Dr Ross Pain

Dr Ross Pain

Position: Postdoctoral Fellow

Centre affiliation: Centre for Philosophy of the Sciences

Position: Postdoctoral Fellow

School: School of Philosophy

Email: ross.pain@anu.edu.au

Location: Level 6, RSSS Building, 146 Ellery Crescent


B.A. (Hons.), M.A., PhD

Personal website: https://philpeople.org/profiles/ross-pain

I work on cognitive, cultural, and social evolution. This means I spend most of my time in the philosophy of biology, the philosophy of cognitive science, and the philosophy of archaeology/anthropology. My research addresses both first-order questions ("how did language evolve?") and methodological questions ("how do we answer first-order questions?").

With Rachael Brown and Ceri Shipton I am guest editing a special issue of Biological Theory on Cognitive Archaeology. With Michael Kirchhoff and Stephen Mann I am guest editing a special issue of Biology and Philosophy on the Free Energy Principle.

Alongside my academic interests I have pursued a career in quality management and risk analysis, mainly in the mining and petrochemical industries. In 2014 I moved to the community sector, where I preformed similar roles for the Australian Red Cross Blood Service and the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation.

  • Philosophy of biology
  • Philosophy of cognitive science
  • Philosophy of archaeology/anthropology
  • “Free Energy: A User’s Guide” (with Stephen Francis Mann & Michael Kirchhoff). Biology & Philosophy, forthcoming.
  • “No tinkering allowed: When the end-goal requires a highly specific or risky, and complex action sequence, expect ritualistic scaffolding.” (with Rachael L Brown). Behavioral and Brain Sciences, forthcoming.
  • “Cognitive Archaeology meets Cultural Evolutionary Psychology”. Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Archaeology, forthcoming.
  • “Teleosemantics and the Free Energy Principle” (with Stephen F. Mann). Biology and Philosophy, forthcoming. 
  • “Stone Tools, Predictive Processing & the Evolution of Language”. Mind & Language, forthcoming. https://doi.org/10.1111/mila.12419
  • “How WEIRD is Cognitive Archaeology? Engaging with the Challenge of Cultural Variation and Sample Diversity” (with Anton Killin). Review of Philosophy & Psychology, forthcoming. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13164-021-00611-z
  • “Cognitive Archaeology & the Minimum Necessary Competence Problem” (with Anton Killin). Biological Theory, forthcoming. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13752-021-00378-7
  • “Teleosemantics and the Hard Problem of Content” (with Stephen Francis Mann) Philosophical Psychology, 35:1, 22-46 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1080/09515089.2021.1942814
  • “Culture, genes, selection, and learning: a response to Nichols, Mackey & Moll” (with Anton Killin). Philosophical Psychology, 35:2, 297-300 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1080/09515089.2021.1980205
  • “Mind the Gap: A More Evolutionarily Plausible Role for Technical Reasoning in Cumulative Technological Culture” (with Rachael L Brown). Synthese, 199 (1-2): 2467-2489 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-020-02894-8
  • “What Can the Lithic Record Tell Us About the Evolution of Hominin Cognition?” Topoi, Vol. 40, No. 1 (2021): 245-259. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11245-019-09683-0
  • “Unification at the Cost of Realism and Precision” (with Rachael L Brown, Carl Brusse & Bryce Huebner). Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Vol. 43, Ed. 95 (2020). http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X19002760
  • “‘You: A Natural History’ by William B. Irvine”. Quarterly Review of Biology, Vol. 95, No. 3 (2020): 250-251. https://doi.org/10.1086/710394
  • “Phenomenology and Cognitive Neuroscience: Can a Process Ontology Help Resolve the Impasse?” Australasian Philosophical Review, Vol. 2, No. 2 (2018): 204-208. https://doi.org/10.1080/24740500.2018.1552098
  • Forethought Fellowship, Global Priorities Institute, University of Oxford: AUD $8,800.
  • ANU CASS Workshop Grant (with Rachael Brown): AUD $10,000
  • Passmore scholarship for graduate student travel: AUD $2,000
  • ANU CASS Workshop Grant (with Colin Klein): AUD $2,250
  • ANU CPS Workshop Grant (with Colin Klein): AUD $15,000
  • ANU CASS Graduate Research Activity Grant (with Alan Hajek): AUD $6,000
  • Australian National University Research Scholarship: AUD $ 26,682 per annum over 3 years
  • La Trobe University Travel Grant: AUD $1000
  • Australian Postgraduate Award: AUD $24,254 per annum over 2 years
  • 2019 Australasian Association of Philosophy Postgraduate Prize
  • 2015 Shortlisted for the Australasian Association of Philosophy Postgraduate Prize
  • 2011 David Hume Philosophy Prize (for honours thesis)


  • Australasian Association of Philosophy
  • Australasian Society for Philosophy and Psychology
  • Society for American Archaeology
  • PHIL3079 Evolution and Human Nature (tutor)
  • PHIL3073 Advanced Ethics: Trust & Cooperation (lecturer & convener)
  • PHIL3076: Philosophy of the Life Sciences – Cognitive Science (lecturer & convener)
  • PHIL3074: Advanced Philosophical Topics – Human Evolution (tutor & guest lecturer)
  • PHIL2126: Science in Society (tutor)
  • PHIL1005: Logic and Critical Thinking (tutor)

Updated:  22 September 2022/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications