Philosophy at St Andrews

James Harris

Head of Department and Professor of the History of Philosophy

James Harris

Phone: 01334 462472

Office: Room 208, Edgecliffe


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

Political Thought in Britain in the 17th and 18th Centuries

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
  • Volume 2 of Scottish Philosophy in the Eighteenth Century (co-edited with Aaron Garrett), provisionally entitled 'Mind, Matter, Metaphysics, and Method'
  • The British Philosophy in the Eighteenth Century volume of The Oxford History of Philosophy
  • A short book about British political thought from Locke to Burke

See also the PURE research profile.

Selected publications

'Hume and the Common Sense Philosophers', in Bradford Bow (ed.), Common Sense in the Scottish Enlightenment, Oxford University Press, 2018, pp. 150-64.

'David Hume: Moral and Political Philosophy'. Updated version. Oxford Bibliographies Online (2017).

'Shaftesbury, Hutcheson and the Moral Sense', in Sacha Golob and Jens Timmermann (eds.), The Cambridge History of Moral Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, 2017, pp. 325-37.

'Reply to Ainslie, Lemmens, and Pettigrove'. Global Discourse 7 (2017): 443-46. [Part of a symposium on Hume: An Intellectual Biography.]

A review article about Istvan Hont's Politics in Commercial Society in The Journal of Scottish Philosophy 14 (2016): pp. 151-63.

'Hume's Life and Works', in Paul Russell (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Hume, Oxford University Press, 2016, pp. 1-18. 

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.

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 post-Hobbesian philosophers like Locke, Hume, Smith, and Burke. 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 is possible in the first place, given the dramatic inequalities that are, so they think, an inevitable feature of modern commercial societies. I want to explore this aspect of eighteenth-century political thought 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. Please get in touch if you are interested in being supervised by me, as a full-time, part-time, or visiting PhD/MPhil student.

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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