School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations

Philosophy Research Student Profiles

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PhD Students

Kasper Christensen

Kasper ChristensenThesis Title: 'A Natural History of Necessity.' Supervisors: Ed Mares, Max Cresswell and Adriane Rini (Massey)

So far the main focus of my PhD has been on the concept of logical consequence, where I have been asking sneaky questions about the origin (if such there is) of the modal component that we normally understand to be a part of the logical consequence relation.

Before coming to New Zealand I was living in The Netherlands where I obtained my MSc in Logic at the Institute for Logic, Language, and Computation at the University of Amsterdam. Before that I was living in Denmark, which is, by the way, my home country, where I studied at the University of Aarhus to obtain my BA in Philosophy with a minor in Mathematics.

My areas of interest are mainly: Philosophy of Logic, Philosophical Logic, Metaphysics, and Philosophy of Language.

If ever I am not found in my office (it happens!), you can probably find me at home, relaxing with my flatmates, or somewhere exploring the awesomeness of the city of Wellington.

Chiara Ferrario

Thesis Title: 'Evolutionary significance of imitation and social learning in hominid lineage'. Supervisors: Richard Joyce and Kim Sterelny

Katharine Hamilton

Katie Hamilton profileThesis Title: 'Experimental Philosophy and the Philosophy of Language'. Supervisors: Stuart Brock and Marc Wilson (Psychology)

"I am currently completing an PhD in Philosophy after completing a BSc(Hons) in Psychology in 2011. What I like about studying Philosophy is the huge diversity of subject matter it includes, which means that it relates to so many different areas and can be tailored toward individual interests. I am particularly interested in areas where Philosophy and Psychology intersect, such as how cognition relates to the philosophical views we form. My PhD capitalises on this intersect as the focus is on experimentally testing the intuitions people have regarding their use of different language terms with the aim of informing on the philosophy of language.

"Studying Philosophy has introduced me to a number of new ideas and has helped me develop the skills to form, challenge and evaluate my own thoughts about them."

Anton Killin

Anton KillinThesis Title: 'Understanding Music: Ontology and Causation'. Supervisors: Stuart Brock and Kim Sterelny

The main research area of my PhD lies at the intersection of music, metaphysics, and cognition and evolution. In my thesis I investigate ontology of musical works and I develop and motivate a fictionalist framework for ordinary discourse about musical works and musical practices; I also look at evolutionary explanations for the emergence of musical practices and shared systems of representation of music. My research also dabbles in philosophy of language, mind and cognition, aesthetics, ethnomusicology, and philosophical methodology.

Before completing my BA (Hons) in Philosophy at VUW, I completed an MMus in Composition at the New Zealand School of Music; my supervisors were Associate Professor Jack Body and Michael Norris. My MMus thesis is entitled 'Projects in Cross-Cultural Composition' and it is accompanied by a portfolio of new compositions. I continue to be a practicing musician - I am a SOUNZ represented composer, a core member and co-director of SMP Ensemble, and a member of three Wellington-based gamelan ensembles. In 2010 and 2011 I co-convened the 29th and 30th Composers Association of New Zealand Nelson Composers Workshops. I also play in alternative and experimental bands.

Agata Orlowicz

Thesis Title: 'Wittgenstein on Scepticism'. Supervisors: Ed Mares and Cei Maslen

Steven Riley

Steven Riley

Thesis Title: 'The Moral Status of Treaties'. Supervisors: Simon Keller and Ramon Das.

My main areas of interest are Political Philosophy and Ethics. I am also interested in Critical Theory, especially the work of the Frankfurt School and their successors. My MA thesis was on ethno-cultural pluralism and fairness requirements in the liberal democratic state.

I have been in New Zealand for a few years having relocated from the UK with my partner, Laura, who is from New Zealand. As there are still lots of places I have yet to visit in New Zealand, I am fortunate to be able to combine my enjoyment of travel to new places with a drastically reduced income. Other than travel and political philosophy I enjoy watching cricket and participating in a range of other bourgeois pursuits.

Vanessa Scholes

Thesis Title: 'The Ethics of Statistical Discrimination in Commercial Activity'. Supervisor: Ramon Das

Is there anything wrong if an employer, reading statistics suggesting that smokers are less productive than non-smokers, discards all job applications from smokers? This practice of statistical discrimination will likely increase as research on the risks or benefits associated with particular features of groups increases. Vanessa is considering the ethics of commercial decisions discriminating against people on the basis of statistical information about a group to which they belong.

Shri Kumar Sharma

Shri Sharma

Thesis Title: 'Causation and Knowledge: A comparative study looking at western and Indian (Nyaya) concepts'. My supervisors are Jay Shaw and Cei Maslen.

Shri also works as a Physics and Chemistry teacher.

Emma Wood

Thesis Title: 'Rethinking moral objectivity'. Supervisors: Richard Joyce and Simon Keller

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Recently Submitted PhD Theses

Matt Boyd

Matt Boyd

Thesis Title: 'As We Build our World We Build our Minds: The Casual Role of Technology in the Development and Evolution of Human Psychological Traits'. Supervisors: Kim Sterelny and Ben Jeffares.

Matt now works as a Lecturer at Auckland University's Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences. 

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David Gilbert

David Gilbert

Thesis Title: 'A Two-Dimensional Approach to Modal Logics Containing an Actuality Operator'. Supervisors:  Ed Mares and Rob Goldblatt (Mathematics)

My primary academic interests lie in the field of logic. I particularly enjoy thinking about, and working with, modal logics.  For me, this involves considering philosophical issues (those arising in the area often referred to as the 'metaphysics of modality', for example) as well as mathematical ones. My PhD was concerned with quantification in modal logic.

When I am not in my office, I can most often be found at the beach or playing basketball.

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Dan Weijers

Dan and Eli WeijersThesis Title: 'Hedonism and Happiness in Theory and Practice'. Supervisors: Nick Agar and Ramon Das.

Current Position: I am currently a postdoctoral research fellow at Victoria University of Wellington and I do some teaching for the Philosophy Programme.

Research interests: Mainly interdisciplinary research on happiness and wellbeing. Also a wide variety of topics in analytic philosophy, notably including: the Experience Machine thought experiment, Wellbeing, Hedonism, Happiness, Normative Ethics, Moral Psychology, Experimental Philosophy, Philosophy of Psychology, Political Philosophy, Public Policy, Applied Ethics, Climate justice, Bioethics, Neuroethics, Philosophy of Economics, Business Ethics, Metaphysics, and Prediction Markets.

Current Academic Roles:

  • Founding co-editor of the International Journal of Wellbeing.
  • Member of the editorial review board for the International Journal of Technoethics.
  • Peer-reviewer for Ethical Theory and Moral Practice and Philosophical Frontiers.
  • Official collaborator in the International Wellbeing Study (Philosophy cohort).

PhD Topic: My PhD thesis examines various topics at the intersection of happiness and philosophy. Most chapters are interdisciplinary, drawing on insights from psychology, economics and other disciplines. A chapter outline follows:

Section 1:

  • Chapter 1: Hedonism: An Encyclopedic Overview
  • Chapter 2: The Experience Machine Objection to Hedonism
  • Chapter 3: The Case for Status Quo Bias in Experience Machine Scenarios
  • Chapter 4: We can Test the Experience Machine
  • Chapter 5: Reducing Status Quo Bias and Other Confounding Factors from Experience Machine Scenarios

Section 2:

  • Chapter 6: Theories of the Meaning of Life: Optimistic Naturalism and Infinite Happiness
  • Chapter 7: Happiness and Climate Change: How Should the Responsibilities of Adaptation and Mitigation be Shared?
  • Postscript for Policymakers: The Science of Happiness for Policymakers

More Information: Much more information, including my publications, teaching experience, and wellbeing links page can be found on my personal (regularly updated) website.

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Master of Arts Students

Jenny Gosnell

Supervisor: Richard Joyce

Mai-Tal Kennedy

Thesis Title: 'Copyright and the functions of Art'. Supervisor: Sondra Bacharach

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Recently Submitted MA Theses

Robin Aldridge Sutton

Thesis Title: 'Experimental Philosophy on the Compatibility of Free Will and Determinism'. Supervisor: Ken Perszyk

Robin is now an English teacher in a language academy in Daegu, South Korea.

Liina Bårdsen

Liina B�rdsenThesis Title: 'A Theory of Human Flourishing for Company Decision-making'. Supervisor: Simon Keller

“An MA by thesis is a wonderful opportunity to bring together study, work and life experiences in one reflective piece of work.”

After completing a BA(Hons) in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford, Liina worked in management consultancy, business strategy and international education. These jobs caused her to wonder about the subdued role of ethical considerations in economic decision-making. When an opportunity emerged to examine this topic academically at Victoria, Liina decided it was time to step out of the world of work for a period and bring together the first eight years of her career.

In her MA in Philosophy Liina has developed a suggestion, rooted in virtue ethics, for what human well-being could consist of. She further argues why and how well-being could become a worthy goal for business organisations. Case studies with innovative Wellington-based companies have been an exciting addition to her theoretical work.

A native of Finland, Liina sees New Zealand, Wellington and Victoria as an ideal study environment. The great outdoors, a vibrant city and a lively, open-minded yet rigorous university community stimulate new thoughts.

Joseph Bradley

Thesis Title: 'Aquinas and the Trinity'. Supervisor: Ken Perszyk

Daniel Burkett

Thesis Title: 'Time-travellers shouldn't believe in presentism'. Supervisor: Simon Keller

Terence Davidson

Terence DavidsonThesis Title: 'Should Oscar Pistorius be allowed to compete at the Olympic Games?'. Supervisor: Nick Agar

South African 400m runner Oscar Pistorius is the first double-below-the-knee amputee to compete in an athletics event at the Olympics. Pistorius runs on a pair of J-shaped carbon fibre blades, and holds multiple Paraolympic world records. My thesis examines issues of unfair advantage, positive discrimination, and how we define sports. My argument is that his eligibility to compete hinges on whether or not what he does can be considered running, and whether he upsets the balance of excellencies on display in 400m running.

I'm currently writing my Masters Thesis after doing all my undergrad at Vic. My areas of interests are the philosophy of sport and the ethics of human enhancement. I write a sports ethics blog.

Martin Gray

Thesis Title: 'Cave Art and the Evolution of the Human Mind'. Supervisors: Kim Sterelny and Nick Agar

Michael Hemmingsen

Thesis Title: 'Post-Modern Cosmopolitanism and Discourse Ethics'. Supervisors: Jay Shaw and Kate Schick

Ewan Kingston

Thesis Title: 'The Just Allocation of Climate Change Burdens'. Supervisor: Ramon Das

Gareth Leniston-Lee

Thesis Title: 'On the Compatibility of Determinism and Future Contingency'. Supervisor: Max Cresswell

Udayan Mukherjee

Thesis Title: 'The Social Foundations of Normative Judgement'. Supervisor: Richard Joyce

Justin Ngai

Thesis Title: 'Abstract Objects in the Casual Order'. Supervisor: Stuart Brock

Kim Shaw-Williams

Thesis Title: 'The relevance of track-way reading (TWR) to the evolution of human cognition culture and language'. Supervisors: Kim Sterelny and Ben Jeffares

Kim is now a PhD Candidate at ANU.

Brendan Vize

Thesis Title: 'Do androids dream of electric shocks? The possibility of rights for machines'. Supervisor: Nick Agar

Brendan is now a PhD Candidate at Monash University.

Piripi Whaanga

Thesis Title: 'Maori values give Aotearoan flavour to bicultural harmony'. Supervisor Jay Shaw