Dr Henry Taylor

Dr Henry Taylor

Department of Philosophy
Associate Professor

Contact details

Address
247, ERI Building
University of Birmingham
Edgbaston
Birmingham
B15 2TT
UK

Since joining the department in 2017, my work has focussed mainly on the interface between philosophy and STEM subjects. Much of my work is on interdisciplinary topics connected to consciousness, perception, and attention. I'm also very interested in robotics, especially the project of making robots more culturally sensitive. My work in these areas is collected in my papers (below).

One of my current interests is in the realm of psychological natural kinds. Broadly, the study of natural kinds is the study of scientific categories and categorisation. Both scientists and laypeople typically divide the mind up into a variety of different faculties (such as memory, emotions, consciousness, vision and so on). I am interested in how these categorisation judgements are made, and how they help psychologists achieve scientific success.

I am also fascinated by cultural robotics. People from different cultural backgrounds have different expectations around robots and robotics, including things like personal space, expression of emotion, cultural habits, etc. I'm interested in questions like the following: Can we design robots to behave in ways that differ depending on the cultural preferences of the humans they're interacting with? Should we do this? What does 'culture' even mean in robotics?

Feedback and office hours

Students should check the PTR Education hub to see when my office hours will run.

Qualifications

  • BA (hons) (Durham)
  • MPhil (Cambridge)
  • PhD (Durham)

Biography

I am a Birmingham Fellow. I joined the department in 2017. Since joining Birmingham, I’ve worked mainly in the philosophy of cognitive science, especially on perception.

 Before that, I was a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the University of Cambridge for two years. I worked mainly on the metaphysics of properties, and the importance of properties for understanding consciousness.

I got my PhD in 2015 from the University of Durham. My thesis was on attention. For this, I was supported by the University, and by the Royal Institute of Philosophy.

Teaching

In the academic year 2018-19, I will be teaching the Metaphysics MA, Philosophy of Language MA, Key Readings (1st year undergraduate) and Philosophy of Biology (3rd year undergraduate) courses.

Postgraduate supervision

I welcome enquiries from anyone working in any area of metaphysics, philosophy of mind, or philosophy of cognitive science.


Find out more - our PhD Philosophy  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.

Research

I’m particularly interested in:

  • Consciousness (How does consciousness fit into the physical world? How should we study consciousness in nonhuman animals and infants?)
  • Perception (What is the best way to understand how we perceive the world? Does perception require consciousness?)
  • Attention (What is attention? Can we understand consciousness by using attention? Is attention ‘one thing’ or is it actually many different mental faculties?)
  • Natural kinds in cognitive science (How should we understand the categories employed by cognitive science? How do they contribute to scientific success?)

I’m currently writing a monograph on natural kinds in psychology due out by 2023. This will draw together my previous work on attention, consciousness, and perception, which can be found under ‘publications’, below.

Another strand on my research concerns peripheral vision: how we should understand our visual capacities outside of the centre of our visual field. This work has focussed on crowding, which is a puzzling phenomenon where objects placed in peripheral vision become harder to identify when they’re placed near other objects.

As well as my work on the interface of philosophy and science, I have also done a lot of work on the metaphysics of properties. Objects in the world have certain properties (for example, a ball may have properties such as redness and sphericity), but how should we best understand these properties? How do they participate in causal interactions? What would properties have to be like to explain the success of science?

Other activities

Publications

Recent publications

Article

Taylor, H 2023, 'Attention as a patchwork concept', European Journal for Philosophy of Science, vol. 13, no. 3, 36 . https://doi.org/10.1007/s13194-023-00538-5

Taylor, H 2023, 'Compound powerful qualities: Properties as compounds of distinct powers and qualities', Synthese, vol. 202, no. 4, 118. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-023-04339-4

Mansouri, M & Taylor, H 2023, 'Does cultural robotics need culture? conceptual fragmentation and the problems of merging culture with robot design', International Journal of Social Robotics. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12369-023-01085-y

Taylor, H 2022, 'Consciousness as a natural kind and the methodological puzzle of consciousness', Mind & Language. https://doi.org/10.1111/mila.12413

Taylor, H 2021, 'A new solution to the regress of pure powers', Analysis. https://doi.org/10.1093/analys/anab039

Taylor, H & Sayim, B 2020, 'Redundancy masking and the identity crowding debate', Thought: A Journal of Philosophy, vol. 9, no. 4, pp. 257-265. https://doi.org/10.1002/tht3.469

Taylor, J 2020, 'The relation between subjects and their conscious experiences', Philosophical Studies, vol. 177, pp. 3493-3507. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11098-019-01379-w

Taylor, J 2019, 'Fuzziness in the mind: can perception be unconscious?', Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. https://doi.org/10.1111/phpr.12592

Sayim, B & Taylor, J 2019, 'Letters lost: capturing appearance in crowded peripheral vision reveals a new kind of masking', Psychological Science, vol. 30, no. 7, pp. 1082-1086. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797619847166

Taylor, J 2019, 'Modal combinatorialism is consistent with S5', Thought: A Journal of Philosophy, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 23-32. https://doi.org/10.1002/tht3.401

Taylor, J 2019, 'Powerful problems for powerful qualities', Erkenntnis. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10670-019-00199-y

Taylor, J 2019, 'Whales, fish and Alaskan bears: interest-relative taxonomy and kind pluralism in biology', Synthese. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-019-02284-9

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Taylor, H & Mansouri, M 2024, What is 'culture' in cultural robotics? A framework for understanding culture in human-robot interaction. in Culturally Sustainable Robotics. Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 1-34.

Book/Film/Article review

Taylor, H 2023, 'Review of Movements of the Mind: a theory of action, attention, and intention by Wayne Wu', Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, vol. 2023. <https://ndpr.nd.edu/reviews/movements-of-mind-a-theory-of-attention-intention-and-action/>

Letter

Taylor, H & Bremner, A 2024, 'Cluster Kinds and the Developmental Origins of Consciousness', Trends in Cognitive Sciences. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2024.01.007

View all publications in research portal

Expertise

I specialise in the overlap between cognitive science and philosophy, in particular:

  • The philosophy of psychology (especially perceptual psychology)
  • The nature of consciousness
  • Perception, especially as it relates to consciousness.
  • Attention.
  • Colour
  • The metaphysics of properties 

Articles by Henry

Below is a selection of Henry's popular media articles and appearances. He has published in The Conversation.

Interviews

  • Discussed contemporary metaphysics and the influence of Aristotle’s metaphysics on Islamic Philosophy on The Voice of Islam (January 2021).
  • Discussed the role of emotions in our moral judgements on The Voice of Islam. Listen to the recording is available (starts at 1 hour, 7 minutes)(October 2020).

Expertise

  • Brain damage, senses and vision impairment
  • Nature of attention (paying attention to something)