Dr Ross Pain

Dr Ross Pain

Position: Postdoctoral Fellow

School: School of Philosophy

Email: ross.pain@anu.edu.au

Location: Level 6, Room 6.22, Desk B, 146 Ellery Cres., RSSS Building

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

Thesis title: Cultural, cognitive and social evolution; 2022

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?"). My supervisors are Kim Sterelny, Rachael Brown, Ron Planer, Peter Hiscock (Archaeology – USyd), and Colin Klein.

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.

Outside of work I like motorbikes, Geelong Football Club, surfing, travel, and live music.

  • Philosophy of cognitive science
  • Philosophy of biology
  • Philosophy of archaeology/anthropology
  • ‘How WEIRD is Cognitive Archaeology? Engaging with the Challenge of Cultural Variation and Sample Diversity’ (with Anton Killin) REVIEW OF PHILOSOPHY & PSYCHOLOGY, forthcoming
  • ‘Cognitive Archaeology meets Cultural Evolutionary Psychology’ OXFORD HANDBOOK OF COGNITIVE ARCHAEOLOGY, forthcoming
  • ‘Culture, genes, selection, and learning: a response to Nichols, Mackey &Moll’ (with Anton Killin) PHILOSOPHICAL PSYCHOLOGY, forthcoming https://doi.org/10.1080/09515089.2021.1980205
  • ‘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 F Mann) PHILOSOPHICAL PSYCHOLOGY, forthcoming https://doi.org/10.1080/09515089.2021.1942814
  • ‘Mind the Gap: A More Evolutionarily Plausible Role for Technical Reasoning in Cumulative Technological Culture’ (with Rachael L Brown) SYNTHESE, forthcoming https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-020-02894-8
  • ‘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
  • ‘What Can the Lithic Record Tell Us About the Evolution of Hominin Cognition?’ TOPOI Vol. 40, No. 1 (2019): 245-259 https://doi.org/10.1007/s11245-019-09683-0
  • ‘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


  • ANU CASS Workshop Grant (with Rachael Brown): AUD $8,000
  • 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

2021: Australian National University - PHIL3073 Advanced Ethics: Trust & Cooperation in Philosophy & Evolution (with Jenny Munt) - Lecturer & Convener

2020: Australian National University - PHIL3076 Philosophy of the Life Sciences: Cognitive Science - Lecturer & Convener

2020: Australian National University - PHIL3074 Advanced Philosophical Topics: Human Evolution Tutor & one guest lecturer 

2019: Australian National University - PHIL3076 Animal Cognition - Two guest lectures 

2019: Australian National University - PHIL2126 Science in Society - Tutor & one guest lecture

2018: Australian National University - PHIL1005 Logic & Critical Thinking - Tutor

Updated:  10 May 2022/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications