The Basis of Conscious Thought
Prof DJ Chalmers (RSSS, ANU, NYU), Dr U Kriegel (Arizona)
2010 : $121,000
2011 : $40,000
2012 : $97,000
2013 : $90,000
2014 : $98,000
The science and philosophy of consciousness has made much progress in recent years, and the study of conscious thought is the next frontier. The project will place Australian research on the leading edge of this area. An international network of researchers will analyse both the neurobiological basis and the subjective experience of conscious thought, yielding a unified account of conscious thinking from the first-person and third-person perspectives. The resulting account will illuminate the nature of human thinking and reasoning, and will be applied to the detection of consciousness in post-coma patients.
ARC Future Fellowship
Knowledge of Consciousness
Prof D Stoljar (RSSS, ANU)
2010 : $98,500
2011 : $196,000
2012 : $202,000
2013 : $202,000
2014 : $98,000
Creatures that are both rational and conscious—i.e., most of us, most of the time—possess considerable introspective knowledge of our own psychological states. We know that we know that Vienna is the capital of Austria, that we feel a tingle in the elbow and a host of other things. But what exactly is introspection? How does knowledge by introspection differ from other kinds of knowledge? Why are some psychological states introspectible and some not—e.g. those postulated by cognitive science or linguistics, or those involving deep-seated desire or prejudice? This project explores and defends a new philosophical perspective on introspection, and charts its connection to rationality and consciousness.
Prof D Stoljar (RSSS, ANU); Prof FC Jackson (RSSS, ANU)
2011 : $80,000
2012 : $75,000
2013 : $75,000
Can there be progress in philosophy? It is often said that philosophical problems are perennials for which it is pointless to expect a solution. On the other hand, professional philosophy seems to have organized itself, perhaps unconsciously, around the opposite view: how else to explain the panoply of conferences, graduate programs, journals, websites etc? Who is right? This project asks what philosophical progress might be, and whether it is rational to think that there is (has been, will be) any. To answer this question we will use a combination of techniques: clarification of the issues, comparative analysis of notions of progress in the sciences and philosophy, and interviews with prominent people in philosophy.
Political Normativity and the Feasibility Requirement
Dr Nicholas Southwood (ANU), Prof H G Brennan (RSSS, ANU), Prof David M Estlund (Brown)
It is commonly assumed that normative theorising about social and political reality must be feasible in outlook, that it must not go beyond what may realistically be achieved. Yet the 'Feasibility Requirement', as we call it, has received little serious scholarly attention. This project will investigate the nature, justification, and implications of the Feasibility Requirement. We shall approach this task in a highly multi-disciplinary way, combining general philosophical and social scientific analysis with detailed consideration of the implications of the Feasibility Requirement for a number of pressing real-world issues, including climate change, multiculturalism, political participation, inequality, historical justice, and war.
From Signs to Symbols: Language, Mind and Niche
Prof K Sterelny (RSSS, ANU)
In the last decade, a new picture of human evolution, and of the speed and extent of human divergence from other primates, has gradually emerged. The CI has been one of those responsible for this new conception. At roughly the same time (in part promoted by critiques of nativist linguistics) the problem of the evolution of language has once again become a major focus of debate. The aim of the project is to use this new picture of human evolution to make a major advance on the second problem: how humans, uniquely, became the speaking primate. If successful, the project would thus demonstrate the theoretical productivity of the new model of human evolution while also throwing fresh light on an enduring and important problem.
2013 Discovery Early Career Researcher Award
Dr Seth Lazar (RSSS, ANU)
Warfare is a practice of unrivalled gravity, and yet we lack an adequate account of the morality of war. Traditional just war theory reached plausible conclusions, through implausible arguments; the current orthodoxy is better defended, but leads to untenable conclusions. I will develop a new just war theory, which matches the new orthodoxy for philosophical rigour, but delivers more defensible conclusions in practice—in particular, vindicating the principles of national defence and noncombatant immunity. In doing so I will radically rethink the conceptual and normative structure of war's morality, focusing on the fundamentally collective nature of armed conflict, and our duties to protect those with whom we share valuable relationships.
2013 Discovery Projects
Decision Theory in Crisis
Prof A R Hajek (RSSS, ANU), Professor D P Nolan (RSSS, ANU), Dr R Briggs (ANU)
Our best theorizing about rational decision-making faces a crisis. There are many competing accounts of how our beliefs and desires combine to determine what we should do. Worse, each of these accounts faces serious problems. We thus have no adequate philosophical understanding of rationality, and no adequate theory to guide the decisions that we make—from the ordinary decisions of our daily lives, to the high-stakes decisions of industry and government. We aim to improve the state of the art in decision theory, building on cutting-edge work on conditionals and causation. This will benefit philosophy directly, and also benefit indirectly other disciplines that are concerned with decision-making, including those that inform public policy.
Australian Laureate Fellowship
The Origins of Inequality, hierarchy, and Social Complexity
Prof K Sterelny (RSSS, ANU)
The aim of this project is to explain the social contract — the cooperative foundations of human social life — and the survival of that contract as elites and social complexity emerged from the egalitarian and intimate lives of Pleistocene foragers about 10,000 years ago. The project will identify the evolutionary, social and cognitive mechanisms that made the million year long history of human cooperation possible, examine its limits and failures, and will explore the normative upshot of this million year history of human social life.