Our research projects and affiliations

Academic staff in the Department of Philosophy undertake externally funded research projects, and are affiliated with an extensive catalogue of projects relating to the Centre for Agency, Values and Ethics.

Discovery projects

This project aims to develop a new and more inclusive philosophical conception of dignity. It expects to generate an alternative to the exclusionary view that dignity is inherent since not all human beings possess the relevant inherent traits. The project will develop a conception of dignity as something conferred, and expects to show that such dignity can and should be conferred on all human beings. The expected outcome is a new understanding of the importance of dignity in human rights law and in health care services. The intended benefits are better appreciation of the role of dignity in human rights, and guidance for health and aged care services on how they can promote the dignity of all of their clients.

Discovery Projects 2019-2021: Dr Linda Barclay, Dr Suzy Killmister, Professor John Tasioulas, Dr Catherine Crock, Professor Oliver Sensen, Associate Professor Paul Formosa

The project aims to examine the ethical issues raised by dementia and the care of those with the condition. The project will examine and evaluate the capacities those with dementia retain for social agency, valuing and relationships. The project will test and refine theories of agency, identity and vulnerability in the light of the cognitive deficits accompanying dementia. The project will lead to the delivery of more efficient healthcare through the development of increased understandings of the relevant ethical considerations for treatment, and recommendations for new and ethical approaches to policy on dementia. It brings benefits to the well-being and relationships of those with this condition, their families and friends, and the professionals who care for them.

Discovery Projects 2018-2020: Dr Steve Matthews, Professor Jeanette Kennett

This project aims to develop a relational theory of procedural justice, based on the quality of interactions between individuals and legal authorities. Just procedures maintain the public's trust in the legal system, but lawyers and philosophers have not studied what makes legal procedures morally justifiable. The project will use empirical studies about the public's understanding of procedural justice to enrich the normative analysis and demonstrate the value of the theory in the practical setting of tribunal proceedings. This research is expected to contribute to theoretical and practical debates about how to improve legal procedures.

Discovery Projects 2017-2019: Professor Denise Meyerson, Professor Catriona Mackenzie, Professor Therese MacDermott

Recent events have led many commentators to suggest that we live in a post-truth world. Beliefs seem decreasingly sensitive to evidence: instead, we believe what we want to believe. Using the tools of philosophy and deeply informed by cognitive science, this project aims to investigate and illuminate the processes underlying belief formation. By developing a deeper understanding of the nature of belief and of the mechanisms that cause belief change, it aims to develop concrete proposals for making beliefs more responsive to evidence, and to assess the ethical permissibility of utilising these proposals. As well as deepening our understanding of belief, it aims to develop tools that allow for better informed decision-making.

Discovery Projects 2018-2020: Professor Neil Levy

This project investigates a variety of collective action problems that confront communities that aim to produce knowledge and information, such as academic communities and the media. This project is expected to generate insights into the role of governance institutions in science, social media, and journalism, using techniques of agent-based modelling, economics, and philosophical analysis. Expected outcomes of the project include enhanced capacity to build epistemic networks to maximise the production and dissemination of knowledge, improved understanding of the role of knowledge networks in a just democratic society.

Discovery Projects 2019-2021: Professor Neil Levy, Professor Toby Handfield, Dr Julian Garcia Gallego, Associate Professor Erte Xiao, Dr Robert Simpson, Associate Professor Kevin Zollman

Medical device representatives provide crucial support to clinicians using complex medical equipment. However, their obligation to maximise sales conflicts with their support role. Increasing uptake of devices potentially impacts patient safety and healthcare costs, making it important to understand the involvement and influence of device representatives. The proposed research will investigate the ethical and legal impacts of device representatives in Australian hospitals, leading to new knowledge and innovative ethical and legal analyses of their activities. Benefits include a policy framework, new standards for managing device representatives’ interactions, and clarity about ethical and legal obligations of clinicians and institutions.

Discovery Projects 2020-2022: Dr Amanda Johnson; Professor Wendy Rogers; Dr Bernadette Richards; Dr Katrina Hutchison; Dr Robyn Clay-Williams; Professor Guy Maddern; Dr Quinn Grundy

This project aims to make a substantial contribution to theoretical debates about the future of work. There is growing concern that technological advances will lead to a crisis of work in the near future and challenge the idea that work is central to social inclusion and personal development. This project will systematically map out and respond to the arguments against the centrality of work. The expected outcome is a significant reduction in complexity regarding fundamental assumptions in debates on future work. The project will aim to advance the national conversation on a crucial issue of social and economic policy.

Discovery Projects 2019-2021: Professor Jean-Philippe Deranty

This Project will investigate ways to train reflective ethical decision making in cybersecurity management through the design of interactive social simulations. The Project will advance understanding and management of human factors in cybersecurity breaches and the field of serious game design for cybersecurity training by using new techniques for building artificially intelligent virtual agents, drawing on interdisciplinary expertise in ethics, artificial intelligence and serious game design. Expected outcomes of the Project include a new framework and technologies for cybersecurity training. This should provide significant benefits through deeper understanding of the ethical impact of new cybertechnologies and training solutions.

Discovery Projects 2020-2022: Professor Deborah Richards; Dr Malcolm Ryan; Associate Professor Paul Formosa; Professor Dr Virginia Dignum; Associate Professor Michael Hitchens

Future Fellowship projects

How culture transforms the brain and extends our cognitive capabilities

This project aims to advance our understanding of the influence of the cultural and social environment on our cognitive capabilities. Its significance lies in producing a theoretical model of how human brains have evolved to be culturally situated.

The outcome will be a model that explains how as a species: our brains evolved in richly social and cultural environments; how each human brain develops in such an environment; and, how culture transforms the brain. The cultural transformation of our brains results in culturally extended cognitive systems.

This will be a significant innovation in our current understanding of how brains, bodies and culture transform our basic cognitive capabilities.

Future Fellowship 2014-2017: Richard Menary

This project investigates and define the limits of physical disease, to answer questions about when a presentation is a disease, and when it is simply a risk factor or mild condition. The ensuing account of disease aims to make a practical contribution to growing international concern about asymptomatic people being diagnosed and treated for conditions that will not cause any health problems ("overdiagnosis").

The research provides normative grounds for evaluating disease claims. Results will reduce the harm caused by people receiving treatment that they do not require, make a practical contribution to debates about the scope of health care, and yield findings that can help to reduce the cost-burdens associated with overdiagnosis.

Future Fellowship 2014-2017: Wendy Rogers

This project develops a new interdisciplinary framework for understanding cinema's unique power to evoke ethical experience via audiovisual means. Combining philosophy with film analysis, it moves beyond the prevalent view that cinema merely illustrates moral situations, and challenges the long-held suspicion toward film's manipulative aesthetic power.

This project proposes instead a model of cinematic ethics: an investigation of how cinema evokes ethical experience through emotional, cognitive, and aesthetic engagement. This project will advance the emerging interdisciplinary field of film-philosophy by highlighting film's under-recognised potential to enhance ethical understanding, and thus to promote greater social awareness and intercultural communication.

Future Fellowship 2014-2017: Robert Sinnerbrink

Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) projects

This project aims to investigate how small, cumulative gender biases affect women's career paths and progression in surgery, with implications for relevantly similar careers. Women surgeons show gendered patterns of subspecialty selection, experience a pay gap relative to men, and are less likely to be involved in innovation. The project will use philosophical theories of epistemic injustice and moral aggregation to provide new ways of understanding workplace gender discrimination, and qualitative methods to test their applicability in surgery. It will contribute new knowledge about invisible barriers to women’s career progression in surgery and similar careers, and make theoretical contributions to feminist epistemology and moral theory.

DECRA 2020-2022: Dr Katrina Hutchison

This project aims to show that there are no races, only racialised groups. Race was once thought to be biologically real, a position which is increasingly rejected by specialists. Now race is commonly believed to be a social construct, which is often taken to mean that races are real social groups. This project aims to demonstrate that when race is defined socially it loses its conceptual and historical specificity, and that racial classification should be abandoned altogether. An expected outcome of the project is a scholarly and public shift away from racial classification. This project develops and defends the category of the racialised group as an alternative to one of history’s most misleading and dangerous ideas.

DECRA 2019-2021: Dr Adam Hochman

Macquarie University Research Fellowship (MQRF) projects

This project explores the ground and scope of universal preservationist duties. It asks, first, whether there are any natural or man-made assets that we all have a moral duty to protect. The project develops the abstract features of such assets, articulating the different moral grounds on which such universal preservationist duties might exist. It then discusses the various ways in which such moral duties could be implemented.

MQRF 2019-2021: Dr Ana Tanasoca

Templeton World Charity Foundation project

The source of order in living systems has been the key question at the boundary of biology and philosophy since the eighteenth century. Today it is widely believed that living systems differ from non-living because they are driven by information, much of which has accumulated during evolution, and much of which is genetically transmitted. But there is at present no specifically biological measure of information that can underpin this vision.

This project aims to fill that gap by grounding the idea of biological information in contemporary philosophical work on the nature of causation. Amongst other goals, the project will develop a measure of biological information inspired by the early theoretical insights of the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, Francis Crick, but general enough to capture information-processing in gene regulatory networks, epigenetic information, and the emergence of new information in self-organising processes.

The work will be conducted by Paul Griffiths, Karola Stotz (Macquarie), Arnaud Pocheville (Sydney), Brett Calcott (Sydney), and in cooperation with the Integrative Systems Laboratory at the Charles Perkins Centre.

Templeton World Charity Foundation project 2014-2017: Karola Stotz

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Last updated: 20 Dec 2019