Department of Philosophy and NCCR Evolving Language

Postdoc position in Philosophy of Language or Philosophy of Biology
50 %

The Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) «Evolving Language» was launched last year. It involves nearly 40 different research groups from different disciplines across Switzerland. The goal of the research consortium is to bring together researchers from disciplines such as neurobiology, computer science, philosophy, evolutionary biology, cognitive ethology, developmental psychology and linguistics, to answer fundamental questions about the nature, the origins and the future of human language. The NCCR «Evolving Language» is structured into a series of Work Packages dedicated to specific projects, combined with Transversal Task Forces (TTFs) that address issues of concern to all projects within the NCCR «Evolving Language».

Your responsibilities

We seek to fill a position at postdoctoral level within the TTF 'Concepts', which is led by Professor Hans-Johann Glock (Zurich) and Professor Marcel Weber (Geneva). Cross-disciplinary work is often hampered by the fact that different disciplines use different terminologies for the same or similar and the same terminologies for different phenomena. This hampers both the progress of research and its communication. It also tends to reveal or create new conceptual problems that have not been recognized before. One example is research in animal communication. It continues to reveal striking phenomena with at least superficial resemblances to features of human language; but interpreting such results is often difficult and controversial. Given that animal communication studies do not yet have an agreed-upon terminology across the board and a generally accepted theoretical foundation, researchers are tempted to borrow linguistic terminology to explain their phenomena; but this requires conceptual clarifications. Another example is the promising project of bringing concepts and methods of evolutionary theory-including population genetics-to bear on cultural and linguistic evolution (language diversification). This leads to more general questions about how biological, cultural and linguistic evolution are related. For instance: Is there a viable form of 'Generalized' or 'Universal Darwinism'?

The main aim of the TTF 'Concepts' is to integrate and streamline the conceptual frameworks of the different disciplines so that they can be brought to bear on the Work Packages of the NCCR. The project combines conceptual analysis and engineering with work in Digital Humanities and research in the philosophy of biology and the philosophy of cognitive science. The aim is to make the conceptual frameworks of the different disciplines commensurable by bringing to bear techniques of contemporary conceptual analysis and engineering.

Your profile

Candidates are required to have a PhD in philosophy and an area of specialization in philosophy of language or philosophy of biology; an area of competence in the other sub-discipline is an advantage. Candidates should also have an interest in the research themes of the NCCR. Finally, the TTF 'Concepts' is in the process of setting up an NCCR internal Wiki with entries explaining the meaning and role of key concepts across the disciplines and work packages of the NCCR. Some IT competence in the relevant areas is therefore required.

What we offer

We offer varied and interesting work in an inspiring and socially relevant environment. Diversity and inclusion are important to us. The NCCR places great emphasis on gender balance; we particularly encourage women to apply.

Place of work

Department of Philosophy, Zürichbergstrasse 43, 8044 Zurich OR University of Geneva, Department of Philosophy, Rue de Candolle 2, 1211 Genève

Start of employment

We hope to fill this position as soon as possible after 1. January 2022. It will run for two years. The deadline for applications is 29. November 2021 (interviews by ZOOM mid-December).

Applications should include a letter of motivation, a CV, a list of publications and the names and contact details of three potential referees. The documents should be sent in one PDF document. Do not submit written work at this stage.

Further information