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 Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Philosophy, with a background working as both a philosopher and biologist. She uses a combination of experimental approaches and philosophical theory to understand conceptual issues intersecting the two fields. Kate is involved in multiple collaborative projects with ecologists, geneticists, ethologists, psychologists, medical practitioners and philosophers. Her current interests include: the way in which genetic causes operate and are understood; the kinds of causal claims made in microbiology; how to most effectively practice conservation biology; gene-environment interplays in development and evolution; and the influence of genetic technologies on society.

Pierrick Bourrat

pierrick bourrat

Pierrick is a Research Fellow and Lecturer in the philosophy department at Macquarie University. He is also an affiliate of the philosophy department at the University of Sydney and member of the T&MB group where he co-leads with Paul Griffiths the project “Constructing Objective Biological Criteria of Health”.

His research focuses on the different concepts involved in evolutionary theory, such as heritability, fitness, and individuality. He is also interested in the philosophy of causation.

Pierrick has a background in evolutionary biology and cognitive sciences. He completed his PhD in philosophy at the University of Sydney in 2015. His thesis proposes news ways of understanding the concept of natural selection by stripping it down from its biological specificities.

Carl Brusse

carl brusse

Carl is a Postgraduate Research Associate with the lab, employed in the Department of Philosophy through the John Templeton Foundation project “constructing objective biological criteria of health” (grant ID 60811).

His PhD on the evolution of religion was awarded from the Australian National University in 2019. He has a background in philosophy and physical sciences, as well as health care research (having worked at the ANU medical school and the Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute). His published research is in health services research, philosophy of biology, and the evolution of culture & conceptual change, with other research interests including biological individuality, personal identity, metaphysical pluralism, and ethics. At TMB, he is working on how cultural evolution matters for the biological underpinnings of health and disease.

Joshua Christie

joshua christieJosh is an evolutionary biologist who is working on integrating theoretical models with philosophical theories on biological function. He is developing a method to operationalise and quantify biological function, as well as using natural language processing to understand how biologists use the concept of "function" in the literature.

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.”

Adnaan Baraky

Administrative Assistant

Stefan Gawronski

stefan gawronskiStefan works as a research officer supporting the various projects of the Theory and Method in Biosciences team. He is a PhD candidate in the School of History & Philosophy of Science. His 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.


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.

Walter Veit

walter veit

Walter is a PhD candidate under the supervision of Peter Godfrey-Smith and Paul Griffiths in the School of History and Philosophy of Science. He received an MA in Philosophy of the Biological and Cognitive Sciences from the University of Bristol under the supervision of Samir Okasha, and a BA in Philosophy & Economics from the University of Bayreuth under the supervision of Rainer Hegselmann. His interests stretch widely across science and philosophy, with his primary research interests being located at the intersection of the biological, behavioral, and cognitive sciences.

His PhD dissertation is centered around three separate questions: (i) what is health and disease?, (ii) how did organisms evolve the capacity to detect and respond to dysfunction and pathology?, and (iii) what are the origins of consciousness, sentience, and agency? His thesis argues that sentience and consciousness are a 'mere' byproduct of the evolution of pathology/dysfunction detection, nociception, and pain. The very same reason that allows scientists to usefully group a set of widely diverse phenomena together as 'pathological states', allows organisms to usefully track a set of diverse phenomena detrimental to their fitness, proper functioning, and welfare, thus enabling something that may, akin to Daniel Dennett's intentional stance, be called the health/pathological stance.

Visiting Staff

Visiting Students

Past Staff

Caitrin Donovan

caitrin donovanCaitrin was a Research Associate for Paul Griffiths' Australian Laureate Fellowship A Philosophy of Medicine for the 21st Century, and is 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.

Imogen Kavanagh

imogen kavanagh

Imogen worked as an Administrative Assistant for the Theory and Method in Biosciences team. She graduated from Sydney University with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in History and Anthropology. She received a Masters in Applied Linguistics (TESOL) from Macquarie University which led to teaching at the Centre of Macquarie English for ten years and benchmarking at two Universities in Scotland. She was a research assistant in the Department of Linguistics and taught Academic Communication to Undergraduate students at Macquarie University.

Moving into professional staff roles has involved managing and editing grant applications, publications and reports. At the University of Sydney’s DVC Research Office, she supported the recent submissions for ERA and Impact & Engagement. Employed as a Research Assistant, she edited narratives to showcase the University's research impact. She is currently the administration assistant to the TMB team while casual teaching at the Centre of English Teaching at the University of Sydney.

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 was a senior lecturer and Templeton World Charity Foundation Fellow in 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

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.

Elena Walsh

PhD (2019): 'Modeling the embodied mind: The dynamical turn in affective science'

Lecturer, University of Wollongong

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.

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Columbia University, NY

Adam Hochman

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

Lecturer in Philosophy, Macquarie University
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 Staff

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.

Dan Nicholson

Guilhem Doulcier

Arunas Radzvilavicius

Carrie Figdor

carrie figdorDr. Carrie Figdor is Professor in the Department of Philosophy and the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Iowa. She was an Anderson Fellow at the University of Sydney during 2019 (Term 2), sponsored by Paul Griffiths, and continued as a visiting scholar/researcher until March 2020. Dr. Figdor’s project at Sydney was the development of a non-anthropocentric framework for psychology grounded in the biological sciences. Her approach provides a unified theoretical basis for empirical findings of cognitive capacities throughout the biological world and extends the non-anthropocentric perspective on cognition that she introduces in her recent book, Pieces of Mind (Oxford UP, 2018).

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

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.

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