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Tom McClelland

Lecturer in History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge

I'm a lecturer in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge. I recently joined the department after three years at Cambridge's Faculty of Philosophy. Before that I held posts at the universities of Warwick, Manchester and Glasgow and studied at the universities of Sussex, York and Cambridge. My research covers a range of overlapping topics in philosophy of cognitive science, metaphysics, aesthetics and applied ethics. My introductory book What is Philosophy of Mind? is available from Polity Press. I'm partial to comics, cats and a good pot of tea.

My research is currently focussing on the concept of 'affordances for mental action'. Long-standing work in philosophy and psychology suggests that we see our environment in terms of the bodily actions we can perform in it e.g. you might perceive a teapot as affording gripping. I suggest we also see our environment in terms of the mental actions available to us. That is, you might perceive affordances to attend, to imagine, to deliberate etc. I've been exploring how findings in psychology and psychiatry can be helpfully reframed in terms of mental affordances and identifying avenues for future empirical research.

I've also been exploring how social inequalities might shape our perception. With Paulina Sliwa I've been working on the hypothesis that gender inequalities in the performance of domestic tasks may be underwritten by socially-mediated differences in how affordances for domestic tasks are perceived. More generally, I'm interested in the idea that perceptual experiences (or patterns of perceptual experience) are ethically evaluable.

Other topics I've worked on include: the contents of perception; mental action; cognitive phenomenology; self-consciousness; self-hood; artificial consciousness and artificial creativity; the metaphysics of consciousness; salience and attention; the limits of scientific enquiry; pathologies of agency and ownership; and the philosophy of film.


  • –present
    Lecturer in History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge