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Faculty of Philosophy

Since 2006 the Faculty of Philosophy has organised an annual public lecture sponsored by Routledge. Each lecture has been prepared for a general audience by a leading authority on his or her subject.

Previous Routledge Lectures in Philosophy have been: 

7 March 2019

Baroness Onora O'Neill

Baroness Onora O'Neill

Emeritus Honorary Professor, University of Cambridge

Ethics for Communication in a Digital Age

Ethical and epistemic standards for communication have been discussed since antiquity.  And since antiquity they have periodically been disrupted by technological innovations, then revised and reinforced by cultural and latterly by legal and regulatory measures.  However, the transformations produced by the mushrooming growth of digital technologies in the late twentieth century, which has coincided with growing globalisation and the declining regulatory capacities of states, may prove particularly challenging.  These technologies were initially seen as extending possibilities for communication in ways that would support democracy and wider civic participation.  The promise has not been sustained. 

Photo: Marie-France Moss

Peter SingerProfessor Peter Singer

Ira W. DeCamp Professor at Princeton University and Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne

The Point of View of the Universe: Defending Sidgwick's Ethics

Henry Sidgwick, Knightbridge Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge and the cofounder of Newnham College, is, along with Bentham and Mill, one of the three great nineteenth century utilitarians.  My own work in ethics is consistent with his idea that in ethics we should take "the point of view of the universe."

In this talk I shall explore the implications of taking that stance, and ask how much of Sidgwick's utilitarianism is still defensible today.

Photo: Tony Phillips

15 June 2015

Judith Jarvis Thomson

Professor Judith Jarvis Thomson

Professor Emerita, MIT


Partiality consists in favouring some people in a group rather than others. Morality permits us some instances of favouring, but forbids us others.  We are pretty good at recognizing which instances are permissible and which are not.  What we lack is a moral theory that would explain and justify the differences.   It is hard to find such a theory, so a second thing we lack is an explanation of the fact that it is so hard to find such a theory.  The lecture will concern itself with both problems.

Lecture handout

12 June 2014

Michael Bratman

Professor Michael Bratman

U. G. and Abbie Birch Durfee Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences, and Professor of Philosophy, Stanford University

Thinking and Acting Together

Human beings act together in characteristic ways, and these forms of shared intentional and shared cooperative activity matter to us a great deal. Think of friendship, singing duets, and the joys of conversation. And think about the usefulness of conversation and of how we frequently manage to work together to achieve complex goals, from constructing buildings to putting on plays to establishing important results in the sciences. Bratman seeks a framework for understanding these basic forms of sociality. And explores the conjecture that structures of individual planning agency are at the heart of such sociality.

Audio recording and slides

21 February 2013

Susan WolfProfessor Susan Wolf

Edna J. Koury Professor of Philosophy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Responsibility, Moral and Otherwise

Philosophers frequently distinguish between causal responsibility and moral responsibility, but that distinction is either ambiguous or confused. We can distinguish between causal responsibility and a “deeper” kind of responsibility, and we can distinguish between holding people accountable for their moral qualities and holding people accountable for their nonmoral qualities. But, because we sometimes hold people deeply responsible for nonmoral qualities, these distinctions are not the same. By reflecting on the character and legitimacy of our reactive attitudes toward nonmoral behavior and character traits, we may be able to make better progress in understanding the nature of responsible agency.

 Lecture typescript

19 October 2011

David LubanProfessor David Luban

Professor of Law and Philosophy, Georgetown University

Arguing about Torture

More than 20 years ago, international law declared torture a crime that can never be justified. Yet governments continue to torture, and citizens continue to argue about torture. We argue about ticking bombs, what works and what doesn't, what is and isn't torture, whether absolute rules have emergency exceptions. We debate whether to hold politicians, lawyers, and psychologists accountable. The lecture will address these arguments and reflect on the experience of the UK, the United States, and elsewhere.

Audio recording of lecture

15 March 2011

Tim ScanlonProfessor T.M. Scanlon

Alford Professor of Natural Religion, Moral Philosophy, and Civil Polity, Harvard University

"Ideas of the Good in Moral and Political Philosophy"

The lecture will consider ways in which ideas of goodness and value in recent moral philosophy have been shaped and perhaps distorted by what has been seen as their role in accounts of moral right and wrong, and theories of justice.

Lecture typescript

30 October 2009

Philip PettitProfessor Philip Pettit

Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Politics and Human Values, Princeton University

"The Open Doors Model of Freedom"

According to Isaiah Berlin the options in a truly free choice are open doors. Developed fully, the metaphor gives us an elegant map of the rival theories of freedom.

Lecture handout and Audio recording

30 October 2008

Richard MoranProfessor Richard Moran

Brian D. Young Professor of Philosophy, Harvard University

Iris Murdoch and the Rejection of Existentialism”

In this lecture, Professor Moran will be examining the characterization of Sartrean existentialism in Iris Murdoch's The Sovereignty of Good and other writings.

Audio recording of lecture

31 January 2008

Andy ClarkProfessor Andy Clark

Professor of Logic and Metaphysics, University of Edinburgh

Messy Minds: Embodiment, Action and Explanation in 21st Century Cognitive Science”

Biologically evolved intelligence makes the most of brain, body, and world. This talk looks at the resulting messiness, and highlights some pros, cons, and (both methodological and metaphysical) complexities.

Lecture slides

22 November 2006

Thomas PoggeProfessor Thomas Pogge

Professor of Political Science, Columbia University

"Intellectual Property Rights and Access to Essential Medicines"