Research News September 2016

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 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 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.

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Miguel Sebastián British Academy visit

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.

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AHRC Pervasive Context Conference, 25-26 June

We are delighted to say that registration for the conference is now open.

You can find more details and abstracts here.

This conference is part of the AHRC Pervasive Context Project: 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.

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Get Feedback on your essays!

This week, many module convenors will be holding additional office hours to offer students verbal feedback on their recent essays, as the next round of deadlines approaches. Here are some of the times:

Tuesday March 08
James Andow: 1-3
Luke Elson: 1-3
Max de Gaynesford: 12-2
Nat Hansen: 1-2 and 4-5
George Mason: 1-3
James Stazicker: 11-12 and 1-2

Thursday March 10
Mark Tebbit: 1-2 and 4-5

Please do drop in!

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Laterális: The University of Reading Undergraduate Philosophy Journal

We are delighted to announce the first issue of Reading’s own undergraduate philosophy journal! You can read it here. Congratulations to all involved.

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Beyond a Philosophy Degree 2

Keira graduated from the department about 10 years ago and recently came back to talk to our current students about careers.  For that event, we asked Keira for a short blurb about her career. Here’s what she said:

From Philosophy Conferences to Parliament, the grounding that Philosophy gave me in understanding the value of knowledge, has been fundamental to my career.

I worked with the Forum for European Philosophy, before immersing myself in the Westminster bubble working for the two top political publishers and information providers.

It was in politics that I first started working with Third Sector organisations, helping them in their engagement with policy makers and stakeholders, a line which I have now chosen to pursue further by moving into fundraising and engagement for two of the industry’s leading consultancies and change-makers.

Here’s a quick video in which Keira discusses what she most enjoyed about studying philosophy in Reading and about how her degree has helped her in her career.


Are you also an alumnus of the department?   Would you like to help out our current crop of students (and future cohorts too), e.g., by recording a similar interview or writing a quick reflection (like this)?   If so, please get in touch with our current alumni office James Andow (


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Julia Mosquera at the British Society for Ethical Theory

Reading PhD student Julia Mosquera, who is writing a thesis on ethics and disability, has had her submission to this summer’s British Society for Ethical Theory (BSET) conference accepted for presentation and subsequent publication in Ethical Theory and Moral Practice.

Congratulations, Julia!

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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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