Professor J Robert G Williams


I studied Mathematics and Philosophy as an undergraduate, followed by a BPhil in Philosophy (both at Oxford), then continued in graduate study at the University of St Andrews at the Arche research centre. My PhD research was on the Inscrutability of Reference, under the supervision of Crispin Wright. I moved to Leeds in 2005 and have stayed ever since, as lecturer, reader and then professor of theoretical philosophy. Outside of philosophy, my main interest is running, particularly fell running.

Research interests

  • Metaphysics
  • Formal Epistemology
  • Philosophy of mind and language
  • Philosophy of Logic and Mathematics

Supervision projects

I'm willing to supervise in any of my areas of research interest. Please do drop me a line if you want to discuss potential PhD projects, for example in:

  • Metasemantics of mind and language (especially radical interpretation, reference magnetism, inscrutability/underdetermination, connections to metaethics).
  • Social ontology and metasemantics for group attitudes (more generally: metasemantics for non-human agents). 
  • Vagueness and Indeterminacy 
  • Personal Identity
  • Conditionals: the logic, semantics and pragmatics of indicative and counterfactual conditionals. Triviality theorems.
  • Philosophy of mathematics
  • Probability: subjective and objective. Topics in decision theory. 
  • Logic: classical and non-classical; metaphysics, epistemology and normativity.
  • Ontological commitment: the relation between metaphysics and language.

Selected Grants

  • Group Thinking: New Foundations (2019-2024, ERC consolidator research grant). 
  • with Jessica Keiser as researcher, Marie Curie Individual Fellowship. (2019-2021). 
  • with Seamus Bradley as researcher: Imprecise probability models of belief. Marie Curie Individual Fellowship. (2018-2020).
  • with Ed Elliott as researcher: The nature of belief. Marie Curie Individual Fellowship. (2017-19)
  • with Darren Bradley as researcher:  Carnap and the Limits of Metaphysics. Marie Curie Individual Fellowship. (2015-17)
  • The Nature of Representation (2012-17, ERC starting research grant).  
  • with Elizabeth Barnes and Ross Cameron as co-Is: Metaphysical Indeterminacy (2009-13, AHRC major research grant). 
  • The cognitive role of Indeterminacy (2009-11, British Academy Research Development Award).
<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>

Student education

In the past I have taught modules such as The Mind, Logic, (level 1); Introduction to Philosophy of Language (level 2); Advanced Philosophy of Logic, Advanced philosophy of Language, Philosophy of Logic and Mathematics, Philosophy of Mind and Knowledge (level 3) and masters courses in the Self, Philosophy of Language, as well as research skills modules. I currently supervise PhD students and postdoctoral researchers/research projects.

PhD supervision:

  • Matt Clark. 2021-. PhD on morality and groups (PRHS funding). 
  • *Simon Graf. 2020-. PhD on collective epistemology (ERC funding).
  • Ludovica Adamo. 2019-. PhD on collective agency and political legitimancy (ERC funding). 
  • *Alexander Siantonas. 2018-23. PhD on principles of charity in metaphysics.
  • *Aleksander Domoslawski. 2018-. PhD on semantic plasticity (WROCAH AHRC funding). Then postdoc in Poland.
  • *Miriam Bowen. 2017-21. PhD on self-referential probability (PRHS funding). Then lecturer at University of St Andrews. 
  • *Gary Mullen 2014-2018. PhD on options within decision theory. (WROCAH AHRC funding).
  • Fabio Ceravolo 2014-8. PhD on mereology in science.
  • Josh Matthews 2014-2018. PhD on vagueness and experimental philosophy. (WROCAH AHRC funding).
  • *Nick Tasker. 2013-2017 PhD on the metaphysics of words. (ERC funding, Jacobsen fellow 2016-7, currently lecturer at Hertford College, Oxford).
  • *Will Gamester 2013-2017 PhD on truth pluralism. (NatRep funding, Jacobsen fellow 2016-7, then British Academy Postdoctoral Award holder, Leeds.).
  • *Laura Crosilla. 2012-2017 PhD on the philosophy of constructive mathematics. (NatRep part funding, then Marie Curie fellow in Oslo). 
  • *Thomas Brouwer. PhD 2013. "The metaphysical commitments of logic" (Jacobsen fellow 2012-13. Then postdoc at the Northern Institute of Philosophy. Currently Research Development Assistant, Leeds.)
  • *Mirja Holst. PhD 2012. "Ordering semantics for incomplete descriptions". (2012: DAAD award at the University of Hamburg, then research associate at the University of Hamburg, then lecturer at the American University of Viet Nam.)
  • *Alex Oldemeier. PhD 2012. "The epistemology of abstraction" (AHRC award 2009-11. Jacobsen fellow 2011-12).
  • Stephan Kraemer. PhD awarded 2011. "Second-Order Quantification and Ontological Commitment".  (This thesis won the Wolfgang-Stegmller-Preis, was lecturer at the university of Glasgow, now researcher at the University of Hamburg)

Lead supervision marked by *.

Postdoctoral researchers

  • Josh Hapgood-Coote (2021-). 
  • Andy Peet (2019-). 
  • Haixin Dang (2019-21), then tenure-track and Univeristy of Nebraska, Omaha.
  • Thomas Brouwer (2016-7), then research development assistant at Leeds 
  • Simon Hewitt (2016-7), then Leverhulme Trust early career fellow at Leeds
  • Gail Leckie. (2015-7), then stipediary lecturer at Mansfield college, Oxford.
  • Daniel Elstein. (2015-7), then lecturer, University of Leeds.
  • Rachel Goodman (2013-15), then tenure-track at University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
  • Jennifer Carr (2013-15), then tenure-track at the University of San Diego.

Research Project Supervision

  • Jessica Keiser. Marie Curie Individual Fellowship (2019-21).  
  • Seamus Bradley Imprecise probability models of belief. Marie Curie Individual Fellowship. (2018-2020).
  • Ed Elliott The nature of belief. Marie Curie Individual Fellowship. (2017-19)
  • Darren Bradley Carnap and the Limits of Metaphysics. Marie Curie Individual Fellowship. (2015-17)
  • Paolo Santorio Probability and Modality Marie Curie Career Intergration Fellowship (2013-17).

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for Aesthetic, Moral and Political Philosophy
  • Philosophy
  • Centre for Metaphysics and Mind

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>