A Centre for World-leading Research
The Department of Philosophy is a centre for world-leading research in a wide range of fields, including metaphysics, ethics, feminism, and the history and philosophy of science and medicine. It is home to the Centre for Humanities Engaging Science and Society, and has strong links with several interdisciplinary research centres such as the Centre for the Ethics of Cultural Heritage.
At postgraduate and undergraduate level, students can choose from a wide range of topics spanning the whole discipline of philosophy. The Department has one of the largest PhD programmes in the UK, and many of our students go on to pursue successful academic careers.
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Durham philosophy department is a gender balanced department – one of the few in the world.
Dr Sophie Gibb, Head of Department
The Department of Philosophy’s research is structured around five research groups/clusters:
- Aesthetics, Ethics and Politics
- Applied Phenomenology
- History of Philosophy
- Mind, Language and Metaphysics
- Science, Medicine and Society
These clusters, and the relations between them, exemplify the distinctive features of the Department:
- Engagement with a plurality of philosophical approaches and traditions. We encourage a diversity of interests and approaches, spanning Anglo-American, ‘Continental’ and non-Western philosophy. We also have an internationally recognized tradition of research in the history and philosophy of the physical, medical, and social sciences. Read more.
- The cross-fertilization of different philosophical approaches (each member of the Department is a member of at least two groups, and major research projects typically involve more than one group).
- Interdisciplinarity. We pursue world-leading academic research in core areas of philosophy, but we are also outward-looking, engaging with other disciplines. Hence, we also collaborate with (for instance) archaeologists, artists, chemists, clinical psychologists, economists, historians, linguists, musicians, neurobiologists, physicists, policy makers, and psychiatrists.Read more
We have an exceptionally high level of research funding, and at any one time are home to 3-4 large, externally funded research projects, typically involving extensive collaboration with other disciplines. These projects enrich our research environment by producing high quality research, bringing top researchers from all over the world to Durham, and generating and consolidating our collaborations with philosophers and other researchers.
We work closely with research centres and institutes within Durham University to develop interdisciplinary collaborations and research projects. We are home to several centres, including the Centre for the Ethics of Cultural Heritage, the Centre for the History of Medicine and Disease, and the Centre for Humanities Engaging Science and Society. Our research community is also enriched each year by philosophers and historians who spend a term in Durham as part the Institute of Advanced Study’s fellowship programme.
The Department is situated in the heart of the beautiful Cathedral City, and occupies three charming former townhouses on Old Elvet. We have a departmental library, common room and postgraduate study room, as well as our own garden. The University’s ‘Bill Bryson Library’ has an excellent collection of research works in philosophy, including a substantial number of philosophy periodicals.
The Palace Green Section of the University’s library stands between the Cathedral and the Castle. It contains a large part of the Library’s extensive archives and special collections of manuscripts and early printed books, many of which are relevant to the discipline of philosophy. Recently, Durham University Special Collections, in conjunction with the Philosophy Department, acquired the Mary Midgley Archives. These are currently being catalogued and will form the basis of a number of exciting student-led research projects in the near future.
The Department’s broad aim is to sustain and enhance our distinctive tradition of research, building on the existing strengths of our five research clusters (‘Aesthetics, Ethics and Politics’, ‘Applied Phenomenology’, ‘History of Philosophy’, ‘Mind, Language and Metaphysics’, ‘Science, Medicine and Society’) so as to develop world-leading concentrations of research expertise across all our clusters. During the next five years and beyond, we plan to grow, and will strengthen our pluralistic and outward-looking research culture by:
- consolidating and deepening current areas of strength with new appointments;
- further developing our collaborations with researchers, policy makers and practitioners from other disciplines and beyond academia;
- using external funding and university centres and institutes to support innovative research and the environment it needs to flourish.
We currently have 19 permanent members of academic staff, 8 of whom are full professors. The research interests of our staff are spread across the five research clusters within the Department.