Durban - University of KwaZulu-Natal’s (UKZN) Professor David Spurrett of the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classic (SRPC) was bestowed with the university’s fellowship award to recognise his achievement as an academic and contribution to his field of philosophy, during the university’s spring graduation ceremony on Tuesday.
In a statement that university said Spurrett has been lecturing in philosophy since 1991.
He studied philosophy at the then University of Natal (now UKZN) and at King’s College London, England.
He graduated with his PhD in Metaphysics in 2000 and since then, has co-edited and co-written several books and papers, mostly on topics in the philosophy of science, cognitive science and metaphysics.
Spurrett’s research involved collaborations with linguists, psychologists, economists, psychiatrists, legal scholars, anaesthetists and other philosophers.
His current research is largely focused on questions about agency, including human agency at the intersection of philosophy of biology and philosophy of cognitive science.
Among the awards and honours Spurrett has received are the Vice-Chancellor’s Research Award (University of Natal, 2003), Distinguished Teacher’s Award (University of Natal, 2003), Colenso Scholarship (St John’s College, Cambridge, 2003), President’s Award (National Research Foundation, 2002), and an NRF ‘B’ rating (2010 and 2016).
In 2010, the National Research Foundation (NRF) awarded him a “B3” rating indicating that his research enjoyed “considerable international recognition”. This rating was renewed for a further five years commencing in 2016, and raised to a “B2” in late 2021.
The university further confirmed that Spurrett was also the author and co-author of over 60 articles, chapters, commentaries and editorials, including papers in leading journals such as Behavioural and Brain Sciences, Analysis, The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Biology and Philosophy, and Synthese. He has presented his work at over 70 conferences in South Africa, Australia, Canada, Croatia, Belgium, Estonia, England, Scotland, and the United States.
He has also made numerous invited presentations around the country and the world.
Spurrett also has many years of experience in university administration, having been a member of the UKZN Council and Senate, and formerly serving as a Head of School and Dean of SRPC.
Speaking on his achievement, Spurrett said that this was the highest honour that UKZN could give to a senior scholar in recognition of their academic achievements and places him in the company of colleagues in a range of fields whom he deeply respects and admires.
“Research is sometimes lonely work, and often focused on what is wrong or needs improving. It is also very focused on climbing over the rocks and obstacles right in front of you at the time,” he said.
He added that the award was testament to his hard work.
“This award looks back at the view, tells me to look also at how high I have climbed already, and encourages me to keep going. This would not have been possible without many mentors and supportive colleagues along the way, and I am especially grateful to them and my family,” said Spurrett.
His current research concerns the evolution of action-selection mechanisms, specifically processes representing the expected utility of alternative actions and the environmental scaffolding of action selection. This work has been presented at leading conferences around the world.