Chia-Hua Lin is a Ph.D candidate in the Department of Philosophy at the University of South Carolina. She has received a KLI Write-Up fellowship to complete her dissertation titled Migrating Research Tools: The Journey of Formal Language Theory from Mathematics through Computer Science and Linguistics to Cognitive Biology. Her work is an historically informed philosophical analysis of the use of the formal language-based research tools in cognitive biology.
These tools, including Chomsky hierarchy and automata theory, were developed in computer science and linguistics in 1950s-1960s. However, recent applications in comparative cognitive biology and neuroscience since the 2000s have given them new roles of guiding research that are novel to their established characteristics.
Using the case of formal language theory as an occasion, her work aims to achieve two goals. First, it develops concepts for philosophers with an interest in scientific practice to articulate and diagnose the epistemic risks associated with tool migration (i.e., making novel use of research tools in the realm of knowledge production). Second, and more importantly, it works towards a conceptual framework for managing the epistemic risks by better understanding the limitations of applying migrated research tools.