LSE Philosophy seeks to recruit one research student for a fully funded 4-year PhD degree, contributing to our exciting new research project on the foundations of animal sentience, ASENT. Applications close 24 January 2020.

The ASENT project

Sentience, in a broad sense, is the capacity to feel. In a narrower sense, it refers to the capacity to have feelings with a positive or negative quality, such as feelings of pain, pleasure, boredom, excitement, frustration, anxiety and joy. These feelings have the elusive property that philosophers like to call “phenomenal consciousness”. It feels like something to have them.

In recent years, an interdisciplinary community of animal sentience researchers, drawn from neuroscience, comparative psychology, evolutionary biology, animal welfare science and philosophy, has begun to emerge. However, the field is characterized by foundational controversy over the nature of sentience and the criteria for its attribution, leading to heated debate over the presence or absence of sentience in fish and in invertebrates such as cephalopods (e.g. octopods, squid) and arthropods (e.g. bees, crabs).

The Foundations of Animal Sentience project (ASENT), a five-year ERC-funded project led by Dr Jonathan Birch, aims to find ways to resolve these debates. What is needed is a conceptual framework for thinking about sentience as an evolved phenomenon that varies along several dimensions, a deeper understanding of how these dimensions of sentience relate to measurable aspects of animal behaviour and the nervous system, and a richer picture of the links between sentience, welfare and the ethical status of animals.

The ASENT PhD scholarship

Applications for this scholarship have now closed.

The ASENT project seeks to recruit one PhD student. The student will contribute to the project either by exploring the methodological foundations of animal sentience research, or by investigating the pathway from animal sentience research to consequences for animal welfare legislation and policy and/or animal ethics.

The student should have an excellent undergraduate degree and a completed Masters degree in philosophy or another relevant subject, such as comparative psychology, cognitive science, or animal welfare science.

The primary supervisor of the PhD project will be Dr Jonathan Birch, with co-supervision from another member of the LSE Philosophy Department. If you have any questions, please write to Jonathan at Jonathan will share the project description with potential applicants to help you develop appropriate research proposals.

The successful applicant will receive full funding for a 4-year PhD at LSE, including full payment of tuition fees AND a maintenance stipend of £18,000 per annum. This is an exceptionally generous PhD scholarship.

How to apply

To apply, please apply to the MPhil/PhD in Philosophy at LSE in the usual way, carefully following all the requirements described on the LSE website. When you apply, please indicate clearly in your application (in both your Statement of Academic Purpose AND your Research Proposal) that you wish to be considered for the ASENT scholarship.

You should include, in your research proposal, a substantial description (of at least 1,500 words) of a research project relevant to ASENT.