Contact Information

Voice: 657-278-3394
Fax: 657-278-6132
Dept: 657-278-3611

Humanities 313A

Zoom: 403 361 7861

Ryan  Nichols

Professor of Philosophy & 2023-24 Department Chair


Thanks for visiting. Material for current students is in Canvas, accessible through the university portal. Information about research projects and some writings are found at a professional site. Currently I have two main projects on the go. I'm in the middle of a research project in experimental philosophy, called 'The Anatomy of Agency: A Cross-Cultural Experimental Philosophy of Religion Investigation into Causation, Free Will, and Responsibility,' in which I and my lab are testing hypotheses about philosophical intuitions with samples from several non-Western populations. This is part of the Launching Experimental Philosophy of Religion project. The second project is called 'Philosophy of Science for Cultural Evolution.' This includes running a research network of a dozen scientists and philosophers of science in an effort to improve the philosophical foundations of scientific research in this emerging field. If you are a student, whether or not a major in philosophy, and have an interest in collaborating with me, please let me know.


Ph.D., The Ohio State University, Dissertation entitled "Thomas Reid's Theory of Perception"

B.A., Illinois Wesleyan University, Majors in Philosophy and Religion, Minor in Chinese

Research Areas

Methods Development

Empirical & Experimental Philosophy

Chinese thought and history, esp. Early Confucian Philosophy

Scottish Enlightenment

Philosophy & Psychology of Religion

Courses Regularly Taught

Meaning, Purpose & the Good Life, Philosophy 101

Rationalism & Empiricism, Philosophy 300

Philosophy of Sex & Love, Philosophy 325

Asian Philosophy, Philosophy 350



Nichols, R. (Ed.) (2022). The Routledge International Handbook of Morality, Cognition, Emotion, and Behavior in China. Routledge: London.

Advances in Religion, Cognitive Science, and Experimental Philosophy (Bloomsbury, 2016; edited with Helen De Cruz)

Thomas Reid's Theory of PerceptionOpens in new window (Oxford UP, 2007) 

Philosophy Through Science FictionOpens in new window (Routledge, 2009)

Selected Articles

Chen, C., R. Moyzis, & R. Nichols. 2024. Culture-Biology Dualism. Forthcoming in Advances in Culture and Psychology. M. Gelfand, C. Chiu, and Y. Hong, eds. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Chowdhury, L., Y. Zhang & R. Nichols. 2022. Footbinding and its cessation: An agent-based model adjudication of the labor market and evolutionary sciences hypothesis. Evolution & Human Behavior 43(6):475-489. DOI: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2022.08.005. Open Access URL: https://tinyl.io/70oU.

Nichols, R. 2021. The Origin and Cultural Evolution of East Asian Cognitive Style: A Case Study of the Book of Changes (Yijing 易經). Journal of Cognition and Culture 21(5):389-413. DOI: 10.1163/15685373-12340118.

Nichols, R., Nielbo K., Slingerland, E., Bergeton, U., Logan C., & S. Kleinman. 2018. Modeling the contested relationship between Analects, Mencius, and Xunzi: Preliminary evidence from a Machine-Learning Approach. Journal of Asian Studies 77(1), 19-57. DOI: 10.1017/S0021911817000973.

Nichols, R. 2015. Early Confucianism is a system for social-functional influence and probably does not represent a normative ethical theoryPDF File . Dao 14:499-520. DOI:10.1007/s11712-015-9464-8.

Nichols, R. 2014. Re-evaluating the effects of the 1755 Lisbon earthquake on eighteenth-century minds: How cognitive science of religion improves intellectual history with hypothesis testing methods. Journal of the American Academy of Religion. 82(4):970–1009. DOI:10.1093/jaarel/lfu033.

Draper, P., & Nichols, R. 2013. Diagnosing cognitive biases in philosophy of religionPDF File . The Monist 96:422-448. DOI:10.5840/monist201396319

Nichols, R. 2003. ‘Reid’s Inheritance from Locke, and How He Overcomes it.’PDF File Opens in new window Journal for the History of Philosophy 41: 471-492. 


Data Repository

Data used for all data science papers involving Chinese corpora  are here in a repository at University of British Columbia.

Grants & Special Projects

Selected Grants

The Anatomy of Agency: A Cross-Cultural Experimental Philosophy of Religion Investigation into Causation, Free Will, and Responsibility, Daniel Lim, Co-PI, for support of several experiments and data science work with Chinese language corpora to investigate hypotheses about cross-cultural and cross-religion variability in beliefs about free will and determinism, $217,000, July 2022 – June 2024. From John Templeton Foundation via Hillsdale College. Hillsdale Award Number 1003. 

Philosophy of Science for Cultural Evolution: Proposing a Research Network. Recruiting, planning, and running an online-only research network aimed to improve and advance significant work in the philosophy of science dedicated to problems emerging in cultural evolution theory and science. Project advisors: Tim Lewens, Kim Sterelny, and Grant Ramsey. $249,550, April 2022 – September 2023. John Templeton Foundation award number 62377. 

Understanding Cultural Evolutionary Mechanisms of Human Knowledge Transmission, Albert and Elaine Borchard Foundation, $35,000, for underwriting of a workshop to be held at Chateau de la Bretesche, Missillac, France, July 2020.

Understanding China’s Changing Moral Psychology, The Templeton World Charities Foundation, $217,817, for support of a radically interdisciplinary research project that gathers world-leading researchers across fields to a workshop and publishes a book of papers (in English and Chinese), January 2019-June 2021. TWCF award number 0257.


8/2017-7/2020, Academic Cross-Training Fellowship, The John Templeton Foundation, $217,400, for three-years of retraining in statistics, psychology, and biological anthropology. John Templeton Foundation award 60704.

8/2012-8/2013, Research Fellow, Centre for Human Evolution, Cognition, and Culture, University of British Columbia, M. Collard, S. Heine, J. Henrich, A. Norenzayan, & T. Slingerland, co-directors

8/2010-5/2011 Research Fellow, Center for Philosophy of Religion, University of Notre Dame, Michael Rea, director

9/2005-5/2006, Research Fellow, National Endowment for the Humanities

3/2005, Kristeller-Popkin Travel Fellowship, awarded by the Board of Directors of the Journal for the History of Philosophy

8/2000-5/2001, Graduate Student Fellow, Center for Philosophy of Religion, University of Notre Dame, Alvin Plantinga director

Office Hours

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 11:30-12:30 & by appt. in Humanities 313A.

Online Office Hours

I will log into my Zoom room (#403 361 7861) during my in-office office hours for students who are not able to make it to campus. 

Current Course Schedule

Fall 2023: Philosophy 100 T&Th 10am-11:15

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