Philosophy research interests

Browse the research interests of staff in the Philosophy programme.

For detailed research areas and lists of publications please see the profiles of individual staff.

Overview

The Philosophy Programme at Victoria has a broad range and depth of research skills. Academic staff are actively involved in the following research areas:

  • Logic: Victoria University has a proud history in logic. There are several logicians in the Philosophy Programme: Max Cresswell, who, together with George Hughes, is best known for his introductions to modal logic and technical work in that field; other interests include relevant logic and probability logic.
  • Ethics and Political Philosophy: Victoria University has a strong and varied programme of courses in ethics and political philosophy. In 2010, the internationally-recognised Leiter Report described Victoria as “probably the best place to study value theory in Australasia.” The Philosophy Programme has fruitful links with Political Science and International Relations.
  • Experimental Philosophy: Experimental philosophy (or X-phi) is an exciting new movement in philosophy. Practitioners employ scientific methods to help answer philosophical questions. Active areas of research include conceptions of pain and consciousness, causal attributions, happiness and well-being, the philosophical temperament, and the demographic makeup of philosophy.
  • Philosophy of Science: Areas of interest include the philosophy of biology, philosophy of social science, philosophy of psychology, the application of biological theory to problems in ethics, and on moral problems that have arisen (and will arise) from the introduction of new biotechnology.
  • Metaphysics and Epistemology: Many of the Philosophy faculty pursue research on topics falling under the heading of metaphysics and epistemology. Both Cei Maslen and Justin Sytsma are interested in the nature of causation; Stuart Brock and Richard Joyce have each published numerous articles on fictionalism.
  • Philosophy of Art: Courses in philosophy of art and aesthetics are offered at all levels. Topics centre around what art is, how we interpret it, why we value it, and how it is related to our social, political, and ethical values. Sondra Bacharach’s research interests concern the ontology of art and contemporary art, but she likes to explore interdisciplinary issues (past students have worked on topics like sentimentality and kitsch, street art, Butoh and Japanese aesthetics, and computer art).

Current research projects

Max Cresswell and Ed Mares: Marsden Grant Project: A Natural History of Necessity

The notion of necessity has played an important role in the history of philosophy and, in particular, the history of the study of logic. In the mid-20th Century there was a revolt against the notion of necessity led by the American philosopher W.V.O. Quine. We argue, however, that we cannot understand logic without necessity. We look at the history of logic and of philosophical concept of necessity to bring out the historical and conceptual connections between the two. We wish to show that the problem which brought about the revolt lies in the acceptance among philosophers of what we call a "structural" view of necessity, and that the rejection of this view has important and wide ranging consequences for philosophy.

Stuart Brock: Learning and Research Project: Measuring Critical Thinking Abilities

The objective of Stuart Brock's study is to evaluate the success of the Melbourne method of teaching critical thinking. How much of which is due to the visual representation of critical reasoning processes by way of an Argument Diagram, and how much to the practice and/or scaffolded support offered through the computer programme. The project aims to ensure that the content and method of teaching within PHIL 123: Critical Thinking maximises gains in critical thinking skills for students enrolled in the course. The results will be disseminated to the wider University community to allow coordinators of other courses to adapt the methods within their own courses.

Sondra Bacharach: Collaboratively Produced Art

Sondra Bacharach is currently completing a project on collaboratively produced art (with Deb Tollefsen) for which she was awarded a Marsden Fast-Start grant.

Recent major publications

Essays in Moral Skepticism

Richard Joyce, Essays in Moral Skepticism (Oxford University Press, 2016)

Since the publication of The Myth of Morality in 2001, Richard Joyce has explored the terrain of moral skepticism and, perhaps more than any other living philosopher, has been willing to advocate versions of this radical view. ... Essays in Moral Skepticism gathers together a dozen of Joyce's most significant papers from the last decade, following the developments in his ideas, presenting responses to critics, and charting his exploration of the complex landscape of modern moral skepticism.


Advances in Experimental Philosophy of Miind

Justin Sytsma (ed.), Advances in Experimental Philosophy of Mind (Bloomsbury, 2014)

The past decade has witnessed an exciting (and controversial) new approach to philosophy: Experimental philosophers aim to supplement, and perhaps to supplant, traditional philosophical approaches by employing empirical methods from the social sciences. In Advances in Experimental Philosophy of Mind, leading experimental philosophers apply these methods to questions about the nature of the mind, the self, consciousness, moral judgment, and concepts. ... This is an essential resource for professors, graduate students, and advanced undergraduates interested in either philosophy of mind or the burgeoning field of experimental philosophy.


The Theory and Practice of Experimental Philosophy

Justin Sytsma (and Jonathan Livengood), The Theory and Practice of Experimental Philosophy (Broadview Press, 2015)

In recent years, developments in experimental philosophy have led many thinkers to reconsider their central assumptions and methods. It is not enough to speculate and introspect from the armchair―philosophers must subject their claims to scientific scrutiny, looking at evidence and in some cases conducting new empirical research. The Theory and Practice of Experimental Philosophy is an introduction and guide to the systematic collection and analysis of empirical data in academic philosophy.


A Companion to Experimental Philosophy

Justin Sytsma (and Wesley Buckwalter, eds.), A Companion to Experimental Philosophy (Blackwell, 2016)

This is a comprehensive collection of essays that explores cutting-edge work in experimental philosophy, a radical new movement that applies quantitative and empirical methods to traditional topics of philosophical inquiry.


Collaborative Art in the 21st Century

Sondra Bacharach (et al., eds.), Collaborative Art in the Twenty-First Century (Routledge, 2016)

This book explores why collaboration has become so integrated into a greater understanding of creative artistic practice. It draws on an emerging generation of contributors―from the arts, art history, sociology, political science, and philosophy―to engage directly with the diverse and interdisciplinary nature of collaborative practice of the future.


The Ethics of Patriotism

Simon Keller (et al.), The Ethics of Patriotism: A Debate (Wiley Blackwell, 2015)

The unique approach taken within The Ethics of Patriotism brings together the differing perspectives of three leading figures in the philosophical debate who deliver an up-to-date, accessible, and vigorous presentation of the major views and arguments.


Partiality

Simon Keller, Partiality (Princeton University Press, 2013)

We are partial to people with whom we share special relationships--if someone is your child, parent, or friend, you wouldn't treat them as you would a stranger. But is partiality justified, and if so, why? Partiality presents a theory of the reasons supporting special treatment within special relationships and explores the vexing problem of how we might reconcile the moral value of these relationships with competing claims of impartial morality.


The Sceptical Optimist Nicholas Agar

Nicholas Agar, The Sceptical Optimist: Why Technology Isn't the Answer to Everything (Oxford University Press, 2015)

Agar uses the most recent psychological studies about human perceptions of well-being to create a realistic model of the impact technology will have. Although he accepts that technological advance does produce benefits, he insists that these are significantly less than those proposed by the radical optimists, and aspects of such progress can also pose a threat to values such as social justice and our relationship with nature, while problems such as poverty cannot be understood in technological terms. He concludes by arguing that a more realistic assessment of the benefits that technological advance can bring will allow us to better manage its risks in future.


nick agar truly human book cover

Nicholas Agar, Truly Human Enhancement: A Philosophical Defense of Limits (MIT Press, 2014)

In his book Nicholas Agar makes a case for moderate human enhancement - improvements to attributes and abilities that do not significantly exceed what is currently possible for human beings. He argues against radical human enhancement, or improvements that greatly exceed current human capabilities. Overview MIT Press


E Mares publication A Priori

Edwin Mares, A Priori: Central Problems of Philosphy Series (Durham: Acumen Publishing Ltd, 2011)

In recent years many influential philosophers have advocated that philosophy is an a priori science. Edwin Mares book aims to make accessible to students the standard topics and current debates within a priori knowledge, including necessity and certainty, rationalism, empiricism and analyticity, Quine's attack on the a priori, Kantianism, Aristotelianism, mathematical knowledge, moral knowledge, logical knowledge and philosophical knowledge.


Humanity's End by Nicholas Agar

Nicholas Agar, Humanity's End: Why We should Reject Radical Enhancement, (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 2010)

In Humanity's End, Nicholas Agar argues against radical enhancement, describing its destructive consequences. He examines the proposals of four prominent radical enhances: Ray Kurzweil, Aubrey de Grey, Nick Bostrom and James Hughes. Nicholas Agar argues that the outcomes of radical enhancement could be darker than the rosy futures described by these thinkers. The most dramatic means of enhancing our cognitive powers could in fact kill us; the radical extension of our life span could eliminate experiences of great value from our lives; and a situation in which some humans are radically enhanced and others are not could lead to tyranny of posthumans over humans.

Ed Mares, Jack Reynolds, James Chase, and James Williams, (eds), On the Futures of Philosophy Post-Analytic and Meta-Continental Philosophy, (London and New York: Contiuum, 2010)

This important collection of essays details some of the more significant methodological and philosophical differences that have separated the two traditions of analytic and continental philosophy. As well as examining the manner in which received understandings of the divide are being challenged by certain thinkers whose work might best be described as post-analytic and meta-continental.