Paul Griffiths

paul griffiths

A philosopher of science with a focus on biology and psychology, Paul was educated at Cambridge and the Australian National University, receiving his PhD in 1989. He taught at Otago University in New Zealand and was later Director of the Unit for History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Sydney, before taking up a Chair in History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh. He returned to Australia in 2004, first as an Australian Research Council Federation Fellow and from 2007 as Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sydney.

Paul heads the TM&B project node of the Charles Perkins Centre, a major new initiative at Sydney focused on interdisciplinary research into obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. He served as Associate Academic Director for Humanities and Social Sciences while the Centre was being established, and continues to serve on the Executive Committee as Domain Leader for Society and Environment. He is also acting in the role of Theme Leader for Politics, Governance and Ethics of Health, pending a new appointment to this position.

Paul is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. He was President of the International Society for History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Biology from 2011-13. From 2006-12 he was a member of the Australian Health Ethics Committee of NHMRC. He spends part of each year at the University of Exeter in the Egenis: the Centre for the Study of the Life Sciences.

Kate Lynch

kate lynchKate is a Research Fellow at both the University of Sydney (philosophy) and Macquarie University (Biology). She uses a combination of experimental genetics and philosophical theory to understand the way in which genetic causes operate. She is currently working with the Australian Research Council, Horticulture Innovation Australia, and the Templeton Foundation to better understand the causal interplay of genetics and the environment, and how this differs from current folk and biological theories of causation and evolution.

Arnaud Pocheville

arnaud pocheville

A theoretical biologist and a philosopher of biology, Arnaud defended his PhD thesis in theoretical ecology at the Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris. He continued his researches as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh. Arnaud now works with the Theory and Method of Biosciences team on the Templeton World Charity Foundation project “Causal foundations of biological information.”

Stefan Gawronski

stefan gawronskiStefan works as a Research Assistant for the Theory and Method in Biosciences team. He is a PhD candidate in the Unit for the History and Philosophy of Science.


Mischa Davenport

Wesley Fang

wesley fangWesley is a PhD student of Paul Griffiths in the department of philosophy, University of Sydney. He is interested in topics like the autonomy of biology, epigenetics, scientific models, scientific explanation, laws of nature, mechanisms, reductionism, metaphors, etc. His thesis is about the explanatory autonomy of the biological sciences.

Bruce Long

Karl Rollings

Isobel Ronai

isobel ronaiIsobel started her Ph.D. in 2013 under the supervision of Prof. Ben Oldroyd (Behaviour and Genetics of Social Insects Laboratory, School of Biological Sciences) and Prof. Paul Griffiths. Isobel’s interdisciplinary Ph.D. project is on the genetic basis of worker sterility in the honey bee and philosophy of genetics. In particular, Isobel will investigate how molecular biology techniques exploit biological mechanisms.

School of Biological Sciences profile

Elena Walsh

Elena is completing her PhD under the supervision of Paul Griffiths and Dominic Murphy at the University of Sydney. Her dissertation develops a theoretical framework which explains how emotional dispositions are constructed in individuals over time. Her work takes a broadly naturalistic approach and draws on psychology, neuroscience, dynamic systems theory, and developmental systems theory. In the future, she hopes to use this framework to explain how emotional dispositions influence our capacity for rational and moral decision making. Her broader philosophical interests include moral psychology and Buddhist philosophy.

Visiting Students

Past Staff

Brett Calcott

brett calcott

Brett is a philosopher of science with a background in software engineering. His research focuses on the evolution of complex systems. He has worked as an SFI/ASU post-doctoral fellow at Arizona State University and a fellow in Joshua Epstein’s Center for Advanced Modeling at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, USA. He has worked with Kim Sterelny on a project on Evolvability and the Evolution of Complexity, and with biologist Lindell Bromham on a project on Major Transitions in Evolution. He completed his PhD, “Major Transitions in Biological Organisation” in 2007, at the Australian National University, supervised by Peter Godfrey-Smith.

Karola Stotz

karola stotz

Karola Stotz is senior lecturer and a Templeton World Charity Foundation Fellow at the department of philosophy at Macquarie University.

She received her Masters in physical and cultural anthropology from the University of Mainz, Germany and her PhD in philosophy from the University of Ghent in Belgium. She has worked at the Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research in Austria, the Unit for History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Sydney, the Department of HPS at the University of Pittsburgh and the Cognitive Science Program at Indiana University.

In 2008 she was awarded a 5-year Australian Research Fellowship and discovery grant at the University of Sydney with the project “Postgenomic Perspectives on Human Nature”. Stotz has published on philosophical issues in evolutionary, developmental and molecular biology, psychobiology and cognition. She focused particularly on the nature nurture controversy, non-genetic inheritance and developmental niche construction, nonreductive and integrative explanatory strategies, and 4 E (embodied, embedded, enactive and extended) cognition. Together with Paul Griffiths she pioneered the use of 'experimental philosophy' methods in the field of philosophy of science.

She worked on the Templeton World Charity Foundation project “Causal Foundations of Biological Information”.

Pierrick Bourrat

pierrick bourrat

Pierrick worked as a postdoc fellow with Paul Griffiths on the ARC project "Conceptual and modeling tools for non-paradigmatic evolutionary processes". His background is in evolutionary biology and cognitive sciences. He completed his PhD in philosophy at the University of Sydney in 2015. His thesis was proposing news ways of understanding the concept of natural selection by stripping it down from its biological specificities.

Past Students

Adam Hochman

PhD (2014) 'Beyond Biological Naturalism and Social Constructionism about Race: An Interactive Constructionist Approach to Racialisation'

Postdoctoral Fellow, Macquarie University
Macquarie University webpage
Personal website

Idan ben Barak

PhD (2012) 'States of origin: influences on research into the origins of life'

Professional science communicator.
Personal website

Past Visiting Students

Zhang Xin

zhang xinZhang Xin was a visiting student from Beijing Normal University who has been working with us on an article about the evolutionary explanation of ADHD during his visit. Xin is interested in evolutionary medicine, especially the evolutionary explanations of mental disorders. He believes that an evolutionary perspective would not only change the way people understand mental disorders, but also have significant implications for diagnosis, treatment and prevention.

Qiaoying Lu

qiaoying luQiaoying was a visiting Ph.D. student from Sun Yat-sen University. She has been working on her thesis with Paul Griffiths for more than one year. With a combined background of biotechnology and philosophy of science, Qiaoying is specifically interested in the new findings from epigenetics and their implications for current evolutionary theory.

Gaelle Pontarotti

gaelle pontarottiGaëlle Pontarotti is a Ph.D student in Philosophy of Biology. She is doing her thesis in Paris (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne) under the supervision of Professor Jean Gayon (Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne) and Professor Michel Morange (Ecole Normale Supérieure). Her work deals with extended inheritance and its application to evolutionary thinking.

Université Paris 1 webpage

Past Students (Other Institutions)

Daniel Schweitzer

MD/PhD (2013) 'A critical analysis of information in experimental biology: Towards a pluralistic account of functions and a fictionalist account of genetic and positional information'

Medical practitioner.

James Tabery

PhD (2007) 'Causation in the nature-nurture debate: The case of genotype-environment interaction'

Associate Professor, University of Utah
University of Utah webpage

Ingo Brigandt

PhD (2006) 'A theory of conceptual advance: Explaining conceptual change in evolutionary, molecular, and evolutionary developmental biology'

Associate Professor, University of Alberta
University of Alberta webpage

Andrea Scarantino

PhD (2005) 'Explicating Emotions'

Associate Professor, Georgia State University
Personal website