Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellows┋Rice Seminar

"The Value of Consciousness and the Consciousness of Value"

In conjunction with the Rice Seminars, the Humanities Research Center at Rice University hosts yearlong residential fellowships for outstanding junio scholars. The Rice Seminars are designed to promote humanistic research, broadly understood. They bring together a select group of Rice faculty members, visiting faculty, and Rice graduate students to study a common theme from several disciplinary perspectives. Funding is also available to bring in outside speakers to present public talks, provide feedback, meet with the seminar participants, participate in a year-end conference, and otherwise engage with seminar participants and the broader Rice University community. The most visible goal of the seminars is a scholarly publication to which all participants will contribute. Equally important but less visible is the creation of international and interdisciplinary scholarly communities that will outlive the seminars themselves. The topic of the Rice Seminars changes each year.

The position is for July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020. Fellows receive a $55,000 salary, benefits eligibility, and an allowance for research and relocation to Houston. Primary obligations include active participation in all aspects of the Rice Seminar, developing or continuing individual or collaborative research projects, and giving a presentation to colleagues at Rice. Fellows will also design and teach (or co-teach) a semester-long course, the topic of which will be determined in consultation with the HRC and/or appropriate department.

2019-20 Rice Seminar: The Value of Consciousness and the Consciousness of Value

The ancients thought that of all the challenges to our understanding of the universe, three stand out as genuine mysteries: Why is there something rather than nothing? Why is some of what there is alive? And why is some of what is alive conscious? Implicit in this agenda is a rudimentary hierarchy of beings, featuring two “quantum leaps.” First, live beings bring with them a special kind of value and significance, as compared to inanimate beings; the notion of “the sanctity of life,” which reappears in many moral traditions, may be taken to express this idea. Second, conscious beings bring with them a further, yet greater value and significance, as compared to mindless live beings — what we might call “the dignity of consciousness.” The purpose of this seminar is to explore both the underpinnings and consequences of this special value which consciousness injects into the world. Its organizing questions may be framed as follows: What is it about conscious awareness that bestows on its possessor this special kind of value? What exactly is the nature of the special value thus bestowed, and how is it distinguished from other types of moral status? In what ways, if any, does our conscious experience (in perception, emotion, and thought) of conscious beings disclose their distinctive value?


Applicants from any humanistic discipline or interdiscipline are eligible to apply and must have received a PhD between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2019.

Application Materials

  • Cover Letter, outlining applicant’s interest in the topic of the seminar
  • Two page CV
  • Research Statement (i.e., a 200 word abstract of the research project)
  • Research Proposal (i.e., a 1000 word description of the research project)
  • Course Proposal for a one-semester course for undergraduate students
  • Three letters of recommendation

In order to apply, please click on this link [will be activated by mid september].

Contact: Adriana Chiaramonti (

Rice University is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity employer. Scholars who are members of traditionally under-represented groups are encouraged to apply. There is no citizenship requirement or restriction for this fellowship. Non-U.S. nationals are welcome to apply.

Date de candidature
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