Contemporary Philosophy

Contemporary Philosophy plays a critical role in transforming the ways in which we understand human beings, culture and the different forms of social and political life. Critically examining the interaction of humans with their social and natural environments, and the philosophical frameworks which influence our decision making, has the capacity to inform a just and sustainable relationship between humans and their environment. Our scholars have a particular focus on immanence and normativity, which is centred on the embodiment of human subjectivity, the relation between symbolic reality and animality, and on the social and cultural preconditions for rational action.

UNSW is home to an outstanding group of leading international researchers in this field. We have a distinctive strength in the area of Post-Kantian continental philosophy, which includes the study of seminal thinkers such as Kant, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Bergson, Husserl, Heidegger, Benjamin, Adorno, Merleau-Ponty, Gadamer, Foucault, Deleuze and Derrida. We also examine 20th century philosophical movements such as Neo-Kantianism, Phenomenology, Critical Theory, Hermeneutics, Poststructuralism, Deconstruction, Discourse Theory and Recognition Theory.

Immanence and normativity make up an important sector of knowledge within the area of Contemporary Philosophy and draw several groups of researchers together from the fields of social and political theory, epistemology, and environmental humanities. "These areas of ‘immanence’ and ‘normativity’ reflect a shared interest among researchers within UNSW's Arts and Social Sciences in the development of new normative commitments from the assumptions of the radical immanence of the human being in both its natural and self-made worlds."

The Impact of our Work

Contemporary continental philosophy has not only had an immense influence on the contemporary humanities and social sciences, but it has also significantly impacted a number of other disciplines. In the natural sciences and economics, the final decades of the 20th century saw a revolution in our understanding of biological life and the application of biological models to the understanding of such topics as production, economic cycles, and patterns of consumption. UNSW philosophy scholars, as well as related academics from across other disciplines, are embracing this powerful shift in knowledge and thinking to strengthen and expand on our internationally recognised research strengths. A distinctive feature of our research is the way in which scholars involved in this field bring their expertise to bear on contemporary moral, social, cultural and political issues. This has included issues related to community, the innocence of children, biopolitics, feminisim, postcolonialism, aesthetics, innovation and new technologies, animals, and cinema.

Evidence of Excellence

Our researchers have a strong publishing record with leading international publishers including Acumen, Ashgate, Cambridge, Continuum, Duke, Edinburgh, Elsevier, Fordham, Oxford, Palgrave, Stanford, SUNY and Wiley-Blackwell. They are recognised internationally for their work through significant numbers of book chapters, articles in leading journals and major creative works.

The calibre of our staff is also demonstrated by their impressive grant success. Currently our scholars are working on 13 ARC Discovery and Linkage projects, a Future Fellowship, two ARC Australian Research Fellowships, two ARC Postdoctoral Fellowships, a DECRA and a UNSW VC’s Postdoctoral Fellowship. The Contemporary Philosophy cluster collaborates with researchers across Arts and Social Sciences, COFA, Law and Medicine, as well as nationally and internationally through joint research projects, workshops, grants, and publications.

A culture of international collaboration has led to initiatives such as a 2010 conference co-funded by Harvard University and 2012 conference co-funded by Henan University in China. Current collaborations include ARC-funded projects involving philosophers and literary theorists at Macquarie University and the University of North Carolina (USA), the University of Münster (Germany), the University of Parma (Italy) and the University of Jyväskylä (Finland).