Philosophy at St Andrews

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All pictures were taken in or around St Andrews and are © Simon Prosser

Philosophy at St Andrews

Welcome to new students

Welcome to all new students, undergraduate and postgraduate! We look forward to meeting you very soon, and to getting to know you over the coming year. If you have any questions or difficulties, please do not hesitate to contact the Department office or the Head of Department (Prof. James Harris).

Philosophy at St Andrews

St Andrews is one of the leading international centres for philosophy in Britain.

In the latest UK-wide assessment of the research of UK universities (REF 2014) the philosophy department was ranked 1st in Scotland and 5th in the UK (by grade point average). 83% of research was assessed as either 4* or 3*. The St Andrews/Stirling graduate programme (SASP) was ranked second in Britain in a recent US-based survey.

There is a busy programme of conferences, workshops and visiting speakers from universities in the UK and from abroad. The Philosophy Club, which is open to everyone, is the regular visiting speakers' seminar. Several specialized research seminars meet weekly or fortnightly. There is also a Friday Seminar for doctoral students, and a seminar specifically for MLitt students.

There are two philosophical research centres in St Andrews: The Centre for Ethics, Philosophy and Public Affairs (CEPPA), and the Arché Philosophical Research Centre for the Philosophy of Logic, Language, Metaphysics and Epistemology. The Philosophical Quarterly, one of the most respected international philosophy journals, is edited from St Andrews.


This is a selection of forthcoming and highlighted events - see also the full schedule of Philosophy events.

Fri 24th May 2019 11:00 to 12:30

Nikolas Kirby 'The Ethics of Distrust'

Nikolas Kirby (Blavatnik School of Government in Oxford)

The Ethics of Distrust Fulfilling moral obligations often entails becoming or remaining vulnerable to others who might then harm us, in breach of their own obligations not to do so. For example, we are required not to lie, but others may harm us when armed with the truth we impart. I might be required to fulfill my part of a contract, but others may then renege, taking advantage of my first move. A company might be obliged by law to hand over data to government intelligence agencies, but such agencies might then abuse their own powers with that data. A country might be obliged to accept refugees, but members of this group may then become criminals or terrorists within its borders. Such vulnerability as a consequence of fulfilling obligations is a very general phenomenon. One might consider it a defining feature of living in moral community. And, for the most part, we are not concerned by it. We simply assume that the other agent(s) will fulfill their own obligations. We assume that they are either sufficiently motivated by obligation itself, or at least by other instrumental reasons, such as fear of punishment by the state. However, what if these assumptions do not hold? What if, instead, we rationally distrust the other agent? That is, we are disposed on the basis of good rational grounds to not rely upon the other agent to perform their relevant obligations. We have good reason to believe, in fact, that we are at risk of harm from them if we do perform our own obligation. Are we still so obliged? Or does such distrust, at least sometimes, condition our obligations, leading them to be suspended or modified until we are less vulnerable, or have gained greater confidence in the other actor? With one notable exception in Thomas Hobbes, it is hard to find any explicit attention paid to this question within philosophy. It falls through the cracks of modern self-defence theory, since in scenarios of distrust I typically neither have sufficient evidence to believe that the other agent is a ‘culpable attacker,’ nor are they likely to be an ‘innocent attacker.’ Contemporary philosophy of trust ignores how distrust might corrode obligation. And, the ethics of risk literature discusses the wrong and injustice of risk imposition, but not whether we are unilaterally allowed to do anything in response.

Fri 24th May 2019 14:00 to 15:30

CEPPA Talk by Paul Weithman

Paul Weithman (Notre Dame)

CEPPA talk

Fri 31st May 2019 14:00 to 15:30

CEPPA talk by Johann Frick

Johann Frick (Princeton)

CEPPA talk

Thu 6th June 2019 12:00 to 19:00

John Stuart Mill Cup

see event webpage

Tue 11th June 2019 to Wed 12th June 2019

BPPA masterclass

see event webpage

Tue 11th June 2019 09:36 to Wed 12th June 2019

BPPA June 2019 Masterclass: Conceptual Engineering and it Consequences in Society

see event webpage

Wed 19th June 2019 09:49 to Fri 21st June 2019

Arché 20th Anniversary Conference

see event webpage

Mon 1st July 2019 to Tue 2nd July 2019

Group Responsibility Workshop

see event webpage

Thu 29th August 2019 to Sat 31st August 2019

PLM Network Conference

see event webpage

Fri 13th September 2019 09:00 to Sat 14th September 2019 17:30

International Conference: “The Early Critique of Kant’s Moral Philosophy”