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Department of Philosophy

Research Projects

Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral

Please click on the links to the left to find out more about our research projects. 

 

  • Durham Emergence Project (2013-16). The Durham Emergence Project is an interdisciplinary research initiative involving collaboration between philosophers and physicists, made possible through the generous support of the John Templeton Foundation. It combines scientific and philosophical research into the conceptual foundations and empirical possibility of strong emergence. For further information please see the project website.

  • Aesthetics and Ethics of Archaeology (AHRC Research Network Grant) This AHRC-funded project is the first of its kind in the UK to bring together philosophers, archaeologists, and museum and heritage practitioners to focus on the relation between ethics and aesthetics, and to explore how this relation shapes our understanding and practice of archaeological stewardship. The project explores how ethical concepts - such as moral responsibility, stewardship, duty, virtue, and developing our moral education - are related to our abilities required to create, appreciate and curate archaeological objects with aesthetic qualities. The project benefits from collaborating with The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology in Oxford, The British Museum in London, the Centre for the Ethics of Archaeology at Durham University, and the University of London's School of Advanced Sudies and Institute of Philosophy. For further information please see here or contact: Elisabeth.schellekens@durham.ac.uk

  • Evaluating Scientific Realism: A New Generation of Historical Case Studies (AHRC 2012, Science in Culture Exploratory Award): The aim of this six-month project was to identify and introduce a range of new historical case studies into the scientific realism debate, thereby demonstrating both that ‘selective’ (divide et impera) realist positions can be tested by the history of science and that, so far, such testing has not taken place to its fullest extent. For more information, consult the project description, which includes a detailed bibliography. The full project website is available here.

  • Structure in Chemistry (AHRC, 2012, Science in Culture Exploratory Award): This project looked at the subject of molecular structure in chemistry and its quantum mechanical basis. The project brought together philosophers and scientists who discussed these ideas at international workshops. In doing so the project has raised awareness of philosophy of science among chemists and of foundational issues in chemistry among philosophers of science. See here for further details.

  • Emotions and Feelings in Psychiatric Illness, 2008 - 9 (AHRC) - This project will serve as the basis for an enduring international research network on emotion, feeling and psychopathology. The outcomes will be of interest not only to philosophers, psychiatrists, and psychologists, but also to researchers in allied disciplines, including neuroscience, anthropology and literature studies, and to a wider public.

  • Emotional Experience in Depression: A Philosophical Study, 2009 - 12 (AHRC/DFG) - This project will bring together a group of philosophers, psychiatrists, cultural anthropologists, psychologists, and neuroscientists all of whom have made important contributions to current research on emotion and/or psychiatric illness. The result will be a cohesive account of emotional experience in depression that will serve as the basis for further philosophical work, assist ongoing scientific research by providing clearer accounts of the emotional changes that require explanation, and contribute to clinical work by formulating a conceptual framework that patients and clinicians alike can use to communicate the experience of depression.
  • Historicizing Stem Cells, 2010 - ongoing (Wellcome Trust)- Discussions on stem cell research usually take as their starting point the year 1998. This was when researchers reported the first successful isolation of human pluripotent stem cell lines (cell lines that can differentiate into various tissues) from donated IVF embryos and aborted embryos. However, stem cell research predates this by over a hundred years.

    One particular aspect is the way this research developed in two different strands: embryonic and adult stem cell research. This project considers the origins of those dual strands and the way they have been influenced by different medical, social, ethical, and legal implications. It will cover the period from the late 19th to the early 21st century. What were the processes that have generated knowledge about the body, illness and health that has become authoritative and orthodox in medicine in different societies and cultures? How were, and are, claims of medical expertise justified vis à vis claims from other domains of social and cultural authority, such as religion, philosophy and law? What did it mean for medical practitioners in different cultural and social contexts when they claimed to be ethical as well as knowledgeable? How did they present themselves to the public? What kind of material, visual and textual representations of the body, the mind, health and disease have gained a 'defining power' that exerts its influence on medical practice and medical research until the present day?

  • Knowledge, Ethics and Representation of Medicine and Health – Historical perspectives, 2007 - Date (Wellcome Trust) - What were the processes that have generated knowledge about the body, illness and health that has become authoritative and orthodox in medicine in different societies and cultures? How were, and are, claims of medical expertise justified vis à vis claims from other domains of social and cultural authority, such as religion, philosophy and law? What did it mean for medical practitioners in different cultural and social contexts when they claimed to be ethical as well as knowledgeable? How did they present themselves to the public? What kind of material, visual and textual representations of the body, the mind, health and disease have gained a 'defining power' that exerts its influence on medical practice and medical research until the present day?

  • Pathological Sounds: The History of Music as a Threat to the Nerves, 2009 - Date (Wellcome Trust) - The nervous system had been central to understandings of music since the Enlightenment, but it was only at the end of the eighteenth century that the neuropathological model of disease that was developed by Scottish Enlightenment figures such as Cheyne, Whytt and Brown started to be applied to music. By 1800 music was being portrayed not just as a means of refining the nerves, but as a potential pathogen in works of psychiatry, dietetics, aesthetics and etiquette. During the nineteenth century, this discourse was influenced by such things as the theory of degeneration, the neurasthenia diagnosis and the emerging medical discourse of homosexuality. The sexologist Krafft-Ebing describes three cases of men who connected their same-sex feelings to love of Wagner. As well as physicians such as Krafft-Ebing and critics such as Hanslick, writers like Thomas Mann and Proust also dealt with the theme. Mixed with anti-Semitism and opportunism, this rhetoric of nervous music formed the basis of the Nazi concept of degenerate music. My goal is to outline and explain the development of the idea of music as a source of pathological nervous strain by putting it in the context of changes in neurology, psychiatry, aesthetics, cultural and sexual politics
  • The New Ontology of the Mental Causation Debate, 2008 - 10 (AHRC) - The aim of our project is to explore recent advances in metaphysics, in particular new accounts of the categories of being and of levels of being, along with developments within the ontology of powers and causation, in order to identify a more fruitful metaphysical framework for the mental causation debate. This would constitute, we contend, a significant step towards the resolution of the problem of mental causation. The first year of the project is concerned with the relevant ontological developments. The second year is concerned with working out the consequences of these developments for the mental causation debate
  • Towards an Aesthetic Psychology, 2007 - 2009 (AHRC) - The research project's general aim was to delineate the concerns and tasks of aesthetic psychology conceived as a branch of philosophical aesthetics. More specifically, it set out to examine questions to do with aesthetic perception, representation, emotion, and cognition as explored in other disciplines (including psychology; cognitive science; anthropology) in order to establish whether, and if so how, philosophy can benefit from it. The approach adopted was inter-disciplinary, and principally aimed to strengthen the accounts that have been and are being developed in philosophical aesthetics.
  • Un-Cartesian Linguistics, 2009 - 12 (AHRC/DFG) - The project assembles a group of researchers currently spearheading the view of language as a generator of human thoughts. We aim to seamlessly merge linguistics and philosophy so as to make steps towards a new field where axiomatic assumptions of a philosophical character are recognized as feeding into theoretical linguistic, typological, and neuro-linguistic research, and where such research feeds back into philosophy.
  • The Varieties of Moral Experience, 2008 (British Academy) - These workshops bring together a group of philosophers working in areas relevant to moral phenomenology, and will explore the variety of ways in which phenomenology and phenomenological insights can be used to shed light on central questions in ethics. Phenomenological approaches discuss the structure of experience, the place of norms, the nature of our access to reality, the structure of interpersonal understanding, and the nature of emotions and feelings. All of these themes have important implications for moral inquiry. Current research in philosophy of mind, cognitive science, psychiatry and philosophical psychology is explicitly informed by phenomenology and although there is now considerable interest in the potential applications of phenomenological research to ethics, the area has been underexplored. Contributions to the workshops include research on specific phenomenologists and topics which cover a variety of issues and questions central to moral philosophy.

Durham Research Community

Durham University has specialists in many areas of philosophy.  If you would like to work with world-leading academics in an area which fascinates you, please have a look through our postgraduate degree programs here.