Philosophers Win ARC Discovery Projects Grants

A number of philosophers have been named recipients of large grants in the latest round of Discovery Projects funding from the Australian Research Council (ARC).

The Discovery Projects program aims to “support excellent basic and applied research by individuals and teams, encourage high-quality research and research training, enhance international collaboration in research, expand Australia’s knowledge base and research capability, [and] enhance the scale and focus of research in the Science and Research Priorities.” They provide funding of between AU$30,000 and AU$500,000 per year for up to five consecutive years.

The philosopher-led projects receiving funding from this ARC program are:

  • The Philosophical Influences on Anthropology
    Jennifer Mensch (Western Sydney University). AU$150,821 / $109,955.
    This project aims to undertake a comprehensive account of Kant’s impact on the early history of anthropology, offering a new framework for understanding philosophy’s role as a cultural force in society. The project will investigate the importance of Kant’s twin narratives of progressive human development and racial difference for understanding the course taken by anthropology when determining government policies regarding race relations. The benefit of this reconstruction will be the identification of contemporary examples of Kant’s continued legacy, especially in the context of legacies of racial bias, and to the nature of claimed racial and ethnic identities.
  • The Case for Work
    Jean-Philippe Deranty (Macquarie University). AU$175,000 / $127,590.
    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.
  • The Integration of Perception and Thought
    Jakob Hohwy, Tim Bayne 
    (Monash University) and Rosalyn Moran (Bristol University). AU$405,000 / $295,299.
    This project aims to use a new neural marker to discover and conceptualise how the brain integrates perception with thought. Combining approaches from cognitive neuroscience and the philosophy of cognitive science, the project intends to show how cognitive performance in healthy individuals depends on the degree of integration of top-down and bottom-up signals in the brain. The expected outcome is new empirical and philosophical understanding of the conditions for optimal integration of perception and thought, as well as enhanced interdisciplinary capacity and cross-institutional collaboration. The anticipated benefit is an accessible neuroimaging tool for cognitive assessment.
  • Religion, Pluralism and Healthcare Practice: a Philosophical Assessment
    Justin Oakley 
    (Monash University), Steve Clarke (Charles Sturt University), C.A.J. Coady (University of Melbourne), Julian Savelescu, and Dominic Wilkinson (Oxford University). AU$380,000 / $277,071.
    This project aims to develop a systematic approach to accommodating religious values and practices in healthcare. Current approaches are ad hoc and discriminatory, and in an increasingly religiously diverse contemporary Australia, a systematic approach is needed. This project will consider and provide policy advice on how healthcare could be reformed so that the issue of accommodation of religious values and practices is treated in a consistent and ethical manner. The benefit of the project will be a better, cost effective, model for healthcare management that reduces disparities for disadvantaged and vulnerable groups.
  • Trust in a Social and Digital World
    Colin Klein 
    (Australian National University) and Mark Alfano (Delft University of Technology, Australian Catholic University). AU$300,000 / $218,703.
    This project aims to provide a systematic and empirically-informed account of the way networks facilitate or hinder knowledge. Distinguishing on-line information from disinformation can be difficult. This task can be greatly assisted by networks of trusted peers, but figuring out who to trust is itself a challenge. Identifying, designing, and facilitating networks of trust is therefore an urgent task. By using the tools of social epistemology, virtue epistemology, and network science, this project will identify how individuals should distribute their trust when embedded in epistemically hostile environments.
  • Philosophical Perspectives on Psychedelic Psychiatry
    Philip Gerrans
    (University of Adelaide), Lisa Bortolotti (University of Birmingham), Jonathan Jureidini (University of Adelaide), and Thomas Metzinger (Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz). AU$360,000 / $262,444.
    This project aims to develop a multi-level integrated theory of self-representation and self-awareness that explains the effects of psychedelic therapy in particular, and transformative experience in general. Psychedelic drugs can produce lasting psychotherapeutic benefits. The mechanism is a dramatic but temporary alteration to the ordinary sense of self, known as “ego dissolution”. However, fundamental questions about self-representation and its neural and cognitive implementation remain unresolved. In order to explain ego dissolution and its therapeutic effects, this project aims to integrate two theoretical approaches to self-representation situated at the intersection of philosophy and cognitive neuroscience, the predictive coding theory of brain function and the self-binding theory of self-representation. Such a framework has potential to anchor further interdisciplinary research and practical intervention in disorders of the self.
  • Conferring Dignity in Law and Health Care
    Linda Barclay
    , Suzy Killmister (Monash University), John Tasioulas (King’s College London), Catherine Crock (Deakin University), Oliver Sensen (Tulane University), and Paul Formosa (Macquarie University). AU$241,000 / $175,691.
    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.
  • Governing the Knowledge Commons
    Toby Handfield
    (Monash University), Neil Levy (Oxford University), Julian Garcia Gallego, Erte Xiao (Monash University), Robert Simpson (University College London), and Kevin Zollman (Carnegie Mellon). AU$220,000 / $160,398.
    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.
  • The Philosophical Foundations of Women’s Rights: a New History, 1600-1750
    Jacqueline Broad 
    (Monash University), Deborah Brown (Queensland University), and Marguerite Deslauriers (McGill University). AU$165,000 / $120,299.
    This project aims to show that the history of women’s rights is much longer and richer than previously thought. There is a common perception that the notion of women’s rights first emerged in the late eighteenth century. This project expects to generate a new understanding of feminist history by investigating texts calling for the recognition of women’s dignity, worth, nobility, and excellence (cognate concepts to rights) in England and Europe from 1600 to 1750, against the backdrop of the rise of Cartesianism. The anticipated outcome is greater awareness of an enduring feminist tradition within the history of philosophy. The expected social benefits include a shift in public thinking about feminist history and women in philosophy.

The ARC, by the way, is to be applauded for its well-designed, informative, and interactive display of its funding decisions.

(Please let me know if I’ve overlooked anyone.)



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Sam Baron
Sam Baron
5 years ago

Don’t forget the Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards!

DE190100719 Dr Louise Richardson-Self University of Tasmania $390,478.00
Hate speech against women online. This project aims to theorise online gendered hate speech against women. Women are subjected to many forms of attack online. This project will expand Australia’s knowledge base on the persistent problem of online gendered hate speech, and advance research in cybersecurity. The project expects to provide new understandings of this social issue, and nuanced evaluations of legal and extra-legal responses to determine which can be justified and which are most effective. The project will provide international and national benefits, serving Australia’s social and cultural commitment to women’s equality and to improved cybersecurity.

DE190100411 Dr Adam Hochman Macquarie University $408,000.00
Social constructionism about race. 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.

Professor X
Professor X
Reply to  Sam Baron
5 years ago

Indeed! And it is worth noting that the Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) is even more competitive than the Discovery Projects (DP) scheme. Also, the funding for the DECRAs is typically significantly higher per person (the DECRAs are awarded to individuals, whereas the DPs are also awarded to teams).

5 years ago

There’s definitely a lot of “aiming” going on by these projects. I already sigh when papers I read ‘aim’, ‘examine’ or ‘argue’ something, but projects are even more abstract entities. Perhaps it is time we let persons in philosophy do things in our writings again? Congratulations to the philosophers behind the projects though.