Philosophy at St Andrews

James Harris

Head of Department and Reader in the History of Philosophy

James Harris

Phone: 01334 462472

Office: Room 208, Edgecliffe


Early Modern Philosophy and Enlightenment Philosophy (especially Hume and his contemporaries)

Associate Director of the St. Andrews Institute of Intellectual History


Current projects

  • A new edition for Liberty Fund of Lord Kames's Historical Law-Tracts
  • The British Philosophy in the Eighteenth Century volume of The Oxford History of Philosophy
  • Some articles, maybe a book, on British political thought from Hobbes to Burke

See also the PURE research profile.

Selected publications

Hume: An Intellectual Biography. Cambridge University Press, 2015

Scottish Philosophy in the Eighteenth Century, Volume 1: Morals, Politics, Art, Religion, edited with Aaron Garrett, Oxford University Press, 2015.

'Hume In and Out of Scottish Context' (with Mikko Tolonen), in Garrett and Harris (eds.), Scottish Philosophy in the Eighteenth Century, Volume 1, OUP, 2015, pp. 163-195.

"Liberty, Necessity and Moral Responsibility", in Aaron Garrett (ed.), The Routledge Companion to Eighteenth-Century Philosophy, Routledge, 2014, pp. 320-37.

The Oxford Handbook of British Philosophy in the Eighteenth Century, ed. James A. Harris, Oxford University Press, 2013.

"The Government of the Passions", in James Harris (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of British Philosophy in the Eighteenth Century, Oxford, 2013, pp. 270-88.

"Free Will", in Alan Bailey and Dan O'Brien (eds.), The Continuum Companion to Hume, Continuum, 2012, pp. 214-26.

"The Early Reception of Hume's Theory of Justice", in Ruth Savage (ed.), Philosophy and Religion in Enlightenment Britain, Oxford University Press, 2012, pp. 210-30. 

"Reid and Hume on the Possibility of Character", in Thomas Ahnert and Susan Manning (eds.), Character, Self, and Sociability in the Scottish Enlightenment, Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, pp. 31-47. 

"David Hume: 300 Years On", The RSA Journal Summer 2011: 42-5. 

Hume's Intellectual Development: An Overview, The Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities ('Dialogues with Hume' series), 2011. [28 pp.]

"The Pastness of Past Moral Philosophy", British Journal for the History of Philosophy 19 (2011): 327-38. [A review article about Jerome Schneewind, Essays on the History of Moral Philosophy (OUP, 2010).]

"Hume on the Moral Obligation to Justice", Hume Studies 36 (2010): 25-50.

Thomas Reid, Essays on the Active Powers of Man, ed. Knud Haakonssen and James A. Harris, Edinburgh University Press, 2010.

"Hume", in John Skorupski (ed.), The Routledge Companion to Ethics, Routledge, 2010, pp. 122-32.

"David Hume: Moral and Political Philosophy", in Duncan Pritchard (ed.), Oxford Bibliographies Online: Philosophy, New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

"Introduction: The Place of the Ancients in the Moral Philosophy of the Scottish Enlightenment", Journal of Scottish Philosophy 8 (2010): 1-11.

Of Liberty and Necessity: The Free Will Debate in 18th-Century British Philosophy, Oxford University Press, 2005. (Paperback issued in 2007.)

Research interests

My work on Hume has made me interested in the ways in which philosophy in eighteenth-century Britain was different from philosophy in the Anglophone world in the twenty-first century. I want to fill out a picture of the goals, methods, and institutional and social contexts of eighteenth-century British philosophy in my volume for the Oxford History of Philosophy series.

Teaching modern political philosophy has made me interested in, especially, the political thought of Hobbes, Locke, Hume, and Burke. I can't make myself believe that categories such as 'liberal' or 'conservative' fit any of them. Their concerns seem utterly different from those of, e.g., Rawls, Nozick, and Kymlicka. Their concern is not with the moral ideals on which politics should be founded, but rather with the more fundamental question of how politics, or rather political society, is possible. I want to explore this idea in a series of articles, maybe in a short book.

I am willing to supervise research students on most topics in eighteenth-century British philosophy, and in early modern moral and political thought more generally. 

Research students

Porsiana Beatrice, Colin McKelvie, Carl Mildenberger and Emma Veitch

Additional information

I studied English at Balliol College, Oxford, before doing an MA in philosophy at the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research in New York. Later I returned to Oxford to do the B.Phil. in philosophy, and wrote my D.Phil under the supervision of Galen Strawson, on the free will problem in eighteenth-century British philosophy.

I was a Gifford Research Fellow at Glasgow in 2000-1, and a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at St. Catherine's College, Oxford, from 2001 to 2004. I have taught at St Andrews since 2004.

I have held research fellowships from the Leverhulme Trust (2009-10) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (2011-12). For the academic year 2012-13 I was a Member of the Historical Studies Program at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.


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