Philosophy at St Andrews

Adam Etinson

Lecturer in Philosophy

Adam Etinson

Phone: 01334 462467

Office: Edgecliffe B18



Social and Political Philosophy; Ethics; Human Rights


Assistant Director of the Centre for Ethics, Philosophy and Public Affairs (CEPPA) at St Andrews

See also the PURE research profile.

Academic qualifications

2011: D.Phil in Philosophy, University of Oxford

2008: B.Phil in Philosophy, University of Oxford

2005: B.A. Honours in Philosophy, McGill University

Selected publications

2018: Human Rights: Moral or Political? (Oxford: Oxford University Press), ed. Adam Etinson

2017: "Some Myths About Ethnocentrism" in The Australasian Journal of Philosophy (Online First: 22 June, 2017)

2014: "On Shareable Reasons: A Comment on Forst" in The Journal of Social Philosophy, Vol. 44, No. 4, pp. 76-88.

2013: "Human Rights, Claimability, and the Uses of Abstraction" in Utilitas, Vol. 25, No. 4, pp. 463-486.

2012: "Political and Naturalistic Conceptions of Human Rights: A False Polemic?" in The Journal of Moral Philosophy, Vol. 9, No. 3, pp. 327-352. (With S. Matthew Liao)

Book Reviews

2017: "Book Review: Reframing the Intercultural Dialogue on Human Rights: A Philosophical Approach, by Jeffrey Flynn" in Political Theory (Online First, 2 April, 2017)

2012: "A Rights-Based Utopia?" in, Human Rights Quarterly, Vol. 34, No. 1, pp. 294-299.

2010: "To Be or Not to Be? Charles Beitz on the Philosophy of Human Rights" in Res Publica, Vol. 16, No. 2, pp. 235-244. *

Essays & Op-eds

2017: "Is a Life Without Struggle Worth Living?" in The Stone, The New York Times, Oct. 2nd

2013: "Of Cannibals, Kings, and Culture: The Problem of Ethnocentricity" in The Stone, The New York Times, Feb. 17 – Republished in: The Stone Reader (2015: Liveright)

2012: "100 Days of Student Protests in Québec: Printemps Érable or Much Ado about Nothing?" in Dissent (Co-authored with Carlos Fraenkel).

Work in Progress

"On Falling Short" - Many of us should do more - that is, more than we currently do - for others. And we know this; we are aware of our moral imperfection. Still, many of us make no effort to change. Is it ever right to accept our own moral badness? Or is that an inherently irrational idea?

"When Less is More? Minimalism and Determinacy in Human Rights" (with Robert Mark Simpson) - This article examines whether so-called "minimalist" theories of human rights, which understand such rights to guarantee only the "bare necessities" needed for a minimally decent life, have the virtue of issuing more determinate verdicts about the legitimacy of human rights claims. 

"What's So Special About Human Dignity?" - This article argues that human dignity is a substantive normative concept closely tied to concerns about humiliation or degradation. It challenges common understandings of human dignity as an indicator of moral status, on the one hand, and as a vehicle for concerns about autonomy, on the other.

Research interests

I work in ethics, social philosophy, and political philosophy. Broadly speaking, my research explores the “human” side of morality and politics: the ways in which human nature structures, supports, and also frustrates our pursuit of the good. I'm currently writing on topics in the philosophy of human rights, social epistemology, moral psychology, and have a longstanding interest in the historical and theoretical foundations of liberalism.


Toleration in the Early Modern Period (PY4653) - co-taught with Alex Douglas

Intuitions and Philosophical Methodology (PY5403) - co-taught with Jessica Brown

The Philosophy of Human Rights (PY4652) - co-taught with Elizabeth Ashford, Fall 2016

Twentieth-Century Philosophers: David Wiggins (PY5326) - Spring 2017

Reading Philosophy 2: Texts in Ethics, Metaethics, Religion, Aesthetics and Political Philosophy (PY3200) - Spring 2017

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