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AHRC Research Leave Awards

We are delighted to announce that five members of the Oxford Philosophy Faculty have been awarded Research Leave Awards by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) in the latest (and last) round of that scheme. Awards, which are highly competitive, have been made to Frank Arntzenius (University College); Anita Avramides (St Hilda’s College), Paolo Crivelli (New College); Lizzie Fricker (Magdalen College); and Gonzalo Rodriguez-Pereyra (Oriel College). Further details about each award-holder’s project can be found below.

Frank Arntzenius (Professor of Philosophy and Sir Peter Strawson Fellow, University College)

The Structure of Space and Time During the period of my AHRC Research Leave, I will be writing a book on the structure of space and time. In it I will be discussing the following topics. Does time have a structure or is it just a set of intrinsically unrelated snapshots? Can classical states be specified location by location? Can quantum states be specified location by location? Are space and time objects or relations? Do fibre bundle spaces exist as physical objects? Are properties nothing but locations in structured spaces? Can one dispense with mathematical objects by adding certain physical spaces? Is space-time atomic or non-atomic ('gunky')? Are anti-particles simply particles that are traveling back in time? Is quantum mechanics 'narratable', i.e. can the whole quantum mechanical story of the world be told instant by instant? Is space-time fundamental or derived from a more fundamental structure such as a spin-foam?

Anita Avramides (University Lecturer (CUF) and Fellow in Philosophy, St Hilda’s College)

Knowledge and Other Minds  One model for how we know that there are other minds is a perceptual one: I can see that my daughter is in pain. Even where there is agreement on the model, there is important disagreement over whether, as well as seeing that my daughter is in pain, I can see that there are other minds. During the period of my AHRC Research Leave, I will explore some reasons for, on the one hand, the more limited and, on the other, the more extensive claim. This leads me into a more general consideration of the skeptical challenge to our knowledge that there are other minds. How one positions oneself vis-à-vis the radical skeptic is one of the things that differentiates knowledge internalists from knowledge externalists. I consider the externalist challenge to traditional, Cartesian, epistemology, and compare and contrast it with the challenge one finds in the pages of Wittgenstein’s On Certainty. I argue that the Wittgensteinian challenge is the more radical. As I understand this work, our fundamental relation to others is not one of knowledge, but of action (or, as I prefer to say “of our interaction with others”).

Paolo Crivelli (Fellow in Philosophy, New College)

Plato’s Account of Falsehood: A Study of the SophistDuring the period of my AHRC Research Leave, I will be working on a monograph to be published by CUP: Plato's Account of Falsehood: A Study of the Sophist. Over the last fifty years, the notoriously difficult central section Plato's Sophist has been the object of many articles, but there is a need for an English monograph bringing the strands of this rich debate together. My study intends to fill this gap, and to push the boundaries of the research further in several specific areas (mainly in ontology and philosophy of language).

Lizzie Fricker (University Lecturer and Fellow in Philosophy, Magdalen College)

Second-Hand Knowledge: The Epistemology of Testimony  I am writing a book Second-Hand Knowledge: How we Learn from Others’ Testimony, to be published by OUP. In a modern society, most of what each of us knows is derived from others’ testimony – that is, what she has learned from books, or from what others have told her. Each of us’ knowledge of history, geography, the sciences, technology, and even our own early personal history is nearly all at second-hand. Testimony, perception, memory and inference give rise to and underwrite our background theory of our world in deeply interconnected ways, so it is difficult to untangle the contribution of testimony specifically, and it is not clear if we know anything at all that does not depend in some way upon it. My book investigates the extent of our epistemic dependence on testimony, and whether this threatens our responsibility for our own beliefs. I first develop a rigorous account of just how, when all goes as it should, someone telling something she knows to another person, who understands her utterance, can serve as a mechanism that iteratively spreads knowledge through a society with a common language. The book pulls together my earlier writings which have been published on this subject over many years.

Gonzalo Rodriguez-Pereyra (Professor of Metaphysics and Fellow in Philosophy, Oriel College)

The Principle of Identity of Indiscernibles in Leibniz  One of the most important principles of Leibniz’s work, thePrinciple of Identity of Indiscernibles, says that there are no two perfectly similar things. The aim of my research is to evaluate the nature, place and role of the Principle of Identity of Indiscernibles in Leibniz’s philosophy. To this effect I shall answer three kinds of questions: (a) what exactly does the principle mean?; (b) what arguments does Leibniz have for the Principle of Identity of Indiscernibles, and are these arguments valid?; (c) what does Leibniz think follows from the Principle of Identity of Indiscernibles, and do these things validly follow from it?

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