Intuitions in Philosophy: It is commonly taken for granted that intuitions play key roles in philosophy, e.g. as evidence for theories and as sources of paradoxes and problems. Recent contributions to metaphilosophy recast this as an empirical issue: The philosophical relevance of intuitions is to be examined through case studies on philosophical texts. This exciting line of research involves the development of new methodologies for identifying intuitions in philosophical texts, and their application to such texts. I am particularly interested in case studies on 20th century and current epistemology, philosophy of perception, and philosophy of mind.
Metaphor and Analogy in Philosophy: Analogical reasoning is an engine of creative thought. Even so, it has received a lot more attention in cognitive psychology and AI than in philosophy. In collaboration with AI researchers and communication scientists, I am analysing different forms of analogical reasoning, employed in different tasks, in particular problem-solving and metaphor interpretation. I am interested in reconstructing analogical reasoning and metaphor use in philosophical texts. I am particularly interested in applications to early modern philosophy of mind and metaphysics, and to the philosophy of Wittgenstein.
I welcome PhD proposals in any area of my research interests, especially in phenomenology and environmental philosophy.
Proposals with some connection to a project in development, investigating the role played by charismatic megafauna in our experience of nature, would be especially welcome.
The Precautionary Principle: I am working on developing philosophically the more defensible version of the Precautionary Principle that I first outlined along with Nassim Taleb et al. I would be very keen on research proposals that would be relevant to any part of this agenda, i.e. PhD projects that would help to investigate the Precautionary Principle itself or its application (NB inter-disciplinary research proposals welcome, provided they have a philosophical element).
Humanism and the environmental sciences: I am beginning work on a book constructively critiquing the ‘environmental sciences’, including ‘environmental economics’. This is a further development of my books on the philosophy of the social and natural sciences, based partly on the thought of Wittgenstein. I would be especially interested in supervising a PhD that looked at how the ‘social sciences’ are on the one hand essentially focussed on human beings and society, and on the other hand inexorably implicated by the so-called ‘Anthropocene’ (that is, by the way in which the ‘natural’ on Planet Earth is increasingly affected by human behaviour and actions, and by the way in which society is increasingly affected by ’natural’ (sic.) disasters). What is the status of social or humanistic inquiry in the 'Anthropocene'?
Mathematical explanation: I am particularly interested in constructing a methodological framework in which the explanatory functions of mathematical resources in empirical enquiry can be characterised and classified. The recent philosophical literature has not yet provided such a framework and has typically focussed on isolated examples, as opposed to research programmes that rely on the systematic appeal to mathematical ideas and techniques. These shortcoming of the current literature are yet to be fixed and accomplishing this task would maker for an excellent and very original doctoral project.
Mathematics and concept formation in the human and social sciences: I am interested in understanding what the advantages and limitations of introducing mathematical methods into the human and social sciences are. An especially important question to address in this connection is to what extent the concepts we use in scientific enquiry are mathematically constrcuted, i.e., what role mathematical considerations play in concept formation. In particular, I would be keen on supervising research that investigated one of the following themes: (i) the use and misuse of factor analysis in psychology; (ii) the problem of classification in archaeology (with reference to ‘Archaeological Typology and Practical Reality: A Dialectical Approach to Artifact Classification and Sorting’ by William Y. Adams, Ernest W. Adams); (iii) the use of structural models in anthropology of (as discussed in ‘Structural models in anthropology’ by Per Hage and Frank Harary).
I am happy to supervise interesting topics on any area or period or author from ancient or late antique philosophy and patristics, but here are a couple of suggestions for topics that would fit well with my current research:
The motif of “κοινὰ τὰ τῶν φίλων” in ancient philosophy. According to tradition the idea that “friends’ things are communal” originates with the Pythagoreans, but it forms the basis of Plato’s economics, and extends in various contexts into later antiquity. The focus of examination would be the key motifs of “friends and friendship”—who and what are our “philoi” and what kind of mutual commitment or belonging is implied by that term?— and of the “common”—how does the koinon differ from what we would describe as public, shared, common property or fairly distributed, and to what range of goods does it extend?
The genealogy method in ancient political theory (e.g. in the Republic and the Politics) with respect to its implications concerning the naturalness of the state, and of human inclinations to cooperation/collaborative endeavour/distribution of resources. How does it compare with more recent uses of the genealogy method, and what kind of truth can it claim for its results?