Professor Stefano Predelli, Director of Postgraduate Research
Originally from Italy, Stefano studied, taught and researched philosophy in the United States and Norway before landing in Nottingham.
As long-standing Director of Postgraduate Research (PGR) he's been involved in supporting the research student community for several years.
What are your main research areas?
Mainly around the philosophy of language – how our interpretation and understanding of language depends on contextual factors. When not looking at semantics I also work around the ontology of artworks.
So far with little relationship between the two. I would welcome anybody who comes and tries to find a link between them!
What attracts you to philosophy?
Clear thinking! Philosophy has a perception of being an abstract discipline that’s not good for anything but I think the absolute contrary is true. It’s very easy to get caught up in words without making sure that there are concepts behind those words.
I think if there was more clarity and more rationality in public life, so to speak, that the world would be a better place.
You’re originally from Italy – how did you end up a philosopher in Nottingham?
As an undergraduate in Italy I was lucky enough to get a scholarship to an American university. I really liked the idea of a year in California! At Santa Barbara I found a whole new way of doing philosophy, very different from Italy.
I hadn’t got a career plan to be a professional philosopher but did a PhD at UCLA and then got an academic job in Norway. After a few years I applied to positions in England. The departments seemed more prestigious academically.
I've always been an Anglophile ever since I was a kid. Nottingham was a good size city and a lot cheaper to live than London!
It’s been 15 years now. How have you found it?
Well, I recently got citizenship so I’m very settled.
What about the philosophy department at Nottingham? How’s that changed in 15 years?
The areas the department works in have really diversified in the past 10 years. Asian philosophy, philosophy of gender, philosophy of race. We’ve expanded our focus.
It’s good. Most people don’t become professional philosophers. Most people get jobs outside academia so we’re helping to form better world views.
It means our research staff have expanded and diversified too. More views, more expertise. At the same time we haven’t affected the academic rigour of our existing areas, which is good.
And it’s not like these are all unconnected. There are issues in metaphysics of race or of gender for example. I see lots of interesting interactions emerging. Postgraduates working with academics you might not expect.
You’re department Director of PGR. What does that involve?
Many things! I help with the organisation of the PGR seminars. Postgrads run it but I can help open doors and get through processes. And I contribute to sessions on practical issues like how to write a thesis, how to publish a paper, developing career skills.
I also act as a bit of a personal tutor to the group. Obviously the supervisor relationship is central but I can help with things like extenuating circumstances, extensions, signposting.
Is there much interdisciplinary research happening in the department?
It happens all the time. People are often attending conferences in things like psychology or linguistics. That’s normal.
In terms of PhD research we’re always happy to accommodate. I can think of someone who focussed on the ethics of care and had a co-supervisor from the School of Medicine. And I have someone currently who has a secondary supervisor in the School of Politics.
What’s the PhD community like at the moment?
There’s about 20 at the moment, including those doing final writing up. A good sense of community.
About half of them tend to do a lot of their work in the dedicated spaces in the Humanities building. It’s an open space and they can share ideas, ask each other questions, borrow books, that sort of thing.
What do you think makes a good PhD researcher?
Curiosity! We are fortunate enough to have the sort of discipline where that is pretty much a given. And being sufficiently clear at the beginning what’s expected, what their topic will be. I think we’re pretty good at making sure people have that when they start.