Research Expertise

Research Expertise

Details of staff areas of research interest can be found below.

Moral and political philosophy

Moral philosophy addresses questions about good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime. Political philosophy addresses the nature of political systems and features of political societies such as obligation, rights and autonomy.Ben Colburn's book


Research students

  • Suzanne Dowie
  • James Humphries
  • Patrick Kaczmarek
  • Frodo Podschwadek
  • Catherine Robb

Logic, language and mathematics

Studies and develops mathematical and logical systems, their interrelation, our knowledge of them and their ontological status


Research students

Mind, psychology and perception

Hallucination book coverThe study of mental phenomena, such as experience, feeling belief, consciousness and representation, their relation to the physcial world, and our knowledge of them.


Research students

History of philosophy

In particular, History of Analytic Philosophy, and Philosophy of the Scottish Enlightenment


Philosophy of religion

Eastern Philosophy book coverThe study of religions and arguments for the existence of God or Gods, the relations between them and the nature of theological concepts, such as hell.


Research Students

  • Paola Vullo
  • Margot Wilson

Some work in the philosophy of religion takes places under the auspices of the Forum for the Study of Philosophy and Religion


Key staff:

Virtue epistemology

Christoph Kelp’s research in virtue epistemological has focused mainly on virtue epistemological accounts of knowledge and justified belief. Virtue epistemology offers accounts of knowledge and justified belief in terms of cognitive abilities. The key idea is that belief is a kind of performance and can thus evaluated as successful, competent and apt. It is traditionally assumed that a belief is taken to be successful just if true. The main focus of the literature consists in developing accounts of competent and apt belief. Kelp has explored the prospects of traditional versions of virtue epistemology in a number of papers. His main contribution to the debate, however, has been to develop in some detail a version of VE that radically breaks with the traditional view that a belief is successful just if true and instead proposes that a belief is successful just if it is knowledge.  He was principal investigator on a major research project (2013-17) on the topic and has published extensively on the issue and currently has a book on knowledge first virtue epistemology under submission.

J. Adam Carter’s research in virtue epistemology has focused on a range of themes including (i) the relationship between intellectual virtue and luck in the analysis of knowledge; (ii) the nature and value of insightfulness; (iii) the relationship between open-mindedness and truth; (iv) the normative structure of cognitive achievements (v) the situationist critique of virtue epistemology; (vi) the role of virtue and ability in the philosophy of knowledge-how; (vii) virtue epistemology and the value of knowledge and (viii) intellectual virtues and cognitive enhancement. He is currently working on a book manuscript on intellectual autonomy and how this virtue is to be understood in relation with various kinds of epistemic dependence.

Michael Brady has worked in a range of themes in virtue epistemology, including the role of emotion in intellectual virtue, and the epistemic value of emotion.

Norms of assertion

Christoph Kelp has recently been working on developing a novel approach in the literature on norms of assertion. While standard approaches are rule first in the sense that they take it that an assertion is good when the speaker complies with the speaker norm of assertion. In contrast, Kelp has developed a function first account according to which a good assertion is, roughly, one that fulfils its function. Furthermore, Kelp argues that the function of assertion consists in generating knowledge in hearers and that a knowledge norm for the speaker exists in order to ensure that assertion fulfils its function of generating knowledge reliably. Kelp has published articles on the function first account and the knowledge norm of assertion and informative speech acts. He currently has a book manuscript (joint with Mona Simion, Cardiff) under submission.

J. Adam Carter’s work on norms of assertion has focused in different ways on the question of what kind of epistemic credential is sufficient for warranting assertion. In co-authored work with Emma C. Gordon, Carter has argued that—at least in certain kinds of circumstances—knowledge is not sufficient to warrant assertion and that a certain kind of understanding not reducible to knowledge is necessary. In other work, Carter has challenged the sufficiency of knowledge for epistemically appropriate assertion on the basis of considerations to do with what he calls epistemic hypocrisy. In particular, Carter has argued, firstly, that a plausible constraint on epistemically appropriate assertion is that one must: assert p only if one accepts p on the basis of epistemic grounds on which one would normally take p as a premise in one’s own practical reasoning; and, secondly, that in some cases, even when one knows that p, one fails this constraint.

The nature of understanding

Christoph Kelp has defended a novel account of understanding. Extant literature on the topic features two main camps. Explanationists claim that understading is knowledge of explanations, manipulationists hold that understanding consists in the ability to manipulate representations. According to Kelp, both views are mistaken. He takes the observation that an omniscient agent is also an omni-understanding agent motivates the thesis that maximal knowledge is maximal understanding. Lesser degrees of understanding are explained in terms of approximations to maximal knowledge. He is currently working on a book on inquiry based epistemology one key part of which develops this account of understanding in more detail.

In the epistemology of understanding, J. Adam Carter has written about both (i) understanding-why (as when, for instance, one knows an explanation) as well as on (ii) objectual understanding (i.e., as when one understands a subject matter or body of information). More recently, Carter has explored the relationship between understanding (of both varieties) and knowledge-how, epistemic luck, relativism and defeasibility.

Extended epistemology

Christoph Kelp is interested especially in the relation between virtue epistemology and extended epistemology. One prominent line of attack against virtue epistemology is that the view is not compatible with the extended cognition hypothesis in the philosophy of mind. Kelp has defended virtue epistemology against this charge in a number of published papers.

J. Adam Carter has published extensively on topics at the intersection of mainstream epistemology and various kinds of active externalism in the philosophy of mind, including the hypothesis of extended cognition as well as collective and distributed cognition. Some particular themes of focus in Carter’s work have been: (i) the relationship between extended cognition and epistemic luck; (ii) extended cognition and propositional memory; (iii) mechanisms of defeat for collective knowledge; (iv) the compatibility between active externalism (i.e., the extended mind thesis) and epistemic internalism; and (v) extended knowledge-how. More recently, Carter has been working on projects at the intersection of extended epistemology and bioethics, especially concerning enhancement.

Epistemology of perception

Michael Brady works on the epistemic role of emotional experience in justifying ethical beliefs and has recently published a highly regarded monograph on this subject.

Robert Cowan is interested in the possibility of ethical perception and in the question of whether perceptual experiences can provide non-inferential justification for ethical beliefs. More generally, he is interested in the question of how the cognitive penetrability of perceptual experience might complicate perceptual epistemology. He has recently published a paper assessing competing accounts of non-inferential justification and is currently working on the perceptual theory of the emotions.

Christoph Kelp is interested in the prospects of broadly externalist approaches to the epistemology of perception, including disjunctivist and reliabilist views. He has defended a distinctively knowledge first virtue epistemological approach in writing.

Fiona Macpherson has worked on a number of topics central to the epistemology of perception and introspection, including the cognitive penetration of perception, the nature of hallucination, the contents of perceptual experiences and the viability of disjunctivist theories of perception and introspection.

Semantics of knowledge attributions

J. Adam Carter has written several papers as well as a monograph which critically engage with truth-relativism as an approach to the semantics of knowledge attributions; relativist treatments of knowledge attributions (i.e., ascriptions of the form ‘S knows that p’) have gained traction in recent years as a competitor to contextualism, traditional invariantism and sensitive invariantism. Carter’s position has been to argue that a relativist semantics for “knows” carries with it various kinds of costly commitments in epistemology.

Christoph Kelp has worked on a range of issues relating to the semantics of knowledge attributions, including whether contextualist cases (e.g. bank cases) support contextualism and the prospects of a contrastivist semantics for knowledge attributions.

PhD students in epistemology

Some current and recent PhD topics in epistemology include: knowledge-first epistemology; intellectual vice; virtue epistemology and extended cognition; Alvin Plantinga’s epistemological framework, problems of foreknowledge, epistemic injustice and predestination and the epistemology of ethical beliefs.

Key publications

Michael Brady

  • Emotional Insight: The Epistemic Role of Emotional Experience (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013)
  • ‘Emotions, perceptions and reasons’ in Bagnoli, C. Morality and the Emotions (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011)

J. Adam Carter

  • Metaepistemology and Relativism (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016)
  • A Critical Introduction to Knowledge-How (with Ted Poston), Continuum, 2017.
  •  ‘Knowledge-How and Epistemic Luck’ (with Duncan Pritchard), Noûs 49 (3): 440-453, 2015.
  • ‘Extended Cognition and Epistemic Luck’ Synthese 190 (18): 4201-4214, 2013.
  • ‘Group Knowledge and Epistemic Defeat’ Ergo 2 (28): 711-735, 2015.
  • ‘Virtuous Insightfulness’ Episteme, 14(4) 539-554, 2017.
  • ‘The Defeasibility of Knowledge-How’ (with Jesûs Navarro) Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, forthcoming.
  • ‘Meta-Epistemic Defeat’, Synthese, forthcoming.

Robert Cowan

  • ‘Cognitive penetrability and ethical perception’ Review of Philosophy and Psychology, forthcoming
  •  ’Perceptual intuitionism’ Philosophy and Phenomenological Research v90(1), pp164-193, 2015
  •  ’Clarifying ethical intuitionism’ European Journal of Philosophy, v22(3), 2013

Christoph Kelp

  • Good Thinking, Routledge, forthcoming.
  • ‘Inquiry and the Transmission of Knowledge.’ Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, forthcoming. (Winner of the 2017 Young Epistemologist Prize)
  • ‘How to Be a Reliabilist.’ Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, forthcoming.
  • ‘Assertion: A Function First Account.’ Noûs, forthcoming.
  • ‘Criticism and Blame in Action and Assertion.’ (with M. Simion). Journal of Philosophy 114, 76-93, 2017.
  • ‘Knowledge First Virtue Epistemology.’ Carter, A., Gordon, E. and Jarvis, B. eds. Knowledge First: Approaches in Epistemology and Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.
  • ‘Justified Belief: Knowledge First-Style.’ Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 93, 79-100, 2016.
  • ‘Understanding Phenomena.’ Synthese 192, 3799-3816, 2015.

Fiona Macpherson

  • ‘The philosophy and psychology of hallucination: An introduction’ in Macpherson, F. and Platchias, D. Hallucination: Philosophy and Psychology (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2013)
  • ‘Cognitive penetration of colour experience: Rethinking the issue in light of an indirect mechanism’ Philosophy and Phenomenological Research v84(1), 2012, pp24-62
  • ‘A disjunctive theory of introspection’ Philosophical Issues v20(1), 2010, pp226-265


The study of the fundamental nature of the universe, including substances, properties, space, time and causation


Research students