Department of Philosophy

Postdoc positions in Philosophy
60 %

With the launch of a new Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) Evolving Language, which involves nearly 40 different research groups from different disciplines across Switzerland, we seek to fill two positions at postdoctoral level in the Transversal Task Force (TTF) 'Concepts'.
The TTFs address issues of concern to all projects. The disciplines involved range from neurobiology and informatics through evolutionary biology and cognitive ethology to developmental psychology and linguistics. The main aim of our 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 or the philosophy of cognitive science.
The project will be a joint effort between the Department of Philosophy at the University of Zurich and the Department of Philosophy at the University of Basel. One position will be located at the University of Zurich, the other position will be located at the University of Basel. Both positions will run for 3 three years.

Your responsibilities

Position 1: Postdoc in philosophy of language (to be hired at the University of Zurich)
Cross-disciplinary work is often hampered by the fact that different disciplines use different terminologies for the same or similar phenomena, which makes communication and progress unnecessarily difficult. It also tends to reveal or create new conceptual problems that have not been recognized before. For example, research in animal communication continues to reveal phenomena with (at least superficial) resemblance to phenomena that exist in human language, but interpreting such results is often difficult and controversial. Given that the discipline of animal communication research does not yet have an agreed-upon terminology and theoretical foundation, researchers are tempted to borrow linguistic terminology to explain their phenomena, but this requires conceptual clarifications. The aim is to make the conceptual frameworks of the different disciplines commensurable by bringing to bear techniques of contemporary conceptual analysis and engineering. This will also require some familiarity with linguistics and the philosophy of animal minds.

Position 2: Postdoc in philosophy of biology or philosophy of cognitive science (to be hired at the University of Basel)
Research on the emergence and development of language frequently invokes concepts and methods from evolutionary biology and cognitive science, such as phylogenetic trees, ecology, adaptation, inheritance, domestication etc. or such as learning, priming, entrenchment, accommodation, social cognition etc. The aim is to establish how an expansion of evolutionary biology can add concepts and approaches applicable to the study of communication and language. This will require acquaintance with methodological issues in the theory of evolution or learning theory of social cognition. The candidate is expected to review the foundational concepts used in the different work groups, spot differences and relations, and build up an interdisciplinary lexicon for the NCCR.

Your profile

Successful candidates should have excellent teamwork and organizational skills and be interested in going beyond disciplinary boundaries. It is also desirable that they should be able to conduct surveys with partners from across the Work Packages and to engage in digital text mining (both with substantial the help from the TTF DataScience and IT support from Zurich and Basel).
We aim to generate a work program that maximally fits the candidates' own interest -- within the limits of the project's goals – so we will look for evidence of personal initiative, independent work ethics, and a strong interest in theory.

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

Zürich / Basel

Start of employment

For consideration, please compile the following documents into a single PDF labelled 'TTF Concepts.YourSurname.pdf' and send to
For questions about position 1 contact Prof. Dr. Hans-Johann Glock, for position 2 contact Prof. Dr. Markus Wild.

Application deadline: 30 July 2020; start date: between 1 September and 1 December 2020

Further information