Key researchers

Professor Tony Aspromourgos

Tony Aspromourgos

School of Economics
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
The University of Sydney

The history of economic science and its significance for contemporary economic theory has constituted my major research program over the last three decades. In particular, this has involved studies concerned with the nature and significance of classical economics (mid-17th century to late-19th century).

So, the contemporary relevance of intellectual history for social science and social theory has been an important – indeed, one could say, guiding – theme of my research (see, in particular, Aspromourgos 1996; 2001; 2008; the ‘Epilogue’ to The Science of Wealth below; and ‘Adam Smith and the Division of Labour’).

Perhaps most notably, my Science of Wealth book is a large-scale study of the structure and conceptual framework of Adam Smith’s political economy, together with an account of the ‘prehistory’ of those concepts, and with a view to how Smith’s system may speak to contemporary economics.

My recent paper on J.M. Keynes and economic policy, marking the 75th anniversary of his General Theory (1936), is another example of research drawing contemporary lessons from intellectual history. Proceeding from that, I am currently working on Keynes’s views on public debt – an issue of obvious contemporary relevance in light of global economic circumstances since 2008.

Dr Francesco Borghesi

Francesco Borghesi

Department of Italian
School of Languages and Culture
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
The University of Sydney

My work in the areas of Renaissance philosophy, theology and literature, and European intellectual history aims at rethinking the status of philosophical and religious culture and its relations to literature and art especially between the thirteenth and early sixteenth century. I have become increasingly interested in studying the ways in which disciplines that are now taken for granted practically intersect and could, through mutual collaboration, contribute to a better understanding of Renaissance and, more generally, European culture. I am also interested in exploring the ways in which this historical understanding can be made relevant for our own times. My publications to date have mostly explored the culture and modes of thought of the Renaissance philosopher and theologian Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, his letters, and issues of proof and evidence in historiography.

My main research areas are:

  • Renaissance philosophy and humanism;
  • History of religious thought and moral philosophy, 1200-1800;
  • Textual criticism (philology, palaeography, manuscript studies and textual bibliography); and
  • Historiography.

My current long-term project addresses the diffusion of the idea of philosophical concord in Renaissance European culture.

Dr Jennifer Ferng

Jennifer Ferng

Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning
The University of Sydney

I am an architectural historian who works broadly between art history and the history of science with a focus on modern Europe, but I possess extensive research experience with topics concerning the Americas and Asia. For my first book project, I am presently working on a manuscript entitled Nature’s Objects: Geology, Aesthetics, and the Understanding of Materiality that details how architects appropriated and shared working knowledge of terrestrial materials with chemists, engravers, jewellery makers, and mineralogists.

My second manuscript will address biopolitics, architecture, and regimes of health and the human body. Other ongoing projects include work on piracy, space, and the Indian Ocean as well as the technical power of design tools within the history of technology.

I am interested in the methodological problems that architecture as a discipline must face in connecting with external fields such as intellectual history and philosophy. Buildings as diachronic and synchronic objects of study pose a challenge for scholars to contextualise through interdisciplinary means.

Professor Andrew Fitzmaurice

Andrew Fitzmaurice

Department of History
School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
The University of Sydney

I trained in the Cambridge School of the History of Ideas, as a student of Quentin Skinner but I have become increasingly convinced that the practice of the Cambridge School is excessively focused upon a dialogue between texts even while its methodological pronouncements, in the work of figures such as Skinner and J.G.A. Pocock, suggest a broader understanding of context. There are other dimensions to context which can shape the meaning of a text and both social and political factors can be key.

I have published in the most eminent historical journal, the American Historical Review, as well many top historical journals, including the William and Mary Quarterly, the Historical Journal and the Journal of the History of Ideas.

Along with eminent colleagues, such as Anthony Pagden at UCLA and David Armitage at Harvard, I have helped pioneer a new field to emerge in the last twenty years: namely, the intellectual history of empire.

I am now exploring what could be described as micro-intellectual history. This means paying closer attention to the lives of influential figures in the history of ideas and examining the interplay between the development of their thought and their circumstances. My focus for this project is the role of the nineteenth century jurist Sir Travers Twiss in the justification of the Congo Free State.

Dr Daniela Helbig

Daniela Helbig

Unit for the History and Philosophy of Science
Faculty of Science
The University of Sydney

My interest in the Sydney Intellectual History Network stems from my interdisciplinary background in both the physical science and neuroscience, and in the history of science. I have encountered the question “do ideas matter?” in my scientific research: aren’t models and facts what counts rather than verbal ruminations?

I have since turned this question into the subject of my research in the history of science. My doctoral dissertation on the history of techno-science shows how verbally articulated ideas interact with those embodied in the material stuff of the modern industrial-scale sciences.

My main contribution to the Sydney Intellectual History Network will be to foster active dialogue between intellectual historians and contemporary scientists to draw out those connections across disciplinary subject matter. Recognizing some of the new forms in which ideas are articulated in the sciences is a prerequisite for expanding the boundaries of intellectual history.

In turn, the network’s broader vision of placing ideas in a historical perspective will help articulate the concerns of the modern sciences beyond a focus on models and facts.

Professor Vrasidas Karalis

Vrasidas Karalis

Sir Nicholas Laurantus Professor of Modern Greek
School of Languages and Culture
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
The University of Sydney

Most of my research and publication explore the nexus between visual culture and the written word and the various ideas surrounding their cultural appropriation in different historical moments. My recent research examines how visual regimes, or Peter Berger’s “ways of seeing,” create horizons of expectation and various iconographic practices that dominate cultural discourses and ideological debates.

I have published three books on the topic, plus a number of books on Medieval representation of power especially in the Byzantine Context. My recent research explores visual regimes as articulated through cinema in particular. In this area I have published fifteen articles in refereed journals, book chapters, book reviews and invited introduction exploring the history of ideas such visuality, vision and visual field and the various ways they influenced wider perceptions in political interaction, construct images about the other and establish regimes of legitimising identities.

This research is directly relevant to the Sydney Intellectual History Network. I am the president of the Modern Greek Studies Association of Australia and New Zealand, honorary member of The University of Athens, and recipient of Australian Federation Honorary Medal for services to social cohesion and cultural dialogue in the country. I am the editor of the Modern Greek Studies journal of Australia and New Zealand.

Professor Ian Kerridge

Ian Kerridge

School of Public Health
Sydney Medical School
The University of Sydney

I am internationally recognised scholar in bioethics and the philosophy of medicine. My research focuses on the philosophical, moral, epistemic and socio-cultural concepts, frameworks and issues that underpin health, health policy and biomedicine including in public health, infectious disease, synthetic biology, cancer care, cloning, stem cell research, organ donation and transplantation and research.

In many cases this research has been translated into educational and clinical resources aimed at improving care, or into legislation, regulation or policies that have had a major impact on health care delivery.

I have worked extensively in the areas of bioethics/philosophy and medical literature, having published 10 textbooks/monographs of bioethics/philosophy (most recently Ethics and Law for the Health Professions, Third Edition (Federation Press; 2009)), 19 book chapters and over 150 papers in peer-reviewed journals.

My ethics and law text is the leading text of its kind in Australia and has become the recommended ethics and health law text in most Australian medical, nursing and law schools. This expertise allows me to contribute to the Sydney Intellectual History Network valuable perspectives from the fields of bioethics and the philosophy of medicine.

Associate Professor David Macarthur

David Macarthur

Department of Philosophy
School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
The University of Sydney

My expertise in philosophy lies within the area defined by two main themes:

1) the search for an accommodation between the modern scientific image of the world (the natural world) and the moral image of ourselves as rationally responsive to reasons and values (the normative world)

2) the elaboration of a new form of pragmatism as a credible humanist alternative to the current dominance of scientism in philosophy.

These areas are ideally suited to the research network. The need for a human and humane response to the rise of modern science was, of course, a major source of the first enlightenment and it remains, despite important developments and differences, a major source of inspiration for the possibility for a post-enlightenment.

I have co-edited three books on these themes: Naturalism in Question; Naturalism and Normativity; and Philosophy in an Age of Science. I am currently at work editing another volume, Pragmatism as a Way of Life. In addition, over the past 10 years I have published twenty-one papers, two encyclopedia entries and eight reviews; as well as giving more than four talks per year usually as an invited speaker. I have active research collaborations with colleagues in Norway, USA, Italy and England.

Dr Dalia Nassar

Dalia Nassar

ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Fellow
Department of Philosophy
School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
The University of Sydney

I am a new research fellow at the University of Sydney. In May 2007, I received my PhD in philosophy, and in August 2007, I took up a full-time tenure-track position at Villanova University in the United States, before moving to Sydney.

My principal achievements have been in the field of German romantic and idealist philosophy. My contributions have been concerned with romantic and idealist theories of knowledge and nature, and with the philosophical significance of authors traditionally regarded as literary figures rather than philosophers.

My work has always been cross-disciplinary, and my approach seeks to combine historical reconstruction with systematic explication. My DECRA project aims to facilitate a significant dialogue between German romantic philosophy and contemporary environmental philosophy.

Emeritus Professor Paul Redding

Paul Redding

Professor of Philosophy
ARC DORA Research Fellow
School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
The University of Sydney

The core of my research contribution over the last 25 years has been a sustained multifaceted project directed to a reassessment of German post-Kantian "idealist" philosophy from the 18th and 19th centuries, and in particular that of G.W.F. Hegel (1770–1831). To date this overall project has resulted in 4 sole-authored monographs with leading university presses, and about 40 journal articles or book chapters.

I have held 3 ARC Discovery Grants for work in this area – two singly and one jointly held. During the last 10 years I have become increasingly recognized internationally as a central representative of the "post-Kantian" re-interpretation of Hegel's philosophy and as an authority on the complex relations existing between the idealist tradition and the overtly anti-idealist “analytic” tradition in philosophy.

Professor Wojciech Sadurski

Wojciech Sadurski

Challis Professor in Jurisprudence
Sydney Law School
The University of Sydney

My expertise in areas of relevance to the Sydney Intellectual History Network is demonstrated by my extensive writings on philosophy of law, political philosophy and comparative constitutional law.

I completed my PhD in 1977 at the University of Warsaw in Poland, and since then, I have been working in academia. I am now Challis Professor in Jurisprudence in the University of Sydney. I also hold a position of Professor in the Centre for Europe in the University of Warsaw, and am visiting professor (since 2010, every year) at the University of Trento, Italy and in Cardozo Law School in New York.

In addition to that, I have been affiliated with the Department of Law, European University Institute in Florence, where I was a Professor of Legal Theory and Philosophy of Law (1999–2009). I also have taught as visiting professor, at universities in Europe, Asia and the United States.

I am a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia (elected in 1990), and a member of a number of supervisory or program boards, including the Institute of Public Affairs (Poland), Freedom of Press Observatory (Poland) and the Centre for International Affairs (Poland).

My international connections and reputation for bringing together the inter-related fields of law and philosophy position me to make a significant contribution to the proposed network of researchers.

Dr Michael Sevel

Michael Sevel

Sydney Law School
The University of Sydney

Both my educational background and on-going research interests are thoroughly interdisciplinary, and several current research projects are approached explicitly from the perspective of the history of ideas.

I have continuing interest in the history of legal theory, which lies at the intersection of the history of philosophy and legal history. In particular, I am investigating the history of the theory and justification of political authority, from the ancient Greeks through the early Modern period.

My training in classical languages facilitates research in the former. These theories have all influenced the formulation of current theories, though that is rarely recognised. Another project develops a theory of legal knowledge which I think finds its origins in Thomas Hobbes but has more affinities with long-standing views in epistemology and the philosophy of science.

Dr Matthew Smith

Matthew Smith

School of Economics
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
The University of Sydney

I have an international reputation as an expert on the monetary thought of Thomas Tooke and the English classical economists of the nineteenth century, which has been the primary focus of my research in the history of economic thought.

In this subject area I have published some eight articles, including in the top journals in the history of economic thought, a book chapter, and a 300-page monograph (see below).

More generally, I have expertise in the history of economic thought and economic theory, especially in monetary theory and on distribution and growth. In recent times, I have been undertaking research on the demand-led approach to explaining growth from an historical perspective.

Besides theoretical issues in demand-led growth, this project is concerned with the study of the historical transition of today’s major nations to becoming advanced wealthy economies (i.e. United Kingdom, Germany, United States, Japan and China).

In this regard, I am concerned with the ‘big’ question of explaining the unprecedented economic development which has occurred over the last 250 years since the industrial revolution, consistent with a demand-led theory of growth. Connected with this research, I have considerable expertise also in economic history.

Associate Professor Anik Waldow

Anik Waldow

Department of Philosophy
School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
The University of Sydney

My principal achievements have been in the area of the history of early-modern philosophy. My current research focuses on the rise of empiricism in the 17th and 18th centuries and the importance of early-modern approaches to the role of experience for our understanding of empirical research today. I examine how decontextualised reconstructions of the early-modern fascination with experimental methods and sense perception conceal the breadth of problems implicated in this debate.

In 2010 I obtained an ARC grant on which I was the second CI to carry out this research. I have published articles in The British Journal for the History of Philosophy, History of Philosophy Quarterly and Hume Studies.

My current research focuses on the question of how the emergence of empirically based approaches in early modern natural philosophy gave way to a general shift of interest away from the realm of the metaphysical to the natural world of sentient human beings.

I am also Associate Investigator of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions.

Dr Kevin Walton

Kevin Walton

Sydney Law School
The University of Sydney

Since completing my doctoral thesis in 2007, I have worked on two projects that draw on it. The first of these, on methodology in legal philosophy, examines the relationship, now and previously, between this discipline and others, including the social sciences. The second project examines problems of “political obligation”. It investigates our moral obligations, if any, to take part in politics. It builds on work by numerous philosophers from Plato to Locke to Rawls and many since.

I have co-edited two collections on the contemporary significance of earlier scholarship in legal and political philosophy: one on the work of the legal theorist Julius Stone and another, to which I am also a contributor, on “old” dichotomies in the literature on human rights. My cross-disciplinary interests pull together the fields of law, philosophy and the social sciences in ways that are directly supportive of the Sydney Intellectual History Network.