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Department of Philosophy

Dave Kirkby

Dave Kirkby

Dave Kirkby is a postgraduate researcher.

I am interested in the relation between the empirically-driven ‘sciences of man’ (especially moral cognition and linguistic theory) and philosophy. I see this very much as a two way relation, where both philosophy and these sciences risk drifting into a kind of irrelevance if they keep talking past each other.

Thesis Title:
‘On Judgement: Linking Structure and Normativity’

Thesis Summary:

Over the past fifty years, cognitive science has sought to uncover the mental structures underlying various domains of behaviour within a naturalistic paradigm inaugurated by Chomsky's review of Skinner (1959). Of particular interest to me in this respect is morality and language. Explanatory success in these fields has been achieved at the expense of systematically neglecting the normative notions that philosophers have taken to be central to these domains, such as knowledge, justification and reasons.

While it has been common to deny that this is a problem for these sciences and claim that they should not be expected to deal with such normative topics, the matter is increasingly questionable. The Chomskyan conception of language as an autonomous mental module, separate from 'thought proper', has lately come under pressure from the apparent isomorphic mapping of form to meaning. If language is not an autonomous module after all, it is much harder to justify detaching it from the paradigmatically normative aspects of thought that characterise higher-order states. Similarly, I shall argue that moral cognition is hamstrung by its inability to explain how distinctively moral structures and processes interact with the broad panoply of beliefs, desires and reasons that characterise thought in general.

My thesis takes the idea of a judgement as its departure point for investigating how the structures of human thought that moral cognition and linguistic theory have unearthed may be inherently normative in nature and hence, cannot be described in purely internalist terms.

Research groups:

Mind, Language and Metaphysics

Ethics and Values

Formal Semantics

Mind and Language


Email Dave Kirkby at d.j.kirkby^at^

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