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  • Dr Helen De Cruz

    Senior Lecturer in Philosophy

    School of History, Philosophy and Culture

    Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences


    Phone number: +44 (0)1865 488490

    Email: hde-cruz@brookes.ac.uk

    Location: Harcourt Hill, Building B

    I am senior lecturer in philosophy. Before joining Brookes I had appointments at the VU Amsterdam, the University of Oxford, and the University of Leuven. My main specialization is philosophy of cognitive science, and I have also published in philosophy of religion, epistemology and general philosophy of science. My work is concerned with the question how humans form beliefs in domains that are remote from everyday concerns such as in mathematics, theology, and science. I examine how we can form such beliefs, and what explains their transmission.

    Modules taught

    • Introduction to Ethics
    • Philosophy of Science
    • Experimental Philosophy
    • Evolution and the Mind
    • Philosophy of Human Nature (co-teacher)


    I am happy to supervise MRes and PhD students in philosophy of cognitive science, philosophy of religion and experimental philosophy

    My present research interest is meta-ethics and evolutionary explanations of morality. I intend to flesh out a form of moral realism where true moral statements correspond to facts about human cooperation. My distinctive contribution to this debate is to bring archaeological findings into the philosophical discussion, looking specifically at archaeological evidence for care for disabled individuals, for cooperative hunting and childcare, and for large-scale social security networks between hunter-gatherers bands as evidence for the ancient origins of a uniquely human morality.

    Research grants and awards

    Principal investigator of the project  “Evolution, ethics, and human origins: a deep-time perspective on human morality” (Dec 2017 – August 2020), in collaboration with Johan De Smedt

    This is a multidisciplinary project funded by the John Templeton Foundation. (https://www.templeton.org/grant/evolution-ethics-and-human-origins-a-deep-time-perspective-on-human-morality)

    Project abstract: Human morality has unique features: we care about fairness, we are compassionate, and we cooperate in ways that go further than the altruistic behaviors of other primates. Such behaviors are regulated by moral norms, which are shared and enforced by communities. The evolution of human morality is an enduring question in ethics and moral psychology. This project will examine the evolutionary origins of morality by including a crucial piece of evidence that has been neglected in the literature: archaeological evidence for care and cooperation among human ancestors. We will combine this line of inquiry with findings from developmental psychology and studies of cooperation in non-western cultures and in primates. We will address 3 central questions. 1. How did human morality evolve? We will investigate the archaeological evidence for hominin cooperation, such as care for disabled individuals, collaborative hunting and gathering, and childcare. We hypothesize that human-specific morality evolved in a mosaic fashion as a result of selective pressures specific to hominin social life. We will write a monograph, a paper, and hold a series of public lectures. 2. Can there be objective moral norms in the light of evolution? We will explore the hypothesis that moral claims (in particular, pertaining to human cooperation) can be true in a realist sense, whereas others are likely not. Outputs will be a paper, a panel session, a conference and an edited volume on moral realism. 3. Are the theological notions of original sin and the Fall compatible with evolution? Drawing on the theology of Irenaeus and Schleiermacher, we propose they are. We outline a mechanism for this in a monograph and paper, and will organize a conference on the topic. We expect our project will change how scholars engage in evolutionary ethics. It will demonstrate that the details of how human morality evolved matter, and that they can help decide between philosophical and theological positions.

    Research projects

    Below is a summary of ongoing and completed externally funded projects 

    • Evolution, ethics, and human origins: a deep-time perspective on human morality, Funded by the John Templeton Foundation, 2017-2020
    • Workshop fiction writing for philosophers, Funded by the British Society of Aesthetics, 2017
    • Philosophy through fiction, Funded by the Berry Fund for Public Philosophy, carried out at Oxford Brookes, 2016-2017
    • The influence of intuitive afterlife beliefs on philosophical reflections on postmortem identity, funded by the Immortality Project, University of California, Riverside, carried out at the VU University Amsterdam, 2015
    • Taking what others believe seriously: Implications of social epistemology for the rationality of religious belief, Funded by the British Academy, carried out at the University of Oxford, 2013-2014
    • Cognitive Origins of Intuitions in Natural Theology, Funded by the John Templeton Foundation, carried out at the University of Oxford, 2011-2012
    • Scientific knowledge acquisition: a cognitive approach, Funded by the Research Foundation Flanders, carried out at the University of Leuven, 2010-2013
    • Religious concepts as structured imagination, Funded by the John Templeton Foundation, carried out at the University of Leuven, 2009-2010

    Research impact



    Further information



    • De Cruz H, Ed., Advances in Religion, Cognitive Science, and Experimental Philosophy, Bloomsbury (2016)
      ISBN: 9781474223829
    • De Cruz H, De Smedt J, A natural history of natural theology : the cognitive science of theology and philosophy of religion, MIT Press (2014)
      ISBN: 9780262028547

    Journal articles

    • De Cruz H, 'Prestige bias: An obstacle to a just academic philosophy'
      Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy (2018)
      ISSN: 2330-4014 eISSN: 2330-4014
      Abstract Website
    • De Cruz H, De Smedt J, 'Intuitions and arguments: cognitive foundations of argumentation in natural theology'
      European Journal of the Philosophy of Religion 9 (2) (2017) pp.57-82
      ISSN: 1689-8311 eISSN: 1689-8311
      Abstract Website
    • De Cruz H, 'Etiological challenges to religious practices'
      American Philosophical Quarterly (2017)
      ISSN: 0003-0481 eISSN: 0003-0481
      Abstract Website
    • De Cruz H, De Smedt J, 'Naturalizing natural theology'
      Religion, Brain and Behavior 6 (4) (2016) pp.355-361
      ISSN: 2153-599X eISSN: 2153-599X
      Abstract Website
    • De Cruz H, 'Numerical cognition and mathematical realism'
      Philosophers' Imprint 16 (16) (2016) pp.1-13
      ISSN: 1533-628X eISSN: 1533-628X
    • De Smedt J, De Cruz H, 'The Epistemic Value of Speculative Fiction'
      Midwest Studies in Philosophy 39 (1) (2015) pp.58-77
      ISSN: 0363-6550 eISSN: 0363-6550
    • De Cruz H, 'Religious disagreement: An empirical study among academic philosophers'
      Episteme (2015)
      ISSN: 1742-3600 eISSN: 1742-3600
    • De Cruz H, 'Where philosophical intuitions come from'
      Australasian Journal of Philosophy 93 (2) (2014)
      ISSN: 0004-8402 eISSN: 0004-8402

    Book chapters

    • De Cruz H, De Smedt J, 'Emotional responses to fiction: an evolutionary perspective' in Joyce R (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Evolution and Philosophy, Routledge (2018)
      ISBN: 9781138789555
    • De Cruz H, De Smedt J, 'How psychological dispositions influence the theology of the afterlife' in Nagasawa Y, Matheson B (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of the Afterlife, Palgrave MacMillan (2017)
      ISBN: 9781137486080
      Abstract Website
    • De Cruz, H, De Smedt J, 'How do philosophers evaluate natural theological arguments? : an experimental philosophical investigation' in De Cruz H, Nichols R (ed.), Advances in Religion, Cognitive Science, and Experimental Philosophy, Bloomsbury Academic (2016)
      ISBN: 9781474223843
      Abstract Website

    Areas of expertise

    • Philosophy of cognitive science
    • Philosophy of religion
    • Experimental Philosophy

    Membership of professional bodies

    I am a fellow of the International Society for Science and Religion: https://www.issr.org.uk/fellows/user/306/



    • 2017 Keynote presentation at the Minds Online Conference, 11-15 September https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2vM4ik-qW8 
    • 2017 Expert disagreement in science and religion. Invited lecture at the workshop Disagreement in Science and Beyond, University College Dublin, 3–4 July 2017
    • Faithful attitudes of philosophers of religion—experimental investigations and philosophical significance. Invited lecture at the workshop Faithful attitudes, University of Manchester, 15–16 May
    • 2017 Experimental philosophy of afterlife beliefs. Guest lecture at the Center for Religious Studies, Central European University, 30 March
    • 2017 Testimony, knowing-how and numerical cognition. Keynote speech at the workshop Numbers in Mind: The Philosophy of Numerical Cognition, 18 Feb
    • 2016 Presenter and mentor at Oxford Interdisciplinary Seminars in Science and Religion: Bridging the Two Cultures of Science and the Humanities, 18–19 July
    • 2016 Tutor in summer school on reasoning, Institut des Sciences Cognitives, Universite du Quebec a Montreal, Quebec, forthcoming, 20 June – 1 July
    • 2016 Experimental philosophy of religion. Plenary lecture at the annual Conference of Experimental Philosophy Group UK, Reading, 23 April
    • 2016 Practiced and maturationally natural intuitions. Plenary lecture in Symposium session “Intuitions”, Central APA, Chicago, forthcoming, 2–5 March
    • 2016 Cognitive Science of Religion and Natural Theology. Plenary lecture at Explorations in natural theology, Helsinki, 16 January
    • 2015 Gender and the public understanding of science. Plenary lecture at SWIP Ireland, Dublin, 28 November
    • 2015 Testimony and the acquisition of number concepts. Plenary lecture at The Cognitive Basis of Logico-Mathematical Knowledge, Bergen, 16 November
    • 2015 Human origins and the science and religion debate. Plenary lecture at Science and Religion: Celebrating the Dialogue, Exploring the Future, Durham, forthcoming, 2–5 September
    • 2015 Explaining the underrepresentation of women in academic philosophy. Plenary lecture at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Women in Philosophy, Antwerp, 24 April
    • 2015 Does a focus on religious practices diffuse debunking arguments against religion? Workshop The Etiology of Belief and Religious Epistemology, University of Oxford, 16–17 March
    • 2015 Religious experience and skilled mystical practice. Annual Lecture in the Dialogues in Philosophy and Religion series, Texas A&M, 27 February