International Women’s Day – Eva Van Herel

We continue to celebrate #InternationalWomensDay by speaking with Eva Van Herel, Executive Support Administrator for the School of Humanities. Join in the conversation using  #UoRWomen.

Area of work
Executive Support Administrator at the School of Humanities.

How did you get into this line of work?
By accident. A friend suggested it might suit my personality and pointed me towards a vacancy.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
The people! While I’m a bit of a geek and can be happily absorbed in spreadsheets or mail-merges, the joy of work is in the people I work with.

What would you say has been your biggest accomplishment in your career?
Learning to give up on the right things. The word career doesn’t really apply as my work history is, shall we say, diverse. I’ve done a bit of everything. As a result I am not very high up the career ladder, and that’s all right with me. I have taught refugee children a new language, started a business and failed at it, was a stay at home mother, coded websites, taken photographs which have been used on greeting cards, and was recently Chief Hatmaker for Terry Pratchett’s Masquerade at the Progress Theatre.

At my day job, apart from keeping the exec support office ticking over, I like to have a project or two on the go. Next up is creating some short help videos on how to use the CRM software to edit the university websites. I’m also part of the group that created a community of practise for the Executive Support administrators, which brings together the almost 100 of us who are spread out all over the Reading campuses, and I look forward to keeping it the useful group it has become.

What advice would you give to anyone wishing to embark upon a career in the same field?
To be honest I have no idea. Advice is no use if it is not made to measure. If you wish generic advice, read Marcus Aurelius. Please do something that will make you happy – life is a journey, if your job is not a good fit, try something else!

Who inspired you to get to where you are now?
The people in the toastmasters group I joined over ten years ago. I found my self-confidence there and learned a lot. 

What are your aspirations for the future?
I’m to be costume manager for the Jesus Christ Superstar production at the Progress Theatre this autumn, although that’s a voluntary role of course. At work I’d like to wiggle my way into a role that focuses even more on projects or that would allow me more interaction with people, working on some common goal.

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International Women’s Day – Professor Emma Borg

Today is #InternationalWomensDay. To celebrate we are speaking to Professor of Philosophy, Emma Borg about her work in the philosophy of mind, language and pain. Join in the conversation using #UoRWomen.
Research/teaching specialisation
Philosophy of mind and language – in particular the difference between literal meaning and communicated meaning, and what you might have in your mind/brain which makes language understanding possible. I also specialise in the philosophy of pain, and recently I’ve been working on behaviour and ethical practice in the workplace (particularly with respect to the financial services sector).
What inspired you to work in academia in this area?
Initially I went to King’s College London to study English, but I found didn’t like it at all – there didn’t really seem to be any wrong answers, rather it seemed to be just a matter of opinion. So then I thought about trying Art History but was told I’d need to study German and Italian in the first year and I didn’t fancy that. The only other A-level I had taken was Ethics and Religious Studies, so finally I went to the King’s College London Philosophy Department and asked if I could try Philosophy. They said yes, and as soon as I began I fell in love with the subject. It was just the right combination of the creativity and essay writing of an arts subject, with the rigour and objectivity of a science, where you get to try to ask and answer the most fundamental questions possible. So I’ve stuck with it ever since.
Was there a moment when you realised that you had become a successful academic?
It always still surprises me when I meet someone at a conference and introduce myself and they already know who I am or have read something I’ve written! That always makes me feel pretty successful. Also when you get the sense that people are taking your views seriously in meetings, that’s a kind of academic success too.
What advice would you give to prospective students wanting to become involved in this area of research, or to embark on an academic career?
First, be resilient. It is commonplace for early career academics now to have a succession of short-term contracts before finally landing a tenured job (if they’re lucky) and that lack of security, and the need for mobility, is obviously really hard. As is the need to perform on all fronts (publication, teaching, admin) when you don’t necessarily know where you’ll be from year to year. So you need to be pretty strong to cope with what the academic job market is likely to throw at you.
Second, preserve your passion. It can be easy to lose track of why you’re doing what you’re doing, and get swallowed up by aspects of the job that aren’t so rewarding (like admin). So finding time to focus on why you actually want an academic job, and what it is that you love doing, can help.
Who inspired you to get to where you are now?
Not a very original answer, but my Mum. I grew up in a single-parent family and she always instilled in me the belief that it was fine to have a go at things even if you didn’t know how they’d turn out. Whether it was becoming a motorcycle courier (my first job) or a philosopher, she always made me feel I could do anything I wanted to.
What are your aspirations for the future?
I’d like to do more research carrying over my views in philosophy of language to more applied areas (like the study of law and regulation). And if we could manage to deliver some answers from the collaborative project I am working on in the philosophy of pain – which actually succeeded in helping those who are suffering from pain (particularly chronic pain) – even just a bit, that would be pretty wonderful.
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Spring Term 2018 Visiting Speakers

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International PhD studentships: deadline 26 Jan.

The Department of Philosophy has been successful in the past with these highly competitive, university-wide PhD grants for international (non-EU) students. See here for further information.

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Chancellor’s Awards 2017: Amy Hodgman, BA Philosophy

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?
Full of opportunities!
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Autumn Term Visiting Speakers

Philosophy Department Speaker Series Autumn Term 2017

All talks are at 2-4pm.

Thursday 28th September Chancellor’s Building, G12. Philosophy Society: Dr. Richard Rowland (ACU). ‘Skepticism about Blameworthiness: Normative not Metaphysical’

Thursday 5th October Miller Building, G05. Work in Progress Seminar. Dr. James Andow (Reading). ‘Moral and Aesthetic Testimony’

TUESDAY 10th October Edith Morley Building, 127 PPE Talk. Prof. Elizabeth Harman (Princeton). ‘There is No Moral Ought and No Prudential Ought

Thursday 19th October. No talk.

Thursday 26th October Miller Building, G19 Research Seminar. Dr. Wouter Kalf (Utrecht).  ‘In Defence of Presupposition Moral Error Theory’

Thursday 2nd November. No talk.

Thursday 9th November Agriculture, 1L16 Research Seminar. Dr. Anna Mahtani (LSE). ‘Names for “merely statistical people”’

Thursday 16th November Palmer Building, 105 Philosophy Society.Prof. Alex Voorhoeve (LSE). ‘Epicurus on Pleasure, a Complete Life, and Death: A Defence’

Thursday 23rd November Edith Morley Building, G44 Research Seminar. Prof. Michael Brady (Glasgow). ‘The Appropriateness of Pride’

Thursday 30th November Edith Morley Building, 126 Research Seminar. Dr. Eugen Fischer (UEA). ‘Experimental argument analysis’

TUESDAY 5th December Edith Morley Building, 128 Research Seminar. Prof. Tim Mulgan (St Andrew’s). TBA

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Philosophy Society visiting speaker: Dr Richard Rowland

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.
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Spring Research News

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.
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Two conferences! REAPP and Ratio

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).

Please do consider attending, submitting an abstract or spreading the word! More details and submissions are at

We are also delighted to announce this year’s Ratio conference on Saturday 22 April. The topic is ‘Self and Attention: Cross-Cultural Perspectives’, and the speakers are:

  • Jonardon Ganeri (New York University)
  • Amber Carpenter (Yale-NUS)
  • Jan Westerhoff (University of Oxford)
  • Sebastian Watzl (University of Oslo)
  • James Stazicker (University of Reading)

For more information and registration, see

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Department of Philosophy Postgraduate Funding Opportunities 2016-17

Department of Philosophy, University of Reading

Postgraduate Funding Opportunities 2016-17

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 ( and the Director of Postgraduate Research Studies is Prof. David Oderberg ( Our postgraduate support officer is Catherine O’Hare ( 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.

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