Philosophy scholars shortlisted in recognition of their outstanding expertise

29 May 2017

Both scholars investigated the work of German thinker, Immanuel Kant.
Both scholars investigated the work of German thinker, Immanuel Kant.

Congratulations to Associate Professor Anik Waldow and Dr Dalia Nassar, both short-listed for the prestigious Annette Baier Prize for 2017.

A reflection of the exceptional standing of the Department of Philosophy within the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, the prize recognises an outstanding philosophical paper or book chapter published by an Australasian woman during the previous calendar year.

Both scholars investigated the work of German thinker, Immanuel Kant.

Associate Professor Anik Waldow
'Natural history and the formation of the human being: Kant on active forces', Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 56 (2016), 67-76.

Associate Professor Waldow said her paper examines Kant’s conception of the human place in nature and the idea that natural processes are driven by an active force.

“Kant objected to this idea because for him such forces cannot easily be distinguished from mind-like powers that pursue purposes and have intentions,” she said.

“The ultimate danger here is to ensoul nature by attributing to it forces that do not belong to it, and Kant was keen to show that we have to think of the activity of matter in terms that are very different from those through which human action can be rendered intelligible.”

Associate Professor Waldow said she was very pleased upon hearing that she had been shortlisted, especially as Annette Baier was one of her mentors that she discussed and worked with quite closely during the early years of her career.

“There are many areas of philosophy where women are still underrepresented, and structural problems often prevent female philosophers from forging their careers in an efficient way,” she added.

Associate Professor Waldow is currently working on an Australian Research Council (ARC) research project on the “Experimental Self” and will look at philosophers like Descartes, Locke, Spinoza, Hume and Condillac.

“I am particularly interested in the question of self-formation through embodied experience,” she said.

“Our capacity to emotionally respond to other people here plays a major role and I will investigate how this responsiveness feeds into the emergence of our higher cognitive and moral capacities.”

Dr Dalia Nassar
'Analogical reflection as a source for the science of life: Kant and the possibility of the biological sciences', Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 58 (2016), 57-66.

The aim of Dr Nassar’s paper is to develop a new way by which to think about Kant's contribution to the foundation of biology as a distinct discipline.

‘Kant is well-known for having claimed that there can be 'no Newton for a blade of grass,' a claim that has been interpreted to mean that biology is (according to Kant) not a proper science (in contrast to physics),” she said.

“This is not a wrong interpretation of his statement, but, I argue, it misses some of the ways in which Kant did in fact contribute to the development of biology - above all, through his reflections on analogy and its use in natural history.”

Dr Nassar is currently working on an ARC project titled “Romantic Empiricism and Environmental Philosophy.” Part of the project aims to uncover an under-studied philosophical tradition that emerged at the end of the Eighteenth and beginning of the Nineteenth Century, which she refers to as "romantic empiricism,” and its potential to speak to contemporary environmental questions and concerns.

She said that the Department is one of the best in the country, with an extremely high calibre of research output, an active community and a rich diversity of interests.

“There is no doubt that students at the University of Sydney are receiving the most well-rounded philosophical education they could receive in Australia, and doing so with top researchers in the field,” she said.