Paul Griffiths

paul griffiths

Paul is an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow and Professor in the Department of Philosophy. A philosopher of science with a focus on biology and psychology, he 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 a Professorial Research Fellow at the University of Sydney.

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.

Pierrick Bourrat

pierrick bourrat

Pierrick is a Research Fellow at both the University of Sydney and Macquarie University. He 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.

Carl Brusse

carl brusseCarl is a Postgraduate Research Associate in the Department of Philosophy. He has a mixed background in philosophy and physical sciences, as well as previous experience in health care research (at the Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute) and in research management and administration. His published research is in philosophy of biology, health services research, and conceptual change, with postgraduate research focusing on evolutionary explanations of cooperation and religion, and on the metaphysics and conceptual commitments of theories of personal identity. At TMB, he is working on the application of recent insights from evolutionary theory to conceptions of organisms and their development, and what this means for the biological underpinnings of health and disease.

Joshua Christie

joshua christieJosh is an evolutionary biologist who will work on integrating theoretical models with philosophical theories. First up, he will use models to test how well the “selected effects” theory of function captures the “true” evolutionary history of a trait, its function(s), and its effect(s). Previously, he has worked on the question of why mitochondria are inherited from a single parent, why sexual reproduction occurs via self-incompatible mating types, and on multilevel selection theory.

Caitrin Donovan

caitrin donovanCaitrin is a Research Associate for Paul Griffiths' Australian Laureate Fellowship A Philosophy of Medicine for the 21st Century, and a PhD student in the School of History and Philosophy of Science. Drawing on externalist approaches in the philosophy of cognitive science and biology, her research considers the role of environmental factors — in particular, cultural practices, norms and institutions — in the explanation, classification, and treatment of psychopathological phenomena. Caitrin’s dissertation is being supervised by Dominic Murphy and Richard Menary (Macquarie University). Her philosophical interests lie in philosophy of cognitive science, biology and medicine, with a special focus on philosophy of psychiatry.

Wesley Fang

wesley fang Wesley's work focuses on how to develop an extended philosophical account of mechanistic explanation based on scientific practices of systems biology during the last two decades. He is also interested in applying the causal Bayesian network framework to traditional philosophical questions such as multiple realization, biological functions, etc.

Peter Takacs

peter takacs

Peter's research in the TMB group is in philosophy of biology and the philosophy of evolutionary biomedicine, with special emphasis on the conceptual challenges that arise when determining the ontology of individuals, ascribing biological fitness, and identifying biological (mal)function.

His past research includes the metaphysical, epistemological (i.e., empirical and formal approaches), and normative issues that arise when examining the notion of fitness, explanations of major evolutionary transitions such as cooperation, and whether the life sciences currently require a “New Synthesis.”

Stefan Gawronski

stefan gawronskiStefan works as a Research Assistant for the Theory and Method in Biosciences team. He is a PhD candidate in the School of History & Philosophy of Science. Stefan's thesis, supervised by Daniela Helbig and Peter Godfrey-Smith, looks at late-nineteenth/early-twentieth century experiments correlating brain and behaviour in the octopus, and in particular the work of Jakob von Uexküll.

Imogen Kavanagh

Imogen works as an Administrative Assistant for the Theory and Method in Biosciences team.


Axel Constant

axel constantAxel is a PhD student in the Philosophy of Biomedicine at the University of Sydney under the supervision of Paul Griffiths and Peter Godfrey-Smith. He is a graduate trainee at the Culture Mind and Brain Program of the University McGill and was a visiting fellow at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Neuroimaging of the University College London. He received an MSc in Cognitive Science from the University of Amsterdam and an MA in Philosophy from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. His published work is at the intersection of Evolutionary Biology, the Philosophy of Cognitive science and Psychiatry, and Evolutionary Cultural Anthropology. His current work aims at extending methods employed in Computational Psychiatry to theories and models employed in Cultural Psychiatry. His focus is on the theory of looping effects of human kinds and on Ecosocial models of psychiatric disorders such as applied to depression and autism.

Ying Liu

Ying is a PhD student, currently working on scientific explanations in systems biology. Her philosophical interests include philosophy of biology, philosophy of science, and philosophy of mind.

Visiting Students

Past Staff

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 and as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the T&MB group. Arnaud is currently a Templeton Independent Research Fellow with funding from the Templeton World Charity Foundation. He is also a member of the Charles Perkins Centre Lifelab.

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”.

Past Students

Elena Walsh

elena walshElena completed 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, dynamical systems theory, and developmental systems theory. In the future, she hopes to apply this framework to understanding the developmental origins of health and disease phenotypes. Her other philosophical interests include predictive processing models of mind and Buddhist philosophy. Elena is currently acting as research administrator for the Theory and Method in Biosciences team and is course coordinator for the unit 'How Biology Matters to Philosophy'. She has previously worked in the government sector as a policy analyst, and as a researcher at the Australian Institute for Public Policy and Governance and the Practical Justice Initiative (University of New South Wales).

Karl Rollings

PhD (2018): 'Cooperative Instrumentalism: A Naturalistic Explanation of Morality'

Medical Doctor

Isobel Ronai

PhD (2017): 'The genetic and mechanistic basis of worker sterility in the honey bee'

Supervised by Prof. Ben Oldroyd (Behaviour and Genetics of Social Insects Laboratory, School of Biological Sciences) and Prof. Paul Griffiths.

School of Biological Sciences profile

Adam Hochman

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

Lecturer in Philosophy, 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

Yajuan Li

Yajuan's research program was mainly about theories of biological functions. She focused on teleology and biological functions, in order to understand adaptation by appealing to theories of biological functions.

Silvia Ivani

Tilburg University, Netherlands

Zhang Xin

Zhang 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 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

Gaëlle 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