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UOA 60 - Philosophy

University of Bolton

RA5a: Research environment and esteem

Research in Philosophy


In 2001 the Philosophy section was a strong academic unit consisting of six full-time members of staff, all of whom contributed to the undergraduate programmes in Philosophy (single and joint, full-time and part-time) as well as to the M.A. in Philosophy.  Most were active in research. The gradual attenuation of the undergraduate student base and the phasing out of the M.A. programme has meant that in the intervening six years the core of philosophy lecturers has shrunk to three full-time members of staff.  As a result, it has been necessary to review the role of Philosophy within the institution, to alter the balance of teaching to research, and to review the research focus of the unit.  It is now planned that Philosophy at Bolton will continue mainly as a research unit which also contributes to teaching on a number of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. This research unit will take as its two major themes, the history of philosophy (especially ancient philosophy, Professor Suzanne Stern-Gillet, and post-Kantian continental philosophy, Dr Jill Marsden) and applied ethics (especially political philosophy and medical ethics).  In order to enhance collaborative research within the unit, a visiting research fellow has been appointed in the person of Peter Herissone-Kelly (University of Central Lancashire).  Herissone-Kelly has carried out research on the ethics of modern reproductive technologies (chiefly, sex selection and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis), and on the theoretical foundations of bioethics. He is currently working on the notion of informed consent as it applies to the treatment of patients with anorexia nervosa. In addition, he has recently completed a PhD thesis on Kant's model of rational agency, in which he presents a novel interpretation of the central elements of Kant's theory of action that simultaneously harmonises with the lived experience of agency, and subverts the traditional picture of the Kantian good-willed agent as a cold and disengaged ratiocinator.


Over the last seven years the University has continued to recognise the importance and value of research activity in Philosophy.  Together with the allocation of Col R funding (until 2003), a prudent policy of teaching remissions and relatively low teaching timetables has supported research active staff.  Allocation of internal sources of funding has also enabled those staff to disseminate their research at national and international conferences.  There is, therefore, a clear commitment on the part of the University to research-informed teaching and an appreciation of the value and quality implications of a strong research culture.  It is almost certainly this approach that has led the Guardian in 2004 to rank the Philosophy provisions at Bolton seventh in the UK Philosophy, on the basis of criteria including both teaching and research quality.


Funding has also continued to be available to support the flourishing Philosophy’s Research Seminar series which has run consistently throughout the period of the current RAE.  The Seminar, which meets on average twice monthly, is open to undergraduate and postgraduate students as well as staff and interested colleagues from neighbouring universities and interested members of the general public.  In addition to providing a platform for staff to test their papers before presenting them to conferences or other venues, the Philosophy Research Seminar mostly consist of invited papers.  Recent outside speakers have included: Professors. S.R.L. Clark (Liverpool), J. Dodd (Manchester), D. Evans (Queen's, Belfast), G. Gurtler S.J. (Boston College), J. Hodge (Manchester Metropolitan University), P. Lamarque (York), M. M. McCabe (King's College, London), J. O'Neil (Manchester), T. Scaltsas (Edinburgh), D. Schroeder (Central Lancashire), P. Stratton-Lake (Reading), and Drs R. Cooper (Lancaster), R. Jones (Dundee), J. Llewellyn (Edinburgh), A. Stone (Lancaster), and J. Urpeth (Greenwich).


The Philosophy team consists of two professors, and two senior lecturers (a third senior lecturer has recently – July 2007 – been appointed to a lectureship in Philosophy at Lancaster University). The Professor of Ancient Philosophy, Suzanne Stern-Gillet, whose other administrative duties include chairing the University's Board of Studies for Research Degrees, coordinates research in Philosophy. The second professor, Robert Campbell, was appointed Director of Research for the University in 2005.  Although he still conducts research in philosophy, he is not included in the current submission.


The main active researchers cited in this UoA are: Prof. S. Stern-Gillet (ancient philosophy, especially Plato and Neoplatonism) and Dr. J. Marsden (post-Kantian continental philosophy, especially Nietzsche). Other members of the Philosophy team include Dr. N. Unwin (metaphysics and philosophy of language) who left for Lancaster University in September 2007; Prof. R. Campbell (medical ethics and the ethics of business), mentioned above, and Dr M. Fuller whose work is mainly in social and political philosophy (MacIntyre, and Marx and ideology) and applied ethics.


Professor Stern-Gillet’s research over the period covered by the current RAE has focused mainly, though not exclusively, on the following two themes in ancient Greek thought: (1) the emergence and subsequent development of a notion of selfhood; and (2) the development of concepts of art and poetry.  Outputs in English or French not included in the current submission include the edition (in collaboration with Kevin Corrigan of Emory University) of volume I of Reading Ancient Texts (Brill 2007), the second volume of which forms part of her submission to this RAE, as well as articles on otherness in Euripides, ‘poet’ as a class name in Plato’s Symposium, the concept of wisdom in book A of Aristotle’s Metaphysics, and Ficino’s interpretation of Plato’s Ion.  Pieces of a more disseminatory nature comprise the chapter on ancient philosophy in the textbook Fundamentals of Philosophy (Routledge, 2003), an article on teaching philosophy to mature students (Vrin, 2003), and a number of encyclopaedia articles on Neoplatonist aesthetics.  Several articles on Plotinus’s ethics are either forthcoming or currently being considered for publication.  Lastly, she has collaborated to the edition of Bergson’s complete correspondence undertaken under the general editorship of André Robinet, and published by Les Presses Universitaires de France in 2002.   


Her research plans include:


  • completion of the monograph on Plato’s Ion for which she is under contract with Cambridge University Press;


  • translation and commentary of Plotinus’ Ennead III.6 [26] for which she is under contract with Editions du Cerf (Paris);


  • edition (jointly with Kevin Corrigan) of correspondence and other documents related to the revival of Neoplatonic Studies in the XXth century. 


Dr Jill Marsden has recently published articles on the philosophy of aberrant embodiment and disorders of the time sense for a volume on ‘Cosmopolitics and the Emergence of a Future’ and for Theory and Psychology, respectively. Both of these projects emerged out of collaborations with colleagues working in Continental philosophy in the U.K. Other publications during this period include pieces on the relationship between feminism and the philosophy of embodiment for the Women’s Philosophy Review and for a volume entitled ‘Gender in Flux’. Another collaborative project involving peers both at home and abroad resulted in a volume entitled ‘Animal Philosophy’, which offered an additional perspective on the theme of the poetics of embodiment in the work of Bataille. Current research projects evolved from a number of pieces of work undertaken over the past five years, such as reviews on a series of works on Deleuzian aesthetics and on poetics, both for The British Journal of Aesthetics


Her current research continues to develop in the field of post-Kantian Continental Philosophy, with a particular focus on the interface between philosophy and literature and the philosophy of embodiment. She is currently working on a monograph which takes the theme of the ‘philosophical imagination’ as its guiding thread. Drawing on the extremely intriguing concepts of the ‘productive imagination’ and ‘aesthetic Ideas’ that are developed in Kant’s Critique of Judgement, she is proposing to sketch out a set of concerns for contemporary critical and literary theory which diverge significantly from the ‘post-modern’ preoccupation with ‘textuality’ and pastiche. Her central argument is that the Kantian conception of affectivity (as developed and redefined by Nietzsche) enables us to explore the concept of imagination beyond the coordinates of the ‘Analytic of the Sublime’, indeed, that this trajectory has important implications for our engagement with ‘the aesthetic’ more generally. 


At the University of Bolton research in philosophy, which is almost invariably initiated, planned and conducted on an individual basis, was supported through Coll.R until 2003 and by internal funding thereafter or applications to the Arts and Humanities Research Council of the British Academy since 2003. Applications for internal funding are first presented at a meeting of the Philosophy committee in which the various bids are scrutinised and their compatibility with the following year's teaching commitments assessed. They are then submitted, via the Research Co-ordinator, to the Research Sub-committee of the School’s Board of Studies. The research strategy of both the Philosophy section and the School is, inter alia, to support teaching and encourage excellence in research. Accordingly, it has aimed at research excellence in the specialised fields of the above named active researchers. In addition, it also aims to further the sustainability of research in Philosophy by seeking to develop collaborations with other staff within the University (in professional and research ethics, and epistemology and pedagogy) and with other Philosophy departments both nationally and internationally (see esteem measures).


The University uses its annual Professional Development Planning (PDP) process as the principal means for reviewing performance, analysing development needs and setting targets for staff. This enables line managers to negotiate directly with staff an appropriate remission for research, research development needs and realistic output targets. The PDP also aligns individual research with subject and School strategies. 


Research student numbers at Bolton are, and have always been, comparatively small for the sector.  All are part-time and experience the difficulties characteristic of this mode of study.  In the period of the current Research Assessment Exercise, none the less, one post-graduate student has  recently been awarded a PhD and two more are within a month of their viva voce examinations, one for PhD, and the other for MPhil.  In addition to academic supervision, Philosophy research students receive support through the availability of study and IT facilities as well as centrally managed PGR. Lastly, each research student is allocated financial support for conference attendance and visits to externally based supervisors. In some cases, the University has consented to a partial or total remission of postgraduate annual registration fees.


University level support for research


Bolton has always offered a central forum for research-active staff to discuss issues and questions of concern and as a medium for the dissemination of useful information.  In 2006 the Research Team Leaders Forum was dissolved and replaced by a central mailing list and “Supporting Research”, a series of CPD workshops and seminars.  These have included a range of topics from good practice in supervising research students to externally delivered sessions from UKRO and RTC North West on preparing submissions for European research funding.  The aim is provide support for early career researchers whilst at the same time enabling experienced researchers to share good practice.  This central seminar series sits alongside the full range of subject specific research seminars offered by individual Schools and subject areas, but publicised and coordinated by the University’s Educational Development Unit.


At the same time, the University is able to offers some financial assistance to both PGR students and academic staff.  For 2008-09 the University is offering to Schools of Study and Research Institutes full time and part time bursaries and fee waivers up to the value of £80,000.  It has also set aside £100,000 for support for staff research to sit alongside these PGR bursaries.  This funding will support short sabbaticals or other research related expenses and will be allocated on the same basis as the PGR bursaries, i.e. competitively according to the application’s fit with University and subject area research strategies.


Research Esteem


(a)  Staff whose outputs are not included in the submission:


Dr Unwin has been invited to deliver papers at Philosophy research seminars at Bradford, Glasgow, Manchester Metropolitan University and Lancaster; he has had book reviews commissioned by a number of mainstream philosophy journals (including Philosophy, Philosophical Books and the British Journal for the History of Philosophy), and has also acted as treasurer and membership secretary for the British Society for the History of Philosophy and is a member of its management committee.  He is a referee for Locke Studies, Philosophical Studies and the Philosophical Quarterly. He has also acted as external examiner in Philosophy for the University of Birmingham.


Professor Campbell has delivered invited papers at Liverpool Hope University and the Centre for Buddhist Studies at Sharpham College, Devon.  He has been elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine for the work he has done in raising awareness of equality and diversity issues and medical and professional ethics with medical professionals.


(b)  Staff whose outputs are included in this submission:


Professor Stern-Gillet has given invited papers across the world, including Queen’s University (Belfast), Fordham University (New York), Villanova University (Philadelphia), the university of Copenhagen, The New School University (New York), the universities of Lodz and Lublin (Poland), the Charles University (Prague), the university of Antwerp, Boston College (Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy), l’université Laval (Québec), Trinity College (Dublin), Emory University (Atlanta), and the university of Helsinki.  She delivered one of the two keynote addresses at the 2007 conference of the International Society for the Study of Neoplatonism, and has been invited to give a keynote address at a conference on Philosophy and Religion, to be held at the University of Emory in June 2008. Within the UK she has spoken at the universities of Liverpool, Lancaster, Manchester, Cambridge, Warwick, Central Lancashire, and the Manchester Metropolitan University.  She has acted as external examiner at the University of Central Lancashire (2002 – 2004) and King’s College, London (2005).  In 2004 she was Visiting Professor (Augustinian Chair) at Villanova University (Philadelphia).  She is the associate editor of the International Journal of the Platonic Tradition (Brill).  She has had reviews and review articles commissioned by The Philosophical Quarterly, The British Journal of Aesthetics, The Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology, The Classical Review and the Notre-Dame Journal of Philosophy. She is a Director of the International Society for the Study of Neoplatonism and a member of the Philosophy sub-panel (60) for RAE 2008. 


Professor Stern-Gillet has attracted the following grants in support of her research: :


1. Travel grant from AHRC to attend annual conference of the International Society for the Study   of Neoplatonism in New Orleans in June 2003;

2. Research grant from the Hardt Foundation for the Study of Classical Antiquity to carry out research

     at the seat of the Foundation in Vandoeuvres-Genève, April 2002;

3. AHRC research leave to undertake a monograph on Plato’s Ion for Cambridge University Press


Dr Jill Marsden has accepted invitations to speak at Royal Holloway  College, London (Philosophy and Literature Lecture Series), St Edmund's College Oxford (plenary for the British Society for Phenomenology), the Summer Colloquium at the College of St Mark and St John, Plymouth and the Philosophy and Literature Symposium at the University of Warwick. Since starting a family in the summer of 2004 she has temporarily suspended conference activities. However, she continues to peer review articles for the Journal of British Society for Phenomenology on a regular basis (and more occasionally for other journals) and she has been a reader for Edinburgh University Press. She has recently published reviews on a series of works on Deleuzian aesthetics and on poetics, both for The British Journal of Aesthetics.