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The Australian National University

Bronwyn Finnigan

Position: Lecturer, Undergraduate Convener, Deputy Head

School or Centre: Centre for Consciousness

Phone: 61 2 6125 2632
Location: HC Coombs Building, Room 2213

Website: My profile website


Ph.D (Auckland), MA (Sydney), BA (Hons., Melbourne)


Bronwyn Finnigan is the Deputy Head of the School of Philosophy in the RSSS. Her research engages philosophy of action, ethics, philosophy of mind and epistemology in Western and Asian philosophical traditions. She is currently focused on two related projects.

The first investigates the nature of practical rationality (know-how, practical intelligence) involved in skilled action. Skilled actions are modes of conduct that are non-accidentally appropriate relative to some norms but are typically also phenomenally automatic and non-deliberative. The aim of this project is to develop an account of practical rationality that admits skilled action, so understood, as a model for ethical agency. This project draws on insights from cognitive science and contemporary philosophy of mind (relating to heuristics, emotions, and the role of concepts in shaping cognitive biases) as well as historical sources in both Western (especially Aristotle) and non-Western (especially Buddhist) philosophical thought.

The second project examines the meta-ethical grounds for the ethical theorisation of Buddhist thought. The term ‘Buddhism’ represents a limited diversity of competing philosophical positions. Much recent critical engagement with Buddhist thought by Western-trained philosophers engages with the competing metaphysical and epistemological systems Abhidharma, Yogacara, Madhyamaka and Pramanavada. While there is much contemporary interest in the nature of Buddhist ethics, few thinkers consider the bearing of these distinct theoretical systems on the plausibility and status of evaluative commitments. The aim of this project seeks to stimulate a new avenue of engaging the complexities Buddhist theoretical thought by examining the puzzles that are generated when they are put into dialogue with the evaluative and practical.

Research Interests

Buddhist Philosophy:

  • Meta-ethics (Madhyamaka, Abhidharma, Pramāṇavāda, Yogācāra)
  • Philosophy of Mind (agency, emotions, subjectivity)
  • Idealism

Philosophy of Mind:

  • Know-how, Skill & Practical Intelligence
  • Agency & Rationality
  • Emotions
  • Perception & Conceptuality

Ethics & Moral Psychology

Ancient Philosophy (primarily Aristotle)


Finnigan, B (2015), 'Phronesis in Aristotle: Reconciling Deliberation with Spontaneity', Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 91(3): 674-697.

Finnigan, B (2015), 'Madhyamaka Buddhist Meta-ethics: The justificatory grounds of moral judgments', Philosophy East & West, vol. 65, no. 3, pp. 765-785.

Finnigan, B (2015), 'Review of Dan Arnold's Brains, Buddhas and Believing: The Problem of Intentionality in Classical Buddhist and Cognitive Scientific Philosophy of Mind', Journal of Religion.

Finnigan, B (2014), 'Examining the Bodhisattva's Brain', Zygon, vol. 49, no. 1, pp. 231-241.

Finnigan, B (2011), 'Buddhist Meta Ethics', Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, 33 (1-2): 267-97

Cowherds, The = Dreyfus, G., Finnigan, B. Garfield, J. (2011), Moonshadows: Conventional Truth in Buddhist Philosophy, Oxford University Press, Oxford, United Kingdom

Finnigan, B & Tanaka, K. (2011), 'Ethics for Madhyamikas', in (ed.), Moonshadows: Conventional Truth in Buddhist Philosophy, Oxford University Press, Oxford, United Kingdom, pp. 221-231.

Finnigan, B & Tanaka, K. (2011), ‘Carnap and the Two Truths’, in (ed.), Moonshadows: Conventional Truth in Buddhist Philosophy, Oxford University Press, Oxford, United Kingdom

Finnigan, B (2011), 'A Buddhist Account of Ethical Agency Revisited: Reply to Garfield and Hansen', Philosophy East & West, vol. 61, no. 1, pp. 183-194.

Finnigan, B (2011), 'How Can a Buddha Come to Act? The Possibility of a Buddhist Account of Ethical agency', Philosophy East & West, vol. 61, no. 1, pp. 134-160.

Finnigan, B & Tanaka, K (2010), 'Don't Think! Just Act!', in (ed.), Martial Arts and Philosophy, Carus Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois, United States, pp. 25-33.

Finnigan, B (2006), 'The Dialetical Method in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics', Phronimon, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 1-16.


PHIL1004 Fundamental Ideas in Philosophy: An Introduction (2017)

PHIL2012 Buddhist Philosophy

PHIL2061 Philosophy of Mind

PHIL3073 Advanced Ethics, Social & Political Philosophy (2017)

Updated: 28 February 2017/ Responsible Officer:  Head of School / Page Contact:  Web Publisher