Philosophy at St Andrews

Tim Mulgan

Professor of Moral & Political Philosophy

Tim Mulgan


Moral philosophy, political philosophy, and philosophy of religion


Tim Mulgan was educated at the Universities of Otago and Oxford, where he wrote his DPhil on 'The Demands of Consequentialism' under the supervision of Derek Parfit, Bernard Williams, and Roger Crisp. He taught at the Universities of Reading, Oxford, Otago, and Auckland before coming to St Andrews in June 2005 as Professor of Moral and Political Philosophy.

See also the PURE research profile.

Selected publications


2007, MULGAN, T. P., Understanding Utilitarianism. Acumen, 192pp.

2006, MULGAN, T. P., Future People. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 384pp. (Paperback published in 2008.)  (Reviewed in Mind, Philosophical Quarterly, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, Times Literary Supplement.)

2001, MULGAN, T. P., The Demands of Consequentialism. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 317pp. (Paperback published in 2005.) (Reviewed in Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Philosophical Books, Philosophy, Mind, European Journal of Philosophy, Notre Dame Review of Recent Books in Philosophy.)

Chapters in Books [Refereed]

2009, "How should impartialists think about God?", Conference paper presented at University of Reading, submitted as collection to Oxford University Press.

2009, 'Rule Consequentialism and Non-Identity', in M. Roberts and D. Wasserman (eds.), Harming Future Persons, Springer, forthcoming.

2009, 'The Demanding Future', in T. Chappell (ed.), The Demands of Morality, Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming.

2004, MULGAN, T. P., "Two Parfit Puzzles", in The Repugnant Conclusion. Essays on Population Ethics, J. Ryberg and R. Tannsjo (eds.), Dordrecht, Kluwer Academic Publishers, pp. 23-45, 2004.

2003, MULGAN, T. P., "When is non-identity a problem?" in Time and Ethics: Essays at the Intersection, Heather Dyke (ed.), Kluwer, pp. 209-218.

2000, MULGAN, T. P., "Ruling Out Rule Consequentialism", in Brad Hooker, Elinor Mason, and Dale E. Miller (Eds), Morality, Rules and Consequences, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, pp. 212-221.

Encyclopaedia Articles [Refereed]

2007, MULGAN, T. P., "Personhood", in B. Goodin, P. Pettit, and T. Pogge, A Companion to Political Philosophy, Blackwell, second edition, pp. 699-708. [forthcoming]

2007, ASHFORD, E., and MULGAN, T. P., "Contractualism", for Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (Accepted by referees, awaiting upload.)

2005, MULGAN, T. P., "The Rights of Future Generations", The Essentials of Human Rights, R. Smith and C van den Anker (eds.), Hodder Arnold, pp. 138-140.

2003, MULGAN, T. P., "Obligations to Future Generations", Encyclopedia of Population, Paul Demeny and Geoffrey McNicoll (eds.), Macmillan, pp. 439-441.

Symposia in Journals

Mulgan, T. 2007a. Future People: una presentazione [Precis of Future People].  Filosofia e Questioni Pubbliche. 12: 135-140.

Mulgan, T. 2007b. Riposti ai commenti [Replies to Commentators]. Filosofia e Questioni Pubbliche. 12: 163-185.

Refereed Journal Articles

2005, MULGAN, T.P., "Reply to Turri", International Journal of Philosophical Studies, vol 13(4), pp. 521-524, 2005..

2003, MULGAN, T. P., "La democratie post mortem", Revue Philosophique de Louvain, 101, 1, pp. 123-137. (Special issue on the rights of the dead. Commissioned by the editors, and then blindly refereed.)

2002, MULGAN, T. P., "The Reverse Repugnant Conclusion", Utilitas, 14, 3, pp. 360-364.

2002, MULGAN, T. P., "Reproducing the Contractarian State", Journal of Political Philosophy, 10, 4, pp. 465-477.

2002, MULGAN, T. P., "Transcending the Infinite Utility Debate", Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 80, 2, pp. 164-177.

2002, MULGAN, T. P., "Neutrality, Rebirth and Inter-generational Justice", Journal of Applied Philosophy, 19, 1, pp. 3-15.

2001, MULGAN, T. P., "A Minimal Test for Political Theories", Philosophia, 28, pp. 283-296.

2001, MULGAN, T. P.,  "What's really wrong with the Limited Quantity View", Ratio, 14, 2, pp. 153-164.

2001, MULGAN, T. P., "How Satisficers get away with murder", International Journal of Philosophical Studies, 9, pp. 41-46.

2000, MULGAN, T. P., "Dissolving the Mere Addition Paradox", American Philosophical Quarterly, 37, 4, pp. 359-372.

2000, MULGAN, T. P., "Two Moral Counterfactuals", Philosophical Forum, 31, 1, pp. 47-55.

1999, MULGAN, T. P., "Teaching Future Generations", Teaching Philosophy, 22, 3, pp. 259-273.

1999, MULGAN, T. P., "The Place of the Dead in Liberal Political Philosophy", Journal of Political Philosophy, 7, 1, pp. 52-70.

1997, MULGAN, T. P., "A Non-proportional Hybrid Moral Theory", Utilitas, 9, 3, pp. 291-306.

1997, MULGAN, T. P., "Two Conceptions of Benevolence", Philosophy and Public Affairs, 26, 1, pp. 1-21.

1997, MOORE, A. J., MULGAN, T. P., "The Ethics of Non-Commercial IVF Surrogacy", Health Care Analysis, 5, 1, pp. 85-91.

1997, MOORE, A. J., MULGAN, T. P., "Surrogacy, Non-existence and Harm", Butterworths Family Law Journal, 2, 7, pp. 165-171.

1996, MULGAN, T. P., "One false virtue of Rule Consequentialism, and one new vice", Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 77, 4, pp. 362-373.

1994, MULGAN, T. P., "Rule Consequentialism and famine", Analysis, 54, pp. 187-192.

1993, MULGAN, T. P., "Slote's Satisficing Consequentialism", Ratio, 6, pp. 121-134.

1993, MULGAN, T. P., "The Unhappy Conclusion and the Life of Virtue", The Philosophical Quarterly, 43, 172, pp. 357-359.

Research interests

My current research centres around two questions. Is there a God? What do we owe to future people?

1. Moral and Metaphysical Arguments for Ananthropocentric Purposivism.

This project explores the relationships between moral philosophy and an underdeveloped alternative to both atheism and traditional theism, namely: Ananthropocentric Purposivism (AP). This the view that the universe has a non-human-centred purpose – one to which human beings are irrelevant. AP is agnostic whether a purpose requires a personal creator. AP is worth exploring in part because it is a comparatively unexplored option – a middle-ground between atheism and classical theism. I argue that the metaphysical case supporting AP is at least as strong as that supporting either theism or atheism – by borrowing the best anti-theist arguments from atheists and the best anti-atheist arguments from theists. I also argue that we cannot settle the metaphysical dispute without bringing in moral judgments, and that those judgments favour AP. In short, either metaphysics supports AP, or metaphysics leaves the choice open – and then morality supports AP. Finally, AP has implications for moral philosophy – supporting a liberal impartial morality built on genuinely objective values. AP offers more robust values than atheism; and a more robust response to evil than theism.

2. Ethics for a broken world.

This project explores the morality of life within a broken world – a place where resources are insufficient to meet the basic needs of the population. As a result of climate change, this may well be the world our descendants will inherit. I argue that utilitarianism copes with the bleak realities of a broken world, while various barriers we erect against the demands of utilitarianism (notably individual rights and national boundaries) become untenable in such a world. This project also extends my earlier work on our own obligations to future people, asking how the future prospect of a broken world affects those obligations.

3. Resurrecting Kantian Immortality.

My recent book Future People begins from the assumption that we have some obligations in relation to future generations, and then asks what form those obligations might take. My longer-term project is to defend the claim that we have obligations to future people, by constructing a Consequentialist analogue of Kant's moral argument in favour of belief in immortality. To over-simplify, Kant argues that we cannot make sense of our lives as moral agents unless we adopt, as a practical presupposition, a belief in our own personal immortality. My aim is to demonstrate that, given a Consequentialist account of moral agency, a suitable concern for future people may act as a substitute for belief in personal immortality. I intend to draw on debates within the early Indian Buddhist tradition, especially early Mahayana suggestions that to seek one's own liberation while leaving other sentient beings ensnared in the cycle of suffering and rebirth is an unworthy goal for a morally perfect individual, and therefore that a more other-regarding form of liberation must be possible.

4. Liberal Neutrality and Non-Western Metaphysics.

I argue that liberals such as Rawls, who seek to remain neutral regarding controversial metaphysical questions, cannot make sense of our obligations to future people or past people. (I have explored this issue, particularly in relation to liberalism and belief in karma and rebirth, in The Journal of Political Philosophy and The Journal of Applied Philosophy.)

Research students

Jevgeni Koltsov, Yu-Ting Su, Lucas Sierra Velez, Lewis Ross and Joe Slater


Previous Teaching at St Andrews

PY1104: Introduction to Political Philosophy

PY4604: Honours Module: Political Philosophy

PY4638: Honours Module: Philosophy of Religion

PY5102: MLitt Current Issues II: Ethics Component

I have also taught courses on the following topics at other Universities: Metaphysics; Critical Thinking; Applied Ethics; Origins of Analytic Philosophy; Philosophy of Language; Intergenerational Justice; Scanlon's Contractualism; Kant's Practical Philosophy; and Medical Ethics.

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