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The University of Southampton

Philosophy hypothesis worth €1.2million

Published: 19 April 2016

Elselijn Kingma, Associate Professor in Philosophy, has been awarded a prestigious European Research Council (ERC) grant of over €1.2million to investigate her hypothesis on the metaphysics of pregnancy, identity and personhood.


ERC grants support researchers who wish to pursue frontier research and encourage pioneering ideas addressing new and emerging fields, and that introduce unconventional, innovative approaches. As well as being difficult to attain, it is also unusual for an ERC grant to be awarded at this magnitude to a research project in philosophy.


The grant will enable Elselijn to tackle fundamental questions about the nature of pregnancy, such as whether foetus and mother are one single organism or two separate organisms.

Elselijn explains: “Every single human is the product of a pregnancy, yet pregnancy has not been a traditional focus in philosophy.


“This is remarkable, for two reasons: First, because pregnancy presents fascinating philosophical problems such as the nature of the relationship between the foetus and the maternal organism; the relationship between the pregnant organism and the later baby; and when one person or organism becomes two?


“Second, because so many topics closely related to pregnancy have taken centre stage in philosophical enquiry, including questions about personhood, foetuses, personal identity and the self, but without considering the unique nature of pregnancy.”


This project launches the metaphysics of pregnancy as an important and fundamental area of philosophical research. In collaboration with Dr Fiona Woollard, Associate Professor in Philosophy, Elselijn will further investigate these questions with the help of two PhD students and two postdoctoral researchers. The team will begin by looking at the discussions and theories around metaphysics and philosophy of biology in the literature, and draw upon scientific knowledge to understand the physical role and function of the placenta. Continue reading about this research project here


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