Beyond a Philosophy Degree

Here’s a quick profile of one of the department’s graduates who go in touch to let us know how studying philosophy with us has influenced her subsequent career.

I am a Chartered Counselling Psychologist and studied my Masters at the School of Psychotherapy and Psychology at Regents College, and Supervision training at the New School of Psychotherapy and Counselling in London.   Here is my website.

The psychological approach of both colleges is based on Existential philosophy so we considered many philosophers including the works of Sartre, Heidegger, and Nietzsche. Having already studied philosophy I was familiar with some of their works, but more importantly I felt comfortable with how to approach, discuss and digest philosophy.  I also utilised the skills, developed at Reading, of considering how philosophy can be applied to everyday life, how it is important to take the time out of our busy schedules to consider the bigger picture – that life is finite, we make our own choices in life and have to take responsibility for that.   The issue of Sartre’s ‘bad faith’, which I first learnt about at Reading, is something that has been particularly pertinent to me in my life and I still think of this often in my work with clients.

To have a philosophical approach to life is a very valuable thing. It is easy in our lives to get caught up in trivia, superficiality and short term issues. The ability to take a step back, analyse and reflect is something that I endeavour to do on a regular basis (and have to remind myself to do), even whilst doing something as simple as reading a newspaper.  I hope this is something the students can keep hold of in whatever line of work they end up in.

Are you an alumnus of the department and would like to share your story?  Do get in touch with our current alumni officer,

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Studying Abroad in Ottawa with Reading Philosophy


Lawrence Rickard is a Reading BA philosophy student, and is studying abroad at the University of Ottawa for Autumn/Fall 2015.

Lawrence Rickard in Ottawa

When I discovered I had the opportunity to study at uOttawa and be in the capital of Canada I jumped at the chance! Being raised in London, I was keen to see how the two capital cities compared with one another.

The study abroad application was quite a long process. The university nominated me to study at the University of Ottawa around six months before I left to study abroad, and asked me to I fill in my application online via Moveon. After submitting my application and I was accepted to study at uOttawa, I was given permission by uOttawa and Reading to choose five modules.

Although the application process was time consuming, the study abroad office made the whole process very simple. The study abroad office gave concise answers to any queries I had concerning my studying abroad application. From questions concerning grade transcripts to questions about whether I would need a study permit. My study abroad co-ordinator also helped me with any problems I had with module selection.

Once I got to Ottawa I immediately realised that the hard work paid off! My experience of studying abroad has been one of the best experiences of my life, and I’m incredibly grateful that I was given the opportunity. I’ve made a number of Canadian and international friends from all around the world! Canada is full of the most welcoming people that I have ever met!

The whole experience has also given me a lot more confidence, and has helped me become more independent. I’ve gained a greater understanding of different cultures, and furthered my interest in learning more about Canada and other cultures.

uOttawa is a great place to study! A lot of my classes were in the Tabaret building which is the main building advertised on the uOttawa website. My professors were able to help me with any questions I had in class. The university also had a more relaxed approach than at Reading when it came to deadlines and many professors gave extensions if students were unable to hand in their work on time. At Reading I’m usually given two essays and one exam which takes place in the summer term for each module, but at Ottawa I was given essays weekly. In addition to this, I also had midterms after reading week and finals exams in December. Although the uOttawa system is vastly different to what I’m used to at Reading I had very few problems with adapting to the system at Ottawa.

The university is also in the center of Ottawa, and everything was within walking distance from the campus! I was able to walk to ByWard Market, Rideau Canal, Parliament hill, and a number of other sights in Ottawa with ease! I also visited galleries and museums within Ottawa, and the surrounding areas, such as the Museum of History. It is easy to walk across the bridge to Gatineau, and you can see great views of Parliament Hill from the Museum of History! Going on trips to the surrounding areas was fairly easy! Be sure to go to ice hockey matches if you are interested in sports and try beavertails (a Canadian pastry not an actual beaver tail!) if you decide to study in Canada.

I would definitely recommend studying abroad at uOttawa, and applying through the exchange program at Reading. Both Reading and uOttawa have made the experience a highlight of my degree. I’ve had the opportunity to go across the world to study at a different university system, learn about new cultures and I’ve made great friends in the process! Studying abroad at Ottawa is an experience that I will never forget and is something that I will encourage anyone to do if they have the opportunity to do so!

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Christmas Update

As Christmas approaches, Reading philosophy staff continue to be busy! Here are some snippets of recent and forthcoming activity.

Dr James Andow has presented his research in Keele and Bochum (Germany) and working on revisions for a number of papers.  This includes”Zebras, Intransigence & Semantic Apocalypse: Problems for Dispositional Metasemantics”, which has just been accepted for publication in Philosophia. He has also been organising a conference to take place in the new year. Sneaky plug: the joint Ratio Conference and annual Experimental Philosophy UK conference will take place 23-24 April (see the website for more details!).

Professor Emma Borg gave a Work in Progress talk at here at Reading in November, and is looking forward to giving a talk at Graveney Academy School in London at the start of January.

After a day at Edinburgh devoted to papers focused on his work in October, Professor Jonathan Dancy more recently gave a talk in London as part of the current Royal Institute of Philosophy series of lectures on Action. Having given the graduate class in the Autumn term, he is going to Tucson in Arizona in January to try to convince the Americans that they don’t understand instrumental reasoning – a tough call! After that he will be teaching at the University of Texas at Austin until May, when he returns to the UK and will be giving the final Masterclass of his 3-year appointment here at Reading.

Dr Nat Hansen gave a masterclass on context sensitivity on “Context Sensitivity: Evidence and Explanations”, and a talk to the Pervasive Context Conference on “Cross-Cultural Context Sensitivity” (both at Peking University in October). Three of his papers were published online: “A New Argument from Interpersonal Variation to Subjectivism about Color: A Response to Gómez-Torrente” was published in Noûs, “Linguistic Experiments and Ordinary Language Philosophy” (written with Emmanuel Chemla) was published in Ratio, and “Experimental Philosophy of Language” was published in Oxford Handbooks Online. In the spring, Nat will be giving invited talks at the Institute of Philosophy’s Logic, Epistemology, and Metaphysics Forum, to the Psychology department at City University London, and at the theoretical philosophy colloquium at the University of Zürich. 

Professor David Oderberg spoke at Winchester College in November on ‘Why You Should be an Essentialist’. In December he was interviewed by the Bioethics blog BioEdge about the current state of bioethics.

Dr James Stazicker was in Paris in November, at a Sorbonne conference about Consciousness and Accessibility, where he gave a keynote talk on ‘Access, Consciousness and Higher-Order Inexactness’. In December he was at the Mind, Metaphysics and Psychology seminar at King’s College London to talk about his paper, ‘Self-Knowledge, Perceptual Evidence and the Significance of Consciousness’.

This term the Department hosted a successful fortnightly seminar, on Descartes’ Meditations, for PhD students from Chinese Universities on the UK/China Scholarship scheme.

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Philosophy in Schools in Reading

Exciting developments in bringing philosophy to Reading schools!  ‘Philosophy at Reading’ or ‘PaR’ is a new outreach programme in which students from the department are going out into a number of schools in Reading. This term they’ve been running sessions on philosophical topics including the Ring of Gyges, Global Warming, Locke and Jessica Rabbit. We hope Philosophy at Reading will go from strength to strength.  So if you are a student who would like to get involved, or a teacher at a school who would be interested in introducing your students to philosophical reflection — please get in touch with Geraldine Ng, PAR project leader! (

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China Scholarship Council Studentships 2016

The University of Reading is delighted to offer two scholarships for PhD study at Reading, offering joint funding alongside the China Scholarship Council (CSC). The scholarships will be available to two selected candidates who are successful in securing China Scholarship Council (CSC) funding for October 2016.

Under this funding opportunity, the University will fund the tuition fee and a £1K p.a. training and development allowance, while CSC funding provides an annual living allowance that includes overseas student health cover and visa application fees.

For details, see here.

What is available?

There are two awards available for entry in Autumn 2016. These scholarships will be awarded to students aiming to study in one of the following research areas:
Climate and environmental change
Agriculture and food security
Health and well-being

Prospective candidates in philosophy should have proposals that look at philosophical aspects of one of the above themes. Examples could be:
– the metaphysics and/or semantics of pain
– climate change and ethics, e.g. climate justice and future generations
– distributive justice and fairness, e.g. of food and related resources

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Reading University International Research Scholarships

Seven PhD studentships for Non-EU students.
Now Open for Applications! Deadline 29 January 2016.

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PhD Studentships at Reading: SWW Doctoral Training Partnership, 2016

PhD studentships in Philosophy at the University of Reading.

The South, West & Wales Doctoral Training Partnership is delighted to offer up to 56 Arts and Humanities Research Council studentships for entry in September 2016. The awards will be made on the basis of academic merit, with no fixed quota assigned to any one institution or subject area within the DTP. Philosophy typically does well in this competition, usually winning around 8-10 studentships across the five departments in the consortium.

The Philosophy Department at Reading is looking for students from the UK or EU with evidence of exceptional promise for PhD study. You will have a compelling project that will benefit from the expertise we can offer, in and across a range of subjects, and from our rich archival resources and network of professional partners. The Philosophy Department at the University of Reading can cover most core areas of philosophy, but has particular strengths in moral philosophy, philosophy of language, and Wittgenstein. Please see below for a full list of areas of expertise.

The competition opens on Monday 30th November and closes on Monday 11th January.

You must apply both for a graduate place at the University of Reading and for an SWW DTP studentship. The former application is separate and independent of the latter, so you must complete both.

Studentships involve joint supervision, usually at different universities within the SWW consortium, but sometimes at a single institution, and sometimes in different departments within the same institution (for example, Philosophy and Politics). Applications are assessed on (a) strength of research proposal, (b) calibre of applicant, and (c) fit with proposed supervisory team.

If you intend to apply, you should contact possible supervisors directly yourself, to see whether your proposal would fit with their interest and expertise. They will also assist you with the drafting of your proposal and other application-related matters.

If you are interested in applying for a 2016 studentship, you are expected to attend the SWW DTP’s Information Day, on Monday 23rd November at the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff. Attendance is not compulsory, but you must notify the Consortium if you do not plan to attend.

There are a limited number of places available at the Information Day so attendance is by invitation only. We therefore ask all applicants to register their interest in advance of the event – you will also be required to submit an approx 200 word statement about your proposed research project.

To register your interest, please go here. Registration for the Information Day will close at 11.59pm on Friday 6th November.

Research interests of supervisors at the University of Reading:

Prof. Emma Borg

Philosophy of Language, Philosophy of Mind, Cognitive Science

Prof. Max de Gaynesford

Philosophy of Mind and Language; Philosophy of Logic; Epistemology; History of 20th Century Philosophy (Heidegger; Wittgenstein; Putnam; McDowell); Philosophy of Poetry; Philosophy of Film.

Dr Luke Elson

Meta-ethics, Moral Philosophy, Vagueness

Dr Nat Hansen

Philosophy of Language, Contextualism in Epistemology and Language, Semantics and Pragmatics, Philosophy of J.L. Austin, Ordinary Language Philosophy.

Prof. Brad Hooker

Moral and Political Philosophy, especially Consequentialism, Fairness, Buck-passing, and Particularism.

Prof. David Oderberg

Metaphysics, especially Essentialism, Powers, Laws, Neo-Aristotelianism, Aquinas, Natural Law Ethics, Philosophy of Religion

Prof. John Preston

Philosophy of Natural Science, Philosophy of Social Science, Cognitive Science, Wittgenstein, Epistemology, Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of AI.

Dr Severin Schroeder

Wittgenstein, Philosophy of Language, Aesthetics, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche

Dr James Stazicker

Philosophy of Mind, Cognitive Science, Consciousness, Philosophy of Perception

Prof Philip Stratton-Lake

Moral Philosophy, especially Ethical Intuitionism, Moral Epistemology, Value Theory, Kant.


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International Research Studentships 2016

The University competition for International Research Studentships 2016 is now open. Come and do a PhD in Philosophy at Reading! Further details here.

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Reading-China Collaboration in Philosophy

The AHRC Pervasive Context network is just one of many recent collaborations between Reading University’s Philosophy Department and colleagues in China, including joint research work between Nat Hansen and Jing Zhu at Sun Yat-sen University, and collaboration between Emma and colleagues at Jilin University who translated her book Pursuing Meaning into Chinese.

Early in 2015 John Preston was asked to be the Director of this year’s Summer Institute on Philosophy of Science, at Huaqiao University, Fujian province, China, to which he contributed ten lectures, ten seminars and four evening sessions. He taught there for three weeks, but also, as its Director, dealt with organisational aspects of the summer school. In recognition of his work there he was, in July 2015, formally made a visiting Professor at Huaqiao University. Preston subsequently arranged for an award-winning Chinese student of Philosophy, Ms. Zhao Yang, to spend the Spring term 2016 studying in our Department. He also invited Dr. Shi Yugang, from Shaanxi University of Technology, China, to be with us as a visiting academic during the 2015-16 academic year. Preston now has links with staff and/or graduate students at all the following Chinese Universities: Peking and Renmin Universities, Beijing, Beijing Normal University, East China University of Science and Technology (Shanghai), Xiamen University, Shaanxi University of Technology, Shenzen University, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Hubei University.

In October and November, Reading researchers are prominently involved in two major international research conferences in China:

2015 International Wittgenstein Conference: Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, 14–15 November 2015

John Preston and Max de Gaynesford will both be speaking at a major conference in Guangzhou, China, on the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein. Preston’s paper is entitled “Wittgenstein and Externalism”, and de Gaynesford is presenting on “Wittgenstein on the First Person and the Self”.

The full programme may be found here:

2015 Wittgenstein Conference Program

Preston will then travel on to the Chinese University of Hong Kong, to give another paper to a seminar there.

1st AHRC Pervasive Context Conference: Beijing, 24th and 25th October 2015

Two members of the Reading Philosophy Department, Emma Borg and Nat Hansen, have recently returned from Beijing, where, in collaboration with colleagues Prof. YE Chuang and Dr. LI Qilin at Peking University, they were hosting the first conference held under the auspices of ‘Pervasive Context’ – an AHRC funded international research network. The objective of the network is to explore the way in which features of a context of utterance can influence linguistic or communicated content and the network had already held a number of virtual meetings during 2014-15, but this conference was the first chance for everyone to get together in person. Emma and Nat had a fantastic time in China and were overwhelmed by the generosity and enthusiasm of their hosts. Photos from Beijing conference can be seen at:

The week started with a two and half hour masterclass by Emma on 20th October. The topic was ‘Semantic minimalism and other theories’ and Emma laid out what is at stake between different accounts of the relationship between meaning and context, and tried to show why one might (perhaps) be attracted to so-called ‘minimal semantics’ (the position Emma has argued for in two OUP monographs). Later in the week (on the 23rd), Nat gave his masterclass on ‘Contextualism: Evidence and Explanations’ which introduced debates concerning the empirical foundation of the contextualism-minimalism debate and discussed recent experiments that confirm contextualist judgments about the effects of context on truth value judgments. Both the masterclasses seemed to go very well, with lots of constructive comments and discussion.

However it wasn’t all work: before the conference Chuang, Qilin and other members of the Peking Department very kindly took the conference speakers to visit the Badaling section of the Great Wall – an absolutely amazing sight, made even more splendid by the beautiful autumn colours of the surroundings. (Some of the party decided to make their way down from the Wall via the ‘sliding cars’ – rollercoaster-type chairs which descended by gravity, and which the driver stopped using a manual hand break, an interesting ride!) Throughout the trip, Peking colleagues were incredibly generous with their time and effort, for instance, taking the party on a guided tour of their beautiful Peking campus and treating us all to a huge amount of amazing Chinese food (from a fantastic Mongolian cook-your-own-food buffet to a traditional Peking duck restaurant, where the conference banquet was held).

The conference itself involved leading figures from the semantics-pragmatics debate and included philosophers, linguists and cognitive scientist. It was also a very international programme, with the nationality of speakers including UK, France, Spain, China, New Zealand, Australia, USA and Guatemala. The full programme of speakers and titles was as follows:


Emma BorgPhilosophy, University of Reading Explanatory roles for minimal content
Stephen CrainDirector of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders (CCD), Macquarie, Australia The basic meanings of logical words
Nat HansenPhilosophy, University of Reading Cross-cultural context sensitivity
Robyn CarstonLinguistics, University College London Polysemy, pragmatics, and lexicon(s)
Chuang YePhilosophy, Peking University The meaning of hidden indexicals and the character of Kaplanian indexicals
Teresa MarquesPhilosophy, University Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona Retractions
Guillermo Estuardo Del PinalPhilosophy, ZAS Berlin Prototypes, compositionality, and conceptual components
Francois RecanatiPhilosophy, Institut Jean-Nicod, Paris Semantic entry points for speaker’s meaning


Both Emma and Nat felt the conference was a great success and they would like to extend their thanks to all the speakers, to the conference audience and to everyone at Peking who worked so hard on the event. Next summer, 25-26th June, the second Pervasive Context conference will take place at the University of Reading; details of the programme will be advertised here soon. Anyone who would like to attend this event should contact Emma and Nat also hope to produce a volume of conference papers with OUP in the future, title yet to be decided, so those interested in this topic but unable to attend should still be able to read selected papers from the network conferences.

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Enhancement Week next week

We have a packed schedule for next week’s Enhancement Week! Many of these sessions are a chance to explore interesting areas of philosophy, or to discuss more practical matters (such as careers and postgraduate funding), so please do come along.


ASK Advisor Session 10.00 – 11.00 Michela Bariselli / Julia Mosquera HumSS G73

What is philosophically puzzling about… HumSS G73

tense? 11.00 – 11.30 David Oderberg
colour? 11.30 – 12.00 Nat Hansen
pornography? 12.00 – 12.30 Maximilian de Gaynesford
knowledge ? 12.30 – 13.00 Severin Schroeder
education? 14.00 – 14.30 George Mason
the authority of the state? 14.30 – 15.00 Elaine Beadle

Philosophy and Biscuits 15.00 – 17.00 Philosophy Society HumSS 125


What is philosophically puzzling about… HumSS 181

illusion? 10.00 – 10.30 Shalini Sinha
inductive reasoning? 10.30 – 11.00 John Preston
appearances? 11.00 – 11.30 James Stazicker
aesthetic testimony? 11.30 – 12.00 James Andow
pain? 12.00 – 12.30 Luke Elson
time ? 12.30 – 13.00 Mark Tebbit

Wittgenstein Forum 16.00 – 18.00 Severin Schroeder URS 2n13

PhilSoc Film Screening: Blade Runner 14.00 – 18.00 Philosophy Society Palmer 109


Library Liaison 11.00 – 12.00 Louise Cowan HumSS G73
Careers beyond Philosophy 12.00 – 13.00 Sandhya Patel HumSS G27
BGP2 Masterclass 12.00 – 18.00 James Andow Palmer G01


Philosophy Visiting Speaker Series: Richard Rowland 14.00 – 16.00 HumSS 124

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