Do you really know what you think you know?

Philosopher Michael (Myke) Omoge studies knowledge certainty with an eye to science.

Anna Schmidt - 5 December 2022

Photo of Michael Omoge
Photo by John Ulan

Are you sure? It’s a question at the root of Myke Omoge’s research — just how certain can any person be about the things they know? As a professor of philosophy and Black studies at Augustana Campus, Omoge relies on his close-knit community of colleagues to ensure his work incorporates expertise from peers who study science.

How do you describe your work to people in one or two sentences? 

Think about the many things you have come to know. Now ask yourself whether you indeed know them. In my work, I weigh and try to characterize our certainty with regard to what we know.

What did you want to be when you were in Grade 3? 

Easy: a medical doctor.

When did you know you wanted to be a philosopher?

I knew after taking logic and critical thinking in my second year of my undergraduate degree. I loved it. The simplicity and transferability. How it exposes human reason and enables proper reasoning. I knew then that I wanted to know more.

What’s one big problem you want to address or a goal you want to achieve?

Others often do not pay attention to scientific findings when characterizing knowledge certainty; the typical consensus is that those findings wouldn’t be very helpful. I disagree. So, I listen to the sciences, including but not limited to biology, physics, cognitive psychology, evolutionary psychology, neuroscience and neuropsychology.

What’s your favourite thing so far about Augustana?

The close-knit community of colleagues. I felt at home at once. Augustana is not just a workplace but a family.

How do you see the Augustana community playing a role in your work?

Augustana presents the opportunity to have non-philosophers, such as anthropologists and sociologists, as department members. I leverage findings from many other fields, so I have departmental colleagues whose expertise is directly relevant to my research.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Luck can only get you so far. Hard work, on the other hand, will get you to where you need to be.

What’s the worst fashion or hair decision you’ve made?

Completely shaving my head. I used to go full Afro, so going from Afro to no hair at all was pretty bold.

What’s the last show you binge-watched and loved?

Younger. I am still not over how they ended it.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?

This is a tough one. If I have to choose, I’ll say Patrick Rothfuss’s The Kingkiller Chronicle.

Where did you grow up and what did you love about your hometown?

I grew up in a little town in the western part of Nigeria, a town called Igbodigo. I can say that growing up in this town instilled in me the importance of family, which plays out in my life today, both at home and at work. Put simply, the town is one giant family: everyone is everyone’s brother, sister, uncle and aunty. It was beautiful and I miss it dearly.

If you had unlimited time and resources, what’s your dream project in your field?

The project would be massive. I’d start by tidying up the evolutionary theories on imagination, then move to centralize Africa within that theory. To my mind, creativity as well as many other cognitive faculties that humans possess evolved in Africa, before the migration several hundred thousand years ago to Europe.

What’s one thing you’re grateful for?

I’m grateful for my family — my wife especially, who is the rock that holds our home together.

More about Michael (Myke) Omoge

Before becoming an assistant professor of philosophy and Black studies at Augustana Campus, I was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto and the University of the Western Cape. I obtained my PhD in 2020 at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. My research interests intersect philosophy of mind and modal epistemology, with an eye for how these fields of study can illuminate issues in African philosophy.