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Nigel Robb


My thesis focuses on the work of William James (1842–1910). I am concerned to re-evaluate his views on ontology and the methodology of metaphysics in light of the contemporary philosophical climate. I argue that James’s work is best understood when related to both the analytic and continental traditions in philosophy.

To illustrate this claim, I look at two seemingly divergent positions. The first is the tradition of logical construction in analytic philosophy, represented by Rudolf Carnap and Nelson Goodman. The second is represented by Henri Bergson and Gilles Deleuze. The emphasis here is on non-conceptual intuition in philosophy.

In simple terms, the issue is how we answer questions of ontology – do we construct a conceptual system or use some sort of immediate intuition?

The problem is that these positions appear to be in conflict, yet the influence of James can be discerned in both. The fundamental questions of the thesis revolve around this issue. Is James inconsistent, or can a Jamesian position that does justice to these two aspects of his thought be advanced?

Areas of Research

My general concerns are methodological. I am in interested in questions about what philosophy is, how and why we engage in philosophical endeavour, and where the limits of the subject should be drawn.

Within this framework, some more specific interests are as follows: the analytic/continental divide; the nature, scope and possibility of metaphysics; the role of common sense in philosophy; the relevance of history to philosophers.

Supervisors; Prof Cynthia Macdonald and Dr Susan McManus