Michael O’Rourke

(517) 432-0751

A524 South Kedzie Hall
368 Farm Ln
East Lansing, MI 48824


Executive Director, Toolbox Dialogue Initiative Center

Environmental Philosophy; Philosophy of Language; Interdisciplinary Theory; Epistemology; Philosophy of Action

ORCID: 0000-0002-4629-0811

Curriculum Vitae


Michael O’Rourke is Professor of Philosophy, faculty in AgBioResearch, and affiliated faculty in the Environmental Science & Policy Program at Michigan State University. He is also the Director of the Center for Interdisciplinarity (http://c4i.msu.edu/), Director of the Toolbox Dialogue Initiative (TDI, http://tdi.msu.edu/), and the Executive Director of the TDI Center. His research interests include the nature of epistemic integration and communication in collaborative, cross-disciplinary research, the nature of linguistic communication between intelligent agents, and environmental philosophy. He has published extensively on the topics of communication, interdisciplinary theory and practice, and robotic agent design. He has been a principal investigator, co-principal investigator, or collaborator on projects funded by the US National Science Foundation, NASA, Office of Naval Research, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, involving environmental science education, the facilitation of cross-disciplinary communication, biodiversity conservation, sustainable agriculture, resilience in environmental systems, and autonomous underwater vehicles. He co-founded and served as co-director of the Inland Northwest Philosophy Conference, an interdisciplinary conference on philosophical themes, and as co-editor of the Topics in Contemporary Philosophy series published by MIT Press.

Professor O’Rourke is currently accepting graduate students.


Fam, D., O’Rourke, M. (Eds.) 2021. Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary Failures: Lessons Learned from Cautionary Tales. London: Routledge.

Hubbs, G., O’Rourke, M., Orzack, S. H. (Eds.). 2020. The Toolbox Dialogue Initiative: The Power of Cross-Disciplinary Practice. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Valles, S., Piso, Z., O’Rourke, M. 2019. Coupled ethical-epistemic analysis as a tool for environmental science. Ethics, Policy & Environment. 22(3): 267–286.

Robinson, B., Gonnerman, C., O’Rourke, M. 2019. Experimental philosophy of science and philosophical differences across the sciences. Philosophy of Science. 86(3): 551–576.

O’Rourke, M. 2019. Referential intentions. In B. Abbott and J. Gundel (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Reference (pp. 19–44). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

O’Rourke, M. 2017. Comparing methods for cross-disciplinary research. In R. Frodeman, J. T. Klein, and R. Pacheco (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Interdisciplinarity, 2nd edition (pp. 276–290). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Piso, Z., Sertler, E., Malavisi, A., Marable, K., Jensen, E., Gonnerman, C., O’Rourke, M. 2016. The production and reinforcement of ignorance in collaborative interdisciplinary research. Social Epistemology 30(5-6): 643–664.

Crowley, S., Gonnerman, C., O’Rourke, M. 2016. Cross-disciplinary research as a platform for philosophical research. Journal of the American Philosophical Association 2(2): 344–363.

Piso, Z., O’Rourke, M., Weathers, K. C. 2016. Out of the fog: Catalyzing integrative capacity in interdisciplinary research. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 56: 84–94.

O’Rourke, M., Crowley, S., Gonnerman, C. 2016. On the nature of cross-disciplinary integration: A philosophical framework. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 56: 62–70.

O’Rourke, M., Crowley, S., Eigenbrode, S. D., Wulfhorst, J. D. (Eds.) 2013. Enhancing Communication and Collaboration in Interdisciplinary Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

O’Rourke, M., Crowley, S. 2013. “Philosophical intervention and cross-disciplinary science: The story of the Toolbox Project.” Synthese 190: 1937-1954.

Eigenbrode, S., M. O’Rourke, J. D. Wulfhorst, D. M. Althoff, C. S. Goldberg, K. Merrill, W. Morse, M. Nielsen-Pincus, J. Stephens, L. Winowiecki, N. A. Bosque-Pérez. 2007. “Employing Philosophical Dialogue in Collaborative Science,” BioScience 57: 55-64.

O’Rourke, M. 2003. “The Scope Argument,” The Journal of Philosophy 100: 134-155.

University News

Ph.D. Student Honored for Work to Inform Legal Practitioners About Tribal Laws
Published April 16, 2024 in College of Arts & Letters
A picture of a woman with short blonde hair in a black suit standing in front of a leafy background.
While most Michigan-based legal practitioners lack adequate training in Tribal laws, Taylor Elyse Mills, a sixth-year doctoral candidate in Philosophy at Michigan State University and graduate of…Read now »
Toolbox Dialogue Initiative Center to Create New Curriculum for NSF Program
Published September 6, 2022 in College of Arts & Letters
The Toolbox Dialogue Initiative (TDI) Center, a research and outreach program based within the Department of Philosophy in Michigan State University’s College of Arts & Letters, received a…Read now »
Toolbox Dialogue Initiative Creates New Service Center
Published January 18, 2022 in College of Arts & Letters
Three black and white close ups side by side.
The Toolbox Dialogue Initiative (TDI) Center, a new service center within MSU’s College of Arts & Letters, is a one-of-a-kind organization that provides philosophically based capacity-building…Read now »
Fusing Ideas Through Philosophy: Center Elevates Collaborative Research Between the Arts and Sciences
Published October 15, 2020 in College of Arts & Letters
Photo collage of Micheal O'Rourke and Stephanie Vasko
The challenge of interdisciplinary research can be easily explained through the parable of five blind-folded people and one very patient elephant. As the story goes, each person forms an idea…Read now »
Toolbox Dialogue Initiative Awarded Prize for Excellence and NSF Grant
Published October 16, 2018 in College of Arts & Letters
Michigan State University’s Toolbox Dialogue Initiative (TDI), led by Michael O’Rourke, Interim Director of the MSU Center for Interdisciplinarity (C4I), and Stephanie Vasko,…Read now »
C4I’s Transdisciplinary Graduate Fellowship Program Launches
Published October 1, 2018 in College of Arts & Letters
Spartan helmet against a blue background with the title "MSU Center for Interdisciplinary"
Update (10/31): Application deadline has been extended to November 11, 2018. Today marks the launch of the Center for Interdisciplinarity’s Transdisciplinary Graduate Fellowship Program….Read now »
Changing the World with Engaged Philosophy
Published October 10, 2017 in College of Arts & Letters
portrait of a woman with brown and blonde hair next to a tree
Through the creation of the Engaged Philosophy Internship Program (EPIP), MSU’s Department of Philosophy is hoping to change how the world views philosophy. The program connects…Read now »
O’Rourke Named Interim Director of the Center for Interdisciplinary
Published August 15, 2017 in College of Arts & Letters
picture of a red brick building at MSU with cherry blossoms framing the photo
Professor of Philosophy Michael O’Rourke has been appointed Interim Director of the MSU Center for Interdisciplinarity, effective August 16, 2017. The two-year appointment runs…Read now »
Student’s Studies Combine Philosophy & Sustainability
Published June 18, 2016 in College of Arts & Letters
portrait of a woman with brown hair and green eyes
After practicing as an interdisciplinary environmental scholar and teacher for 10 years, Bethany Laursen switched fields to study theories of interdisciplinarity itself, which led her to…Read now »
Philosophy at Home
Published May 12, 2016 in College of Arts & Letters
msu red cedar river
In recent years, we’ve seen a surge of articles, essays and blog posts by professional philosophers on the future of philosophy. While it isn’t surprising that people who reflect professionally…Read now »
Student’s Interdisciplinary Studies Combine Philosophy and Community Sustainability
Published March 14, 2016 in College of Arts & Letters
portrait of a woman with brown hair and green eyes
March 14, 2016 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-63bBkfO7c&feature=emb_title After practicing as an interdisciplinary environmental scholar and teacher for 10…Read now »