Royal Institute of Philosophy

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First, some great news for postgraduate studies in Philosophy at Keele – there are three PhD studentships advertised at Keele, with deadline at the end of August, one of them specifically in Philosophy in the area of Kantian studies. Details are pasted below.

APRA Foundation Berlin Graduate Student Teaching Scholarship in Philosophy

The Adrian Piper Research Archive Foundation Berlin and Keele University offer a Graduate Student Teaching Scholarship in Philosophy for a student interested in working on a topic in Kantian studies.

The post will normally involve contributing to no more than 3 hours of teaching and 3 hours of research activities per week, and can only be held in conjunction with full-time PhD study.

The Research Students’ Research Project will be on a topic in the area of Kantian Studies; the topic can be in any of the areas of scholarship related to the work of Immanuel Kant – for instance, Kant’s practical philosophy (ethics, political philosophy, philosophy of religion), Kant’s theoretical philosophy (epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of mind, logic), Kant’s teleology (including philosophy of art and aesthetics, philosophy of biology), Kant’s philosophy of history or anthropology.

The successful candidate will develop teaching materials and teach modules in Keele’s School of Politics, International Relations and Philosophy, and will undertake administrative and pastoral duties within the School and the University. The Research Student’s Research and Editorial Duties for Adrian Piper and/or the APRA Foundation Berlin are to be determined solely and entirely by the Adrian Piper’s and/or Foundation’s needs in the area of philosophy more generally. These may include but are not limited to the area of Kantian Studies.

The salary: £2,052 per annum plus Home/ EU fee waiver (£3,828 for 2012/13 based on full time study; international students will be eligible, but will need to cover the difference between EU and international fees).
Duration: 3 years
Closing date: 31st August 2012 at 5pm.

For further details on the studentship and the application process, including online application, see:


Graduate Teaching Assistantship

There is an exciting opportunity for an individual with strong research potential to join Research Institutes with a strong track record of research excellence, to undertake a funded PhD programme and to develop teaching experience.

A GTAship role will normally involve contributing no more than 6 hours per week of teaching.

Applications are invited across Research Areas in the Humanities and Social Sciences, including all areas in Philosophy.

Duration: 3 years
Fees: Fee Waiver (at UK/EU fee levels – £3,828 for 2012/13 based on full time study)
Stipend: A stipend of £11,538 per annum, plus £2,052 per annum for teaching (based on full time study)
Closing date: 31st August 2012 at 5pm.

For further details on this studentship and the application process, including online application, see:


Fee Waivers in Humanities and Social Sciences

Applications are invited across the research specialisms of the Research Institute for the Humanities and the Research Institute for Social Sciences (including all areas in Philosophy).

Duration: 3 years
Fees: Fee Waiver (at UK/EU fee levels – £3,828 for 2012/13 based on full time study)

Closing date: 31st August 2012 at 5pm


Secondly, I am about to finalise the programme for our next Royal Institute of Philosophy lecture series, as well as the plans for the 2012 ‘J.-J. Rousseau’ Annual Lecture and Conference. Together with colleagues and postgraduate students at Keele, I am also about to begin a reading group on Adrian W. Moore’s recent book, The Evolution of Modern Metaphysics.I have realised, however, that, concerning the events we hosted in the second semester of the previous academic year, we only posted here information about the 2011 ‘J.-J. Rousseau’ Annual Lecture and Conference on the work of John Horton (which was postponed from November 2011 and took place in February 2012). So, before further news, I add below some information on the Royal Institute of Philosophy lectures and on the RC4SPIRE research seminar on Rousseau, which took place this year during February-March.

Have an excellent summer!

RIP Lecture: 21 February 2012

Jens Timmermann is Reader in Moral Philosophy at the University of St Andrews. He is the author of Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals: A Commentary (Cambridge, 2007), and Sittengesetz und Freiheit (2003). He is the editor of Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason: A Critical Guide (with Andrews Reath, Cambridge, 2010), and of Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals: A Critical Guide (Cambridge, 2009).

Moral Conflict in Kant’s Ethical Theory

Abstract: This lecture explores the possibility of moral conflict in Kant’s ethics. An analysis of the only explicit discussion of the topic in his published writings confirms that there is no room for genuine moral dilemmas. Conflict is limited to non-conclusive ‘grounds’ of obligation. They arise only in the sphere of ethical duty and, though defeasible, ought to be construed as valid arguments an agent correctly judges to apply in the situation at hand. While it is difficult to determine in theory what makes some of them stronger than others, ‘grounds’ of obligation turn out to provide the philosophical resources needed to account for practical residue in conflict cases, and for a plausible form of agent regret. The principle that ‘ought implies can’ survives intact.

RIP Lecture: 6 March 2012

Helen Steward did her undergraduate degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the University of Oxford, where she remained, after graduating, to study for the B.Phil and then the D.Phil in Philosophy. Her first book, ‘The Ontology of Mind: Events, Processes and States’ was published in 1997 and argued that the category of ‘state’ has played an enormously problematic role in the Philosophy of Mind. Her next book, ‘A Metaphysics for Freedom’ will be out in two days time, on Thursday! – and argues for a view she calls ‘Agency Incompatibilism’ – the view that determinism is inconsistent not merely with freedom, but with agency itself, including, importantly, the agency of many animals less complex than ourselves. She is currently a Senior Lecturer at the University of Leeds.

The Freedom of the Agent and the Freedom of the Will

Abstract: There has been a tendency in recent years for libertarians to insist that it is not actions per se, but rather decisions or choices about how to act, that should be regarded as the locus of  the exercises of free will they believe to be inconsistent with determinism. It is not actions themselves that must be undetermined by prior causes, on this view, but rather the temporally prior events by way of which we settle upon courses of action. In this talk, I want to offer some examples of this line of thinking from the literature, and then go on to argue that what I shall call the Retreat to Decisions which is common to all the examples I shall consider is a serious mistake. The Retreat is a mistake, I believe, mainly because the picture of action and its causation which makes it seem advisable is also a mistake – and I shall try to say something about how we might replace that picture with a superior one.

RC4SPIRE Seminar: 14 March 2012

Zev Trachtenberg is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oklahoma. He received his PhD in 1988 from Columbia University, where he examined the ways Jean- Jacques Rousseau’s political theory rests on an understanding of the contribution of culture to citizenship. While continuing to work on Rousseau, he has also pursued an interest in environmental political theory. As a Fulbright Scholar at Queen’s University Belfast he is considering how Rousseau’s work can serve as a model for a political theory of the human habitation of the natural world. Zev gained some first-hand experience of the political dimension of habitation through his service on the Planning Commission for the City of Norman, Oklahoma.

Rousseau as a Philosopher of Second Nature

This paper is based on an appreciation of an idea that seems central to the way social science disciplines approach the environment: the idea that nature is not something apart from human beings, but rather the nature human beings inhabit is itself shaped by human habitation—it is, in the classic phrase, “second nature.” Philosophical reflection can contribute to the understanding of the mutual conditioning of humanity and nature that is, I suppose, a goal of social science disciplines ranging from Geography to Planning to Anthropology to Environmental History, among many others. I believe that Philosophy can contribute to an understanding of second nature by articulating two things. It can spell out a compelling descriptive concept of nature that foregrounds the interdependence of human life and the natural environment—as is found, for example, in critiques of the idea of pure wilderness. And, it can develop a persuasive normative framework which allows for the moral evaluation of the changes human beings make to the land.

I will argue that Jean-Jacques Rousseau can be read as a thinker who offers just such a philosophical view. This claim might be surprising in light of Rousseau’s fame for romantic depictions of solitary walkers, who pass through the landscape leaving no trace. But he also explores another feature of the human presence in the natural world: he emphasizes that as human beings come to live in social groups they must transform the landscape in order to survive. Thus, in the Discourse on Inequality, whereas “savage man” makes use of what nature puts into his hands without having to alter the source of those goods, Rousseau associates “civil man” with quite substantial alterations of the landscape, as human beings learn through their economic activities to exploit natural processes. It follows that the evolution of human nature and social life that Rousseau recounts in the Discourse can also be read as the story of humanity transforming its habitat from primordial wilderness into the second nature of an agricultural countryside.

After tracking Rousseau’s descriptive project of recounting the development of second nature through socially organized labor, I shall argue that he pairs it with a normative project of evaluating the condition of the transformed landscape in moral and political terms. In general his normative criteria are republican: the human interaction with the landscape is good to the extent that it contributes to maintenance of rough equality of property, relative autonomy, and self-government. Where the political and economic system conforms to republican values, the people and their land will flourish in tandem; injustice will poison the interaction between people and land, leading a cycle of impoverishment and tyranny. Thus, I will conclude, Rousseau advocates an agrarian political vision in which republican institutions and environmental quality are mutually sustaining.

RIP Lecture: 27 March 2012

Giuseppina D’Oro is Reader in Philosophy at Keele University

The Philosopher and the Grapes: On Descriptive Metaphysics and Why It Is Not ‘Sour Metaphysics’

Abstract: In Aesop’s famous fable a fox covets some high-hanging grapes. The fox jumps and jumps trying to reach them, but after several unsuccessful attempts it gives up, tail between its legs, muttering to itself ‘they are not ripe anyway’. The expression ‘sour grapes’ has since come to signify the psychological self-defence mechanism that enables one to accept defeat without explicitly acknowledging it. Admitting failure is painful, so it is better, like the fox, to persuade oneself it was not worth having that which one was trying to achieve. Are descriptive metaphysicians like the fox in Aesop’s fable? Have they decided, after several unsuccessful attempts to grasp being qua being, that the mind-independent reality that metaphysics is ordinarily supposed to pursue is sour, and thus not worth having, rather than admitting cognitive failure? In other words, are descriptive metaphysicians being somewhat dishonest in arguing that metaphysics ought to concern itself with being as it is experienced rather than being qua being? This is how revisionary metaphysicians portray their descriptive counterparts when they accuse them of being engaged in ‘mere’ conceptual analysis or ‘just’ ordinary language philosophy. There is a certain kind of dishonesty involved in self-deception and this is precisely what descriptive metaphysicians are guilty of when they recommend epistemic humility. This paper argues against this view of descriptive metaphysics. By dismissing descriptive metaphysics as a psychological response to cognitive failure, revisionary metaphysicians fail to address the metaphilosophical challenge descriptive metaphysics presents them with. There is a metaphilosophical debate to be had, but in order to have it one must first undermine the view that descriptive metaphysics is a case of ‘sour grapes’. A version of the paper can be viewed on her page of