Dr Mara van der Lugt

Dr Mara van der Lugt

Lecturer in Philosophy

Researcher profile



Research areas

Is life worth living? Do the goods outweigh the evils of human existence? Could it ever be said for any being that it would be better for it never to have been? And if so – what does that mean for the ethics of creation? My research examines the way in which these and other questions have been answered by philosophers from the seventeenth century up to the present day. In my book Dark Matters: Pessimism and the Problem of Suffering (Princeton University Press, 2021), I show how these questions spring from the early modern debate on the problem of evil, while the various ways in which they have been answered define the competing philosophical traditions known as optimism and pessimism.

My research is inspired by a double background in history and philosophy. During my studies of philosophy at Erasmus University Rotterdam, I became fascinated by early modern philosophy and the works of the seventeenth-century French philosopher Pierre Bayle in particular, and so he became the focus of both my PhD studies at the University of Oxford and my first book, Bayle, Jurieu, and the Dictionnaire Historique et Critique (Oxford University Press, 2016). After completing my doctorate, I spent two years as a postdoctoral researcher at the Lichtenberg Kolleg in Göttingen before coming to St Andrews in 2017, as a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the School of History.

My main research interests include: early modern and modern philosophy (Bayle, Malebranche, Leibniz, King, Voltaire, Rousseau, Hume, Kant, Schopenhauer), the problem of evil, theodicy (and antitheodicy), pessimism, biblical criticism, environmental ethics, digital ethics, and the ethics of reproduction.

Selected publications


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