Dr Neil McDonnell
- Lord Kelvin Adam Smith Research Fellowship in Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality (Philosophy)
My current research role focusses on the philosophical issues around the new immersive technologies of Virtual and Augmented Reality. I am working on questions such as: Are virtual entities genuinely real? Are they genuinely valuable? What sort of epistemic status can virtual experiences confer? I am also interested in issues concerning the role AR in particular on our autonomy and social interactions.
Relevant to my current research is my expertise on the Metaphysics of Causation, in particular my work on difference making conceptions of what it is for one thing to cause another. I have written in defence of a simple counterfactual theory of causation, on the issues of transitivity and proportionality in causation, on the methdology in this subfield, and the implications these might have for theories in the philosophy of mind. This work remains ongoing.
In 2017 I visited the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as a visiting researcher on the Software Assurance and Formal Methods programme. The purpose of the visit was to explore the potential overlaps between work conducted in epistemology and metaphysics (especially causation) in philosophy, and the issues that arise in Safety Engineering - the domain of those who investigate accidents (looking back) and, through development of regulation and testing procedures, try and minimise the risk of them in the future (looking forward). I was generously hosted by C. Michael Holloway.
The visit demonstrated that there is clear overlap, and thus significant potential for collaborative work in this area. I lead the Safety Engineering Reading Group at Glasgow which is building this collaboration, and I am pursuing grants in support of joint research work with NASA.
I am co-director of the Immersive Experience Artslab at Glasgow.
Project Mobius: Fiona Macpherson (P.I) and I were awarded £364,000 from Innovate UK for this project aimed at transforming education through the use of immersive technology, and pedagogical data analytics. The project is in collaboration with Sublime Digital and will run from October 2018 until September 2021.
Fiona Macpherson and I were awarded a grant of £6,670 from the Templeton Foundation via the The New Directions in the Study of Mind Project at the University of Cambridge for a project on Virtual and Augmented Reality, which ran from April - June 2017.
Fiona Macpherson and I were awarded a grant of £15,000 from the University of Glasgow Knowledge Exchange Fund for a project on Virtual and Augmented Reality, which ran from January - March 2017.
Umut Baysan, Stephan Leuenberger, Fiona Macpherson and I were awarded £50,000 by the Templeton Foundation, via the Durham Emergence Project.
I am happy to supervise Masters and PhD students in metaphysics, especially in relation to counterfactuals, causation, and explanation, and in topics related to metaphysics and epistemology regarding Virtual and Augmented Reality, and Safety Engineering.
I teach on a range of topics related to metaphysics, including issues around what is possible and what must be (modality), what it means to cause something (causation), whether certain things like virtual entities really exist (ontology), and on what time is, and what we can learn from thinking about time travel.
Lately I have been teaching accross these topics in level 2 undergraduate course 2B (What is there?), and the taught Masters course on Metaphysics.
From 2021-2022, I will be teaching a senior honours option course focussed specifically on Causation.