or two papers that you've written or projects that you've worked on. Yeah why don't you share… yes, share with the listeners you know what have you done that you're let’s say most proud of or have been most excited about?
So in that context I would say some stuff that has gotten old already and some stuff which hopefully will get out soon.
Nick: Fare enough, yeah.
Ann: And hopefully will get out soon. I've been working on my book now for a while.
Nick: Oh okay.
Ann: And it’s closer and closer to getting finished, it’s currently in the revision stage before it gets sent off to reviewers. And that book will look at how Olfaction became part of modern neuroscience the last three to four decades. And then to look precisely at the contemporary challenges, this is also where I use the interviews with scientists to let them talk about their field and also identify where can it go in the future? How can we integrate these different perspectives to ask better questions about smell?
So it will not provide an answer, it will provide better questions to think about smell so to speak. Especially how to look at perception because theories of perception are mainly based on vision so [inaudible 00:43:37] how would our understanding of perception differ if we look at smell rather than vision. And the same also if we look at the neural underpinnings because smell works different than vision and it has some intriguing differences that might help us to rethink some of the conceptual foundations of neuroscience when it comes to topographic representation which is not given in smell.
So how else should we understand how what we consider as perceptual impressions relate to neural patterns; there is a different correlation. So that's the kind of stuff which I'm very excited about but it's not out yet. However, [inaudible 00:44:13-15] you could say two aspects. One is a kind of an indication of where this book is going. It’s a book chapter which was in the process volume of John Dupre, which recently came out when I look actually at smell more in terms of formal models.
So predictive coding or attention schema theory in how to look at the biases in smell through modern cognitive models. And how a lot of what [inaudible 00:44:41] smell is often hard to study actually makes it an excellent model system for these new cognitive models. And the other thing is more kind of history and philosophy of science that also comes back to the questions of to what extent philosophy science failed me.
Ann: There's a pseudo-controversy about smell. And many people who haven't talked to smell scientists, they often take it seriously because it’s quite often in things like Nature News or Chemistry World and stuff like that. It's a so-called quantum theory of smell, vibration theory of smell. Some science writers and some philosophers have written about that but it's absolutely wrong. So there's a controversy that only exists in the public imagination but not in the actual scientific community. So this is what intrigued me and trying to figure out why is there such a disparity between our perception of the science and the actual scientific practice? So I wrote that about the quantum notes and realize there's a different understanding of empirical success at play here.
Nick: Great. So is that… it sound like you have a lot of great projects, so the first is mainly in the book. Is this you know with the pseudo-controversy I find particularly interesting, is that it's going to be in a new paper or new something or…?
Ann: Well that’s the paper that came out this year.
Nick: Oh, really. Okay, great.
Ann: I’m quite happy it came out this June or July in Studies-A, in Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science Part-A
Nick: Okay. Great, great. We'll have to… yeah. Oh I see, yeah. “How to be rational around empirical success in the ongoing science plays to the clown nose.” Oh fantastic, okay. Well that sounds great. So it sounds like you have a lot of work, working on and I imagine the book is, you know, do you have a kind of a timeline of where you’re going with that one?
Ann: Yeah, it should have been already submitted.
Nick: Oh, really.
Ann: Yes. I actually I told my editor that I need more time and I tried to do it as charming as possible because I felt very bad for her. Because there's a beautiful scene in the movie about Hannah Arendt.
Ann: And you see this is how I told my editor well I might need more time. There's one scene where they discuss whether Hannah Arendt should write for the New York about the Eichmann trial. And you see these three New Yorkers discussing Hannah Arendt, is she one of those European philosophers? Philosophers don't meet deadlines. And I think that sentence was ideal to convey the problem we're having with this book. I need a bit more time, I'm not going to meet the deadline. But yeah, I mean what really emerged for me throughout this book. I mean this was a fun work to do because it changed also my understanding of what you can do as a philosopher in tandem with science is it helped me to identify more of the open questions.
And it comes in handy quite now because one of the things I want to do is now getting experimental myself. So one thing I'm trying to do throughout this and the next term is I want to learn EEG. I've got a couple of questions that haven't been done yet, which are philosophical in nature but they can be empirically tested. But that means I need to test them, that means I need to know the method I need to do it experimentally. So I want to become so to speak a scientific philosopher. I went to… and I have decided EEG because it was the best method for the idea I'm having.
Nick: Yeah, okay. Do you have a lab you'll be working with or kind of or just you know, I'm adding cognitive science at the… you know in Cognitive Sciencethere's plenty of EEG folks. So is any one… [Cross talk].
Ann: She was super kind.
Nick: Who? I’m sorry.
Ann: Aina Puce.
Nick: Okay. I'm not sure if unfamiliar but yeah. Sure, go.
Ann: And she studies mainly kind of social interaction, social perception also visual perception. And I told her about the idea I was having and she really, really liked it.
Ann: And so… and also she's methodological very thorough. So I thought well if I learn it, I better do it proper and I asked the experts and she is. So, yeah.
Nick: Cool. Great, great. So well I'm very interested to see your scientific work. Maybe before we go back to maybe current and the future work. So you know I've come to know you before… it happened to be that as I've been running this podcast, I had come across your kind of your public presence as the “smellosopher” on Twitter. You know friends of friends you know you have like a… so I've just been very impressed with your presentation, with your interaction and connection, especially as a sort of an emerging scholar.
So can you tell us a little bit about kind of what has gone into your approach to public engagement as a philosopher of science and has it been beneficial to your work? You know, what is it like to be the smellosopher, and what is it like to do a lot of these things were you're really you know you engage in on Twitter in many ways, you're going on shows, you're talking with folks. What’s it been like?
Ann: Well first of all thank you. It's a good question I must say these comes back to the people whom mentored me because they were often very engaged with public science as well. So you saw that John is quite often at radio shows, so I saw it actually makes a good value for philosophers of science to communicate ideas. And quite often you get a lot of ideas in return because you see all so how understanding is shaped in public discourse. What kind of ideas are floating around to get a little bit outside your own bubble as well.
Ann: But also Werner and I did the radio show with lots of scientists, lots of philosophers of science. And then Stuart in particular because Stuart did a lot of public engagement about science and especially to overcome this disparity between the public perception of science, or science in general, and how it's actually done. And your precise questions about well why we should talk about how science in practice is done to think about better funding policies, better education policies and also to get people more interest in science. It's not that you're just learning facts and this has been done in science but it's more to identify well what can be done next? That's the much more interesting question.
Ann: So the people excited about what people are we doing? Where is this going? And in that context I realize smell is a wonderful thing that engages people, I guess there are so many curiosities if you think about it. Well there are lots of things you can exemplify with why smell is such a strange sense. Which fascinates people because you can question your perception, you can question your own assumptions. If you tell people well for instance like most of what you taste is actually smell, its flavor perception, it happens at the back of your throat and travels towards your nasal epithelium. They are surprised. And then you can do a couple of what day-to-day experiments with them.
Ann: And you can really hear and see their ah-hah effect. And quite often they have examples like oh, do you know about this and what is actually the reason for that? So people are interested on that, that's exciting actually.
Nick: Perhaps… yeah. This might be a good time to share you know… so that's a common misconception and there's something I've heard, that smell is often, majoraly taste. Are there any other misconceptions you could bring about from your research or from others that might change the way we think about smell?
Ann: Yes One thing people like to say it's our smell is just subjective and we're bad at smelling and it's an evolutionary decline. All three things are actually not true. So one thing is it's not an evolutionary decline, it's more that, what we do with smell has changed. It's much more like for instance we're very, very good at flavor perception, food is one of the most substantial parts of our culture. So when more wine from distal smelling to close-up smelling, it's a different processing.
Ann: And if you look at how the brain process flavors, it's one of the most… it's a neural firework. Like if you drink wine, it actually engages your brain much more intensely than if you do mathematics. That’s one thing that Gordon Shepherd a neuroscientist working on the neuroscience of flavor. For instance is a very adamant to points out, he's a very good advocate for this. I believe smell is actually much more interesting from a neuroscientist perspective than people would think. They think well, smell is for instance just subjective. Actually no, it's contextual but that's not the same as being subjective.
So what it’s actually for is…it is a decision making sense. So you're evaluating a decision by subtle differences and your system is tuned to actually make very reliable decisions about when something is good or bad, whether the same molecule in different contexts can have a different value. And that's actually pretty reliable, otherwise there are so many toxic, small molecules, many smells in high amounts would be toxic if you ingest them. So it would be actually bad if it was purely subjective, it's just contextual, that's a different matter.
Nick: Yeah. That’s very good point, very good point. Very cool. So alright, so I guess… maybe lets you know, we're getting a little bit closer to the end. Let’s talk about your future plans you know, what are… I should say bring us up to date. So we're finishing the book—
Ann: [laughter]. Hopefully someday.
Nick: Yeah, yeah. But yeah I already you know, I've learned quite a bit. Yeah maybe I don't know, is there something you like you know what's either you know current work or you know maybe future ideas and plans, I'd love to hear about?
Ann: Yes. So I already told you that I want to learn EEG.
Nick: Yeah, yeah.
Ann: Because I really realize that a couple of ideas that come from the philosophical analysis of how smell, the science of smell developed and also how we think about perception in parallel with how the science of smell develop.
Ann: And then there’re philosophical ideas that can be tested. And that brings me also to something I would like to push a little bit more when it comes to the parallel of history and philosophy of science. Because testing that it's more cognitive science. So I'm moving more towards the empirical side of cognitive science. But there’s also an element of HPS involved here that I've been talking a lot to Jutta Schickore about.
Ann: That gives you a new idea about what history and philosophy of science can be today, sort of a modernized version of natural philosophy. So the forth before we all specialized in our own professions, natural philosophy what philosophy that would be experimental to figure out something about nature. And I wonder what would be the modern equivalent of that?
Ann: How could we think about it a complementary philosophy of science that actually does experiments without necessarily doing precisely same as certain tendencies of science? Smell is let's say a good opportunity because it's a very mosaic field, so you've got people already coming in from different disciplines. Chemistry, psychology, neuroscience, behavioral biology, but also sometimes people coming from physics or computational neuroscience, so different aspects. So there is space enough for philosophers to say well, let's see how we can combine indirect ideas and one might wonder how could that be applied to other areas?
Let's say Alzheimer’s research, where there are still a lot of open questions there, there’s a change in understanding of what causes Alzheimer’s. So how could for instance a philosopher integrate her or himself in a lab to maybe also start designing experiments? So to go away from complementarity, they went maybe one way to think of complementarity already as for instance Hasok does, where we think of how can we recover historical knowledge that can be used as heuristic source, but also go more to the extent to say, what questions can philosophers design and develop internal with scientists for the future?
Ann: So can we propel science by an active engagement, ask new questions for instance?
Nick: Yeah. Very good, very good. Yeah, I really appreciate it and I enjoyed our chat off the air regarding the study of smell and in changing our way of perceptual systems. Can you maybe say a little bit more about that, I really thought we got a lot going with that in terms of how… you know, what is the way we view our perceptual systems currently and how might a better consideration of smell changed the way we see perception?
Ann: Okay that’s good question. Okay, you must stop me if at some point I go on for too long. But so the first thing is when it comes to… when we talk about the perception with focus on objects all the time perceptual objects, objects of perception, stimulus representation. And the thing with smell is I'm not convinced that we should talk about objects of perception the same senses as vision.
Ann: So one reason for that is first of all when we think of just the way the visual system codes the stimulus, it's completely different from how smell creates the stimulus and that leads to perceptual differences. So vision has a low dimension stimulus, it has wavelength and your system chops it up into different bits. But you have basically a low dimensional stimulus and you can spatially arrange that stimulus onto its new representation, while with smell you've got a multi-dimensional stimulus. You've got about 5,000 different molecular parameters, which are received by a receptors that act combinatorially.
So the same receptor detects different molecules, different parts of molecules, while the same molecule can be detected by different features by different receptors. So you actually have a mosaic, how would you just map this kind of non-spatial stimulus? How would you allocate neural space to that? It's not as intuitive and that's the neuroscientific question right now. For the session that means that there is no clear boundary of smell when it comes to smell categories. There is no let's say no way to just simply allocate or to correlate perceptual space with stimulus space. Because stimulus space already is kind of a mosaic, there is no continuity like with wavelength.
Ann: There is no clear way in which the receptor splits up the stimulus, you actually have an overlapping mess. And smells often the same smell and different context has different meanings. So this is no idea of percepts, the kind of sort of atomic conception of percepts like green, yellow, red, well smell doesn't work quite as much. But if I would tell you, I would give you two molecules for instance and two vials with molecules and one is parmesan and the other is vomit. Well it's pretty clear which one you would prefer possibly the parmesan one. Well or maybe vomit, who knows. But the interesting thing is, there was a study actually doing precisely that. And people are adamant these mixes are different, and they preferred well the parmesan. It was the same mixture, it was the butyric acid. And that's not a trick, it's actually showing you that because the butyric acid is both part of vomit, it's both part as well as parmesan, so it's the same molecule you learn to associate with different contexts.
Ann: And that means your brain focuses.
Nick: It's not just the molecule. Yes.
Ann: Yeah, sorry.
Nick: Oh, no. I'm just saying it's not just the stuff. Like you know it's the stuff plus context, stuff plus the other kinds of things, yeah that's fascinating.
Ann: Precisely. That comes back to the question how we should model smell. We should get away from the stimulus per say. Like a stimulus is instruct perception but it cannot it be simply matched what we have to look at, and this is where we need to integrate more and more the kind of recent cognitive science models. When it comes to predictive coding, when it comes to tension schema theory, more these kind of forward models, which look at perceptual biases. These are what informs our perception; learning, experience, context. This is not subjectivity, this is how our brain makes decisions. Relevant decisions in a certain context.
Nick: Yeah I'm trying to think, so maybe you can correct me. So is it the case that smell needs to catch up with the rest of the perceptual sciences or is it that we need to start carving out a new way to think of smell and its representation of smell as distinct from things like visual and haptic and other senses?
Ann: That's a tricky question, so I would say both actually. So on one hand there are many things where you would at first look like smell has to catch up, because it came to neuroscience very, very late. And yeah people like Gordon Shepard were already working on in it the 1970s but the bulk really arose after 1991 because then you had access to the brain directly via the receptors. However, a lot of things have happened since then and where it looked like it should catch up more is because we were never as far as with a visual system when it came to the details, when it came to the stimulus, mapping and so on.
However, what is emerging throughout the last couple of years, and this is why the last three years in fields that were so transformative for me, is that the field is changing in parallel. And it's realizing oh, there are some things actually working a little bit different. There question where it's not a matter of smell catching up with vision, but more we need to understand smell on its own ground. And maybe were able to learn something about vision as well, something about audition as well. Because the senses still work a little bit different and perhaps we've overlooked a couple of things through our focus on specific aspects of vision and we might have overlooked others, so it's not changing around. And there are lots of things in vision we can rethink too.
There’s a study which came out at the end of 2017 by Margaret Livingston, who trained with David Hubel, one of the vision scientists. And she saw something really cool, she discovered that the face domain in my cars for instance, actually it's developed and maintained through experience. And that was revolutionary, that's kind of similar to smell. Then it's actually the way the patterns develop and how pattern activation is distributed is based on experience much more than like predetermined patterns of activity.
So it might actually less topographic by a genetic determinants than experience shaping the brain. And this is where smell because of its flexibility, because of its none-topography might give us a clue about how do we learn to smell? How do we learn to the see? What are the learning processes involved in perception, rather than looking at what objects do we perceive?
Nick: Wow! Very, very, very…
Ann: That is the shortest answer I can give.
Nick: No I appreciate that. No this is fascinating, this surely interested me, who has some strong interest in perceptual systems and just perception in general but yeah, it's always fun to learn what we think we know about something is not quite the case and we still don't know. Alright.
Well let's conclude with the final question, you've touched on briefly you know in throughout this interview but maybe we can bring some of those things back into what do you see to be the greatest challenge facing philosophy of science today?
Ann: I mean I was actually thinking about the question a lot, it's a very good question. I would say the biggest challenge is sort of also the biggest opportunity.
Ann: What can philosophers of science do? What is philosophy of science for? And to whom are we really talking? And this comes back to philosophy of science also as a historical endeavor. If we look at the 20th century how much has changed from the Vienna Circle and Popper, towards Mary Hesse and Kuhn, Lakatos, then towards Hacking and Cartwright, and then to date Thomas Pradeu for instance. Like it changed so much in terms of what we think we can do, what we can do. So the challenge is the notion of expertise and collaboration, so these two dimensions, because on the one hand we can…like a strong tradition as are always being to look at philosophy of science through its own lens so to speak and just use science as a case study.
But there has been more and more emphasis through people we thought, well, philosophy of science in practice to look at how can we be active collaborators with science, with scientists. But that means first of all we need to have a better understanding of collaboration, what it is that we can do, how we should train ourselves as well, how we should be trained, and expertise. Because if we want to collaborate with scientists that means science is specialized, so it means the philosophy of science and practice is specialized as well. That means many philosophers of science might not be able to access, evaluate, understands, other philosophers of science in the specifics what they do.
And then that brings us back to actually our conversation at the Becca's party back then. Because I think you are actually right to say we need more philosophy backing, because I was always saying we need more science and we more science expertise, and that is true. But you also were true in the sense that we need to rethink what is the philosophy, what is the philosophy contribution in philosophy of science that would make the contribution to science specific, more valuable, or interesting for the scientists. So this comes back to when I say Churchland inspired me a lot when they say, what kinds of philosophical problems or questions are arising out of the scientific practice. And that's a philosophical work that's different from looking through the history of philosophy as the problem.
Nick: Yeah, very well said. So yeah, problem of expertise in collaboration and yeah, so this is a pretty big challenge. There's a lot to think about, there's a lot of work we can do, we can't necessarily do it all but we can sort of start getting closer to and maybe there is a middle ground approach, maybe there is something where you say but we were getting close to the science, but we make sure we're adequately making those philosophical contributions so that the scientists and the philosophers will say that we're offering something. You know, we're really yeah, we're changing the way people think regarding the philosophical side.
Ann: I actually noticed like a lot of scientists I talked to, they're much more appreciative of philosophy than many philosophers actually think or assume. I notice a great deal of interest also in the history of philosophy, history of science, but also in current questions. A lot of people like the conversation with philosophers, if philosophers give up their job on a little bit, if philosophers can have their shell of their own discipline, there's a great potential of collaboration and interest.
Nick: Yeah. That's a really good point, it's really good point. Yeah, okay. All right Ann, well we've come close to the end I should say yeah. Thank you so much again for coming on to chat and to…
Ann: Thank you so much for inviting me.
Nick: Oh! Of course, of course. No this is been a lot of fun, this is been a cheery thing to do on a Wednesday morning. Is there anything else you'd like to leave us with, anything you'd like to sort of plug or you know kind of I don't know, anything else we didn't get to?
Ann: That is a fantastic question. Give me a couple of seconds.
Nick: Yeah. Just like you know, I don't know if there's any you know either upcoming work or conferences or just any parting thoughts?
Ann: So I think one thing is of course that if people are interested in smell, I'm not the only one working on that. So I would like to plug other people's work in particular. People say okay, fair enough, so you work on that. But where can I start to get interested? What would you recommend to start with? So for people who are interested in smell for instance philosophy of smell and philosophy of flavor, definitely Barry C Smith in London. So Barry C Smith works on flavor perception and aroma these kind of things. If you want to get an insight into the scientific side, Gordon Shepard wrote a beautiful book Neuro-Gastronomy and also… so this is a good way to start looking at the science of smell in an entertaining way. Of course when it comes to Stuart for instance I would like to pluck Stuart book on failure and ignorance as two different concepts we hardly associate with science, but which are driving science as a positive force. So these are three works I would like to promote.
And if people are interested in random stories you know the things you would like to tell at the party like have you heard of this weird story. There's a wonderful book by Avery Gilbert called “What the Nose Knows.” I will say that he discovered a far joke in Vienna [inaudible 01:10:53-58] about smelling culture, smelling science, Avery’s book is great. So yeah. And then of course Andreas Keller’s book on the philosophy of Olfaction and hopefully at some point my book as well, but there's already kind of a nice community and I encourage people to kind of seek out these books and to look at them.
Nick: Okay, okay. And they can find your work at your website, on your Twitter and then I imagine some other links to some other related yeah, philosophy of smell.
Ann: Any questions people might have if they’re interest in my work, I'm absolutely happy to answer.
Nick: Fantastic. Alright Anna, well it's been a real pleasure getting to chat with you again I look forward to chatting with you throughout the semester and…
Ann: Let’s actually have a beer soon, that’d be nice.
Nick: Let's do it that would be great. Let’s hang out, let's do that. Alright. Well enjoy the rest of the day and we’ll be in touch soon.
Ann: Cool. Thank you and have a lovely day, thank you so much again. This was fun.
Nick: Yeah, yeah. This is a blast. Alright. Thank you so much Ann, I'll talk to you soon.
Ann: Cheers. Bye.