Edinburgh is home to the world's largest group dedicated to Differential Psychology. We use individual differences in behaviour as a window onto psychological mechanisms including the genetic and environmental origins of individual differences in intelligence and personality. We work with diverse data, from brain imaging to reaction time; massive twin and epidemiology datasets, and high-throughput genetic sequencing. Our empirical research is translated into world-leading research on longevity, health, education, social behavior, positive psychology and well-being and animal personality. Our research also addresses how individuals differ from themselves over time and across situations.
Several members of the individual differences group work in the Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology (CCACE), funded to research healthy ageing, targeting the major determinants of health and wellbeing over the whole life course and reducing dependency in later life.
The MSc in Personality and Individual Differences web page provides the course and application information. Information about our Masters and Doctoral programmes is provided from the Psychology Postgraduate home page.
Human Cognitive Neuroscience (HCN) is comprised of academic staff and research fellows with core interests in memory, attention, executive function, visual memory, sensory integration, and perceptuo-motor control in both normally functioning adults and people with a variety of neurological disorders and conditions. The group uses a range of methodological tools including traditional behavioural measures, neuroimaging techniques such as fMRI and ERP, eyetracking, motion tracking, computational modelling, and clinical assessment.
Some members of HCN are affiliated with The Centre for Cognitive and Neural Systems, The Centre for Functional Imaging Studies, The Scottish Funding Council Brain Imaging Research Centre, and the Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology. HCN staff train postdoctoral fellows, PhD, MSc, MA, and BSc students.
The MSc in Human Cognitive Neuropsychology web page provides the course and application information. Information about the Masters and Doctoral programmes in HCN is provided from the Psychology Postgraduate home page.
HCN Information Areas
The Language Cognition and Communication Research Group is internationally recognized for its cutting-edge work on the psychology of language. We have wide expertise in spoken and written comprehension, production and dialogue, from sub-lexical processes to the discourse level. The research paradigms we use include psychophysical, electrophysiological, perceptual, neuropsychological, cognitive, computational modelling, and social approaches.
Edinburgh has one of the largest and most varied communities of natural language researchers in the world, bringing together psychologists, computer scientists, linguists, and philosophers, and we actively participate in many aspects of its work, including teaching and research training at all levels.
The Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology is a centre of excellence to advance research into how ageing affects cognition, and how mental ability in youth affects health and longevity.
Ethics is a central area of philosophy and one in which there have been numerous exciting recent developments. Philosophy at Edinburgh has a unique wealth of research talent in this area and Ethics is one of its five clusters of research strength. The ethics cluster has faculty members doing important work in central areas of meta-ethics, normative ethics, and political philosophy. The ethics cluster regularly hosts research events such as international conferences, workshops, reading groups and the hosting of visiting scholars. It also has substantial research links with the other research clusters in Philosophy at Edinburgh: ancient philosophy, epistemology, mind and cognition and philosophy of science.
These are some of the research questions that faculty members in Ethics are interested in:
- What do moral (and, more generally, normative) sentences mean? What, for example, does it mean to say that an action is morally wrong?
- What's the best explanation of the meaning of deontic modals such as 'ought' or 'should' that figure centrally in the statement of many moral claims?
- What is the relationship between ethical norms and other kinds of norms, such as the norms of belief?
- Is moral thought affective? If so, how?
- What is distinctive about evaluative thought and talk?
- How is the supervenience constraint on ethical thinking best understood? Does it favour any particular meta-ethical views?
- In what sense, if any, are moral and other values objective?
- Is moral knowledge possible?
- In what senses, if any, are reasons for action context-dependent?
- Is morality well understood in terms of general principles and systematic theories?
- Is morality well understood in terms of promoting the best outcome?
- What is the most plausible formulation of rule-consequentialist moral theories? Are any such indirect forms of consequentialism defensible?
- Can moral responsibility and free will be reconciled with a plausible naturalistic conception of agency in the world?
- What role should equality play in a plausible theory of justice?
- How might obligations to provide reparations for historical injustices be best understood?
- What is the relevance of collective agency for moral and political philosophy?
Ethics Reading Group
Forthcoming external events
- David Miller (University of Oxford), "The Duty to Rescue Boat People". Abstract: What duty, if any, do competent governments and their navies and commercial vessels have to rescue migrants attempting dangerous sea crossings, whether in the search for a better life or simply to escape persecution? Recent events in the Mediterranean have sparked fiercely opposed political responses to this question. But is the duty to rescue a strict duty, or should rescue missions be evaluated using consequentialist reasoning? I address this topic by exploring, on the one hand, the conventional duty of rescue at sea under international law and, on the other, the individual duty of Samaritan aid on land. I argue that the rescue of boat people has features that clearly distinguish it from both of these duties, including the possibility of moral hazard, where successful rescues encourage others to make dangerous sea crossings. In consequence, we need to distinguish the duty that falls upon the master of an individual ship from the responsibilities of governments when establishing search-and-rescue missions or responding in other ways to seaborne migration. Unless governments owe person-specific obligations of redress towards migrants, they should be guided by consequentialist reasoning when making these decisions. The paper concludes by suggesting that our responses to the unfolding tragedy in the Mediterranean will be conditioned by our background beliefs about states’ rights to control their borders. (04 Feb 2016)
Current funded research projects
- Hybrid Theories in Meta-Ethics, British Academy (PI: Fletcher), 2011-14.
- Emerging Themes in Meta-Ethics, AHRC (c. £35K, PI: Ridge; CI: Fletcher), 2012-14.
The core members of faculty who work in ethics are:
- Matthew Chrisman joined the department in August 2006 after finishing his PhD at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His work is primarily in meta-ethics, philosophy of language and epistemology. He has published papers on the meaning of 'ought', the norms of belief, and inferentialist approaches to the meta-ethical debate between descriptivists and expressivists. He is also interested in environmental ethics.
- Guy Fletcher joined the department in September 2011 as a British Academy postdoctoral fellow. Previously he was lecturer at Exeter College, Oxford. His work is in meta-ethics, ethics, and their history. His current research is in meta-ethics, specifically 'hybrid' theories of moral thought and talk (i.e. theories which aim to capture both their affective and cognitive dimensions). He has also written about well-being, value, consequentialism, and John Stuart Mill's ethical theory.
- David Levy works on the nature of understanding, particularly of morals, ethics and people. He is puzzled by the difference between philosophical and ordinary understandings of the experience of necessity, especially moral necessity. The account of moral understanding that he is developing counters impersonal tendencies in contemporary moral theorising with the idea of critical authority: the authority given to and recognised by those with whom one shares moral understanding about inter-personal relationships. His historical interests are principally in Plato and Wittgenstein.
- Elinor Mason joined the department in 2004. Previously she was an assistant professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder and before that at Arizona State University. Dr Mason got her PhD at Reading. She is currently working on a book-length defense of consequentialism, and is also doing work on the idea of moral responsibility.
- Michael Ridge joined the department as a lecturer in 2001. Previously he held a post-doctoral fellowship at the Australian National University, and got his PhD at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Professor Ridge's primary work is in meta-ethics. He has developed and defended a new form of meta-ethical expressivism ('Ecumenical Expressivism') which attempts to incorporate important cognitivist elements while preserving the main advantages of expressivism. He is currently writing a book-length defense of this view - Impassioned Belief - which will be published soon by OUP. Professor Ridge has also done considerable work on the debate over moral particularism and moral generalism, culminating in his Principled Ethics: Generalism as a Regulative Ideal (co-authored with Sean McKeever, published by OUP).
- Debbie Roberts joins the department in February 2014, having previously been lecturer at the University of York. She received her PhD from Reading in 2011. Dr Roberts works in ethics and meta-ethics. Her current research is in meta-ethics, specifically the nature of evaluative concepts and properties, where she aims to defend a nonreductive realist view. She is also interested in metaphysics, philosophy of mind and philosophy of maths, especially where these overlap with meta-ethics. Dr Roberts also has interests in the theory/anti-theory debate in normative ethics, as well as in particularism and generalism.
- Patrick Todd joined the department in October 2013 as a Chancellor's Fellow in philosophy. He works primarily on issues having to do with free will, moral responsibility, and determinism. For instance, is moral accountability consistent with the thesis that everything we do is ultimately determined by factors beyond our control? Does moral responsibility require the power to do otherwise? He is particularly interested in so-called "manipulation arguments" for incompatibilism, and the question of whether and to what extent morally responsible agents can be controlled by yet further agents. He is also interested in philosophy of religion and metaphysics.
There are a number of other members of faculty whose work is directly relevant for the ethics cluster. For example, Professor Duncan Pritchard's work on epistemic value is of direct relevance to the work of Dr Chrisman and Professor Ridge. Professor Andy Clark's work on embodied cognition is also relevant to Professor Ridge's work on moral particularism insofar as that debate touches on how real agents might use principles in moral deliberation.
There are numerous research affiliations between the Ethics research cluster at Edinburgh and other institutions. The 'Emerging Themes in Meta-Ethics' project is held in partnership with University of Southern California, Dana and David Dornsife college and hosted by the Eidyn Research Centre, a centre specifically devoted to topics in ethics, epistemology, and philosophy of mind and cognition.
Professor Ridge was a co-applicant (with colleagues from Stirling and Glasgow) for a recent grant from the Carnegie Institute to host a series of workshops in normative theory and to reform the Scottish Ethics Network (SEN).
Dr Mason recently served as officer and conference organizer for the British Society of Ethical Theory (BSET).
Interested in doing postgraduate work in Ethics at Edinburgh? The Ethics cluster welcomes applications for its MSc specialization in Ethics and if you are interested in PhD study in ethics just get in touch with whichever of the faculty in the ethics cluster you think is best suited to supervising your work.
Postgraduate students who have recently completed a PhD in ethics at Edinburgh:
- Elizabeth Ellis
- Sam Wilkinson
- Ana Barandalla
- Ray Critch
- Christos Kyriacou
- Adam Carter
Ancient Philosophy @ Edinburgh includes research interests in: Ancient Metaphysics, Ancient Ethics, Contemporary Metaphysics; Ancient and Medieval Philosophy and Science, Aristotle and Aristotelian Tradition; Greek society and ethics, emotions; Hellenistic Political Philosophy; Late Antiquity, and Early Christian Thought; Presocratics, Papyrology; Plato, Aristotle, Greek Ethics; Early Academy, Hellenistic Philosophy; Plato’s Moral and Political Theory, Political Utopias.
|Name||Area of research & supervision|
|Professor Theodore Scaltsas||Ancient Metaphysics, Ancient Ethics, Contemporary Metaphysics (Philosophy)|
|Dr Inna Kupreeva||Ancient and Medieval Philosophy and Science, Aristotelian Tradition (Philosophy)|
|Professor Douglas Cairns||Greek society and ethics, emotions (Classics)|
|Dr Joachim Gentz||Classical Chinese Philosophy (East Asian Studies)|
|Dr Benjamin Gray||Greek ethical and political thought, especially fourth-century BC and Hellenistic (Classics)|
|Professor Andrew Erskine||Hellenistic Political Philosophy (Classics)|
|Dr Simon Trepanier||Presocratics, Papyrology (Classics)|
|Dr Sara Parvis||Early Christian philosophy, Patristics (Divinity)|
|Christopher G. Strachan||Plato, Presocratics, Early Academy, Hellenistic Philosophy (Plato Text Unit, Hon. Fellow, Classics)|
Postgraduate degrees open to students with an interest in ancient philosophy
Plato text unit
A new edition of Volume I of the Oxford Classical Text of Plato (Oxford 1995) was produced by a team of scholars. The same scholars, W.S.M. Nicoll, D.B. Robinson and J.C.G. Strachan, joined by F.G. Hermann (Wales) and M. Joyal (Newfoundland), are continuing this project with a view to publication of Volume II in the near future. Three of these scholars work on this Project as Honorary Fellows in the Classics Department, while the Alan Coxon Library for this Project is housed in Philosophy. For more information about the Plato Text Unit please contact Prof Theodore Scaltsas.
Archelogos research projects
With the collaboration of fifty classical philosophers internationally, and artificial intelligence scientists, Archelogos creates databases of philosophical arguments for the purposes of philosophical research, teaching, and for the wider promotion of ancient philosophy. For information about Archelogos please contact the project director, Prof Theodore Scaltsas.
The Arguments in Plato’s and Aristotle’s Works are published on the web at: www.archelogos.com
Ancient philosophy reading groups
Ancient Philosophy Reading Group: Faculty
Faculty from Scottish and Northern English universities who specialise in ancient philosophy meet in Edinburgh three times a year to read together chosen ancient philosophy texts (currently, Aristotle's Rhetoric). The dates for the meetings during the academic year 2013/14 are:
October 5 (Rhetoric 1.1-2, led by Prof. Christopher Rowe), February 8 (Rhet. 1.2-3, led by Prof. David Konstan (New York University)), May 3 (Rhet. 1.4-6, led by Prof. John Magee (University of Toronto)).
Please send queries to do with this reading group to Inna Kupreeva.
Greek Reading Group: Faculty and Postgraduate Students
The group meets weekly on Tuesday afternoons, 17:15-18:45, in Room 1.01 DSB, to read and discuss chosen ancient philosophical texts in Greek. This year we are working through Plato's Philebus. Much of the discussion is focussed on the argument, so if you do not have Greek or do not wish to read and translate, but would like to participate in the discussion, you are welcome to attend.
Please send queries to Inna Kupreeva.
Latin Reading Group: Postgraduate Students and Faculty
The group meets weekly on Friday afternoons, 17:30-18:30, in Room 5.01 DSB, to read and discuss chosen ancient philosophical texts in Latin. We are currently reading Augustine's De civitate dei. This group is mainly for those who have Latin.
Ancient Philosophy Lectures and Seminars in 2013/14
September 30: David Sedley (Cambridge), 'Socrates’ “Second Voyage” (Plato, Phaedo 99d-102a)' (Master class in Ancient Philosophy Seminar I)
October 9: Fritz-Gregor Hermann (University of Wales at Swansea), 'Plato and Critias' (Classics Research Seminar)
October 28: Alan Cameron (Columbia University)
'The Life, Death and Work of Hypatia' (Classics Research Seminar)
November 4: Sarah Broadie (University of St Andrews), 'Does the Receptacle provide the answer to a problem about Forms?' (Master class with Ancient Philosophy Seminar I)
November 6: Ǿyvind Rabbås (University of Oslo), 'Virtue and Morality in Aristotle'
November 8: Barbara Sattler (University of St Andrews) 'What is doing the explaining? And should we do it? An atomistic idea' (Philosophy Research Seminar)
November 13: Aglae Pizzone (Université de Genève) 'Imagination and Aesthetic Emotion between Paganism and Christianity' (Classics Research Seminar)
November 27: David Creese (Newcastle University) 'Hearing êthos in Ancient Greek Music' (Meeting of the Classical Association of Scotland)
January 17: Sarah Broadie (University of St Andrews), 'Corporeal gods, with reference to Plato and Aristotle' (Philosophy Research Seminar)
January 22: Luigi Battezzato (Università del Piemonte Orientale)
'Debates and deliberation in Euripides: the agon logon in context' (Classics Research Seminar)
February 11: Thomas Johansen (University of Oxford) Aristotle on phantasia (Master class with Ancient Philosophy Seminar II)
February 19: Andrew Gregory (UCL)
'Anaximander: some issues in constructing the history of Greek natural philosophy' (Classics Research Seminar)
March 7: Eyjólfur Emilsson (University of Oslo) 'Plotinus on Intellect' (Master class with Ancient Philosophy Seminar II)
March 18: Carlos Steel (Catholic University of Leuven), 'Athenian Neoplatonists on Intellect' (Master class with Ancient Philosophy Seminar II)
March 25: David Konstan (NYU), “Atoms and Minima in Epicurean Physics: Was There a Minimalist Geometry?” (Ancient Philosophy Circle)
March 28: A.E. Taylor Lecture, Catherine Rowett (UEA), see below
April 2: Margaret Maitland (National Museum of Scotland)
'The Rhind Collection' (Classical Association of Scotland)
April 30: Donncha O'Rourke (The University of Edinburgh)
'Papyrotechnics in the Roman poetry book' (Classical Association of Scotland)
May 1: John Magee (University of Toronto), "Boethius' Consolatio and Plato's Gorgias" (Ancient Philosophy Circle)
May 2: John Magee (University of Toronto) "The Mind of Calcidius" (Ancient Philosophy Circle)
May 2: John Magee (University of Toronto), Postgraduate workshop on textual criticism (Ancient Philosophy PG/Research Group)
May 7: Miriam Leonard (UCL) 'Tragedy and Revolution: Hannah Arendt and Karl Marx' (Classics Research Seminar)
May 14: Nino Luraghi (Princeton University) 'Stairway to heaven: the politics of memory in early Hellenistic Athens' (Classics Research Seminar)
Conferences and workshops
November 26: Ancient Philosophy Winter Postgraduate Conference:
9:00 - 9:10 Welcome
9: 15 - 10: 10 Ni Yu ‘Meno’s Paradox’
10:15 - 11:10 Niels Hermannsson, ‘Forms, opposites and animal breathing; Plato’s teleological explanations of life as we know it’
11:15 - 12:10 Juan Pablo Mira ‘Plato on the pleasure of music’
12:15 - 1:10 Yinlin Guan ‘The analysis of concept Wuwei in Laozi’
1:10 - 2:10 Lunch
2:15 - 3:10 Jeff Johns ‘On Eudemus of Rhodes, Fragment 88, 26-29 Wehrli, and the Aristotelian Reception of Timaeus 27D 5-28A4’
3:15 - 4:10 Jonathan Greig, ‘Plotinus' Implied Commentary on Plato's Parmenides’
4:15 - 5: 45 Keynote lecture: Professor Øyvind Rabbas (University of Oslo), ‘Virtue and Morality in Aristotle’
June 9-10, 2014
Monday, 9 June
09:00 – 09:30 Coffee
09:30 – 09:40 Welcome
09:40 – 10:40 Manuel de Zubiria (Edinburgh) 'Heraclitus on Language'
10:50 – 11:50 Yinlin Guan (Edinburgh) 'Laozi and Plato on Happiness'
12:00 – 14:00 Lunch
14:00 – 15:00 Ni Yu (Edinburgh) 'Questioning slave boy and Socratic elenchus'
15:10 – 16:10 Juan Pablo Mira (Edinburgh) 'Music representation in Aristotle'
16:20 – 17:20 Shakira Lehmann (Edinburgh) 'Aristotle on phantasia'
Drinks and Dinner
Tuesday 10 June
09:00 – 09:30 Coffee
09:30 – 10:30 Christian Pfeiffer (LMU, Munich)
'Aristotle's natural philosophy and the study of body and magnitudes'
10:40 – 11:40 Jeff Johns (Edinburgh)
'On Alexander of Aphrodisias, De Motu et Tempore 97, 8-9:
'in se ipso vero est unum continuum sempiternum secundum disposicionem unam''
11:50 – 12:50 Jon Greig (Edinburgh)
'The relation of hypostasis (ὑπόστασις) and self-constitution (αὐθυπόστατον) in Proclus'
13:00 – 14:30 Lunch
14:30 – 15:30 Claudia Mirrione (Humboldt Universität, Berlin)
'Galen's theory of mixture of primary elements'
15:40 – 16:40 Sarah Cassidy (Edinburgh)
'Physiological Theories and the Reinvention of Epic in Apollonius Rhodius' Argonautica'
17:00 – 18:30 Keynote Lecture: Prof Christopher Rowe (Durham)
'Plato's Rhetorical Strategies: Writing for Philosophers, Writing for Non-Philosophers'
July: Ancient Philosophy MSc Workshop (details TBA)
A. E. Taylor Lecture
This is an annual lecture on ancient philosophy given by a distinguished academic. This year, the 19th A.E. Taylor Lecture will be given by Professor Catherine Rowett of the University of East Anglia (details coming soon). Last year, Stephen Menn of Humboldt University in Berlin and McGill University in Montréal delivered the 18th A.E. Taylor Lecture.
There is a large and active cohort of talented postgraduate students working on different topics in ancient philosophy:
- Hasse Hämäläinen (PhD)
- Niels Hermannsson (PhD)
- Panayiotis Kapetanakis (PhD)
- Juan Pablo Mira (PhD, 3rd year)
- Jeff Johns (PhD, 3rd year)
- A.M. Pasqualoni (PhD, 4th year)
- Kostas Kravaritis (PhD, 2nd year)
- Ni Yu (PhD, 1st year)
- Shakira Lehmann (PhD, 2nd year)
- Yinlin Guan (PhD, 2nd year)
General inquiries about studying ancient philosophy at Edinburgh should be directed to Prof Theodore Scaltsas or Dr Inna Kupreeva. Specific inquiries about the MSc in Philosophy with specialisation in Ancient Philosophy should be directed to Dr Alasdair Richmond, and about the MSc in Ancient Philosophy should be directed to Dr Inna Kupreeva.
The history of modern philosophy is an integral part of the ongoing debates that constitute philosophical practice. An understanding of the sometimes radically different ways in which figures from the past conceived human nature and the world is important not only in itself, but also insofar as it deepens and questions current analyses. Our core expertise is in early modern philosophy (Hobbes to Hume), but our interests also extend to subsequent developments from the German Romantics to British Hegelians. Within these periods, Early Modern Philosophy members address issues in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind and language, philosophy of nature, philosophy of science, as well as moral and political theory.
Our research intersects with that of the other research clusters in Philosophy at Edinburgh. Early modern reactions to the ancients and our work on early modern theories of causation, perception and ideas underpin our research links to the Ancient Philosophy and Epistemology research clusters. Our research on the moral and political philosophy of Hobbes and Locke maintains close synergies with the Ethics research cluster. The early modern philosophy-led interdisciplinary research project on Embodied Values resonates with key themes in the Mind and Cognition research cluster. More recently, the work conducted as part of the Leverhulme-funded Kant and the Laws of Nature project (hosted by Edinburgh's Eidyn Research Centre) connects themes in early modern philosophy with work conducted by members of our Philosophy of Science research cluster.
The early modern philosophy grouping also maintains close links with faculty in the Departments of History, English and Science Studies and with the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities. It plays an active part in REMSIS (Renaissance and Early Modern Studies in Scotland). The early modern philosophy grouping hosts research events in this area, such as international conferences, workshops, reading groups and the hosting of visiting scholars (for more details, see below).
- Kant and the Laws of Nature. Lessons from the Physical and the Life Sciences of the Eighteenth Century (2012-15)
- Embodied Values (2010-12)
Recent and forthcoming events hosted by this research grouping include:
Conferences and Workshops
- British Society for the History of Philosophy Annual Conference 2014: Scottish Common Sense Philosophy, conference, 7 - 9 May 2014
- Three Hundred Years of Leibniz's Monadology, workshop, 12 - 13 May 2014
- Kant and the Laws of Nature, workshop, 27 - 28 June 2013
- Spring 2014: Eighteenth Century Monadologies Interdisciplinary Reading Group. Please contact Jeremy Dunham for further details.
- Spring 2013: Kant/Schelling Interdisciplinary Reading group.
- Summer 2011: Hume Reading Group.
- Spring and autumn 2010: Hume's Essays (Aesthetics Reading Group).
- Spring 2007: Malebranche, Search After Truth.
A rich feast of University events to commemorate the tercentenary of the birth of David Hume took place throughout 2011. These included public lectures, theatre performances, exhibitions as well as academic lectures and seminar series.
The 38th International Hume Society Conference, Hume After 300 Years, was held at Old College, University of Edinburgh, 18 - 23 July 2011.
- Enlightenment Aesthetics and Beyond, conference, 15 - 16 December 2011
- Scottish Philosophy in Transnational Contexts: Debating the Transnational Dissemination of Scottish Moral Philosophy, symposium, 28 - 29 April 2011.
- The Metaphysics of Consciousness: an international conference in honour T. L. S. Sprigge, 7 - 9 July 2009.
- Body. REMSIS discussion meeting, January 2009.
- Leverhulme Lectures, Professor Catherine Wilson, 'Life According to Nature'.
- Embodied Values Workshops, 2007 - 2008.
- Berkeley Conference. Undergraduate student conference, 7 - 8 March 2008.
- History of Philosophy Colloquium: in honour of Professor Stuart Brown, 29 July 2007.
- Enlightenment Workshop, with Institute of Advanced Studies in the Humanities, May 2006.
The core members of faculty who work in the history of modern philosophy are:
- Andrew Mason is interested in 18th Century Scottish Philosophy, particularly ethics, aesthetics and philosophy of religion. He teaches a course on Hume's first Enquiry, and has recently launched a course on Philosophy of the Scottish Enlightenment.
- Michela Massimi is the author of "Kant and Philosophy of Science Today" (CUP, 2008). She works in both philosophy of science and early modern philosophy, especially Kant, and a series of themes at the intersection between history of philosophy and history of science. She is currently the Principal Investigator for a Leverhulme Trust international network grant on "Kant and the laws of nature. Lessons from the Physical and the Life Sciences of the Eighteenth Century", whose research activities (workshops, public lectures and conference) will span over a three-year period (November 2012 - October 2015), and will involve eight institutions, nationally and internationally.
- Pauline Phemister is author of Leibniz and the Natural World and The Rationalists: Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz and has recently completed an abridged edition of John Locke's Essay concerning Human Understanding for Oxford World Classics. She is currently working on a book on seventeenth century philosophy and a book on philosophy of nature from the early modern period to the present day.
- Alasdair Richmond is author of the Reader's Guide to Berkeley's Principles of Human Knowledge (Continuum). His recent research has focused on the metaphysics of time but he retains interests in philosophy of science, the British empiricists, epistemology and the philosophy of explanation. His forthcoming papers include an application of probabilistic Doomsday-style reasoning to Cartesian dualism and Descartes' conception of immortality. He is currently investigating Bayesian interpretations of Hume's account of miracles, Hume's probabilistic psychology and compatibilism and Berkeley’s immaterialism.
- Michael Ridge works primarily in moral theory, with an emphasis on metaethics. His current research focuses on the defence of a novel form of expressivism, a view which finds inspiration in the work of David Hume. He has published previously on the intersection of Hume's moral theory and his epistemology.
Other staff in philosophy and in the wider university community at Edinburgh interested in the history of modern philosophy include Dr Jeremy Dunham (Philosophy), Dr Nicholas Phillipson (History), Dr Thomas Ahnert (History), and Dr Emily Brady (Geography), Professor David Fergusson (Divinity), Professor Charlie Withers (Geography), Professor John Cairns (Law).
Visiting Scholars in Philosophy
- Professor Don Garrett, Carnegie Centenary Professor (New York University) May - August 2011.
- Professor Paul Guyer (F. R. C. Murray Professor in the Humanties, University of Pennsylvania) December 2011.
- Dr Leemon McHenry, (California State University), January - July 2009.
- Professor Catherine Wilson (Graduate Centre, CUNY), Leverhulme Visiting Professor, 2007 - 08.
- Professor John Wright, (University of Michigan), 2005 - 2007.
Visiting Scholars in the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, 2010-11
- Professor Lorraine Code, York University, Toronto (January - April 2011)
- Professor Don Garrett, Carnegie Centenary Professor, New York University (May - August 2011)
- Dr Axel Gelfert, National University of Singapore (January - June 2011)
- Dr Peter Millican, IASH David Hume Illumni Fellow, Hertford College, University of Oxford (January - June 2010 and January - July 2011)
- Professor Daniel Schulthess, University of Neuchatel (February - May 2011)
- Professor Kiyoshi Shimokawa, Gakushuin University, Tokyo (July - September 2011; January - March 2012)
Previous fellows include:
- Professor John Haldane, (University of St. Andrews), September - December 2008.
- Dr Tom Toremans, (Katholieke Universiteit Brussel), October - December 2008.
- Dr Lívia Guimaraes, (Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Brazil), December 2008 - March 2009.
- Dr Leemon McHenry, (California State University), January - June 2009.
- Dr Axel Gelfert, (National University of Singapore), May 2009 - July 2009.
- Professor Peter Loptson, (University of Guelph), 2007.
The History of Modern Philosophy grouping’s interests fit closely with research themes at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH), particularly Dialogues of Enlightenment and the Science of Man. Edinburgh University’s Renaissance and Early Modern Studies in Scotland (REMSIS) group hosts regular seminars on renaissance and early modern themes.
Drs Dawson and Phemister serve on the Executive Committee of the British Society for the History of Philosophy.
Postgraduates may study for the Philosophy Taught MSc specialisation in early modern philosophy or conduct research in a topic in early modern philosophy, registering for either the PhD in Philosophy or the Research MSc in Philosophy.
If you are interested in doing research in history of modern philosophy at the University of Edinburgh then contact Dr Pauline Phemister who will be pleased to help.
Epistemology is one of the central areas of philosophy and also one of the most exciting in terms of the contemporary philosophical landscape. The University of Edinburgh has a unique wealth of research talent in this area and as a result epistemology is one of its core research 'clusters' which represent its research strengths. In the latest international rankings for graduate programmes in philosophy, Edinburgh is ranked joint 4th in the world for epistemology, putting us on a par with Princeton and Yale, and ahead of such distinguished departments of philosophy as Harvard and MIT. Indeed, outside of the US, only Oxford is ranked higher. The faculty members of the epistemology cluster are interested in such epistemological issues as scepticism (including its history), epistemic value, contextualism, social epistemology, epistemic responsibility, perceptual knowledge, rationality, the nature of cognitive processes, and virtue epistemology. The epistemology research cluster at Edinburgh regularly hosts research events in this area (including international conferences, workshops, a regular seminar series, and reading groups) as well as visiting scholars. It is also home to a number of funded research projects, hosted by the Eidyn Research Centre.
Here are some research issues that are of particular interest to those working in epistemology at the University of Edinburgh:
- Why, if at all, are epistemic standings valuable?
- What constitutes a cognitive process?
- How should one best understand, and respond to, the problem of scepticism?
- How should one understand the notion of an epistemic virtue and what role, if any, does it play in a theory of knowledge?
- What, if anything, ought I to believe?
The core members of faculty who work in epistemology are listed in the Members section below with links to their profile pages.
Other members of faculty interested in epistemology include: Dr Alasdair Richmond (early modern epistemology), Prof Mike Ridge (epistemic value), Prof Dory Scaltsas (ancient epistemology), and Dr Anders Schoubye (formal epistemology).
Logic, language and related topics (syntax, semantics, foundations of mathematics, the nature of meaning, truth and reference) are central areas of philosophy. The School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences at the University of Edinburgh has a wealth of research talent in this area.
The Logic and Language grouping has faculty members interested in such issues as Godel's results, theories of truth deflationism, semantic paradoxes, the applicability of mathematics, proof theory, theoretical syntax, pragmatics, proof theory, and non-classical logic. The logic and language research grouping at Edinburgh regularly hosts research events in this area (an international conference in 2006, a workshop on realism in 2009), and bi-weekly research seminars). It also has research links with the other five research clusters (ancient philosophy, epistemology, ethics, mind and cognition and philosophy of science) and with other researchers working in the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, in Informatics, and at other universities.
Here are some research issues that are of particular interest to those working in logic and language at the University of Edinburgh:
- What philosophical insights can be gained from formalized and axiomatic treatments of truth?
- How are we to approach the semantic paradoxes?
- Should one understand the notion of meaning in terms of truth conditions or assertibility conditions?
- How are mathematical claims to be analysed? What implications does the applicability of mathematics have for such questions?
- More generally, what light can be shed on philosophical problems - in semantics, metaphysics, epistemology and the philosophy of language - by the use of mathematical methods?
Logic & Language Research Seminar
The Logic & Language research group meets regularly for the Edinburgh Philosophy of Language seminar.
The core members of faculty whose work relates to the Logic & Language grouping:
- Matthew Chrisman joined the department in August 2006 after finishing his PhD and MA at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his BA at Rice University.
- Professor Geoff Pullum is Professor of General Linguistics. Professor Geoff Pullum's home page.
- Brian Rabern joined the department in 2013 from the University of Illinois. He completed his PhD at ANU.
- Anders Schoubye joined the department in 2011. Previously he was a Mellon postdoctoral fellow in Natural Language Semantics and Pragmatics in the Department of Philosophy at Carnegie Mellon University.
- Wolfgang Schwarz joined the department in 2015 after a series of post-doc positions at the ANU.
- Paul Schweizer is Senior Lecturer in the School of Informatics.
In addition, there are a number of other members of faculty who are interested in logic & language-related topics, including:
- Alasdair Richmond (metaphysics and philosophy of science).
- Jesper Kallestrup (mind and language; epistemology).
- David Levy (meaning, epistemology).
- Mike Ridge (meta-ethics).
- Inna Kupreeva (ancient and mediaeval logic).
There are research affiliations between the Logic & Language research grouping here at Edinburgh and other research bodies. Dr Kallestrup is an Arché Associate Fellow. In addition, he was a fellow on the NAMICONA Project.
Current research students
There are a number of postgraduate researchers interested in logic & language-related topics at Edinburgh, including:
- Evan Butts (PhD, now completed)
- Jamie Collin (PhD, now completed)
- Zoe Payne (PhD, now completed)
- Christopher Ranalli (PhD)
- Eusebio Waweru (PhD)
The intersection between philosophy of mind and the cognitive sciences is one of the most exciting and fast-moving contemporary interdisciplinary arenas. Within this field, the Edinburgh research team ranks among the world leaders, and specializes in the study of embodiment, consciousness, perception, action, and situated reason. Focal topics include the debates concerning extended and embodied cognition, the nature of perception and perceptual experience, the nature of computation, agency and the will, phenomenology and consciousness, the metaphysics and epistemology of mind, bounded and situated reason, predictive coding and neurocomputational approaches to mind, and (in an emerging synergy with the Epistemology research cluster) the epistemological ramifications of extended cognition.
The Mind and Cognition grouping benefits hugely from research and faculty in the nearby School of Informatics (ranked number 1 in the last two UK Research Assessment Exercises) which brings together research in Computer Science, Cognitive Science, Computational Linguistics and Artificial Intelligence. The group also enjoys regular contact with Psychology, Linguistics (especially the unique and world-leading Language Evolution and Computation Unit), Human Cognitive Neuroscience, and Music (especially the Institute for Music and Human Development). To promote such contacts the group organizes one of the university's most diverse interdisciplinary reading group: a bi-weekly interdisciplinary seminar uniting Philosophy, Psychology, Neuroscience, Linguistics and Informatics (the PPIG series). The Mind and Cognition group regularly hosts research events in this area, such as international conferences, workshops, and reading groups.
Research groups and events
The Mind and Cognition cluster supports a large array of student and faculty events, including the following regular series:
- Computational Mind Reading Group
- Philosophy, Psychology, and Informatics Research Group (otherwise known as the 'PPIG' group)
- PPLS Interdisciplinary Seminar Series
The Masters specialization in Mind, Language and Embodied Cognition
Faculty from the Mind and Cognition grouping provide dedicated courses for the cross-disciplinary masters specialization in Mind, Language and Embodied Cognition. This benefits from an international advisory panel that includes Daniel Dennett, Alva Noë, Jesse Prinz, Sean Kelly, and Thomas Metzinger, as well as leading representatives from neuroscience, robotics, cognitive and developmental psychology, and cognitive anthropology.
There are around 30 postgraduate students working on mind and cognition at the University of Edinburgh, making the Edinburgh group the largest in the UK outside of Oxford.
Core faculty are listed in the members section below. The linked personal profiles provide their research interests and contact information. In addition, there are a number of other members of faculty with interests in mind and cognition, including Matthew Chrisman, Pauline Phemister, Mike Ridge, and Duncan Pritchard. Key extra-departmental contacts include Miranda Anderson, Jim Hurford, Simon Kirby, Robert McIntosh, Jon Oberlander, Katie Overy, Paul Schweizer, Richard Shillcock, Alan Smaill, Mark Steedman, and Barbara Webb.
The Meaning and Grammar Research Group conducts research in a wide range of core areas of linguistic theory, including syntax, semantics, pragmatics, morphology and the interface between those areas. Members of the group work as individuals, in collaboration with each other, and in a number of collaborations with other researchers in Edinburgh and at other universities.
The research group aims to provide a regular forum for discussion of work being carried out by the various members of the group and work in this area more generally. It also constitutes a grouping for planning and organising collaborative research.
The Meaning and Grammar Research Group in Linguistics and English Language at the University of Edinburgh is eager to encourage applications from students wishing to carry out postgraduate research leading to a PhD in any of the areas represented in the group.
It is possible to register for an MSc by Research in the first instance. The MSc would count as the first year of the PhD.
LEL provides information about postgraduate study, including how to apply, and what sources of funding are available.
For information beyond what can be found in these places, please contact Nikolas Gisborne.
The Meaning and Grammar group generally meets at 4.10pm (note this is a change of time from previous years) on Wednesdays, roughly every two weeks, to discuss theoretical issues of common interest, work in progress or published papers. There are also occasional informal presentations by invited speakers from outside Edinburgh.
In addition to meetings of the full Meaning and Grammar Research Group, there are a number of more specialised reading groups which meet informally throughout the semester. These include:
- Dynamic Syntax reading group (contact Martha Robinson for details)
- Minimalist reading group (contact Gary Thoms for details)
If you'd like to subscribe to the group's mailing list, please go to https://mlist.is.ed.ac.uk/lists/info/synsem and click on 'subscribe'. If you'd like more information on the group's activities, or if you'd like to present, or for any other inquiry, please email Sandy Nicholson or Elyse Jamieson.
The Phonetics and Phonology Research Group (or 'P-Group') brings together researchers who are working to understand the phonetics and/or phonology of human language. We come at these issues from formal, experimental, and engineering perspectives, with interests in synchrony, diachrony and acquistion. Members of the group work as individuals, in collaboration with each other, and in a number of collaborations with other researchers in Edinburgh and at other universities.
The main forum of the group is the P-Workshop, which meets on Thursdays (although not every Thursday) at 1.10pm:
- The P-Workshop page
Members of the P-Group also organise other discussion groups:
Most members of the group are primarily affiliated with Linguistics and English Language, but others come from elsewhere at the University of Edinburgh (eg, the Centre for Speech Technology Research and Informatics), or from Speech and Hearing Sciences at Queen Margaret University. We combine a broad range of expertise and interests, ranging from acoustic and articulatory phonetics to formal phonological theory, taking in sociophonetics, phonological dialectology, speech recognition and speech synthesis, speech perception, laboratory phonology, historical phonology and developmental phonology. Group members are listed at the bottom of this page.
Postgraduate study in the P-Group
We offer a supportive and stimulating environment for postgraduate research in almost any area of phonetics and phonology, and we are keen to encourage applications for PhD or MSc level research in the areas represented in the group. Feel free to contact any of us to discuss plans. For details of how to apply for postgraduate study in LEL, see here.
Recent PhDs completed by members of the P-Group include:
- Marton Soskuthy (2013) 'Phonetic biases and systemic effects in the actuation of sound change'
- Penelope Thompson (2012) 'Morphologization and rule death in Old English: a Stratal Optimality Theoretic account of high vowel deletion'
- William Barras (2011) 'Sociophonology of rhoticity and r-sandhi in East Lancashire English'
- Emi Sakamoto (2011) 'Investigation of factors behind foreign accent in the L2 acquisition of Japanese lexical pitch accent by adult English speakers'
- Jennifer Sullivan (2011) 'Approaching intonational distance and change'
- Evia Kainada (2010) 'Phonetic and phonological nature of prosodic boundaries: evidence from Modern Greek'
- Timothy Mills (2009) 'Speech motor control variables in the production of voicing contrasts and emphatic accent'
- Marleen Spaargaren (2009) 'Change in obstruent laryngeal specifications in English: historical and theoretical phonology'
- Sarah Collie (2008) 'English stress preservation and Stratal Optimality Theory'
- Lukas Wiget (2008) 'Sublexical representations in auditory word recognition: evidence from lexical learning'
- Susana Cortés Pomacóndor (2007) 'Representations and transfer processes in L2 speech production: Evidence from Catalan learners of English'
- Christine Haunz (2007) 'Factors in on-line loanword adaptation'
The lab facilities for phonetic and experimental work at Edinburgh are exceptional. Our School hosts facilities for sound recording, perception experiments, eye-tracking, electromagnetic articulometry (EMA) and electroencephalography (EEG). Our technical staff have a wide range of relevant skills, including audio and articulatory recording, stimulus presentation for perception experiments, and script writing for data analysis and processing.
Research in phonetics and phonology at Edinburgh has long roots in several areas. Edinburgh was the second university in the UK, and the first in Scotland, to establish a phonetics department, led from 1948 by David Abercrombie. This was the first department in Europe to acquire a sound spectrograph, and established an enduring tradition of laboratory- and applications-based research into linguistic questions. Edinburgh also became the second UK university to create a chair of Linguistics when Angus McIntosh was appointed professor of English Language and General Linguistics in 1948. He established an equally enduring ‘English Language’ tradition of research into phonological dialectology and historical phonology. Work on the acquisition of phonology has roots in the School of Applied Linguistics (the UK’s first), founded by Ian Catford in 1957. Subsequent departmental mergers and splits led to research in phonetics and phonology being carried out in a number of units in the university. The Centre for Speech Technology Research was established in 1984, in part by researchers in linguistics and phonetics. Phonological theory was developed in the departments of Linguistics and of English Language, where Dependency Phonology was developed during the representational phonology boom of the 1980s. In 2005, the current department of Linguistics and English Language was established, uniting many of these strands in one unit. Current work continues all these traditions, and adds to them.
The English Language Research Group defines itself by its interest in a single language, rather than by a particular shared subdiscipline of linguistics. The group profits from an enormous body of collectively-available knowledge about English at Edinburgh, where research into the synchronic and diachronic linguistics of English and Scots has a long tradition. We consider how linguistic theory can be developed in relation to English and how English can be better understood through the insights offered by linguistic theory, and we work on aspects of historical and variational linguistics. Some of this work has been carried out under the aegis of the Institute for Historical Dialectology (now the Angus McIntosh Centre for Historical Linguistics).
The Research Group runs a regular research seminar series, and members are all active in publishing their research, and in organising and presenting at conferences. Further details about individuals' research interests in English Language can be found below. Some of the details of relevant research being carried out by postgraduates in the department can also be found there. We regularly attract visiting scholars, who benefit from and contribute to the research environment.
|Name||Main research interests||Contact|
|Rhona Alcorn||Historical Dialectology|
|Ronnie Cann||Formal syntax, semantics, and pragmatics and the interaction between them|
|Claire Cowie||Morphology, Early Modern English, World Englishes, English in India|
|Heinz Giegerich||Phonological and morphological theory in relation to English|
|Nikolas Gisborne||Dependency theory, English syntax, lexical semantics, syntactic change, history of English|
|Lauren Hall-Lew||Sociolinguistics, phonetic variation and change in English|
|Caroline Heycock||Theoretical syntax|
|Patrick Honeybone||Phonological theory, historical phonology, variation in English in Northern England|
|Pavel Iosad||Theoretical phonology, phonological interfaces, historical phonology, Irish (especially Ulster) English, phonological systems in contact in the British Isles|
|Margaret Laing||Middle English dialectology, history of the English Language, historical linguistics|
|Roger Lass||Institute for Historical Dialectology|
|Bettelou Los||Historical syntax and information structure|
|Warren Maguire||Dialectology, sociophonology, dialects of English and Scots in Northern England, Ulster and Scotland, history of English and Scots|
|Geoffrey Pullum||English syntax and morphology, mathematical or computational linguistics, syntactic typology and universals, interaction of syntax and phonology|
|Michael Ramsammy||Experimental and theoretical phonology, phonological change, Creole Englishes, articulatory phonetics|
|Hannah Rohde||Pragmatics, psycholinguistics|
|Gary Thoms||Theoretical syntax, dialect syntax|
|Graeme Trousdale||Constructional approaches to variation and change in English|
|Linda van Bergen||History of English (especially Old and Middle English), English historical syntax|
Current and recent postgraduates carrying out research in English Language
|Elizabeth Adeolu||Accents of Nigerian English: perceptions and attitudes|
|Zachary Boyd||Cross-cultural indexical cues and perception in the construction of sexual identities within native and non-native speaker interaction|
|Amanda Cardoso||The PRICE and MOUTH diphthongs in Liverpool English|
|Nestor de la Cruz||Attitudes towards Filipino call centre accents|
|Zuzana Elliott||L2 dialect production and perception: Slovak immigrants in Scotland|
|Wojtek Gardela||Aspect in present participle and verbal noun constructions in Older Scots and Northern Middle English|
|Daniel Lawrence||Sociophonetics and the North-South Divide in England: An experimental investigation of socio-indexical knowledge|
|Thijs Lubbers||Developing a grammar of prose|
|Natasha Memon||The impact of the IELTS test in Pakistan|
|Sara Myers||Some aspects of the development of the genitive noun phrase in Middle English|
|Manuela Rocchi||Non-Interrogative Argument-Filling If and When Clauses in English and Italian|
|Marton Soskuthy||Phonetic biases and systemic effects in the actuation of sound change|
Members of the ELRG host academic conferences here at Edinburgh, and also co-organise conferences which are held elsewhere.
- the New Reflections on Grammaticalisation 5 conference, held in Edinburgh in July 2012
- the 2009 Annual Meeting of the Linguistics Association of Great Britain 50th Anniversary Golden Jubilee Meeting, held in Edinburgh in September 2009
The Institute for Historical Dialectology (IHD), which continued an extensive research programme into variation in medieval written vernaculars, has been expanded into the Angus McIntosh Centre for Historical Linguistics. In the new Centre's website you will find a number of the resources produced by the IHD, as well as background on the Institute, alongside newer AMC projects. For an overview or the IHD's work follow this link. Please update your bookmarks accordingly. Angus McIntosh Centre: www.amc.lel.ed.ac.uk; Institute for Historical Dialectology: www.amc.lel.ed.ac.uk/?page_id=332.
The Developmental Linguistics Research Group undertakes theoretical and experimental research on linguistic development. Our research investigates the different stages in language acquisition and loss in both first and second language, as well as bilingualism.
The objective of this research group is to provide a regular forum for discussion of work in progress and a natural grouping for collaborative research. The group is particularly keen to promote interdisciplinary research with people working on developmental topics within neighbouring disciplines.
- The group has access to the full range of research facilities of the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, including the Edinburgh Laboratory for Language Development (ELfLanD).
- Outcomes of our research on bilingualism are disseminated through our information service Bilingualism Matters.
We hold regular meetings to discuss our work. This term we meet in room 3.10 of the Dugald Stewart Building. To receive email announcements for these meetings, contact Mits Ota.
The Language Variation and Change Research Group is open to anyone at the university who is interested in quantitative models of linguistic variation and change. We meet for an hour approximately every other week to discuss relevant articles in LVC or to present work in progress.
Meetings are held on occasional Wednesdays from 13:10 - 14:00 in room 1.17 (DSB). Please contact the convenor to find out specific dates for this semester, or see the schedule below.
The LVC Research Group includes members of the department with research interests in patterns of variability at all levels of linguistic structure. Members share an interest in both synchronic and diachronic variation, with the goal of developing empirical models of variation and change. We represent many areas of linguistics, including Phonetics, Historical Phonology, Historical Syntax, Syntactic Variation, Dialectology, Sociolinguistics, and Computational Linguistics. The group is inherently interdisciplinary and invites membership from any interested researchers in or around the University of Edinburgh community.
Members of the LVC Research Group are currently involved in launching a new project, Edinburgh Speaks.
Current research students
|Elizabeth Olushola Adeolu||Amanda Cardoso||Daniel Lawrence|
|Mark Atkinson||Nestor dela Cruz||Ziming Lu|
|Zachary Boyd||Zuzana Elliot||Kevin Stadler|
The LVC Research Group in Linguistics and English Language at the University of Edinburgh is eager to encourage applications from students wishing to carry out postgraduate research leading to a PhD in any of the areas represented in the group. It is possible to register for an MSc by Research in the first instance. The MSc would count as the first year of the PhD. LEL provides information about postgraduate study, including how to apply, and what sources of funding are available. For information beyond what can be found in these places, please contact Lauren Hall-Lew.
The Language in Context Research Group consists of staff, postgraduate research students and academic visitors to the University of Edinburgh who are interested in studying how the social, interpersonal and discursive context of language shapes its forms and uses.
We welcome discussion of topics in sociolinguistics, discourse analysis and stylistics. The research projects of members of this group encompass topics related to language ideologies, language and identity, language shift, attitudes to language, discourse analysis, and language contact.
We regard the communicative and symbolic functions of language variation and language use as fundamental to a comprehensive theory of human linguistic production and interpretation, not as adjuncts to it. We believe that quantitative and qualitative methods complement each other in the study of linguistics and we encourage research that explores productive ways of combining the qualitative and quantitative, just as we encourage research that connects descriptions of language use with theory in linguistics and related disciplines.
Information for prospective students
The Language in Context Research Group welcomes and encourages applications from postgraduate students. You may be interested in a PhD position investigating the history of regional variation in English or a taught Masters programme dealing with current issues in speech technology, for example. Linguistics and English Language provides an excellent multi-disciplinary environment, ideally suited to accommodate teaching and research in the twenty-first century.
Want to know more?
For more information, please consult our information pages for prospective postgraduate students, where you will find answers to many frequently asked questions.
Philosophy of Science is a thriving field of research at the key juncture between philosophy and cutting-edge research in the sciences at large (from the physical sciences to the neurosciences). The University of Edinburgh has recently established a new research cluster in Philosophy of Science, which is uniquely placed to pursue interdisciplinary research in the field, in synergy with other research clusters such as Mind & Cognition, Epistemology, and Early Modern Philosophy
Key areas and topics covered by faculty members in Philosophy of Science include: metaphysical issues in science (philosophy of time and time-travel; realism and antirealism; natural kinds; causation; laws of nature); history and philosophy of science (especially, the history and philosophy of natural sciences); philosophy of psychology; philosophy of neuroscience; philosophy of cognitive sciences, and foundations of probability. The research cluster has also links with History at Edinburgh, with the Institute for the Study of Science, Technology and Innovation, the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and with the Science and Religion Programme in the School of Divinity.
These are some of the research questions that faculty members in Philosophy of Science are interested in:
- What is time? Is time-travel possible?
- Is truth the aim of science?
- What is a law of nature?
- Do natural kinds carve nature’s joints or are they human constructions?
- What is causation?
- Should we be relativist about science?
- What is the nature of scientific explanation?
- Is fictionalism about science viable?
- What is the role of probability in scientific theories?
- What justifies the Born rule in quantum physics?
Faculty members working in Philosophy of Science:
- Dr Alistair Isaac joins Philosophy @ Edinburgh in September 2013. Dr Isaac gained his PhD at Stanford University (2010) and was postdoctoral fellow in the Philosophy Department at the University of Pennsylvania, working with Gary Hatfield on a NSF project "Measurement and Isomorphism in the Psychology of Perception". Dr Isaac specializes in Philosophy of Psychology and Philosophy of Cognitive Science.
- Dr Suilin Lavelle joins Philosophy @ Edinburgh in June 2013, having previously been a Teaching Fellow in Philosophy at Edinburgh (2011-2013). Dr Lavelle’s PhD was from Sheffield, and her primary research area is philosophy of psychology and the philosophy of neuroscience, as well as general philosophy of science (scientific explanation, in particular).
- Prof Michela Massimi joined Philosophy @ Edinburgh in September 2012, having previously taught for seven years in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at UCL. Prof Massimi works on realism and antirealism in science, laws of nature, natural kinds and causation. She has extensively written on the history and philosophy of the physical sciences. Her publications include Pauli’s Exclusion Principle (CUP, 2005) and Kant and Philosophy of Science Today (CUP, 2008). She is the Co-Editor in Chief of The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, and the PI on a Leverhulme international network grant on "Kant and the Laws of Nature" (2012-2015) which is hosted by the Eidyn Research Centre. Prof Massimi is also the Project Leader of the IASH-funded Philosophy of the Natural and Human Sciences. Prof Massimi is also the PI on a large European Research Council Consolidator Grant entitled Perspectival Realism (2016-2020).
- Dr Alasdair Richmond has been teaching Philosophy of Science in Edinburgh since 2003. His area of research is at the intersection of metaphysics and philosophy of science, and he has extensively published on time travel, the topology of time, and the anthropic principle, as well as on early modern philosophy.
- Dr Mark Sprevak joined Philosophy @ Edinburgh in 2011, having previously been the recipient of a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship and of a Junior Research Fellowship at King’s College, University of Cambridge. Dr Sprevak’s work is at the intersection of philosophy of mind and philosophy of cognitive science. He is currently working on a Routledge textbook on computational theories of mind, and on fictionalism in science. Mark is the Co-Pi on an AHRC-funded project on the "History of Distributed Cognition".
- Wolfgang Schwarz joined Philosophy @ Edinburgh in January 2015, after several post-doc positions at the Australasian National University. He works - among other things - on the structure and interpretation of probability in science, the status of laws, and selected topics in philosophy of physics and cognitive science.
Other members of staff interested in Philosophy of Science include: Prof Andy Clark (philosophy of mind and embodied cognition); Prof Jesper Kallestrup (metaphysics of science, emergence and reductionism); Dr Pauline Pheminster (history and philosophy of life sciences, especially the 18th century); Prof Duncan Pritchard (scientific explanation and understanding, the epistemology of scientific knowledge); and Dr Nick Treanor (the metaphysics of science, the relation between physics and the special sciences, physicalism). The following postdoctoral fellows also work in the area of philosophy of science: Adam Carter, Jamie Collin, and Orestis Palermos
Philosophy of Science Research Seminars
"Philosophy of Science: Contemporary Debates" is a new dedicated research seminar series with external speakers coming on a fortnight basis (in both semester 1 and 2).
The research seminar series is part of our new MSc specialization in Philosophy of Science.
The goal of the Models in Science and Cognition Reading Group (MiSC) is to attract theorists of modelling along with those who practise it, for a joint appraisal of models within science and cognition.
Recent and upcoming events
2015 - 2016
- ERC-sponsored International conference on Perspectival modelling: pluralism and integration. The goal of this first international conference - part of the ERC Consolidator Grant Perspectival Realism (PI: Prof Massimi) - is to explore methodological problems and prospects of perspectival modelling across the sciences. What challenges does the integration of data coming from incompatible models pose? And what are the prospects of a pluralistic approach to perspectival modelling? (July 2nd and 3rd 2016)
- Integrated History and Philosophy of Science conference (&HPS6). This is the 6th conference of a very successful series of international conferences under the general heading of Integrated History and Philosophy of Science that for the first time is held in the UK. The conference will feature three full days of contributed papers and invited talks that integrate the historical and philosophical analysis of science (i.e., the physical sciences, life sciences, cognitive sciences, and social sciences). This conference will also serve as the 11th annual workshop of the UK Integrated HPS Network. (July 3rd-5th 2016)
2014 - 2015
- Spring Workshop of the Edinburgh Women in Philosophy Group on "Ignorance and Under-representation", with Janet Kourany (History and Philosophy of Science, Notre Dame) as part of the IASH project "Philosophy of the Natural and Human Sciences" (10 March 2015)
- "Simulations, models and data at LHC" - one day workshop at the cross-junction of philosophy of physics and particle physics, also part of the IASH project "Philosophy of the Natural and Human Sciences". Organiser: Michela Massimi. Confirmed speakers: Jon Butterworth (Physics, UCL), Koray Karaca (Science and Technology Studies, Wuppertal), Michael Krämers (Physics, Aachen), Margaret Morrison (Philosophy, Toronto). Venue: IASH seminar room. (12 May 2015)
- "Perspectives on Nativism" - a two-day workshop exploring issues surrounding innate knowledge, also part of the IASH project "Philosophy of the Natural and Human Sciences". Organisers: Suilin Lavelle and Kenny Smith. Confirmed speakers: Balthasar Bickel (Linguistics, Zurich Center for Linguistics); Caroline Rowland (Psychology, University of Liverpool); Annie Gagliardi (Informatics, University of Edinburgh). (21 - 22 May 2015)
- "Kant on the laws of the life sciences, and the lawfulness of nature". Final conference of the Kant and the Laws of Nature network (more details on this will come up on the website of the project in the next month or so). Confirmed speakers: Karl Ameriks (Notre Dame), Angela Breitenbach (Cambridge), Michael Friedman (Stanford), Hannah Ginsborg (Berkeley), Paul Guyer (Penn), Peter McLaughlin (Heidelberg), Lisa Shabel (Ohio), Eric Watkins (UCSD), Catherine Wilson (York, CUNY), Rachel Zuckert (Northwestern). (25 - 26 June 2015)
2013 - 2014
- Interdisciplinary Colloquium on Newton and Kant (19 May 2014, IASH)
- International Workshop on Kant and the Laws of Physics — part of the Leverhulme-funded grant "Kant and the Laws of Nature" (27-28 June 2013)
- Public lectures in collaboration with the Royal Institution of Great Britain on Nature and Nature's Laws: how did they come about? (2, 10, and 17 June, London)
Visiting PhD students and visiting faculty
We welcome visiting PhD students working in the broad area of philosophy of science and at the intersection of philosophy of science and other areas. As part of the IASH grant, we are currently running a faculty and visiting PhD students exchange programme with both the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, at the University of Pittsburgh and the History and Philosophy of Science Graduate Programme at the University of Notre Dame. In 2014/5 we welcomed Trey Boone (HPS PhD student, Pittsburgh) from Pittsburgh visiting us in March 2015; Janet Kourany (HPS Faculty, Notre Dame) visiting us from 9th to 13th March 2015; and Edouard Machery (HPS Faculty, Pittsburgh) visiting us from the 23rd to the 27h March 2015. For 2015/6 we welcome Prof Sandra Mitchell (HPS Faculty, Pittsburgh) visiting us from 20 May to 10 June 2016, and welcome back Edouard Machery (HPS Faculty, Pittsburgh), in March 2016. If you are interested in spending a period of time with us, please contact Prof Michela Massimi, who will be delighted to help.
Postgraduate and visiting research students
Philosophy of Science@Edinburgh is the latest addition to our Philosophy research clusters. We welcome new applications both for our MSc specialization in Philosophy of Science and for our PhD program.
Current and recent students, with research interests in Philosophy of Science:
- Max Andrews
- Daniel Calder
- Matteo Colombo (PhD)
- Cameron Boult (PhD)
- James Collin (PhD)
- Ana-Maria Cretu
- Joseph Dewhurst (PhD)
- Keith Heard (PhD)
- Elizabeth Irvine
- Laura Jimenez
- Sander Klasse (from Divinity)
- Anna Ortín Nadal
- Orestis Palermos (PhD)
- Tony Pasqualoni (PhD)
- Eugene Philalithis
- Andrea Polonioli (PhD)
- Nicholas Rebol (PhD)
- Francesca Rossi (PhD)
- Selina Sadat (PhD)
- Kyle Scott (PhD)
- Richard Stöckle-Schobel (PhD)
- Alex Whalen (PhD)
Research in the Developmental Science group is focused on the mechanisms by which nature and nurture combine in human learning and development. We examine how different developmental factors interact across the lifespan, from before birth into adolescence and old age. We are a diverse but well-integrated set of researchers, with expertise in cognitive, social and linguistic development, differential psychology and genetics, and computational modelling. Our research projects have implications for a wide range of developmental issues, from philosophical questions about the nature of learning and the mind, to more practical issues such as predicting and improving educational attainment, and understanding neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and specific language impairment.
This work is supported by excellent research facilities. Testing rooms in our newly-built Developmental Lab include multiple eye trackers for use with both infants and older children. The department's EEG/ERP facilities and its motion-tracking device are both suitable for use with infants and children of all ages. Our differential work uses massive twin study datasets, and computational modelling is facilitated by Edinburgh's superb computing cluster.
Finally, the department also hosts the Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology (CCACE), which provides world-leading resources for research into healthy ageing.