Photo of Professor Lenny Moss

Professor Lenny Moss

Research Interests

My work in philosophy has drawn on the formative influences of three not obviously complementary sources, these are a long-standing interest and affinity with the socio-historically structured, practical/normative intentions of the Frankfurt School (especially Habermas), extensive training and practice as a biochemist/biophysicist and molecular cell biologist, and yet also a realisation that there is much truth in the Heideggerian and neo-Heideggarian critique of philosophical intellectualism.  Much of my work has involved attempting to bring the resources from each of these perspectives to bear on the other two while at the same time seeking to develop an integrated perspective that can address systematic questions in philosophy generally. In the philosophy of biology, I have contributed to bringing an understanding of biological causation into a broader philosophical and scientific contextualization and I continue to be critical of both narrowly neo-Darwinian and "new-mechanism" theoretic approaches that fail to do justice either to the phenomenology of human (and other) life-forms or to the upshot of cutting edge, post-genomic, empirical research findings. Using a critique of Schrödinger's celebration of the solid state and its formative influence on the shaping of molecular biology as a point of departure, I've begun a new project which looks for fundaments of the living state in the peculiarly complex and ambivalent character of aqueous systems as elucidated in the emerging findings of condensed matter chemistry and physics. In recent work, in another direction, I've drawn upon interdisciplinary, including phenomenological, studies on the nature of expert skill acquisition, along with the under-appreciated legacy of German Philosophical Anthropology to suggest a framework for extending the domain of normative concern within Critical Theory from that limited by Habermas to the scope of the purely symbolic to that of our embodied, quasi-biological material relations in the world (and in so doing discovering a link to the "capabilities" approach of Sen and Nussbaum).  More generally stated, I am interested in problems of "nature and normativity" as they ramify into virtually every problem area of philosophy. In present work, for example, concerned with problems in the philosophy of mind and language, I am advancing a naturalistic account, drawing upon a novel concept of hominid/human "detachment", that claims to be able to mediate the tensions between the anti-cognivitivism of Dreyfus, the Sellarsian rationalism of McDowell and the expressive inferentialism of Brandom.  Mindful of both the increasingly pervasive interest in, and yet increasingly disparate approaches to, the further elaboration of a contemporary metaphysics, I've come to see my own integrative project as another contending direction of thought in this conversation and am looking toward a book length exposition of such.

Research Supervision


  • Philosophical Anthropology, i.e., non-dualist, non-reductionist approaches to combining empirical, phenomenological and reconstructive approaches to answering the question "what does it mean to be human?". 
  • Theoretical, Conceptual, Historical and Normative Studies of Biology (with particular interests in issues concerning the place of teleology and normativity in nature, empirical and theoretical advances in evo/devo and eco/devo with implications for new Baldwinian models of evolutionary change, the meaning of the findings of comparative genomics, new theories of the phenotype, also reviewing and mining the work of neglected German and French thinkers such as Portmann, Plessner, Cassirer, von Uexkull, Goldstein, Canguilhem), normative implications for questions of "bio-enhancement" and biotechnological interventions generally. 
  • Critical Theory/Frankfurt School, i.e., empirically senstive work in normative social theory drawing on the tradition of Horkheimer, Adorno, Marcuse, Habermas, Honneth & McCarthy.
  • Philosophical problems of nature and normativity
  • History of Philosophy from an Anthropological Point of View
  • German Philosophy (esp. Kant, Hegel, Heidegger)
  • Brandom's Expressivist Semantics
  • The McDowell-Dreyfuss Debate


Research Students

Doctoral Supervision

* James Krueger (co-supervised with Alasdair MacIntyre) Philosophy of Biology and Medicine. Krueger is presently Assciate Professor of Philosophy at the Univeristy of Redlands (USA).

* Katherine Kendig, "Biology and Ontology: An Organism-Centered View" - Completed December, 2008. Presently Assistant Professor Missouri Western State University.

* Dan Nicholson, "The Concept of Mechanism in Biology: A Contemporary Critique of Mechanistic Biology" - Completed December 2010. Presently Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Konrad Lorenz Instittute for Theoretical Biology

* Sara Wasmuth, "Conceptualizing Addiction"

* Antonious Buzoukos, Normativity, Skill and the Philosophy of Science

* Simon Young, Heidegger's Philosophy of Language