Tilburg Young Academy

Catherine Robb

am an assistant professor of practical philosophy in the department of Philosophy (part of TSHD)

Can you introduce yourself?

My name is Catherine Robb, and I am an assistant professor of practical philosophy in the department of Philosophy (part of TSHD). I am originally from Scotland, and moved to the Netherlands in 2018 to start working at Tilburg. Before I became interested in philosophy I was a classically trained musician, and in fact my interest in philosophy came from my desire to know more about why music influences so many people in powerful ways. I started to question the connection between music and emotion, the nature of creativity, and how music could be used to enhance social communities. I took one module in philosophy as part of my music bachelor degree, and as they say, the rest is history! Oddly enough, my current philosophical interests lie outside of music, and my research now focuses on ethics, and philosophical methodology.

TSHD teacher of the year Catherine Robb

Research and education are two important pillars of academia. What do they mean to you?

I think it’s very important that research and education are interconnected, and that our teaching tracks current trends in the field. This doesn’t mean neglecting the classics, but rather using contemporary research to continuously revise and re-interpret them. I find that students are most engaged when the topics taught in class are socially relevant, which of course sits very well with Tilburg’s own motto: understanding society.

I really enjoy seeing students critically analyse and question their (often implicit) assumptions, and philosophy is a great subject to facilitate that! Philosophy has often been criticised as abstract, theoretical and irrelevant. However, from my experience, philosophy allows us to delve deeply into the burning practical and social issues that we face today. For example, at the moment one of my research projects is looking into the philosophy of fame and celebrity – you can’t get more socially and culturally relevant than that!

I am sure you all have topics that are important to you. What is your main focus in the TYA?

Given the current social climate, I think one of the main issues facing all universities at the moment is how to navigate the need for diversity and inclusion, while recognising that it is a sensitive and controversial issue. I believe that young researchers and educators can bring a much-needed perspective to this conversation. I am also currently the chair of the Diversity and Inclusion committee in the philosophy department, and I am committed to exploring ways to make our university a more diverse and inclusive organisation, but at the same time questioning what those concepts really mean and require from us. As a woman, I am also particularly interested in fostering networks with other women in academia, to share experiences and work together to mitigate experiences of discrimination and marginalisation that are still unfortunately all too prevalent.

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