The University of Reading Chancellor’s Awards are presented to our brightest and best students from across the University’s broad range of academic disciplines.
We spoke to one of the Department’s winners, Amy Hodgman, about why she chose to study Philosophy, and about her time here at Reading.
What inspires you about Philosophy?
Studying philosophy provides me with the opportunity to learn about the many differing ways in which people understand our world and how we should behave in it. Philosophy has allowed me to question, and then strengthen, my own ideas about life, as well as gain a much greater appreciation for others’ beliefs.
Why did you choose to come to Reading to study?
I chose to study here because of the wide range of modules the Department offer. Last year I got the chance to learn about many diverse areas of philosophy, from world religions to more modern, radical philosophies. In particular, I was really excited about studying elementary logic as this was completely new to me. Also, the campus truly felt like a community with so many on-campus bars and cafes, a brilliant Students’ Union, and a beautiful, green campus.
What was the highlight of 2016/17?
Being able to meet so many new people, and making lots of friends that I can share my time here with! I lived with a lovely group of people, joined many societies, and took up a part-time job in the local area. It was great because I have also been able to meet people of many different backgrounds to myself and have learnt a lot about the world we live in!
What do you see yourself doing in five years’ time?
I want to be teaching religious studies at a secondary school. I believe a lot of current social problems are down to society’s lack of understanding and tolerance towards others’ beliefs and ways of life. To change this, I feel it is important to educate each generation in the many religions now practised in our society.
What’s the best thing about life at Reading?
I love that there is always something to do. The town centre is close by and has many delicious restaurants I love to eat in! There are some beautiful places to walk around, from the on-campus Harris Garden, to a walk along the river to Sonning. I also enjoy being a part of different societies, such as Reading University’s Christian Union and the Domestic DIY Society.
Can you sum up the University of Reading in three words?
Our first visiting speaker event this term is a meeting of the Philosophy Society, for a talk by Dr Richard Rowland (Australian Catholic University). Richard completed his PhD at Reading in 2013. Details below. All are welcome.
2-4pm on Thursday 28th September (Week 1) in Chancellor’s G12
Skepticism about Blameworthiness: Normative not Metaphysical
This paper argues that although there are non-instrumental reasons to have pro-attitudes and certain con-attitudes there are no non-instrumental reasons to blame; call this view No Reason. If No Reason is correct, then although some people are admirable and praiseworthy and some things are desirable and others undesirable, no one is blameworthy. This paper’s argument for No Reason provides a normative case for skepticism about blameworthiness rather than providing what we might call a metaphysical case for skepticism about blameworthiness deriving from skepticism about free will. Accordingly this normative case for skepticism about blameworthiness avoids the problems faced by skepticism about blameworthiness that derives from skepticism about free will. The idea that a non-metaphysically based, normative or evaluative, case for skepticism about blameworthiness might be made is in the air in the recent literature on blame. But such a non-metaphysically-based case for skepticism about blameworthiness has not been made. This paper makes such a case. This paper argues that there is a non-instrumental reason to have a token of attitude type T only if it is sometimes non-instrumentally better to have a token attitude of type T. But it is never non-instrumentally better to blame others than to not blame others. So, there are no non-instrumental reasons to blame. However, A is ϕ-worthy or ϕ-able only if there are non-instrumental reasons to ϕ in response to A. So, given that there are no non-instrumental reasons to blame, no one is blameworthy.
Here’s our periodic update on what some of the staff in the department have been up to, research-wise!
James Andow has recently published ‘Lay intuitions about epistemic normativity’ in Synthese, ‘Intuition-talk: Virus or Virtue?’ in Philosophia, ‘A Partial Defence of Descriptive Evidentialism About Intuitions: A Reply to Molyneux’ in Metaphilosophy, and his paper ‘Epistemic Consequentialism, Truth Fairies and Worse Fairies’ has been accepted for publication in Philosophia. He is a co-organiser of ‘Alternative Methods in Experimental Philosophy’ the 8th conference of Experimental Philosophy Group UK which will be held at UEA in July. James recently presented his research at ‘Empirical approaches to philosophical aesthetics’ in Sheffield.
Luke Elson presented two papers concerning nihilism and the reasons to be moral at Groningen in the Netherlands in December. He was also recently awarded an European Union Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship for the 2017-2018 academic year.
Nat Hansen is PI for the Leverhulme Research Project Grant “The Psychology of Philosophical Thought Experiments”, which begins April 1. As part of that project, a postdoctoral research fellow will be joining the philosophy department and the Centre for Cognition Research soon (details TBC). Two of Nat’s papers on color terms were published recently: “Color Adjectives, Standards, and Thresholds: An Experimental Investigation” (written with Emmanuel Chemla) was published in Linguistics and Philosophy, and “Color Comparisons and Interpersonal Variation” was published in the Review of Philosophy and Psychology (both are open access). A new paper on 1950s ordinary language philosophy and contemporary experimental philosophy of language, “Must We Measure What We Mean?”, is forthcoming in Inquiry, and Nat’s paper, “Just What Is It That Makes Travis’s Examples So Different, So Appealing?” is forthcoming in a volume of essays on Charles Travis (Collins, Davies, and Dobler, eds.), to be published by OUP. In December, Nat gave a talk at the “Metaphor, Meaning, and Maimonides” conference at the University of Chicago and attended the Arizona State experimental philosophy conference in Sedona, Arizona. In January, he gave a talk at the Fellows Workshop at Stanford University’s Humanities Center. In May, he will give talks at the Semantics and Pragmatics workshop at Stanford, at Lawrence University in Wisconsin, and he will attend the California Philosophy Workshop in Los Angeles. Nat will also be participating remotely in the Centre for Cognition Research’s summer seminar series at Reading, which begins May 9.
Prof. Max de Gaynesford has recently presented at the University of Nantes (on the self) and will be giving the keynote address at a conference at the University of Warwick (on the philosophy of poetry). He has recently published an article on Wittgenstein and the Self, and his book on poetry and philosophy (‘The Rift In The Lute’) is about to be published.
Prof. David Oderberg recently debated Prof. Jeff McMahan at Oxford on the morality of assisted suicide, and gave a paper at the University of Zurich on the impossibility of natural necessity. His article, ‘Further Clarity on Cooperation and Morality’ was recently published as a Feature Article in the Journal of Medical Ethics, with peer commentaries and a response. He has just followed that up with an article entitled ‘Co-operation in the Age of Hobby Lobby: When Sincerity is Not Enough’, in a special issue on conscience and co-operation for the online journal Expositions, published at Villanova University.
Prof. Philip Stratton-Lake has recently published “Self-evidence, Understanding and Intuition”, in Shafer-Landau, R., (ed) Oxford Studies in Metaethics, and Parfit and Schroeder on the Weight of Reasons” in Kirchin (ed), S., Reading Parfit, Routledge. He also gave a public lecture on happy, good, and meaningful lives.
We are delighted to announce the first Reading Ethics and Political Philosophy Graduate/Early Careers Conference on 12th-13th June. Confirmed keynote speakers are Sarah Fine (KCL), Zofia Stemplowska (Oxford), and Fiona Woollard (Southampton).
The Department of Philosophy at Reading is part of the thriving School of Humanities, which has a strong interdisciplinary tradition and attracts large numbers of undergraduate and graduate students from the UK and overseas. The Department has a large doctoral programme (averaging twenty students).
The Department is well known for its friendly and co-operative atmosphere, in which students and staff get to know each other on an individual basis. We run a busy and exciting programme of graduate seminars, visiting speakers, reading groups, staff research seminars, and social events.
We are a lively and productive centre of research with an international reputation for excellence. Our research and supervisory expertise extends across a wide range of areas. We have a special reputation in ethics but also cover philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, cognitive science, metaphysics, philosophy of science, and Wittgenstein, among others.
The Department and University offer a full range of excellent facilities for supporting doctoral study, including dedicated study space in the Graduate School building.
In 2016-17, the Department is offering the following funding opportunities for postgraduate study:
AHRC studentships (fully funded, UK/EU) as part of the South, West and Wales Doctoral Training Programme, for supervision jointly with Reading and another member of the consortium (including Bristol, Cardiff, Exeter, Southampton, Bath). Enquire here. Deadline: 12 January 2017.
International Research Studentships (one fully funded, six fees-only). This is a university-wide competition. Enquire here. Deadline: 27 January 2017.
Anniversary PhD Scholarships (ten fully funded, UK/EU). This is a university-wide competition. Enquire here. Deadline: 1 February 2017.
Leverhulme Doctoral Programme in Climate Justice (fully funded, UK/EU and international). Enquire here. Deadline: 17 March 2017.
University of Reading Regional PhD Bursaries (up to fifteen fees-only awards, residents of Reading area). Enquire here. Deadline: 1 May 2017.
Applicants are encouraged to contact the Department to discuss possible research proposals, potential supervisors, and applications. The Postgraduate Admissions Director is Prof. Brad Hooker (firstname.lastname@example.org) and the Director of Postgraduate Research Studies is Prof. David Oderberg (email@example.com). Our postgraduate support officer is Catherine O’Hare (firstname.lastname@example.org). Please also have a look at the Department’s website and Facebook page. You can also request a copy of our current PhD Handbook so as to familiarise yourself with our programme.
Reading philosophy staff have had a busy Summer and start to the new academic year! Here is a snapshot of their activities.
James Andow presented his research at the European Society for Aesthetics conference in Barcelona, the International Association for Empirical Aesthetics conference in Vienna, as well as the International Congress of Psychology in Yokohama. Two of James’s articles were published this summer in Philosophical Psychology — ‘Qualitative tools and experimental philosophy’ and ‘Reliable but not home free? What framing effects mean for moral intuitions’ — and his article ‘Abduction by Philosophers: Reorienting Philosophical Methodology’ came out in Metaphilosophy in July.
Luke Elson presented papers at the International Society for Utilitarian Studies in Lille (‘how implausible is satisficing consequentialism?’) and at the Southern Normativity Group annual meeting in Sussex (‘the size of the universe and nihilism’).
Nat Hansen is an external faculty fellow at Stanford University’s Humanities Center during the academic year 2016-2017. In July, Nat and Phil Beaman (Reading, Psychology) were awarded a Leverhulme Research Project Grant on the topic of “The Psychology of Philosophical Thought Experiments”, which will run from 2017-2019. Over the summer, Nat presented his current research on colour terms to the University of Zürich’s colloquium on “Concepts, Ideals and Universals”, and to the Semantics, Pragmatics and Philosophy of Language workshop at the University of Cambridge. In September, Nat was in New York City, giving talks at the New York Philosophy of Language Workshop at NYU, and at the seminar on Stanley Cavell at the New School for Social Research. Later in the autumn term, Nat will give a talk at the University of Chicago and attend the Arizona State experimental philosophy conference in Sedona, Arizona.
In June, Professor David Oderberg gave a paper on philosophy of biology at a conference at Senate House, London, viewable at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zITXtvstHBk. He has just been commissioned by a London think tank to write a short policy monograph on conscientious objection in health care and related issues, and will be giving talk on matters related to this at the University of Buckingham in October. In August he was named by http://www.thebestschools.org as one of the fifty most influential living philosophers.
Professor John Preston presented his paper ‘Ernst Mach and the Remarks on Science in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus’ to the Centenary Conference on Ernst Mach at the University of Vienna (in June).
Assoc. Professor Severin Schroeder spoke at a conference on Action & Intentionality at the University of Toledo in September, and afterwards gave a series of research seminars at the University of Grenoble.
James Stazicker was in St Andrew’s in August, at a European Society for Philosophy and Psychology symposium about consciousness and higher cognition. In June, James gave a talk with Miguel Ángel Sebastián at the Centre for Cognition Research, as part of their Newton Mobility Grant project about perceptual discrimination, and he also contributed to a ReThinking the Senses workshop about attention in London.
Dr Miguel Sebastián, from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, is visiting the Philosophy Department as part of his project about perceptual discrimination with Dr James Stazicker, funded by a British Academy Newton Mobility grant. Last week Miguel gave a talk entitled “First-person Perspective in Experience: Self-Involving Representationalism” at the Department’s visiting speaker series. On Tuesday 14th June he and James present their joint work in progress at the Centre for Cognition Research (2pm in HumSS 73). Their talk draws on predictions of Signal Detection Theory to criticise some philosophical theories of consciousness, as well as making some more positive proposals about what consciousness really is.
This conference is part of the AHRC Pervasive Context Project: https://www.reading.ac.uk/pervasive-context/ This project aims to create an international network of researchers to investigate and explore the theoretical developments and positions regarding pervasive context-sensitivity in natural language. The network primarily consists of a research link between the University of Reading and Peking University.
We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council.