As readers may have noticed, I have been pretty inactive here lately. This is because I have been finishing a book and sending it off to the publishers, which was achieved about 8 hours ago. The book is titled The Nature of Classification, and it will come out from Palgrave Macmillan. I coauthored this with Malte Ebach.

When I have done a few things, I will return to the Living With Evolution series. The next series of posts will be on Evolution and Morality. If you have questions you would like to see discussed, drop them in the comments below.

I will have received a lot of requests to revive the blog, which is very gratifying, but to be venal about it puts no money in my pocket. So if anyone wants a philosophy of science, especially biology and the social aspects of science, blog for their stable, the way Scienceblogs used to operate, so I can generate some income, I am willing to move it. In short, I want to sell out, largely because I like sleeping under cover and eating.


Berkeley June 2012

I’ll be in Berkeley (California, in case there’s another one somewhere) from around the 9th to the 15th of March, to give a talk to the Mellon-Sawyer series Speciesism and the Future of Humanity. Anyone who wants an unemployed philosopher to give a talk to their group also, or just buy him a meal, should let me know by the Contacts form.

Unfortunately the workshop is not open to the public, but there’ll be a podcast. My title is “God, politics and species”.


As readers may know, I, along with a great many other researchers, have no permanent position, making do with casual work to get by. This is an increasing problem around the world as educational institutions transition from being a public good to a service provider to government and economic goals. Jon Wilkins (no close relation), latterly of the Santa Fe Institute, has started the Ronin Institute, and is seeking funding for us to help us do our research. Here is a letter he is sending around:

Happy New Year,

I wanted to take just a moment to introduce you to my new venture, the Ronin Institute for Independent Scholarship.

I founded the Ronin Institute in 2012 in order to create a new model for doing scholarly research outside of the traditional academic system. While the traditonal system has a number of strengths, it also comes with serious limitations. These limitations include artifical barriers to interdisciplinary research and collaboration arising from departmental boundaries, large bureaucratic and teaching loads placed on faculty, and the financial demands involved in supporting the infrastructure of the university.

The fact is, in many fields, the independent scholar with access to library resources can pursue research at the highest levels, often at a fraction of the cost of a university researcher. Furthermore, in the United States alone, there are tens of thousands of underemployed PhDs, representing a vast, untapped resource. We are identifying the most highly motivated independent scholars and working to ensure that they are able to make productive use of their expertise.

At the moment, there are about twenty five Ronin Institute Research Scholars, representing fields from Physics to Biology to History to Philosophy. A number of us are engaged in full-time research. Others are pursuing a model of “fractional scholarship,” engaging part time in academic research while working at another career, fulfilling family obligations, etc. Our goal is to create new career paths and funding opportunities to support a diversity of ways of engaging in scholarship.

This fall, we recieved approval of our 501c3 nonprofit status from the IRS, meaning that we are now ready to move forward with raising funds to support individual projects, help send independent scholars to conferences, and providing small pilot grants to help to restart research programs for people who have taken time off (e.g., to have kids).

I am hoping that you might be able to help us out, if not now, then at some point in the future. This could mean a financial donation, of course, and if you’re inclined to donate, you can do so online, or visit the Ronin Institute Donation page. We are strongly dedicated to following donor intent. If you would like to discuss directing your donation towards a specific project or program, feel free to contact us at

Alternatively, maybe you know someone who is a highly motivated independent scholar, and you would like to point them in our direction. Or maybe you are looking for a collaborator on an upcoming project, in which case you might have a look through the list of our Research Scholars, some of whom are actively seeking out collaborations, and all of whom are open to collaborating on the right project.

To find out more about the Ronin Institute more generally, you can check us out on the web, on Facebook and on Google+:

If you’re more of a listener, you can check out this radio interview that I did with WBUR in Boston over the summer.

You can also contact me with any questions you might have at

Wishing all the best for you in 2013,
Jon Wilkins

[The image above is my own, not Jon’s, but I’m trying to convince him to make it the RI logo…]

I’m really sorry I’ve been quiet so long. It’s not for lack of thoughts. First I went to Sydney to work on my Nature of Classification book and then attend a workshop on the future of history and philosophy (and social studies) of science in Australia. And then I came back to Melbourne to have an arthroscopy on my knee.

Only thing is, when I was about to go into the theatre, the surgeon comes out and examines me, and then says, “You have a torn quadriceps attachment. You’re booked in for the wrong surgery.” which I have been saying for six months. I could have kissed him. At last somebody was paying attention!. So I underwent repair surgery instead. I aim to adopt him when I can.

Anyway I am now under heavy pain medication, but I have hope that I will be able to walk again. In about 18 weeks or so. For now I have an immobilized leg and a muzzy head. So I may be doing less writing until my head clears. I have many ideas, but sitting at a computer is hard enough without having to be creative.

So I crave your indulgence. I will do what I can, I promise…