About

Helen De Cruz

I am a British Academy postdoctoral fellow at the University of Oxford, affiliated to the Faculty of Philosophy and Somerville College. I obtained my PhD in philosophy cum laude at the University of Groningen in 2011. My areas of specialization are philosophy of cognitive science and philosophy of religion. I have also published in general philosophy of science, epistemology and aesthetics.

My research examines an underexplored topic in philosophy of cognitive science, namely how humans can form beliefs in domains that are remote from everyday concerns, such as mathematics, theology, and science. I forward a solution to this puzzle, where the interplay between cognitive dispositions and the environment can explain how skills in these domains are honed. For instance, humans have an evolved ability to track small quantities (< 4), and it remains challenging for psychologists to explain how people can acquire natural number concepts above this range, let alone negative or irrational numbers. In my dissertation and publications, I propose that by using external media (e.g., symbols), humans gain proficiency with numerical concepts that would otherwise lie outside the scope of their reasoning.

The computational, embodied approach I have developed provides a third option next to nativist, computational theories of cognition and non-computational embodied/enactive perspectives: in my view, while evolved cognitive dispositions play a crucial role in human behavior, our cultural environment transforms them. As my philosophical scholarship is thoroughly empirically informed, I have been able to apply insights about human cognition to questions that have been traditionally examined through conceptual analysis alone, for instance, whether religious experience provides evidence for the existence of supernatural beings.

On this webpage, you can download papers, find my contact details, my CV, information about my education and training, past and current research projects, resources on teaching, and some information on blogging, the Renaissance lute and other activities.

You can also find information about me on the following websites: