Staff research expertise
COGITO, founded in 2018 by J. Adam Carter, Christoph Kelp and Mona Simion, is a Glasgow-based Epistemology Research Group aimed at facilitating the creation and dissemination of first-rate work in contemporary analytic epistemology. Our membership includes core Philosophy faculty and PhD students working on epistemology-themed topics at Glasgow; beyond Glasgow we are affiliated internationally with the Social Epistemology Network, European Normativity Network, European Epistemology Network, and the ConceptLab.
COGITO regularly hosts major international epistemology events, holds an ongoing epistemology speaker series, and has a thriving epistemology PhD community, with students currently writing dissertations on such topics as knowledge-first epistemology, epistemic injustice, social and collective epistemology, and epistemic vice and blame. We also regularly host visiting researchers and PhD students (contact us if you are interested in a visit).
COGITO’S four principal areas of research are: Social Epistemology; Virtue epistemology; Knowledge-first epistemology; and Epistemic Normativity. Beyond these areas, we also have research strengths in Moral Epistemology, Epistemology of emotions; Epistemology of perception; Feminist Epistemology; and the Semantics of Knowledge Attributions. We have several active research grant applications in progress and on the horizon in these areas (more details soon).
Epistemic norms, values and aims
Christoph Kelp has worked on issues on the value of knowledge, the knowledge norms of assertion and belief and the aim of inquiry. He has explored a range of avenues towards explaining the distinctive value of knowledge and has developed a series of arguments that knowledge is the aim of inquiry. He has also defended a distinctively function based approach to the normativity of assertion, the key theses of which are that assertion has the function of generating knowledge in hearers and that assertion is governed by a knowledge norm in order to ensure that assertion fulfils this function reliably. He is currently working with Mona Simion on a book on the topic.
Mona Simion has worked and published extensively on the value of knowledge and epistemic norms for assertion, practical reasoning and belief. She has defended a strongly compatibilist view of assertion, according to which the knowledge norm of assertion fits best with a classical invariantist view on the semantics of knowledge attributions. She has also argued that, contra orthodoxy, there is no epistemic norm for action, but rather only an epistemic norm for practical reasoning. Simion has received a very prestigious Mind Fellowship for a book on epistemic norms and functions.
J. Adam Carter has written extensively on the value of knowledge, with special attention given to the swamping problem. In “Against Swamping” (Analysis,2012), Carter (along with co-author B. Jarvis) maintain that much of the contemporary literature on the swamping problem has problematically overlooked that beliefs are ongoing states, not events with a past terminus. This insight, suitably appreciated, helps not only to disarm the swamping problem, but also has been developed further (in successor papers) to address other problems related to the value of knowledge. In addition to work on the value of knowledge, Carter has also defended a normativist approach in (along with traditional epistemology) the epistemology of trust and emotion.
(3) Knowledge first epistemology
Christoph Kelp’s research in knowledge first epistemology has focused on a variety of issues, including knowledge first friendly accounts of understanding and epistemic norms and goals. His main contribution, however, has been to develop in some detail a version of distinctively knowledge first version of virtue epistemology, which radically breaks with the traditional view that a belief is successful just if true. Instead it takes a belief to be 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 has published a book on the topic entitled ‘Good Thinking. A Knowledge First Virtue Epistemology’. More recently, he has also been developing a knowledge first account of knowledge.
Mona Simion works in knowledge-first social epistemology (testimony, disagreement, groups), and has defended knowledge-first views of assertion and epistemically justified belief. She is currently working on a book where she defends a view according to which epistemic norms for assertion, belief and practical reasoning are borne out of the function of our cognitive processes of generating knowledge.
J. Adam Carter research in knowledge first epistemology has focused on (i) knowledge-first structural analogies between mind and action; and (ii) knowledge-first approaches at the collective level. He is a co-editor of Knowledge First: Approaches in Epistemology and Mind (OUP 2017).
Christoph Kelp is interested in the epistemology of testimony and disagreement. His hearer-oriented account of the normativity of assertion places the view squarely within the field of social epistemology. In addition, he has worked on developing an anti-reductionist account of testimony justification (with Mona Simion) and a dynamic approach to the epistemology of disagreement.
Mona Simion is working on a project entitled ‘Knowledge-First Social Epistemology;’ the project proposes a methodological turn for social epistemology. In contrast to traditional, individualist or socialist approaches, this project puts knowledge first, in that it enquires into what are the best ways to proceed in social epistemic interactions in order to generate knowledge. As part of this project, Simion defends a knowledge-first anti-reductionist view on testimonial justification, a closeness-to-knowledge norm of disagreement and a novel, knowledge functionalist view on group justified belief.
J. Adam Carter’s work in social epistemology includes work in three main areas: (i) testimony and transmission; and (ii) peer disagreement; and (iii) collective epistemology. In the case of transmission principles, Carter holds that all transmission principles are false. Regarding peer disagreement, Carter has recently defended a view called controversial view agnosticism, according to which it is rationally permissible to traffic in suspicion, even if not in full blown belief, in contested areas. In the case of collective epistemology, Carter has written papers that offer novel views of collective-level defeaters and the rational requirements of collective-level peer disagreement.
Michael Brady is interested in the role that emotion plays in intellectual virtue, and in the differences between moral and intellectual virtue, and has chapters forthcoming on both topics.
J. Adam Carter’s research in virtue epistemology has focused on a range of themes including
- the relationship between intellectual virtue and luck in the analysis of knowledge
- the nature and value of insightfulness
- the relationship between open-mindedness and truth
- the normative structure of cognitive achievements
- the situationist critique of virtue epistemology
- the role of virtue and ability in the philosophy of knowledge-how
- virtue epistemology and the value of knowledge
- intellectual virtues and cognitive enhancement.
He is currently working on a VE-themed book manuscript, The Future of Knowing: Intellectual Autonomy in a Digital Age.
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 versions of virtue epistemology in a number of papers.
Mona Simion has argued in several papers for a virtue epistemological solution to the value of knowledge problem. She has also worked on comparing virtue epistemological views on justification to their proper functionalist cousin..
The nature of understanding
A central aspect of Michael Brady’s book Emotional Insight was the role that emotion plays in providing us with evaluative understanding – of ourselves, and of aspects of our environment.
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.
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.
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:
- the relationship between extended cognition and epistemic luck
- extended cognition and propositional memory
- mechanisms of defeat for collective knowledge
- the compatibility between active externalism (i.e., the extended mind thesis) and epistemic internalism
- extended knowledge-how.
More recently, Carter has been working on projects at the intersection of extended epistemology and bioethics, especially concerning enhancement.
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.
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.
Mona Simion has worked and published on proper functionalist accounts of perceptual entitlement, and has defended a knowledge-first proper functionalism.
J. Adam Carter has worked and published on relevant alternatives accounts of perceptual justification and has, separately, defended an account of perceptual entitlement according to which extended perceptual processes can issue prima facie defeasible warrant.
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.
Mona Simion has worked and published extensively on the relation between norms of assertion and the semantics of knowledge attributions. She defends a view according to which, contra orthodoxy, classical invariantism combines best with a knowledge norm of assertion. She also argues that contextualist data fail to offer support to non-invariantist views of knowledge attribution.
Christoph Kelp is interested in the feminist epistemology of disagreement, with a particular focus on group disagreement.
Mona Simion is interested in issues at the intersection of feminist epistemology and feminist philosophy of language. She has defended a novel view on hermeneutical epistemic injustice, according to which the latter amounts to a failure in epistemic basing. She has also argued extensively that the conceptual engineering of gender concepts should be epistemically constrained, such that does not result in representational loss.
- Brady, M. (2016) Group emotion and group understanding. Brady, M. and Fricker, M. eds. The Epistemic Life of Groups. Oxford: OUP.
- Brady, M. (2013) Emotional Insight. The Epistemic Role of Emotional Experience. Oxford: OUP.
- Brady, M. (2011) Emotions, perceptions and reasons. Bagnoli, C. ed. Morality and the Emotions. Oxford: OUP.
- Brady, M. (2009) Curiosity and the value of truth. Haddock, A., Millar, A. and Pritchard, D. eds. Epistemic Value. Oxford: OUP.
- Brady, M. (2006) Appropriate attitudes and the value problem. American Philosophical Quarterly 43, 273-84.
J. Adam Carter
- Carter, J. A. and Navarro, J. (2017) The defeasibility of knowledge-how. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 95(3), pp. 662-685.
- Carter, J. A. (2016) Metaepistemology and Relativism. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
- Carter, J. A. and Kallestrup, J. (2016) Extended cognition and propositional memory. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 92(3), pp. 691-714.
- Carter, J. A. and Pritchard, D. (2015) Knowledge-how and epistemic luck. Noûs, 49(3), pp. 440-453.
- Carter, J. A. and Pritchard, D. (2015) Knowledge-how and cognitive achievement. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 91(1), pp. 181-199.
- Cowan, R. (2017) Rossian conceptual intuitionism. Ethics, 127(4), pp. 821-851
- Cowan, R. (2016) Epistemic perceptualism and neo-sentimentalist objections. Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 46(1), pp. 59-81.
- Cowan, R. (2015) Clarifying ethical intuitionism. European Journal of Philosophy, 23(4), pp. 1097-1116.
- Cowan, R. (2015) C.D. Broad on moral sense theories in ethics. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society Virtual Issue 3: Methods In Ethics, pp. 171-182.
- Cowan, R. (2015) Perceptual intuitionism. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 90(1), pp. 164-193.
- Kelp, C. (2018) Good Thinking: A Knowledge First Virtue Epistemology. Series: Routledge studies in contemporary philosophy. Routledge.
- Kelp, C. (2018) Assertion: a function first account. Noûs, 52(2), pp. 411-442.
- Kelp, C. (2018) Inquiry and the transmission of knowledge. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, (doi:10.1111/phpr.12489)
- Kelp, C. (2017) How to be a reliabilist. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, (doi:10.1111/phpr.12438)
- Kelp, C. (2016) Justified belief: knowledge first-style. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 93(1), pp. 79-100.
- Macpherson, F. (2012) Cognitive penetration of colour experience: rethinking the issue in light of an indirect mechanism. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 84(1), pp. 24-62.
- Macpherson, F. (2012) A disjunctive theory of introspection. In: Sen, M. (ed.) Self-Knowledge and Agency. New Dehli: D.K. Printworld Ltd.
- Haddock, A. and Macpherson, F. (Eds.) (2008) Disjunctivism: Perception, Action, Knowledge. Oxford University Press: Oxford.
- Simion, M. (2018) Testimonial contractarianism. Noûs.
- Simion, M. (2018) Epistemic norm correspondence and the belief-assertion parallel. Analysis, (doi:10.1093/analys/any048)
- Simion, M. (2018) Assertion: the context shiftiness dilemma. Mind and Language
- Simion, M. (2018) Saying and believing: the norm commonality assumption. Philosophical Studies, (doi:10.1007/s11098-018-1105-8)
- Kelp, C. and Simion, M. (2017) Criticism and blame in action and assertion. Journal of Philosophy, 114(2), pp. 76-93.
History of Philosophy
We have particular strengths in the history of twentieth century philosophy, and the Scottish enlightenment.
(1) Early Analytic Philosophy
Gottlob Frege: Gary Kemp has long-standing interest Gottlob Frege's philosophy of logic and language and his associated philosophy of mathematics. He has worked on Frege's views concerning the requirement that predicates be sharp, on Frege's doctrine of sense and Frege's treatment of propositional attitudes, Frege's (apparently) deflationary conception of truth and Frege's estimate of the role and status of logic, including the question of whether logic can function as a 'Universal Science', and the Julius Caesar problem.
Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein: Kemp works on the relationship between Russell and Frege’s conception of reasoning and understanding of the status of logic, and has published on the later Wittgenstein’s thinking (including the Investigations and On Certainty) about the unity of the proposition and has a long-term interest in understanding the relationship between Frege and Wittgenstein’s understanding of the context principle, and the relationship between Wittgenstein and Quine.
(2) Quine and Davidson
Kemp has written extensively on the philosophy of Quine, with an especial focus upon the nature of Quine’s naturalism, his understanding of holism, and what those doctrines mean for ontology. Kemp has written a book-length treatment of the dispute between Quine and Davidson on the philosophy of language, as well as an introductory book on Quine’s philosophy. This includes an account of the commitment to anomalous monism, the role of behaviourism in Quine’s philosophy of language, and an understanding of the indeterminacy of translation and the inscrutability of reference, as well as the relation between these two doctrines. Kemp also concentrates on Quine's disputes with Davidson over: the 'third dogma', truth as immanent vs. truth as transcendental, and the reality of reference. He is also interested in the relationship of Quine’s philosophy with Carnap, Wittgenstein and Tarski, and in Davidson’s theory of the propositional attitudes, theory of predication, and the role that truth theories can perform in helping us understand the unity of the proposition (sentence, statement, utterance etc.)
(3) Scottish Enlightenment
Chris Lindsay’s main research interests lie in Thomas Reid’s epistemology and philosophy of mind, in particular his agent causal theory of action and his critique of Hume. Reid and Hume share a commitment to broadly Newtonian methodology; Lindsay has written on the extent to which this is consistent with the diametrically opposed accounts of human liberty they endorse. Within the philosophy of action, he has written on Reid’s account of one’s knowledge of one’s own agen. Most recently he has sought to defend Reid against the charge that his account of sensations as lacking spatial content cannot adequately account for the rich information about the body and the environment that they serve to convey.
The bulk of Glen Pettigrove’s research in the history of philosophy focuses on 18th century thinkers Francis Hutcheson, David Hume, and Adam Smith, as well as writers outside of Scotland such as Joseph Butler. In particular, he is interested in their attempts to think through the role of the emotions in the moral life.
More generally, Glen Pettigrove has wide-ranging interests in the history of philosophy. For example, the penultimate chapter of his book, Forgiveness and Love (Oxford 2012), reconstructs Seneca’s account of grace and uses it to shed light on the ethics of forgiveness. ‘Anger and Moral Judgment’ (2014) employs ideas put forward by an 8th century Buddhist sage (Santideva) and a 4th century Christian monk (Cassian) to put pressure on recent attempts to ground moral judgments in experiences of anger. And ‘Virtue Ethics, Virtue Theory, and Moral Theology’ (2014) and ‘Hindu Virtue Ethics’ (2015) draw on Aquinas and Patanjali, respectively, to explore what is distinctive about virtue ethical theories.
Quine versus Davidson, OUP, 2012
‘Pushing Wittgenstein and Quine Closer Together’, Journal of the History of Analytical Philosophy Vol. 2, No. 10, 2014.
‘Quine’s Criticism of Semantics’, in Philosophy of Language and Linguistics: The Legacy of Frege, Russell, and Wittgenstein, ed. by Piotr Stalmaszczyk. Ontos Verlag 2014.
'Reid on instinctive exertions and the spatial contents of sensations' in R. Copenhaver, and T. Buras (eds.) Thomas Reid on Mind, Knowledge, and Value (OUP/Mind Association occasional series, 2015). pp. 35-51.
'Hume and Reid on Newtonianism, naturalism and liberty' in I. Kasavin,(ed.) David Hume and Contemporary Philosophy (CSP, 2013). pp. 191-208
‘Passions, Perceptions, and Motives: Fault-lines in Hutcheson’s Account of Moral Sentiments,’ Passions, Sympathy, and Print Culture: Public Opinion and Emotional Authenticity in Eighteenth-Century Britain, David Lemmings, Heather Kerr, and Robert Phiddian, eds (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016) 203-222.
‘Re-Conceiving Character: The Social Ontology of Humean Virtue,’ Res Philosophica 92.3 (July 2015): 595-619.
‘Meekness and “Moral” Anger,’ Ethics 122.2 (January 2012): 341-370.
Logic, Language and Mathematics
We have a broad range of expertise and strengths in the philosophies of logic, language and mathematics.
We have recently hosted several conferences on Quine under the banner of the Forum for Quine, a Formal Philosophy workshop joint with the University of Melbourne (a postgraduate was able to visit Melbourne for the reciprocal workshop). A workshop in honour of our retired former colleague Prof Alan Weir will take place in December 2018. Leuenberger is the co-organiser of a two-part Glasgow-Oslo workshop series on Philosophical Applications in Modal Logic. The Oslo leg took place in June 2018 and the Glasgow leg is planned for 2020.
Current and recent PhD students have worked on Quine’s naturalism; the’revenge problem’ for dialetheic solutions to the liar paradox; plural logic; and the nature of logic.
Philosophy of Language
Gary Kemp has written extensively upon the philosophy of language concentrating upon issues connected with truth, logical form, reference and meaning, especially in connection with the philosophies of Quine, Davidson, Frege and Wittgenstein.
Adam Rieger has worked and published on conditionals, in which area he has published a series of papers defending the truth-functional account of indicatives, and also defended a Quinean sceptical view of subjunctives. He has also published on the liar and other paradoxes.
Mona Simion works in conceptual engineering, the nature and normativity of speech acts (assertion, reporting) and feminist philosophy of language.
She defends a novel, functionalist view on the metaphysical and normative limitations of conceptual engineering, and is particularly interested in applications of the view to gender concepts. She has also extensively argued in favour of a constitutive knowledge norm view of the nature of assertion and applied her results to the philosophy of mass communication.
Philosophy of Mathematics
Rieger has a background in mathematics and has a particular interest in the set-theoretic paradoxes and in non-well-founded set theories. He has also published on the aesthetics of mathematics.
We have a strong interest in developing philosophical applications of the technical tools provided by modal logic.
Adam Rieger has used doxastic logic to provide an analysis of Moore’s paradox (“p but I do not believe that p”), clarifying what it tells us about introspection and rationality.
Stephan Leuenberger has explored the logical implications of general contingentism, understood as the view that everything that is not logically inconsistent is possible. Since its negation is logically consistent, general contingentism entails its own contingency. As a result, certain sentences are in some sense logically valid without being necessary.
Leuenberger has also drawn on techniques from modal logic to develop a logic of totality expressions such as “and that’s it”; on philosophical applications of infinitary logic; and on the logic of grounding.
- Quine versus Davidson, OUP, 2012
- What is this thing called ‘Philosophy of Language’? Routledge 2018
- 'Is everything a set? Quine and (Hyper)Pythagoreanism'. Monist 2017.
- 'Quine, publicity, and pre-established harmony.' ProtoSociology 2017.
- "Defending a Simple Theory of Conditionals", American Philosophical Quarterly 2015
- "Moore's paradox, introspection and doxastic logic", Thought 2015
- “Was Quine right about subjunctive conditionals?” The Monist 2017
- “The beautiful art of mathematics”, Philosophia Mathematica 2018
- The 'Should' In Conceptual Engineering. Inquiry. OnlineFirst. 2017
- Epistemic Trouble for Engineering ‘Woman.’ Logos and Episteme, Vol IX/1: 91-98. 2018
- The Constitutive Norm View of Assertion (with C. Kelp). In Goldberg, S. (ed), Oxford Handbook of Assertion. Oxford University Press. Forthcoming.
- Assertion: The Context Sensitivity Dilemma. Mind & Language. Forthcoming.
- Leuenberger, S. (2014) Total logic. Review of Symbolic Logic, 7(3), pp. 529-547. (doi:10.1017/S1755020314000124)
- Leuenberger, S. (2014) Grounding and necessity. Inquiry, 57(2), pp. 151-174. (doi:10.1080/0020174X.2013.855654)
- Leuenberger, S. (2015) The contingency of contingency. Journal of Philosophy, 112(2), pp. 84-112.
- Leuenberger, S. (2018) Global supervenience without reducibility. Journal of Philosophy, 115(8), pp. 389-422.
McDonnell has worked widely in the philosophy of causation and its application, developing a broadly Humean view that integrates insights from counterfactual, contrastive, and interventionist theories. He is also interested in how causation and causal explanation feature elsewhere in philosophy (especially in normative philosophy and epistemology) and beyond (in accident investigation, the assessment of safety systems, and the law).
INTER-LEVEL METAPHYSICS AND PHYSICALISM
Inter-level metaphysics investigates how different levels of reality – the level of fundamental physics and the mental or sociological level, say – are related. Leuenberger has worked on the question of how, exactly, we are to understand the relevant relationships holding between these levels, notably grounding and supervenience.
One prominent thesis in inter-level metaphysics is physicalism. Leuenberger has argued that it should be understood as the claim that the physical is ceteris absentibus (other things being absent) sufficient for everything. Thus understood, it is not vulnerable to the standard version of the conceivability argument. The main argument for physialism, in the contemporary debate, is the causal exclusion argument. McDonnell has contributed to the analysis of this argument by drawing on his expertise in the specialized literature on causation, and is interested whether there is a physicalistically acceptable way of capturing the concept of emergence in the philosophy of science and philosophy of mind.
ONTOLOGY OF ART AND OF VIRTUAL REALITY
In ontology, Kemp has a longstanding interest in things Quinean: an austere brand of physicalism; the denial that there are properties, relations, or intensional entities such as possible worlds; ontological relativity, and structuralism. He is also interested in the so-called ontology of art – in what sorts of objects are works of art, or indeed whether the appearance there are such things might be explained away.
The advent of Virtual Reality (and sister technology Augmented Reality) has spurred new work in metaphysics, in particular about the ontological status of virtual entities. If virtual entities are genuinely real, as some claim, then what does that mean for our theories of inter-level metaphysics, or causation? If they are not real, then how do we explain their epistemic utility, or moral value? McDonnell’s work in this are adopts a Waltonian fictionalist approach to the metaphysics of the virtual, arguing that the virtual entities are not real, but they can bear value (epistemic and moral) in virtue of the physical props that support them.
METAPHYSICAL NATURALISM AND SCIENTIFIC KINDS
A central concern of metaphysics is the classification of things into kinds, and to clarify the ontological status of the posited kinds and their members. According to metaphysical naturalism, we should look to scientific practice to answer this question. In his work on Quine, one of the founding parents of metaphysical naturalism, Kemp has explored the idea that the notion of metaphysical possibility is not needed in order to make sense of kinds, and is interested in the thesis that the key to kindhood is the structure of science, not the references of its terms. In her work on natural kinds, Corns has argued that a kind should be accepted as natural if it is usefully referenced for scientific explanation and prediction. Using pain as an example, she further argues that some kinds may be real, but not natural, if they are usefully referenced for other purposes.
MODALITY AND POSSIBLE WORLDS
Many philosophers have like to think that while many contingent truths are brute and unexplained, necessary truths are not: there are no brute necessities. Leuenberger has argued that if this claim were necessary, it would itself be a brute necessity. So if it is true, it is contingent. More generally, metaphysical claims are contingent. Leuenberger has explored the consequences of the view for modal logic.
Leuenberger is also interested in the metaphysics of possible worlds, and how certain assumptions about how many worlds there are may turn out to be relevant to apparently unrelated philosophical questions. McDonnell has developed a distinctive version of counterpart theory – originally proposed to account for de re modality – to address certain problems for counterfactual theories of causation.
METAPHYSICS OF LAW
Together with Prof. Georgios Pavlakos in the School of Law, Leuenberger is interested in bringing recent developments in metaphysics to bear on traditional questions in the philosophy of law, notably the dispute between positivism and anti-positivism. As it turns out, that somewhat elusive contrast is best captured in terms of the notion of grounding: positivism claims, and anti-positivism denies, that legal facts fully grounded in social facts.
RESEARCH STUDENTS IN METAPHYSICS
There are number of research students who have recently completed or are currently working on a thesis in metaphysics and related areas. Topics include: counterfactual theories of causation, causal exclusion, change, foreknowledge and predestination, property realization, the powerful quality view of fundamental properties, the normativity of social practices, and social ontology.
We have recently hosted a visiting postdoctoral researcher working on modality and research projects on:
A reading group on social ontology is currently running:
This adds up to a lively and supportive research community for people working in metaphysics.
Moral and Political Philosophy
We have people working in moral epistemology, moral psychology, virtue ethics, political philosophy and philosophy of education. Our research is broad-ranging, and we are happy to consider prospective research students working in these, and related areas. Within these areas we have a number of particular shared interests and strengths which make Glasgow a distinctive place to pursue research; these offer prospective doctoral students the exciting prospect of working with a team of senior and junior academics pursuing some distinctive lines of inquiry.
Brady works on the epistemic value of emotion in our moral thinking, and has recently published a well-received monograph on the subject. Cowan uses contemporary work in epistemology and the philosophy of perception to illuminate the prospects for ethical intuitionism, and Colburn is researching the history of ideas about the methodology and epistemology of ethics.
Brady, Cowan and Pettigrove all work centrally on questions relating to moral psychology. In particular, Brady and Cowan (with colleagues David Bain and Jennifer Corns) have interests in the nature and normative significance of pain, and the department has been home two large interdisciplinary projects on the subject: the Nature of Pain (2012 - 2013) and The Value of Suffering (2013 – 2016). In addition, Adam Carter has just published a book on pride and moral psychology. This concentration of people working in moral psychology is an unusual – and advantageous – feature of the department.
The department has concentrations in both virtue ethics and virtue epistemology. With respect to the former, Pettigrove has works on the importance of meekness, anger, forgiveness and love, while Brady’s interests also overlap here. With respect to the latter, Pettigrove, along with Christoph Kelp and Adam Carter, are key contributors to the ongoing development of virtue epistemology.
Colburn works in political philosophy can be divided into two broad areas of overlap, first, distributive justice and, second, autonomy and consent. Within distributive justice, both have written on the role of responsibility within a theory of justice and the proper ‘metric’ or ‘currency’ of justice. Within autonomy and consent, Colburn’s Autonomy and Liberalism, was selected as one of the Independent on Sunday’s paperbacks of the year in 2013. Together, they are interests in how an autonomy-based account of the competence condition on consent might be developed. Pettigrove’s interest in forgiveness also ranges over political contexts.
Philosophy of Education
Colburn has been jointly involved in research on what distributive justice requires in the funding of adult education – including whether participants or non-participants should pay for university education – and are involved in further projects in this area. Independently, Colburn is interested in questions of liberal education and neutrality.
We have a number of PhD students currently working in these areas. Topics include:
- the ethics of suicide
- the value of participation in democracy
- the demands of liberal neutrality
- justice to future generations
- ideological subterfuge in liberal multiculturalism
- the pursuit of neutrality in liberal education.
Taken as a whole, this adds up to a lively and supportive research community for people working in moral and political philosophy. As well as frequent workshops and conferences (e.g. as part of the Suffering Project, or the Responsibility and the Welfare State series) Philosophy plays host to part of the Glasgow Human Rights Network and organises joint events with people working on similar issues elsewhere in Glasgow University and the central belt of Scotland.
Philosophers working in moral and political philosophy at Glasgow are enthusiastic about using their ideas to engage with the wider community. Sometimes this involves bringing our research to a wider audience through public talks and events; for example, Brady’s recent public lectures associated with the Suffering Project. It also involves working with other organizations to bring our influence to bear in the political or cultural spheres. Colburn has been involved in developing policy on a national level, and is on the committee of the Stevenson Trust for citizenship, which runs public lectures and school education programmes on matters concerning politics, citizenship and human rights. Brady has a long-standing relationship with Quarantine, a Manchester-based theatre company which has used his work for shows and events in Manchester and the UK. He also (along with Bain and Colburn) worked with Glasgow company Trigger to put on a series of public philosophy events and plays in the run up to the 2014 independence referendum.
If you want to find out more, please feel free to e-mail any of us.
You can find more extensive lists on our individual web pages.
- ‘Re-Conceiving Character: The Social Ontology of Humean Virtue,’ Res Philosophica 92.3 (July 2015): 595-619.
- ‘Anger and Moral Judgment,’ co-authored with Koji Tanaka, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 92.2 (June 2014): 269-286.
- Forgiveness and Love, Oxford University Press, 2012.
- ‘Moral and Intellectual Virtues’, Oxford Handbook of Virtue, ed. Nancy Snow (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018)
- ‘The role of emotion in intellectual virtue’, Routledge Handbook of Virtue Epistemology, ed. Heather Battaly (London: Routledge, 2018)
- Emotional Insight, Oxford University Press, 2013.
- ‘Emotions, Perceptions, and Reasons’, in Morality and the Emotions, edited by Carla Bagnoli, Oxford University Press, 2012, 135-49.
- ‘Disappointment’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supp. Volume 84, (2010): 179-198.
- ‘Disadvantage, autonomy, and the Continuity Test’, Journal of Applied Philosophy 31 (2014): 254-270.
- Autonomy and Liberalism (Routledge, New York: 2010, paperback edn. 2013).
- ‘Autonomy and adaptive preferences’, Utilitas 23 (2011): 52-71.
- ‘Ethical Perception and Cognitive Penetrability', Review of Philosophy and Psychology (2014).
- ‘Perceptual Intuitionism’, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (2013).
- ‘Clarifying Ethical Intuitionism’, European Journal of Philosophy (2013).
Philosophy of Mind and Perception
- David Bain
- Michael Brady
- Derek Brown
- Jennifer Corns
- Robert Cowan
- Stephan Leuenberger
- Jack Lyons
- Fiona Macpherson
Philosophy of mind at Glasgow is vibrant and thriving. No fewer than eight of our permanent staff have interests and expertise in this area. We are, moreover, home to the Centre for the Study of Perceptual Experience (CSPE) which has become a remarkable hub of research activity.
Glasgow Philosophy and the CSPE have hosted myriad grant-funded projects in philosophy of mind, as well as numerous postdoctoral researchers, visiting academics, and visiting doctoral students. Our outside speaker programme often features philosophers of mind and, in addition, the CSPE runs a Philosophy, Psychology, and Neuroscience seminar series in collaboration with Psychology, as well as ad hoc reading groups and other events for students, professional researchers, and the general public.
The CSPE has become an internationally renowned research centre, especially for work on perception, experience, and consciousness. Under the directorship of Fiona Macpherson, it has hosted and participated in numerous perception-focused projects and collaborations, supported by a variety of funders (such as the AHRC and John Templeton Foundation) and involving partnerships with universities all over the world (e.g. Harvard, MIT, Toronto, Oslo, Fribourg). Often highly interdisciplinary, these projects include:
- The Philosophy of Virtual and Augmented Reality
- Understanding the Senses
- Synchronising the Senses
- Sense Data
- The Eye’s Mind
- Thought and Sense
- Experience and Reason
- The Network for Sensory Research
- Rethinking the Senses.
Staff working on perception include:
- Fiona Macpherson (perception, hallucination and illusion, the senses, imagination, cognitive penetration)
- Jack Lyons (perception and perceptual epistemology)
- Derek Brown (perception and consciousness, colour and sensible qualities, misperception, sense-data)
- David Bain (representationalism, bodily perception, colour perception)
- Michael Brady (perception/emotion relationships and contrasts; suffering)
- Jennifer Corns (non-conscious perception, sensation-perception-cognition, adverbialism, mental qualities)
- Robert Cowan (cognitive penetration, perception of value).
Pain, suffering and hedonics
Glasgow Philosophy has also developed over recent years a significant strength in the study of pain and the critically important phenomenon of affect or valence or hedonics -- in other words, the fact that many ingredients of our mental lives (bodily sensations, perceptual experiences, emotions, and so forth) feel good or bad, are positive or negative, are pleasant or unpleasant.
In this connection, David Bain and Michael Brady led The Pain Project (2012-13) and The Value of Suffering Project (2013-16), two international and interdisciplinary projects funded by the Templeton Foundation. These involved as postdoc Jennifer Corns, who is now a colleague and (with Ben Colburn) has led another affect-focused project: Suffering and Autonomy at the End of Life.
Staff currently working on pain, suffering, and hedonics include:
- David Bain (pain perception, hedonics, motivation, affective reasons and normativity)
- Jennifer Corns (pain, hedonics, motivation, pain science)
- Michael Brady (pain, emotion, suffering)
- Robert Cowan (pain and practical reason).
Staff working on emotion include:
- Michael Brady (epistemic value of emotional experience; nature and value of suffering)
- Robert Cowan (reason-responsiveness, emotions’ epistemic role)
- David Bain (pain and emotion, emotional valence and hedonics)
- Jennifer Corns (rationality of affective states).
Also in this area is Glen Pettigrove, who works on emotion from the perspective of virtue ethics and moral psychology.
Metaphysics of mind
Finally, there is extensive research activity in Glasgow Philosophy on the metaphysics of mind, for instance on the Glasgow Emergence Project (2014-16) led by Stephan Leuenberger and Fiona Macpherson.
Staff with interests in the metaphysics of mind include:
- Stephan Leuenberger (grounding, physicalism, supervenience, conceivability and possibility)
- Fiona Macpherson (emergence, the structure of experience, property dualism, natural selection)
- David Bain (the metaphysics of colour, mental representation, and phenomenal consciousness)
- Derek Brown (colour and perceptible qualities)
- Jennifer Corns (natural kinds, scientific and medical taxonomies).
PhD students in mind
Our doctoral students have worked on a wide variety of topics including:
- pain and affect
- the nature of talent
- relationalist theories of perception
- cognitive penetration
- phenomenal unity
- non-reductive physicalism
- phenomenal character
- phenomenal concepts
- phenomenal properties
- multiple realisation
- mental causation
- the metaphysics of the phenomenal present.
Key publications and projects
Please see staff profiles for publications, projects and detailed interests.
- David Bain
- Michael Brady
- Derek Brown
- Jennifer Corns
- Robert Cowan
- Stephan Leuenberger
- Jack Lyons
- Fiona Macpherson