Research in Philosophy

Philosophy research at UNSW takes on problems in contemporary society, culture, and science and technology from a perspective nurtured by our interest in perennial philosophical questions. Our work is distinguished by its pluralism, with staff working in both analytic and continental European traditions, and our scholarship advancing current understanding of the history of both Western and Chinese philosophy. Our staff publish regularly in prestigious refereed journals and with the top presses in the field, and have also been successful at attracting external grant funding. We share our research at conferences around the world, and contribute to the dynamic philosophical community of greater Sydney through workshops and public talks.

Research focus

Areas of particular research focus include the following:

Continental European Philosophy: UNSW is home to the largest cluster of researchers in continental European philosophy in Australia, with specialists in recent French, German, and Italian philosophy. Our staff have particular expertise in the following areas: aesthetics; cultural, social, and political philosophy – including hermeneutic and critical theory; phenomenology; and poststructuralism.

Epistemology, Mind, and Metaphysics: UNSW has an established research strength in the areas of epistemology, philosophy of mind, metaphysics, and philosophy of science. We also work on issues having to do with practical reason, at the intersection of ethics and the philosophy of action.

History and Philosophical Traditions: We have a highly developed research profile in the history of philosophy, in the following areas: classical Chinese philosophy, Kant, Hegel and German Idealism, Nietzsche, and twentieth-century European philosophy.

Social, Moral, and Political Philosophy: Members of our group have a strong focus on major global challenges and issues of social justice, including bioethics, equality and minority rights, healthy policy regulation, and the ethics and politics of responses to climate change and ecological crisis. Our research in this area also includes foundational theoretical work on autonomy and social ontology, moral psychology, critical theory and recognition theory, and biopolitics.

Staff by specific research areas

  • Prof. Susan Dodds bioethics; social and political philosophy; moral psychology; feminist ethics
  • Prof. Stephen Hetherington epistemology; metaphysics
  • Dr Heikki Ikäheimo German Idealism (esp. Hegel); 19th- and 20th-century German philosophy; recognition theory and personhood; philosophical anthropology; critical social philosophy; social ontology; applied philosophy
  • Dr Joanne Faulkner political ontology of childhood; political and social philosophy in the Continental tradition (esp. Agamben, Rancière); feminist philosophy (esp. Irigaray, Butler); Nietzsche and Nietzscheanism; psychoanalytic theory
  • AProf. Karyn Lai Chinese and comparative philosophy; Confucian ethics; Daoist philosophy; Zhuangzi; environmental ethics
  • Prof. Vanessa Lemm 19th-century philosophy and Friedrich Nietzsche; ancient Greek Philosophy and the Cynics; social and political philosophy; theories of community and justice; critical theory; post- structuralism; contemporary French and Italian Philosophy; biopolitics; environmental philosophy and animal studies
  • Dr Simon Lumsden German Idealism (esp. Hegel); hermeneutics; habit; environmental philosophy; philosophy of history
  • Dr Melissa Merritt Kant; Kantian ethics; ancient Greek and Hellenistic philosophy (esp. Stoicism); virtue and moral psychology; aesthetics
  • Dr Michaelis Michael metaphysics; philosophy of science (esp. the logic of science and the philosophy of biology); Kant; philosophy of mind
  • Prof. Jeremy Moss political philosophy; climate justice; egalitarianism and the value of equality; morality and climate change; applied philosophy
  • Prof. Paul Patton contemporary political philosophy; rights of Indigenous peoples; twentieth-century French philosophy (esp. Deleuze, Derrida, and Foucault); Nietzsche
  • AProf. James Phillips aesthetics; phenomenology; political philosophy; poststructuralism; philosophy and literature; philosophy and cinema
  • AProf. Peter Slezak philosophy science (esp. psychology, cognitive science); philosophy of mind; philosophy of language and linguistics; philosophy of education; Descartes and Galileo; philosophy of religion
  • Dr Markos Valaris philosophy of mind; philosophy of action; epistemology; Kant’s theoretical philosophy
  • Dr Thom van Doorenenvironmental philosophy and ethics; animal and multispecies studies; field philosophy; extinction and conservation; politics and ethics of outer space

Research projects

Skill and Skilfull Action

A number of researchers in our group are working on projects relating to skill and skilfull action, from multiple perspectives: ethics and moral psychology, epistemology, philosophy of mind, and the history of theorising about these concepts in Western and Chinese philosophy. Members of our group working in these areas include Stephen Hetherington, Karyn Lai, Melissa Merritt, and Markos Valaris. Some of the research for this overarching project has been funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery Project grant.

Encountering Crows

Thom van Dooren’s interdisciplinary project brings philosophy into conversation with ethnographic work and collaborations with natural scientists to explore changing relationships between people and crows around the world in the context of escalating processes of urbanisation, globalisation, climate change and extinction. Taking seriously diverse human and corvid needs and values, the project aims to develop a multispecies ethics for these challenging times. This project is funded by the Australian Research Council (Discovery Project) and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Germany.

Recognition and the Human Life-Form

Heikki Ikäheimo is working on a project that combines the Hegelian theory of recognition, social ontology and theory of personhood. The aim of the project is an evaluative conception of the human life-form that provides ways to critically reflect on forms of human interaction across cultural and other differences, and to provide a coherent philosophical articulation to a sense of common humanity required for solidarity and social cohesion in multicultural societies. This work has recently been funded by the ARC Discovery Project “The Social Ontology of Personhood”. Ikäheimo has also been member of The Academy of Finland project ”Pathologies of Recognition“, and is founding member of the editorial board of the Journal of Social Ontology.

Climate Justice

Climate change is likely to have profound implications for people’s overall quality of life. This project considers the consequences of climate change for key areas of human security and well-being and develops an account of a fair distribution of the costs of adaptation and mitigation. The project also considers the role and responsibility of developed countries, including Australia, towards developing countries. In particular, the project develops a framework for evaluating the liability of fossil exporting countries for climate harms. The project also considers the moral issues associated with transitioning to a low carbon society, divestment and the carbon budget. The project is supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery grant.

Staff strengths and accomplishments

Our scholars have been effective in attracting major research funding, including regular success with Australian Research Council grants. The most recent Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) report, which assessed research quality at Australian universities, ranked Philosophy at UNSW as “above world standard”, awarding us 4 out of a possible 5 points. This places us among the leading philosophy programs in Australasia.

The Australasian Journal of Philosophy — one of the top international journals in philosophy — is currently housed at UNSW and edited by Professor Stephen Hetherington.

We also house the Climate Justice Stream of the UNSW Arts & Social Sciences Practical Justice Initiative, a $5.4m UNSW strategic research priority. This stream, led by Jeremy Moss, focuses on the moral and political dimensions of responding to climate change.

Philosophy seminars

We run a vibrant Philosophy Seminar series with local, Australian and overseas speakers. All are welcome. For more information, please contact Markos Valaris

Click here to find Philosophy Events

Post Doctoral researchers

Post doctoral researchers are an important part of our research community. If you are a prospective post doc interested in working with one or more of us, please do get in contact with us to inquire for opportunities. Our current post docs include:

Michelle Ciurria

Franziska Felder

Higher Degree research students

We oversee a range of MA and PhD students in our research areas. See below for a list of current and recent Higher Degree Research Students in Philosophy at UNSW Australia

Current HDR Projects

James Banwell (PhD student) - Self World and skepticism in Hegel and Heidegger. Simon Lumsden (supervisor) Paul Patton (co-supervisor)

Loughlin Gleeson (PhD Student) - Hegel's Concept of Freedom. Heikki Ikaheimo (supervisor) Simon Lumsden (co-supervisor)

Mitchell Harper (PhD Student) - An account of the 'immanent unconscious' in the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze. Paul Patton (supervisor) Anne Sauvagnargues (supervisor) Joanne Faulkner (co-supervisor)

Emily Hughes (PhD student) - The Ontological Structure of Despair. Joanne Faulkner (supervisor) Simon Lumsden (co-supervisor)

Andrew Koh (PhD Student) - Traditional Chinese Medicine. Karyn Lai (supervisor) Suzanne Cochrane (UWS) (co-supervisor)

David Lah (PhD student) - An Hegelian Account of the Person. Simon Lumsden (supervisor) Melissa Merritt (co-supervisor)

Yu-Yi Lai (PhD Student) - Chinese Intellectual History. Karyn Lai (supervisor) Ping Wang (co-supervisor)

Harriet Levenston (PhD Student) - Philosophy. Markos Valaris (supervisor) Michaelis Michael (co-supervisor)

Carlos Lopez (PhD student) - The concept of contradiction as an ontological argument: consideration of Kant and Hegel's philosophy in relation to the concept of contradiction. Heikki Ikaheimo (joint supervisor) Simon Lumsden (joint supervisor)

Wendyl Luna (PhD student) - Foucault's reconceptualisation of Kantian critique. Paul Patton (supervisor)

Scott McBride (PhD student) - German idealism and post structuralism. Simon Lumsden (supervisor) Paul Patton (co-supervisor)

Thomas McConochie (PhD student) - TBA. Karyn Lai (supervisor) Simon Lumsden (co-supervisor)

Rachel Molloy (PhD Student) - Political philosophy - Trust, Information and Citizenship. Paul Patton (supervisor) Carolien van Ham (co-supervisor)

Michael Mosely (PhD Student) - TBA. James Phillips (Supervisor) Karyn Lai (co-supervisor)

Charintorn Nongbua (PhD Student) – Chinese Philosophy. Karyn Lai (supervisor) Michaelis Michael (co-supervisor)

Joshua O'Rourke (PhD Student) - Hegel and the reactivation of German Idealism. Simon Lumsden (supervisor) Paul Patton (co-supervisor)

Christopher Peers (PhD Student) – The ‘Family’ in Philosophical Discourse. Joanne Faulkner (supervisor) Paul Patton (co-supervisor)

Christopher Rowe-Spencer (MA Student) – Ethics and practical reason. Melissa Merritt (supervisor) Markos Valaris (co-supervisor)

Alessio Tacca (PhD Student) TBA. Michaelis Michael (supervisor) Markos Valaris (co-supervisor)

Lenka Ucnik (PhD student) - Politics of the self - Arendt and Foucault. Simon Lumsden (supervisor) Rosalyn Diprose (co-supervisor)

Sophie Vivian (PhD student) - TBA. Michaelis Michael (supervisor) Melissa Merritt (co-supervisor)

Mindy Xu (PhD student) - Phenomenology and the ethics of euthanasia. Karyn Lai (supervisor) Simon Lumsden (co-supervisor)

Yuzhou Yang (PhD student) - The Yijing s practical contextualism in Confucian, Daoist and Buddhist traditions. Karyn Lai(supervisor) Simon Lumsden (co-supervisor)


Recent HDR Completions

2016

Dan Staines - Designing Videogames for Moral Expertise Development. Peter Slezak (supervisor) Malcolm Ryan (co-supervisor)

2015

James Bucknell (PhD) – Dispositions. Michaelis Michael (Supervisor) Markos Valaris (Co-supervisor)

William Cunningham (Masters by Research) - Moral Theories, Moral Principle. Melissa Merritt (Supervisor) with Karyn Lai (Co-supervisor)

Gordon Kennedy (PhD) - The structure, function and deliberative processes of Australasian clinical ethics committees. Stephen Cohen (Supervisor) Karyn Lai (Co-supervisor)

Wendyl Luna (MA Research) - Foucault's reconceptualisation of Kantian critique. Paul Patton (Supervisor)

Max Rabie (PhD) - The pragmatics, semantics and syntax of natural language descriptions. Michaelis Michael (Supervisor) Phillip Staines (Co-supervisor)

Peter Thompson (PhD) - An Interdisciplinary Approach to Belief Formation and Resistance to Change. Peter Slezak (supervisor) Anthony Corones (co-supervisor)

2014

Tim Dean (PhD) - Evolution and Moral Ecology. Stephen Cohen (Supervisor) David McKnight (Co-Supervisor) Robert Brooks (Co-Supervisor)

Peter O'Connor (MA) – The Anatomical Turing Machine. Peter Slezak (supervisor) Philip Staines (co-supervisor)

Francesco Paradiso (PhD) - Creative implications of deconstruction: the case of jazz music, photography, and architecture. Paul Patton (Joint supervisor) Rosalyn Diprose (Joint supervisor)

Rhonda Claire Siu (PhD) - Music and human existence. Rosalyn Diprose (Joint supervisor) Simon Lumsden (Joint supervisor)

Denise Penelope Thwaites (PhD) - In between art and politics: frame, fold, judgement. Paul Patton (Supervisor) Rosalyn Diprose (Co-supervisor)

2013

Kathryn Elizabeth Elbourne (MA Research) - The self as survival machinery. Philip Cam (Supervisor) Peter Slezak (Co-supervisor)

Nir Fresco (PhD) - Concrete digital computation: competing accounts and its role in cognitive science. Phillip Staines (Supervisor) Philip Cam (Co-supervisor)

Kudzai Matereke (PhD) - Citizenship and cultural globalization. Paul Patton (Supervisor) Geoff Levey (Co-supervisor)

Patricia Fay Morgan (PhD) - Contemplative Education. Paul Brown and Anthony Corones (Joint Supervisors)

2012

Eran Asoulin (PhD) - Language and scientific explanation: Where does semantics fit in? Peter Slezak (supervisor) Anthony Corones (co-supervisor)

Andrew Crosbie (PhD) - Role Models and Responsibility. Supervisors: Stephen Cohen and Karyn Lai.

Michael Bernard Hale (PhD) - Escaping Architecture: Deleuze and the reinvention of experimental practices. Paul Patton (Supervisor) and Simon Lumsden(Co-supervisor).

Gregory John Leaney (PhD) - Flourishing in the flesh of the interworld: ecophenomenological intertwining and environmental virtue ethics. Rosalyn Diprose (Supervisor) and Karyn Lai(Co-supervisor).

Diaa Karaali (MA Research) - Islamic tradition: a liberal alternative to Rawlsian political theory for contemporary democracies. Paul Patton (Supervisor) and Simon Lumsden(Co-supervisor).

Wai Wai (PhD) – The idea of zhi in the Zhuangzi. Karyn Lai (Supervisor) and Simon Lumsden (Co-supervisor).

2011

Christopher Brock Maden (PhD) – Corporate Lobbying. Supervisors: Stephen Cohen and Damian Grace.

Catherine Elisabeth Howard (PhD) – Philosophy of AI. Supervisors: Philip Staines and Philip Cam.

2010

Faye Sally Brinsmead (PhD) – Hume and Nietzsche on Human Nature. Supervisors: Rosalyn Diprose and Paul Patton.

Graig Ashley Lundy (PhD) – Deleuze and History. Supervisors: Paul Patton and Simon Lumsden.

Daniel Paul McLoughlin (PhD) – Contemporary Theories of the Rule of Law. Supervisors: Paul Patton and Simon Lumsden.

Mark William Nielsen (PhD) – Philosophy, problem solving and the ethico-political. Supervisors: Paul Patton and Rosalyn Diprose.

Hiu Chuk Winnie Sung (PhD) – Chinese Philosophy. Supervisors: Karyn Lai and Simon Lumsden.