GROUNDS starts, Tollefsen visit

The GROUNDS project started on Friday 1st March 2019.

Our weekly seminars will take place on Thursdays at 10.30am, in the Botany House seminar room in the University of Leeds.

Our first project visitor is Deborah Tollefsen of the University of Memphis. Events during her visit include:

  • 1pm-2.30pm Wednesday 6th March—CMM talk “Institutional Knowledge”
  • 10am-11.30am Thursday 7th March—preread and discussion of Tollefsen “Group Testimony”
  • 1.30pm-3.30pm Friday 8th March—preread and discussion of Tollefsen “From Extended Mind to Collective Mind”

Group Thinking postdocs: deadline imminent!

I’m currently advertising two four-year postdocs for the Group Thinking project. The deadline is 5th February, and the job ads are here:

The postdocs are pretty open as to Area of Specialization. What’ll be important is that candidates have a good story to tell about how their background would fit into the research themes of the project.

Candidates who’ve contacted me for further info have found it useful to look at the following detailed description of the project plan:

Group Thinking studentships advertised

Two ERC-funded PhD studentships in Philosophy at the University of Leeds Application deadline: 23rd January 2019.

 Contact for more information about how to apply.

The School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science at the University of Leeds is offering two studentships for students commencing a full-time PhD in Philosophy in October 2019. These form part of the ERC-funded project Group Thinking: New Foundations.

Group Thinking: New Foundations draws on several fields of philosophy including:

  • Philosophy of mind and language (e.g. metasemantics, metaphysics of mental content, collective intentionality, group attitudes in psychological theory).
  • Metaphysics (e.g. social ontology, personal identity, group persistence).
  • Formal Epistemology (e.g. representation theorems, social choice, analysis of common knowledge, judgement aggregation)
  • Philosophy of action (e.g. nature and grounding of intention, collective action).
  • Philosophy of normativity (e.g. nature of reasons and rationality, group reasons)
  • Ethics/political philosophy (e.g. group attitudes and duties, legitimacy, complicity).

Applications for the studentships should be for PhD projects in one or more of these project areas. You should be willing to participate in project activities, including regular meetings and workshops with project members across the various project topics. You will be expected to assist other members of the project team who will be organizing these events.

The studentship is tenable for up to 3 years. Renewal of the studentship each year is subject to satisfactory academic progress. Applicants should normally have, or expect soon to be awarded, a Masters degree (or the equivalent thereof) in a relevant discipline. The studentship includes support sufficient for to cover fees (at home/EU rates) and maintenance (currently £14,777 p/a). There will be additional support and benefits associated with the studentships.

The award is not suitable for part-time PhD study. International students may apply for this as a partial scholarship: to be eligible, applicants will be expected to demonstrate their ability to pay the remainder of their international fees (approx. £14,000 p.a.)

Contact the project director for more information on this opportunity, or for details about how to apply.

Details of Group Thinking: New Foundations.

Group Thinking is a five-year project, commencing in 2019, on the metaphysics and epistemology of collective representation. Funded by the European Research Council, it explores group thought: its nature, and its significance for explanatory projects inside and outside philosophy. It seeks to reveal the underlying unity between the facts that constitute the beliefs and desires of individuals, and the facts that constitute the beliefs and desires of groups. It will provide criteria for demarcating which groups genuinely have beliefs and desires, distinguishing this situation from circumstances when attributing beliefs and desires is mere “loose talk”. The aim is new and rigorous foundations for theory and for public discourse about group belief and desire.

The project is located at the University of Leeds under the direction of Prof Robert Williams. The project team will include local experts, two postdoctoral researchers and two PhD studentships. The project will run regular seminars, host visits from international experts, and run conferences and workshops.


A pdf of this advertisement is available here.

New ERC project: GROUNDS

I’m delighted to announce the start of a new 5 year project at Leeds, once more funded by the European Research Council. The project, Group thinking: new foundations (GROUNDS). This ERC Consolidator award builds on the research carried out in the Nature of Representation ERC Starter award over the last five years. A taster follows:

The beliefs, desires and actions of groups are central to our lives. Small teams struggle to reach collective decisions that will further their joint goals in light of shared beliefs. Corporations declare allegiance to core values and are criticized when they act in ways that subvert those values. Political commentators deprecate false beliefs of the public-at-large, or insist that politicians conform to the “the will of the people”. Part of the ordinary conception of the world we live in thus involves ‘group entities’ (the people, the public, corporations, or teams) having beliefs and desires which influence their behavior.

Collective attitudes appear in systematic theory in social ontology, in ethical and political philosophy, in game theory and formal pragmatics, and in social psychology and cognitive science. However, discourse ascribing collective attitudes can seem irredeemably contested. When someone makes a claim about the state of the economy, we can look to statistics to check their facts. But when they make a claim about the will of the people (or the aims of an institution, or the false beliefs of a team), it is radically unclear what facts would vindicate or refute it.

The aim of the current project is to provide a new metaphysics of collective representation. This will reveal the underlying unity between the facts which constitute the beliefs and desires of individuals, and the facts which constitute the beliefs and desire of groups. The account will provide criteria for demarcating which groups genuinely have beliefs and desires, distinguishing this state of affairs from circumstances where attributing beliefs and desires is mere “loose talk”. The outcome will be new and rigorous foundations for theory, and for public discourse, about group belief and desire.

The project will last five years, from March 2019 to February 2024.

Year 1: Group thought in context.
The explanatory role of group thought inside and outside philosophy, common knowledge and group thought.

Year 2: Source intentionality
From individual to joint evidence, from individual to joint action

Year 3: Representation and persistence
Personal identity and the foundations of representation; Group identity and the foundations of representation.

Year 4: Substantive rationality
From individual to group reasons; the scope and limits of representation theorems

Year 5: Realism and anti-realism about group thought
Stance-relative and fictive thought; being realistic about group thought.


The project team.
The Principal Investigator is Robert Williams, Professor of Theoretical Philosophy.

Local team members working on the project at the University of Leeds include:

  • Thomas Brouwer
  • Daniel Elstein
  • Heather Logue

We will be recruiting two postdoctoral researchers, and two PhD research students, to start in September 2019.

This project is funded by a European Research Council consolidator award.


Fellowship success for Will Gamester

Former NatRep PhD Student Will Gamester has been awarded a three year British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship to continue his research. The title of his project is “Meta-alethic expressivism”, and he will hold the fellowship at the University of Leeds.

Nature of Representation draft book available.

Over the last five years, I’ve been extremely fortunate to be funded by the European Research Council to work on the Nature of Representation. The link below is to the draft monograph that has resulted.

The Nature of Representation

Will Gamester: The diversity of truth.

Many congratulations to NatRep PhD student Will Gamester, who recently successfully completed his PhD “The Diversity of Truth: a case study in pluralistic metasemantics.” His examiners were Prof. Matti Eklund (Tufts) and Dr Jack Woods (Leeds).