Professor Tim Crane

Fellow and Director of Studies in Philosophy

Telephone: 01223 746576
Email: tc102@cam.ac.uk

Tim Crane is Knightbridge Professor of Philosophy in the University of Cambridge and a Professorial Fellow of Peterhouse. The Knightbridge chair, established in 1683, is named after John Knightbridge, a fellow of Peterhouse, who gave money for its foundation on his death in 1677. 

Professor Crane is Director of Studies in philosophy at Peterhouse, and supervises Peterhouse undergraduates for all parts of the philosophy tripos. He supervises for the following papers: part IA metaphysics and philosophy of mind, part IA ethics, part IA logic; part IB metaphysics and epistemology, part IB logic, part IB modern and medieval philosophy; part II philosophy of mind, part II metaphysics. 

Tim Crane was educated at the Universities of Durham, York and Cambridge, from where he received his PhD in 1989. Before coming to Cambridge, he was Professor of Philosophy at University College London, where he taught from 1990 to 2009. He founded the Institute of Philosophy in the University of London in 2005 and was its Director until 2008. He has been an academic visitor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Australian National University, the University of Sydney, Macquarie University, the University of Copenhagen and the Collegium Budapest Institute for Advanced Study. In 2008 he was Seybert Lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania.

Research

Tim Crane has worked mostly in the philosophy of mind. He has been concerned with the most general and abstract questions about the mind and its place in the natural world. He has argued for the integrity and autonomy of the category of the mental, against two kinds of critics: those who think that the category has no real unity; and those who think that the only way to give an account of the mental is to show how it is explicable in purely physical terms. 

So in particular, he has given an original version and defence of the doctrine, deriving from the German philosophers Franz Brentano and Edmund Husserl, that what all mental phenomena have in common is the fact that they are directed at the world (this is what is known as 'intentionality'). Professor Crane's account of this phenomenon was the subject of his second book, Elements of Mind (2001).

In addition, he has attacked the physicalism and reductionism which have dominated contemporary philosophical discussion about the mind. In a series of papers, he has argued against the idea that a physicalist account of mind is needed, either for metaphysical or scientific reasons. He has defended an 'emergentist' conception of mental phenomena, according to which mental phenomena are dependent on underlying physical bases without the need for any explanatory reduction of the mental to these bases. He approaches the problem of consciousness from this non-reductionist perspective.

This metaphysical standpoint is perfectly compatible with the findings of scientific psychology, and Professor Crane has also worked on problems in the philosophy of psychology. His first book, The Mechanical Mind (1995) is a critical examination of the philosophical assumptions behind the computational theory of mind (the second edition (2003) is more critical than the first). He also has an interest in the mental lives of animals, and in the philosophy and psychology of perception.

Professor Crane is currently working on a book on the representation of things that don't exist. One of the defining features of our thought about the world is that we can represent what does not exist. No theory of thought is adequate unless it takes account of this fact. Yet since Plato's discussion in the Sophist the representation of the non-existent has been the source of many philosophical paradoxes. Professor Crane's forthcoming book, The Objects of Thought is an attempt to resolve the debates from the perspective of a fairly orthodox metaphysics, but a non-reductive philosophy of mind. The central theme is that the problems of non-existence are really problems about the mind.

Professor Crane has also written on causation, substance, and on the metaphysics of the mind-body problem. He has an interest in the aesthetics of music and has written a little about religion and science. His personal website, which contains online papers and teaching material, is www.timcrane.com