Several Philosophers Win Recent Templeton Grants

The John Templeton Foundation has awarded a number of grants over the past few months, and a few philosophers are among the recipients.

They are:

Neil Levy (Macquarie University)
Are We Rational Animals?

Tradition holds that humans are distinguished from other animals by our rationality. But research produced over the last several decades has called this into doubt. Most psychologists and philosophers now believe that human cognition is subject to a range of reasoning biases that routinely cause us to depart from normatively correct inferences. Contemporary debate about human reasoning tends to focus on whether our epistemically irrational cognition is practically rational in a broader sense; that is, on whether we achieve our epistemic and practical goals despite pervasive reasoning biases. The existence and significance of these reasoning biases is accepted by most researchers. This research project aims to assess how well founded this consensus is. Building on previous work and combining experiments with philosophical reflection, we will probe the extent to which standard reasoning tasks provide evidence for pervasive reasoning biases. In Project A, we will conduct experiments that focus on the question of the sincerity of reports of irrational beliefs. In Project B, we will examine the strength of the evidence for motivated reasoning by identifying the strongest paradigms for replication and extension. And in Project C, we will employ philosophical tools to assess the extent to which well-known and purportedly well-established biases might be explained in ways that render them rational. We anticipate that this project will result in 10 papers published in leading cognitive science and philosophy journals. Given that the hypotheses explored by this project are of intrinsic interest and challenge to the dominant view of human reasoning, we expect that our project outputs will inspire new avenues for experimental work. Most importantly, we will develop a more realistic assessment of the extent of human rationality.

Ryan Nichols (CSU Fullerton)
Developing The Philosophical Foundations Of Cultural Evolutionary Theory And Science: Proposing A Virtual Research Network

The rapid interest in the emergent field of inquiry known as cultural evolution, and the high quality of research in this field, is leading to consequential changes in the study of human beings across the social and life sciences as well as the humanities. Cultural evolutionary science (CES) is encountering novel theoretical questions at a rapid pace, some of which are foundational, several of which are inadequately formulated or addressed. What is ‘culture’? What is the role of institutions in CES theories? Are mechanisms of explanation in cultural evolutionary science, like prestige bias, empirically tenable? How ought the relationship between genomics and cultural variation be framed? This project proposes creation of a virtual research network (VRN) for philosophers of science to address these and other questions directly. The mission of the VRN is to catalyze new philosophical interest in foundational problems of cultural evolutionary science by provisioning a small group of excellent philosophers of science with incentive and cooperative context to enter this exciting area with ample background information, knowledge of major issues, and a network to aid ongoing collaboration. In a small supplemental component of this discovery-phase project, the PI and a collaborator will conduct a data science study mining academic publications in philosophy to enhance clarity about core questions the philosophy of science for cultural evolution. The big question this project helps to answer is: What are the philosophical foundations of the science of culture?

Duncan Pritchard & Richard Arum (UC Irvine)
Embedding The Development Of Intellectual Character Within A University Curriculum

There are two core questions addressed by the project: How can the teaching of virtuous intellectual character be integrated into a university-level curriculum? What are the educational benefits of doing so? While there has been extensive discussion of the educational benefits of teaching for the intellectual virtues, there hasn’t been any systematic implementation of these ideas at university level specifically, much less a serious educational evaluation of their effectiveness at this pedagogical level. The core project questions will be addressed by developing online interdisciplinary modules devoted to fostering intellectually virtuous character in students. These modules will be embedded within the curriculum at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), so that all UCI undergraduate students can benefit from them regardless of their major. The pedagogical effectiveness of these materials will be evaluated via an educational study. The project will be the first of its kind in terms of leading to a wholesale incorporation of intellectual character development into the heart of an R1 university curriculum, at a highly diverse campus. The project outputs will be invaluable to the broader debate regarding the educational value of the intellectual virtues. The project will lead to the development of an innovative curriculum at UCI and establish a long-standing community of practice in terms of teaching for virtuous intellectual character. A public version of the project modules will be made available for use by other educational institutions, supported by educational resources on a dedicated project webpage. The project will lead to important new educational research on the pedagogical effectiveness of teaching for virtuous intellectual character at university level. In summary, the project will demonstrate the effectiveness of intellectual character development within higher education, and serve as a beacon that will guide related educational initiatives.

Matthew Wilson & Trisha Posey (John Brown University)
Program For Intellectual Virtue At John Brown University

This proposal expands JBU’s ability to educate students in the intellectual virtues by funding the creation of a Program for Intellectual Virtue (“PIV”) housed at JBU’s on-campus Center for Faith and Flourishing. This Program will provide resources to create curriculum, train faculty, and form communities of practice that will promote the cultivation of the intellectual virtues among JBU’s 1200+ person undergraduate student body. Starting fall 2021, JBU is educating all incoming freshman in the intellectual virtues through its required first year “Gateway” seminar. This is a good start. but the university needs additional resources to form students in the intellectual virtues. The PIV will encourage discussion, curriculum innovation, and learning about intellectual virtue and pedagogy within JBU’s four colleges. Project deliverables include: documented curriculum changes in 15-24 courses, 60 faculty roundtables led by representatives within each college, 2 week-long summer trainings, 3 campus-wide lectures on or debates modeling intellectual virtue, 2 faculty development events, 6 student club discussions, and 2 faculty awards for excellence in teaching virtue. The project’s outcomes include the cultivation of intellectual virtue in 1,200+ students and a positive cultural influence at JBU to support intellectual virtue education at the university.

You can learn about other projects funded by the Templeton Foundation here.

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James Cummings
James Cummings
1 year ago

I would suggest to recent PhDs that they forego the university markup and make a proposal to Templeton from their own newly-established center. All it takes is some great ideas, a couple of RAs and a website. Templeton would make the final decision, of course.

Then after the funding, research, seminars and publications are over, you apply for the TT jobs that you really want. Make those departments pay to lure you away from your own center!

P D Van Pelt
1 year ago

Bravo and kudos for the cause! Things are looking up, into the face of all sorts of mischief and peril. If we do not battle for what we believe in, no one will.