International PhD Positionsin Evolutionary Moral Psychology

  • PHD
  • $29,500 p.a. + allowances
  • 5 April 2021

The Australian Research Council and Monash University Arts Graduate Research are offering two PhD research scholarships, connected to the ARC Funded project “The Evolution and Economics of Sacred Values”.

The project uses methods from a variety of disciplines to understand the possible evolutionary role of the distinctive moral psychology associated with sacredness, its links with religious ritual, with moral outrage, and social norms. Disagreements over sacred values are implicated in many of the most intractable human conflicts, but they also appear to have beneficial roles in promoting cooperation, cohesion and trust. Philosophical aspects of the project focus on the question of whether understanding the evolved background of our moral values should enhance or diminish our confidence in the justification of those values.

The project is led by Professor Toby Handfield, at Monash University, but involves collaboration with researchers at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, the University of Chicago, and Carnegie Mellon University.

The successful candidates will be expected to carry out independent research that complements this larger project in some way. For example, research proposals might focus on

  • Developing arguments that debunk or vindicate sacred values, based on the empirical findings from other parts of the project;
  • using methods of experimental philosophy to study the moral psychology of sacred values;
  • developing game theoretic models to explore hypotheses about the role of sacred values in the present and the evolutionary past
  • studying ethnographic and historical materials to better understand the variety of sacred values across diverse societies and periods

The precise details of the research project are flexible and responsive to the successful applicant’s expertise and interests, in consultation with the supervisors.

Candidates who have some expertise in a complementary discipline such as experimental psychology, game theory, statistics, or anthropology, are especially encouraged to apply for these scholarships.

The successful candidates will be supervised by researchers in the Philosophy department within the School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies. As one of Australia’s leading centres for philosophical research, Monash Philosophy received a top rating of 5 in the 2018 Excellence in Research Australia ranking exercise, indicating an “outstanding performance well above world standard”. The department as a whole has a well-established track record of success in research publications and grants, including seven ARC Future Fellowships and at least 15 ARC Discovery Projects in the past ten years.

In addition to the scholarship, research candidates in the Philosophy Graduate Research Program also have access to funding for research trips spanning conferences and major events relevant to their own independent research, as well as other research-related expenses.

Monash University is the largest university in Australia and regularly ranks in the top 100 universities worldwide. Monash has six globally networked campuses and international alliances in Europe and Asia. The applicant(s) will be based at the Clayton campus in Melbourne.

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The successful applicant will have an excellent academic track record in philosophy or other relevant disciplines (e.g. psychology, economics, evolutionary biology, anthropology).

Applicants will be considered provided that they fulfil the criteria for PhD admission at Monash University which includes English language Proficiency skills. Details of eligibility requirements to undertake a PhD in the Faculty of Arts are available at

Scholarship holders must be enrolled full time and on campus.  Please note: applicants who already hold a PhD will not be considered.

Successful applicants will be expected to enrol by mid-2021. However, there may be some flexibility as to the date of commencement, especially taking into account restrictions on travel due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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The successful applicant will receive a Faculty of Arts Research Living Allowance, at current value of $29,500 per annum 2021 full-time rate (tax-free stipend), indexed plus allowances as per RTP stipend scholarship conditions at: The Faculty will provide the tuition fee scholarship and Single Overseas Health Cover (OSHC) for a successful international awardee.


Submit an Expression of Interest

EOIs shall comprise:

  • A cover letter that includes a brief statement of the applicant’s suitability
  • A brief research proposal not exceeding 750 words in length that fits within the broad project aims and objectives, and demonstrates some understanding of the area of research
  • A curriculum vitae, including a list of any published works, conference presentations and relevant work experience
  • A full statement of academic record, supported by scanned copies of relevant certified documentation
  • Contact details of two academic referees

It is strongly recommended that you contact project leader Toby Handfield (, prior to submission of the EOI to discuss the project.

EOIs must be sent, in the form of a single pdf attachment to an email to Kinda Say, Senior Graduate Research Administrator, Faculty of Arts, at the following e-mail address  State “EOI [your name] - PhD Scholarship in Moral Psychology” in the subject heading of the email.

Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed (by video call if necessary). The interviews will be conducted in English.

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