PROFILE

Professor Rob Wilson

Started at UWA: 2019

Prominent international philosopher of the mind and cognition  

I enjoy connecting ideas almost as much as I enjoy connecting people—both to one another and to ideas.Professor Rob Wilson

Professor Rob Wilson is a philosopher and lecturer of philosophy at UWA in the School of Humanities. His appointment was made as part of UWA's Be Inspired program of recruitment. He explores fundamental questions in the cognitive, biological, and social sciences, and takes philosophy into non-university spaces, such as school classrooms and public events.  His specialisations span computational psychology; evolutionary biology and systematics; health sciences; disability; concepts of disease; psychiatric classification and treatment; and the anthropological and biological study of kinship. 

For the past decade, the study of eugenics has been Rob’s research focus, a focus that continues in modified form in the Australian context, with a focus on cultural forms of eugenics (such as indigenous child removal practices). His work on eugenics seeks to make both positive and transformational changes to marginalised peoples in various ways. Rob is also finishing a book manuscript on philosophical issues on kinship, building on a series of articles published in journals on anthropology and in the philosophy of science. 

Rob was born in Broken Hill, News South Wales, where he spent much of his childhood, and later moved to Perth, Western Australia.  Rob built an international reputation teaching and researching in Canada and the United States of America before taking up a position at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Victoria in 2017.

Rob’s most notable career achievements include his time as General Editor of the MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences, his directorship of the five-year project ‘Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada’ as part of which he hosted 80 public events and built the public resources at eugenicsarchive.ca, and his longstanding commitment to his ‘Philosophy in the Schools’ project in which he directed the first Western Australia Conference in Philosophy for Children in 1986 and founded Philosophy for Children Alberta in 2008. 

His qualifications include a BA with first-class honours in Philosophy from The University of Western Australia, and an MA and PhD from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where he was a Fulbright Scholar from late 1987 until early 1992. 

External positions

  • Convenor and chair of the Philosophy in the Community Committee (PiCC) of the Australasian Association of Philosophy.  

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Awarded the 2012 Lifelong Learning Award for ‘Philosophy for Children Alberta’, Faculty of Education, University of Alberta.

Awarded the 1999 Psychology of the PROSE Award of the American Association of Publishers.

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Short-listed for the 2018 Prize in Excellence in Philosophy Teaching, sponsored by the American Philosophical Association (APA), the American Association of Philosophy Teachers (AAPT), and the Teaching Philosophy Association (TPA) for contributions to undergraduate and pre-college philosophy.

Project

Over the past decade, Rob has led two large-scale research projects in the areas of Engaged Philosophy, integrating philosophy thinking with community-based concerns in ‘Philosophy in the schools’ and ‘Eugenics and disability’. 

Rob is currently on the Philosothon Project management committee, overseeing the operation and expansion of Philosothons across Australasia. He is also the founder of PEiPL—Philosophical Engagement in Public Life—for which he is building a WA hub. Both roles take philosophy beyond the university context.

 

Teaching

Rob describes his teaching style as organised and challenging. His classes are designed and delivered so students with a variety of learning styles can ‘get what they want’ out of their class time. Rob deeply values seeing students get excited about a new ‘mental space’ they find, a demanding task they master or a novel idea they work through. 

Supervisor opportunities

Rob has been supervising PhD candidates for 27 years on topics of personal identity and split brains, the philosophical significance of autism, the idea of species cohesion in contemporary evolutionary biology, metaphors in biological science, stuttering, rationality, and disability. He is currently supervising two UWA PhD students working in the area of philosophy of biology and is open to taking on new PhD candidates in his areas of expertise. 

Funding 

 

  • Start-up grant for $40,000 (2019-2023), The University of Western Australia.

  • Start-up grant for $40,000 (2017-2019), La Trobe University.

  • SSHRC Community-University Research Alliance (CURA) program, SSHRC, Canada. $1 million, February 2010 – July 2015.  ‘Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada’; $1.7 million cash and in-kind support.  Project website: eugenicsarchive.ca

Contact Professor Rob Wilson

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Research repository

Read more about Professor Wilson

Research repository