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James Hutton

James Hutton

Department: Philosophy

Supervisor: Richard Holton

College: Pembroke

AHRC Subject Area: Philosophy

Title of Thesis: Experience of Normativity


My doctoral research focuses on the epistemology of normativity – how we go about justifying our value judgments, practical decisions, etc. I also have a major research interest in the German philosopher Immanuel Kant.

I grew up in Halifax, West Yorkshire, and stumbled across philosophy in my late teens. I did my BA in German and Philosophy at Hertford College, Oxford. During that time I spent a year as a visiting student at the Humboldt Universität, Berlin, focusing on German philosophy and literature.

After graduating, I moved to Hungary for a year, taking an MA at Central European University, Budapest.  I wrote on a range of topics, such as the ethics of embryo selection technology, and the philosophical ramifications of special relativity. My thesis was on the American pragmatist philosopher, C. S. Peirce, examining whether his theory of truth would threaten the possibility of a mind-independent reality.

I came to Cambridge in 2014, taking an MPhil before beginning my PhD. I worked on Kant’s metaphysics and philosophy of mind, and the relation between logic and metaphysics. My thesis, supervised by Richard Holton, was on the role of education in our ability to respond to normative demands.

Other academic interests

My philosophical interests are quite broad. I am very interested in intentionality – thought’s directedness at the world. I am also interested in questions surrounding realism – the idea that the world exists outside our thought. I have also worked a great deal on the History of Philosophy: aside from Kant, I am interested in David Hume, Friedrich Nietzsche and Ludwig Wittgenstein. I am also interested in Philosophy of Education.

Outside philosophy, I have an interest in psychology, and particularly enjoy writers such as Michael Tomasello and Dan Sperber.

I also have an interest in German literature. My work on this has focused philosophical themes in writers such as Goethe, Büchner and Hesse.

I am an avid language-learner: my current projects are Dutch and Esperanto.