RA5a: Structure,environment and staffing policy
The Department of Philosophy is a centre of excellence in all major areas of analytical philosophy, with outstanding work in mind, language and philosophical logic, in aspects of metaphysics, in the philosophies of science and mathematics, and in aesthetics. In recent years we have concentrated resources in the areas just named. Effort is now focused on growth in cognition and the philosophy of psychology, the expansion of the Department’s research postgraduate programs, developing interdisciplinary connections within the University of Nottingham, and forging connections with centres of excellence abroad such as CREA in Paris (now the Institut Jean Nicod).
Appointments, staffing and research strengths
Following the University’s decision to appoint Currie to a chair on the retirement of Kirk, a period of expansion has begun and a number of very high quality junior appointments have been made: Cain, Campbell and Ketland. Kirk remains active as Emeritus (see below). Ketland’s appointment strengthens two areas: philosophy of science and mathematics (Black, Mumford) and language and truth (Clark, Ganeri). Campbell adds further weight in philosophy of science, as well as sharing with Ganeri a specialism in the metaphysics of persons. Cain and Currie add a cognitive science dimension to the philosophy of mind group (Kirk, Noordhof, with the recent addition of Campbell). The University has a category of Special Professorships, available to particularly distinguished scholars; John Perry (Stanford) was appointed to one in our Department in 2000. He expects to visit us annually.
The Department also has two uncommon areas of research: historical and analytical studies of Indian philosophical thought (Ganeri), and the philosophy of literature and film (Currie, Noordhof). Both are approached from an analytical perspective and with an emphasis on connections to areas of core strength. For example, work by Ganeri (publication 2) uses ideas from Classical Indian philosophy to pursue an argument about the metaphysics of personhood, and a paper in preparation by Noordhof and Currie ("Seeing there") on filmic imagining draws on ideas in the philosophy of perception.
Our strength in Indian Philosophy is widely acknowledged. The 2000 Leitner Guide to Philosophy Graduate Programs rates Nottingham as one of the five best departments in the world for the subject (the other four are in the USA). St Andrews and Warwick are the only other institutions in the UK with comparable strength in philosophy of film and literature.
There is also excellent work in moral philosophy from Clark (publications 2 and 4) and Noordhof (publication 4).
Support from the University
The University has made clear its commitment to Philosophy through replacements, new appointments, additional administrative assistance, research grants and scholarships. It has been especially supportive of the move into cognitive science. It bears half the salary and other costs of Cain, who, as a Leverhulme Research Fellow, is working on Wittgensteinian objections to sub-personal psychology. Beginning 2000/1, it has granted a three year University Research Scholarship for a student to undertake PhD research supervised jointly by Philosophy and Psychology; she is working on perspective taking in autistic children. A further such scholarship has been granted to Philosophy (starting 2001/2) for work on language and modularity. The language and modularity project, in which Cain and Currie are joined by Ketland and Noordhof, will expand considerably if a current application to the AHRB for £214,000 is successful; the grant will support annual workshops, two further PhD scholarships and two post-doctoral fellows. Topics to be examined include the role of modularity in language development, breakdowns of modularity as explanatory of certain pathologies, and the idea that the Paleolithic mind was largely modular in structure.
The School of Humanities advertises a number of research scholarships, appointment to which is by open competition, and in 2000/1 one was awarded to a student from the University of Rome to work on a project in metaphysics with Mumford. Currie's project on narrative and psychopathology is jointly funded from the Australian Research Council (see under "Research Culture") and the University of Nottingham. The University Research Committee, along with the School of Humanities, also contributed to the funding of a conference on consciousness organised by the Department in 2000, and another on perception, imagery and action, 2001. The latter was also supported by the British Society for the Philosophy of Science, Mind, The Analysis Trust, Mind and Language and the British Academy.
With its growing strength in cognitive science, the Department is now making a substantial contribution to research across the University. Campbell and Currie participate in a project funded jointly by The University and by the Leverhulme Foundation (grant of £1.1million). Their task is to develop a conceptual framework for investigating the ways in which beliefs about risk are affected by imaginative narratives. They work closely with colleagues in English Studies, History, Politics and Psychology.
Policy and decision making
Philosophy, along with Departments of Archaeology, Classics, Music and Theology, belongs to the School of Humanities. The School is the cost centre though budgets are in practice substantially devolved. Decision making takes place at various levels - Department, School, Faculty and Senior Management Group - with research priorities and funding strategies largely determined within the Department. The Department’s Research Committee is required to formulate research policy, to recommend proposals for research leave, to ensure the prudent management of research funds, to identify funding opportunities, and to monitor the quality of research proposals and outcomes. Noordhof's publication of a series of papers in the philosophy of mind in excellent journals persuaded the committee to make it possible for him to enjoy an exceptionally extended period of research leave (two years, supported by the University, the AHRB and the Mind Association) to write a book on the subject. The publication of Ganeri’s outstanding Semantic Powers (publication 1) together with other recent work, led to his appointment as Spalding Fellow in Comparative Religion at Cambridge for 2000/1, for which the Department has granted him research leave just one year after his return from an earlier leave.
Junior appointees are assigned a research mentor whose role is to advise on the focusing of research, time management, grant applications and the identification of appropriate journals and publishers. They are given a reduced teaching load and only minor administrative responsibilities over the period of their probation, in order that they may establish a research project. They are also able to apply for a semester away from teaching at the end of their three year probationary period. All staff are encouraged to seek means by which a period of study leave can be extended, as with Noordhof’s AHRB extension, his current Mind Fellowship and Ganeri’s AHRB extension (1998). A workload formula currently used in the Department helps to ensure that junior members of staff are not overloaded with teaching. Workload credit is also given for undertaking the Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice.
The formula is intended primarily to ensure that teaching and administration are equitably distributed, but the Head of Department is able to reduce a member of staff’s workload if a case is made that extra time devoted to research will be well used. Such a case is to be based on a clear timetable with definite outcomes, on evidence that the program of research is already bearing fruit, and on general track record. In the case of early career researchers only the first of these criteria is applied. Occasionally, a staff member’s teaching is concentrated into one semester, thus allowing him or her to focus on a pressing piece of work in the other.
Staff appraisal is undertaken every two years, or, for probationary staff, every year. One aim of the appraisal is to plan for staff members’ research needs in the coming year. Staff submit an annual report on their research, together with an outline of work planned for the coming year, to the Departmental Research Committee.
Staff, graduate students and some undergraduates attend the Departmental Research Seminar (weekly in term time), as do academic visitors. Booked to speak in the coming session are Andy Clark, Tim Crane, Jonathan Dancy, Gordon Graham, Rae Langton, Hugh Mellor and Steve Stich. Academic Staff in the Department and research students nearing the completion of their theses also deliver papers there. Ketland runs an occasional seminar devoted to research in logic and the foundations of mathematics and physics.
The Department is a thriving centre for conference activity. In 1999 it hosted two major annual meetings of philosophical societies; the British Society for the Philosophy of Science annual conference was organized by Black, and the Joint Aristotelian Society-Mind Association Session by Mumford. In 2000 the Department hosted a conference on consciousness; speakers included David Papineau, John Perry, Lucy O’Brien and Jérôme Dokic (Paris). In 2001 it held a conference on perception, imagery and action; speakers included Tamar Szabo Gendler (Syracuse), Susan Hurley, Marc Jeannerod (Lyon), Michael Martin and Elizabeth Pacherie (Institut Jean Nicod). Substantial external funding was obtained for the conference, including £1,500 from the British Academy. In April 2001 there will be a one-day workshop on referring, bringing together young researchers such as Emma Borg (Reading), Dokic, Genoveva Marti (LSE) and Stefano Predelli (Oslo).
The Department is especially supportive of collaborative research, for its capacity to develop funding opportunities and international connections, and for its role in creating a spirit of co-operation and fellowship within the Department. Jointly with Jon Jureidini, Chief Child Psychiatrist at Women’s and Children’s Hospital Adelaide, Currie holds a three year Australian Research Council Large Grant for research into narrative and its relation to the philosophy of mind and to psychopathology. Jureidini visited Nottingham in November 2000 to work on the project; his visit was hosted jointly by Philosophy and the Department of Psychiatry. Currie is also just about to complete a book on the imagination, Recreative Minds, forthcoming with Oxford, written jointly with Ravenscroft (Flinders, Australia). Together with Ramachandran at Sussex, Ganeri and Noordhof have published twice on preemptive causation. A paper on aesthetic spectatorship written jointly by Noordhof and Currie was given at the Annual Conference of the American Society for Aesthetics, Reno, 2000. Peter Lamarque, editor of the British Journal of Aesthetics, has asked them to submit it to that journal. With Peter Mitchell, Psychology, Currie has a project on autism; as described above, this is supported by a University Research Scholarship. Black and Ketland have a joint paper nearing completion on arithmetical truth. Collaborative work involving research students is described directly below.
The Department has a number of connections with the Institut Jean Nicod in Paris, and is seeking joint funding for various research projects; Pascal Engel and Noordhof, who has just visited Engel’s institution, are working on belief formation and the will; work by Elizabeth Pacherie and Jeannerod (Lyon) on motor imagery was recently presented at the Nottingham conference on perception, imagery and action, and is expected to appear in a conference issue of Mind and Language.
In memory of a student who died, the Department hosts the annual Lumsden Lecture. This has been given so far by Robert Kirk, David Papineau and John Perry. The next will be given by Ted Honderich.
For the 2000/1 session, two PhD students gained AHRB scholarships, and two won competitively awarded University scholarships (one shared between Philosophy and Psychology). A further PhD student holds a Jacobsen Fellowship. Another PhD student was awarded a Jacobsen but had to turn it down because he had another source of funding.
The Department encourages its postgraduate research students to engage in a range of research-related activities apart from thesis work. The Graduate School and the School of Humanities financially support the attendance of research students at conferences in the UK and abroad. Students are encouraged to publish their work at appropriate times, normally when a thesis is nearing completion. Fish, a doctoral student writing up, has a paper, 'Asymmetry in Action', in Ratio, 2000; Clark published in the same year with a research student, Shackel (publication 1). Another PhD student delivered a paper at a Conference in Péc, Hungary (June, 2000) on the work of Robert Brandon. A paper by Corazza (not returned) and two research students is accepted, subject to corrections, by Philosophical Studies.
The Department regards teaching as a vital part of its professional development program for research students and there is an agreed process by which such teaching is allocated. Postgraduate teaching is supported by the Graduate School, which provides a number of short courses on teaching and assessment which teaching assistants have to undertake. They are also encouraged to attend courses on research management and seminar presentation, provided by the Staff Development Unit. Research students who require computer facilities and work space on campus are provided for by the Humanities Graduate Centre, housed in the same building as the Department.
Users of this website should note that the information is not intended to be a complete record of all research centres in the UK
Copyright 2002 - HEFCE, SHEFC, ELWa, DEL
Last updated 17 October 2003
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