Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Aberdeen
Unit of AssessmentPhilosophy
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Education: Specialist Studies In Education
Philosophy and Religious Studies: Philosophy
Summary of the impact
NIP Public is the Northern Institute of Philosophy's (NIP) programme to
propagate the benefits of NIP's own collaborative research models to local
non-academic communities, specifically schools, charities, and
non-academic institutions. These benefits include enriching the cultural
lives of users in the local community, encouraging users to challenge
their own and others' views, and informing educators working in schools of
northeast Scotland. The programme includes Café Philosophique, a
series of public engagement events, a Philosophy with Children
teacher-training course designed to show in practice how philosophical
discussion can be incorporated in school settings, and collaborations
HM Prison Aberdeen;
AberdeenFoyer, a charity helping homeless and unemployed
St Peter's Primary School, Aberdeen;
Albyn School (secondary school), Aberdeen;
Robert Gordon's College (secondary school), Aberdeen;
Dyce Academy (secondary school), Aberdeen.
The impact for the NIP Public case study arises from two separate but
interacting sources: the collaborative research model distinctive
to NIP and followed in all NIP projects; and the research outputs
stemming from this model. Here we will first describe the research model;
then we will describe some of the research outputs (A Case Study Part 1),
whose impact is presented in section 4 (A Case Study Part 2).
(a) The Research Model
Since the start of NIP in late 2009, research teams for each pilot or
funded NIP project— comprising the PI, postdoctoral fellows and project
students—met during term-time in weekly two- hour seminars. In each
seminar a definite cluster of research questions was investigated, with
team members critically assessing existing reasons and proposing new
reasons for various answers to these questions in collaborative group
The key premise for exporting this model of philosophical inquiry to a
non-academic setting is that no prior expertise is needed in order for
someone to benefit from it: even complete novices to philosophy can, when
properly exposed to research themes in a clear and accessible manner and
properly guided by an expert, profitably engage with philosophical
research questions and enjoy the intellectual and social benefits of so
(b) Research Outputs
The research outputs underpinning the impact came from work undertaken on
NIP projects. One of the main foci of the AHRC-funded "Basic Knowledge"
project, which ran at NIP in the period 2009- 2012, was external-world
scepticism. Several research seminars were dedicated to the topic or
issues directly relevant to it. Four key research outputs arose from these
seminars and from the research presented in two "Basic Knowledge"
Conferences and eight two-day project workshops held during this period.
The research outputs concern ways in which we might respond to the
challenge of external-world scepticism, the view that we know very little
of what we think we know about the world around us. One recent shape this
view has taken is `lottery scepticism'. The main argument in favour of
lottery scepticism starts from the common intuition that when you hold one
ticket of a large fair lottery, you do not know—after the draw but before
the announcement—that your ticket has lost, despite its being extremely
likely that your ticket has lost. The problem generalizes dramatically. If
the reason why you can't know in the lottery scenario is that there is a
very small chance of being wrong (i.e. there is a small chance that your
ticket has won), then because there is a very small chance that our senses
deceive us, we can't know anything about the world around us. Four key
outputs from this project (Dodd (2011,2012), McGlynn (2013), Moretti
(2012) underpinned the lesson plans on external-world scepticism used in
our collaborations with local schools, HM Prison Aberdeen and the charity
The NIP "Truth and Paradox" project and Berto's (2013) work on
dialetheism—the view that there can be true contradictions, developed as a
response to central semantic paradoxes—underpinned the Café
Philosophique event `What Can Paradoxes Teach Us?', while the NIP
"Relativism and Rational Tolerance" project and Baker's (2012)
work on disagreement underpinned the Café Philosophique event
`Should We Tolerate Moral Disagreement?' and the development of lesson
plans on disagreement used in our collaborations with local schools, HM
Prison Aberdeen and the charity AberdeenFoyer.
References to the research
• Baker, C. (2012). Indexical Contextualism and the Challenges from
Disagreement, Philosophical Studies 157: 107-123.
• Dodd, D. (2012). Safety, Skepticism and Lotteries, Erkenntnis
• Dodd, D. (2011). Against Fallibilism, Australasian Journal of
Philosophy 89: 665-685.
• McGlynn, A. (2013). Believing Things Unknown, Noûs 47: 385-407.
• Moretti, L. (2012). Wright, Chandler and Okasha on Transmission
Failure, Synthese 184: 217-234.
"Basic Knowledge" — 5-year project (2008-2012) funded by the AHRC (in
Aberdeen 2009-2012) PI: Wright, post-doctoral fellows: Zardini
and Dodd. Grant value: £650,000.
"Relativism and Rational Tolerance" — 3-year project (2011-2014) funded
by Leverhulme PI: Wright, post-doctoral fellows: Baker and
Plakias. Grant value: £250,000.
Details of the impact
NIP has been committed to developing channels that lead its research
projects to benefit non- academic partners. This process is overseen by
the NIP Outreach and Knowledge and Transfer Officer (Luzzi), who is
primarily responsible for creating partnerships with non-academic
organizations and for research dissemination. The process is clearly
collaborative, with members of the research teams contributing their
research expertise, their presentational and discussion- facilitation
skills and suggestions of ways their research can achieve impact. The main
aim of these activities is not simply to disseminate research by exposing
non-academic groups to cutting-edge research issues in philosophy; it is
also—and crucially—to involve such groups in the NIP-inspired practice of
collaborative discussion, where views are put forward, revised and
sharpened in the light of friendly criticism in order to reach a deeper
understanding of genuinely puzzling issues. This attitude encompasses the
methodology underpinning our Café Philosophique programme, our
Philosophy courses run in schools, in prison (HMP Aberdeen) and with
unemployed persons and ex-drug abusers (AberdeenFoyer). NIP Public
activities to date have engaged roughly 400 individuals and can be divided
broadly into four streams: social partnerships, public
engagement, teacher training and school collaborations.
Social partnerships take the shape of a series of weekly group
discussions on Philosophy research themes with prisoners (HMP Aberdeen)
and young unemployed, homeless or ex-drug abusers (AberdeenFoyer). In the
period 2012-2013, Luzzi ran three six-week courses with
AberdeenFoyer involving a total of 26 participants and one three-week and
one six-week course with HMP Aberdeen involving 11 prisoners overall. A
prison-based social worker said:
`I think it was great for the guys to have access to learning that
wasn't dumbed down and that was outside the box, but relevant.
Professionally I think being involved with your group enabled me to
think about the guys' lives in a different way and enabled me to develop
my working relationships and touched on my own professional reformist
The Café Philosophique public engagement programme was
launched in Spring 2012 and the second series took place in Spring 2013.
In these events, researchers present their recent research to the public
in an accessible way and, in those led by Aberdeen researchers, small
tutorial-style discussion on research themes with the public
(facilitated by a faculty member) take place. Café Philosophique
comprised five events led by Aberdeen researchers: Baker/Plakias
(`When Should We Tolerate Moral Disagreement?'), McGlynn (`How Do We Know
Ourselves?'), Jezzi (`What Are Our Moral Obligations to the Global
Poor?'), Torre (`Is Time Travel Possible'), Berto (`What
Can Paradoxes Teach Us?'); and two NIP Public Lectures delivered by Prof.
David Chalmers (NYU/ANU) on `The Matrix As Metaphysics' and Prof Jennifer
Saul (Sheffield) on `Implicit Bias Against Women'). Roughly 210 people
attended the events led by Aberdeen researchers overall, while a total of
230 attended the Public Lectures. The sessions led by Aberdeen staff were
particularly well-received. Testimonials from the public on these sessions
(available at http://tinyurl.com/kglphd8)
`The group discussion was very interesting. It was also well-moderated.
This allowed a range of views to be expressed.'
`Excellent initiative—organisers should be congratulated. Overall I
thought it went extremely well, a great example of innovative public
`The theories well-introduced in a lively, open and accessible way.
Very appealing for non- academic philosophers to get involved.'
`A very lively, informative evening of hearing and sharing thoughts and
views on Philosophy.'
`I really liked the informal, friendly atmosphere and how others at
the talk shared their views.'
For the teacher training stream of NIP public, Luzzi
designed and twice taught the one-day Continual Professional Development
course `Philosophy in the Classroom' (Nov 2012 and May 2013). The aim of
the course was to introduce primary and secondary schoolteachers to the
benefits of using the collaborative group discussion model of NIP in a
classroom setting. Both courses were fully booked, with a total of 38
educators in attendance. Evaluation sheets from participants (available at
provided evidence of impact:
Evaluation Question: `Attending this course will
probably have effects on my teaching/work' (Possible answers from 1 =
strongly disagree to 10 = strongly agree).
Answers: one 6, one 7, two 8s, three 9s, eleven 10s.
Further comments indicate that the course proved valuable for
`...raring to go and work with my class on this!'
`I enjoyed learning about the process of how to run a Philosophy with
Children inquiry and would use this model in a primary classroom.'
`I found the inquiry sessions to be excellent both for engaging in
discussion but also to look at how to manage philosophical discussions.'
`All areas very good but Inquiry sessions were very helpful as they
gave practical ideas of how to go about this.'
The school collaborations stream includes several partnerships
with local primary and secondary schools. Since January 2012 Luzzi
has run twenty-eight hour-long Philosophy group discussions with pupils
from St Peter's Primary School. From January to July 2012 he worked with a
P5 class while from January to March 2013 he worked with a P3 and a P6
class. A total of 60 pupils were involved.
Since 2011, NIP has obtained funding from the Royal Institute of
Philosophy to run Philosophy courses of 15 contact hours in local
secondary schools. The courses' topics are taken from areas of strong
research expertise and the NIP model of collaborative group discussion is
typically implemented in these sessions. Collaborations have taken place
with Dyce Academy (Luzzi, Spring 2011, 60 pupils), Albyn School (Melis
(PhD student), Spring 2012, 70 pupils; Spring 2013, 70 pupils), and Robert
Gordon's College (Luzzi, Spring 2011, 50 pupils; Melis,
Spring 2012, 35 pupils).
The NIP research model of collaborative discussion of central
philosophical questions encompasses all four streams. The specific
research outputs mentioned in section 3 were used as foundations in the
development and refinement of lesson plans with accompanying activities
and stimuli for group discussion that were used in three of the streams:
social partnerships, school collaborations and public engagement. For
example, in the wake of research activity on the "Basic Knowledge"
project, NIP developed a lesson plan centered on the topic of so-called
`lottery' scepticism for use in non-academic settings. Initially, this was
tested as one of the Philosophy sessions of five five-session mini-courses
running at Robert Gordon's College (22, 23 and 24 March 2011) and two
five-session mini-courses at Dyce Academy (23, 25 March 2011). On the
basis of this experience, the lesson plan was revised and adjusted for use
as part of five five-week Philosophy courses at Albyn School (March 2012);
as part of three five-week Philosophy courses at Robert Gordon's College
(March 2012); as part of two six-week Philosophy courses on the Lifeshapers
programme for young unemployed persons and ex-drug abusers run by the
charity AberdeenFoyer (25 June 2012, 05 Sep 2012); as part of a three-week
Philosophy course for prisoners at HM Prison Aberdeen Grampian (6 July
2012); for an Aberdeen Skeptics in the Pub public engagement
session (22 November 2012, Cellar 32 pub, audience of 23).
Sources to corroborate the impact
The following people may be contacted to corroborate the impact of the
initiatives conducted by the Unit.
- Two Social Workers, HM Prison Aberdeen (corroborating statement with
University and available on request)
- Head Teacher, St Peter's Primary School
- Head RMPS Teacher, Albyn School (corroborating statement with
University and available on request)
- AberdeenFoyer Support Worker (corroborating statement with University
and available on request)