How does the mind work? What is it to treat another person fairly? How do we manage to communicate with one another?
By addressing these topics and more, researchers within the Philosophy Division are advancing the boundaries of human understanding on some of life’s most fundamental questions.
Our expertise spans moral philosophy, the philosophy of mind and language and the philosophy of Wittgenstein and our academics have conducted ground-breaking work to help us understand complex areas such as the nature of moral claims and the notion of fairness.
Our projects have a genuine impact on the world around us, such as attempts to better understand and alleviate cognitive disorders or political research governing what we owe to each other and society. We also work across disciplines, including with psychologists and clinicians, in an ongoing project to advance our understanding of pain.
The effects of our research are felt globally and we enjoy particularly strong connections with a number of Chinese universities.
The Action-Based Brain: a provocation to philosophy, robotics and the cognitive sciences
- ‘The action-based brain’ is a one-year AHRC-funded research network based at the University of Reading (2016-17) which brings together philosophers, neuroscientists, roboticists, and experts in computer vision from around Europe and the USA.
- PI James Stazicker (Reading Philosophy) and Co-I Andrew Glennerster (Reading Psychology) are members of the network, which also includes Bruce Cumming (National Eye Institute, USA), Bence Nanay (Centre for Philosophical Psychology, University of Antwerp) and Jenny Read (Institute of Neuroscience, Newcastle University).
- The network is exploring a radical hypothesis about higher brain function: that perception, thought and action have more in common than traditionally assumed, as they are all explicable in terms of brain mechanisms which have long been taken to underlie the control of action. More broadly, the network combines tools from philosophy and the cognitive sciences to assess the scope and limits of action-oriented theories of neural and artificial information processing.
- The network meets through virtual-workshops, and continues discussion via a wiki. There will also be a final workshop, where members of the network will meet in the flesh to assess what has been achieved.
Pervasive context-sensitivity in natural language: The problems and the solutions
- ‘Pervasive context’ is a two-year AHRC-funded research network (2014-16) between University of Reading, UK, and Peking University, China (Peking University was listed at no.1 in the THES ranking of universities in emerging markets, 2014).
- PI Emma Borg and Co-I Nat Hansen, with the primary Peking contacts being Prof. Chuang Ye and Dr. Qilin Li.
- The network's aim is to explore issues surrounding where and why we draw the divide between semantics and pragmatics in natural language, assessing the extent of pragmatic intrusion into semantic content. Specifically, the project aims to achieve a state-of-the-art synoptic view of extant positions in this area and to identify and explore ways in which the debate can be taken forward.
- The most visible element of the project is two international conferences, one held in Beijing in October 2015 and one to be held in Reading in June 2016. However the project has also included regular virtual-workshops between Reading, Peking and leading researchers at other institutions.
Dates: Saturday 25th - Sunday 26th June 2016
Original research challenging our central conceptions of self, freedom and responsibility has inspired society to engage with philosophy on an unprecedented scale.
Although academic philosophers traditionally struggle to have their research discussed outside of academia, Prof Galen Strawson’s radical thinking on the nature of mental life gained global publicity from the likes of BBC Radio 4, The New York Times and US networks including PBS and NPR.
The research, which challenges preconceptions about free will, consciousness and moral responsibility, has stimulated non-academics to question their assumptions, engage in debate with each other and ultimately influenced public opinion.
- Oderberg, D. Further Clarity on Co-operation & Morality. Forthcoming in the Journal of Medical Ethics
- Hooker, B. (2015) The elements of well-being. Journal of Practical Ethics, 3 (1)
- De Gaynesford, M. (2016) The rift in the lute: attuning poetry and philosophy. Oxford University Press, Oxford. ISBN 9780198797265 (In Press)
- Borg, E. (2012) Pursuing meaning. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp272. ISBN 9780199588374. Chinese translation (2014), L. Liu, Fudan University Press.
We are also founding members of the South West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership