Skip to content Exit mobile menu

The strength of Philosophy research in the School of Arts and Humanities lies in interdisciplinary work and in public philosophy. Philosophers are engaged in interdisciplinary work with technology, science, and literature.

Public philosophy is not just the translation of philosophical ideas to a larger audience, but a collaborative activity, where philosophers actively engage in dialogue with professionals, activists and many others involved in issues of public concern.

Our work is probably best characterised by a shared thematic interest in dialogue. We engage in actual dialogues with other disciplines, such as (nano)-technology, or artificial intelligence. We also facilitate philosophical dialogues for a variety of audiences and engage in fundamental research into the nature of dialogue and practical reasoning.

We have received funding through Seventh Framework Programme projects (FP7), the HEA, and a European Cooperation on Science Technology project (COST), and are active in public policy making, acting in an advisory capacity to national professional and policy bodies.

Philosophy participated in the REF 2014, where our expertise in public philosophy was recognised with 40% of research impacts defined as 4*/3* world leading and internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour.

Philosophical Dialogue and Rhetoric (Altorf)

The project explores the question of a philosopher's role as philosopher in the city. In other words, it reconsiders the 'despair of polis life' that has characterised philosophy since the death of Socrates. The main aim of this project is to develop a web resource and book. The web resource can be used as the basis for an undergraduate module, offering exercises to students and short reflections. The book will consist of extended, in-depth reflections.

Desire in Practical Reasoning and Action (Fossey)

Desire plays a crucial role in human life and action. Most decisions we make, from the mundane to the defining, can be explained by reference to what we want.

Almost nobody disagrees with this idea. Philosophers are, however, divided on the question of whether the explanations provided by desires are interesting, illuminating explanations which give us some insight into the way a person sees their own action; or whether they are much less interesting, simplistic, causal-psychological explanations.

A second question concerns whether anything else besides desires can provide this kind of illuminating explanation. Candidates include beliefs, knowledge, facts and propositions.

Dr Fossey's research aims to provide some insight into these questions by considering what desires themselves are, and how they function in practical reasoning. This involves differentiating desires from superficially similar mental states like urges, and exploring the relationship between desires and apparently dissimilar mental states like beliefs and perceptual states (which seem, in many ways, better suited to providing illuminating explanations of action). It also includes investigating the normative significance of desires, how they feature in arguments for practical conclusions, and their role in explaining "problem cases" like weakness of the will, and acting in ignorance of the reasons, or "for no reason".

PhD students

All research degree students at St Mary’s are part of the Doctoral College. All potential research students must first submit an online enquiry form with details of their proposal.