Philosophical Research @ UOW

Philosophical Research @ UOW

Philosophers at the University of Wollongong work primarily in contemporary and applied philosophy, conducting research on problems such as the impact of biotechnology on humans and the environment, the ethical implications of global poverty, the limits of free speech, the relationship between mind, cognition, language, and the brain, and the nature of scientific investigation and explanation.

The excellent results and outcomes of our research are reflected in the Australian Research Council 2015 Excellence in Research for Australia, receiving a rating of 4, indicating that our research is ‘above world standard‘.

Major Research Projects

Philosophy researchers were successfully awarded $263,000 for an Australian Research Council Discovery Project – Minds in Skilled Performance: Explanatory Framework and Comparative Study – which will start in 2017. Daniel Hutto is the chief CI on the project and will lead a team consisting of Dr Michael Kirchhoff (UOW) also CI; and PIs Professor Shaun Gallagher (UOW), and Professor Jesús Ilundain-Agurruza, (Linfield College, USA). Ian Roberston, who completed an MLitt at St. Andrews, will join the team in 2017, taking up a PhD scholarship. A Post-Doctoral researcher will be appointed at a later stage. The project aims to develop an explanatory framework to characterise states of mind necessary for skilled performance, and show how intelligence and emotion affect performance. The research will draw on Phenomenology, Pragmatism and Japanese “do”, clarifying and recontextualising what they have to offer to contemporary thinking about skilled performance.

Dr. Michael Kirchhoff was awarded a John Templeton Foundation Academic Cross-Training Fellowship at University College London. He worked in Prof Karl Friston’s Imaging Neuroscience and Theoretical Neurobiology research group, exploring continuities and discontinuities between life and mind from the perspective of the free energy principle from March to June 2017. This follows on the heels of a previous John Templeton funded project – Probabilitizing Consciousness – that enabled Dr. Kirchhoff to conduct research as part of the New Directions in the Study of the Mind project at the University of Cambridge. Dr. Kirchhoff also held a Senior Fellowship, for one month in 2017, at the Center for Mind, Brain and Cognitive Evolution at the University of Bochum, conducting research on social cognition under the supervision of Prof. Albert Newen and Prof. Shaun Gallagher.

Dr Patrick McGivern was awarded a funded Fellowship at Durham’s Institute of Advanced Study, from October to December 2016. While in Durham, he conducted research on concepts of scale in science and the role of scale in understanding scientific modelling and explanation. He also organised a workshop on problems of scale in science, and delivered a public lecture and a seminar at the Institute of Advanced Study. This research previously took him to the University of Pittsburgh to work on problems of emergence and multi-scale modelling. Through a UOW International Links project, Dr. McGivern visited Lingnan University, Hong Kong in 2017 to collaborate with Professor Darrell Rowbottom to investigate new ways of understanding the role of models in scientific reasoning. He is currently involved in the John Templeton Funded Georgetown Active Materials Project, as an invited co-organiser of a summer school and workshop on issues at the intersection of philosophy, physics and biology. He is preparing to publish work relating to these projects in special issue of the journal Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, laying the ground for a book project, tentatively titled The Significance of Scale.

Dr. Keith Horton co-organised the first Global Climate Change Week (GCCW) in October 2015: 301 academics from 51 countries registered for it 92 activities were registered on the GCCW map and many other GCCW activities also took place. GCCW was featured in an article in the journal Nature: Climate Change. 14 GCCW events were organised at UOW, including community forums, a talk by John Hewson and a seminar on women and climate change. A campaign for UOW to divest from fossil fuels was established by staff and students at UOW and is ongoing. In addition, 2,498 academics from 75 countries signed an Open Letter calling for world leaders meeting in Paris to do what is necessary to prevent catastrophic climate change. Prominent signatories include Noam Chomsky, Naomi Oreskes, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Michael E. Mann, Ursula Oswald Spring, Bill McKibben, David Suzuki, and Peter Singer. The Open Letter was featured in an article in The Guardian. A second Global Climate Change Week was organised in October 2016: It was once again a great success. It hosted 14 events in Wollongong and many more around the world.

Dr. Glenda Satne, UOW VC Post-Doctoral Fellow, was awarded a British Academy International Partnership and Mobility 2015 to work with Johannes Roessler, University of Warwick, on Joint Practical Knowledge: Shared Agency and Knowledge of Other Minds. More recently, she was awarded $100,000 for an Individual Research project From Acting to Thinking: a Socio-Cultural Approach to the Emergence of Representational Thought by Proyecto Fondecyt Regular, Conicyt, Chile which continues until 2019.

Dr. Sarah Sorial was awarded $336,061 in 2012 for an Australian Research Council Discovery Project on Sedition and Freedom of Speech. Building on her book – Sedition and the Advocacy of Violence: Free Speech and Counter-Terrorism. London and New York: Routledge – findings from her research, led to invited submissions to parliamentary inquiries into Media and Media Regulation and Independent National Security Legislation Monitor and National Security Information in 2012-13.

The Faculty-sponsored Narrative Practices in Therapy initiative, led by Prof Hutto, was launched in July 2015. The initiative brings the joint expertise of a team of researchers – both early and established – to bear in order to better understand the nature of narrative practices, how they might feature in forms of therapy and how they should be understood with the broader sciences of the mind. The NPT initiative has links with these European projects: The Management of the Self: A Humanities approach to Self-management in Psychiatry and Psychosomatic Medicine project, which has €739, 617 of funding from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research and while run until 2019 and The Literary in Life project which runs until 2019 and is funded by the Academy of Finland.

Dr. Tom Froese, Associate Professor, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, was awarded a Vice Chancellor’s Visiting International Scholar Award for an 8-week visit to UOW in Oct 2016. Dr. Froese worked with Prof Hutto and researchers in CAS to advance our understanding how the first symbolic expressions in early prehistory relate to human cognition. Connect strong UOW research groups in Arts and Sciences for the first time this work lay the ground for future funding applications and strengthening the basis for international collaborations with existing UK research partners in the Universities of Oxford and Kent.

Sydney Philosophy of Psychology Group

Researchers from UOW, Macquarie University and University of Sydney pool resources to host an annual meeting of staff and postgraduate researchers working on topics in philosophy of psychology and psychiatry, normally at the Crommelin Biological Station, Pearl Beach. This yearly event provides an opportunity for post-graduate researchers to give short talks and receive feedback from both their peers and experts in empirically-informed philosophy of psychology, mind and cognition. The inaugural meeting was held in April 2016 and a successful follow-up ran in May 2017. Here is a link to the SydPP Facebook Page.