Personal profile

Educational background

BA University of Oxford

MSc London School of Economics

PhD University of Manchester

Personal profile

I have taught at Royal Holloway since January 2000, and so hold the dubious honour of being the longest serving academic member of staff in the Department. My research interests are in contemporary political theory, largely within the Anglo-American tradition of political philosophy, and in bits of applied ethics.

Between 2015-21 I was Chair of the Association for Social and Political Philosophy (ASPP). The ASPP also hosts an annual conference and produces a journal, Res Publica, published by Springer. Before that, I was co-editor of Res Publica.

I’m currently a Co-Investigator on the EU Horizon funded project EXFILES which considers data encryption on mobile devices, including law enforcement authorities’ rights to access it – an issue adjacent to my interests in free speech. In the past I was Principal Investigator on a joint AHRC/ESRC research network grant in their ‘Religion and Society’ programme.

I’ve (co-)/supervised six PhD students to successful completion and am always interested to hear from potential PhD students.

Research interests

In the past few years, I’ve worked on three main areas:

Freedom of Speech. Freedom of speech is arguably the central liberal right, but its boundaries are contentious. Longstanding problems such as hate speech and pornography, have more recently been joined by controversies including fake news, no platforming, and the ‘war on woke’. In Free Speech (Polity 2021), Matteo Bonotti and I survey the longstanding arguments around freedom of speech. A condensed version of the main themes in the book was published in Philosophy Compass. I’ve also written articles on hate speech and religiously offensive speech. Matteo and I are currently working on monograph on free speech under contract with Oxford University Press.

Freedom of Religion. This nature and limits of the right to religious liberty is a contentious issue in a world of multiple faiths and cultural diversity. Andrew Shorten and I co-edited a book, Religion and Political Theory (2019) whose contributors explore the normative questions religious liberty raises. I’ve written journal articles on the justification of religious establishment, on sacred spaces, and on accommodation for religious adherents. A recent paper considers two legal cases where bakeries run by Christians refused gay customers the service they requested: ‘How Gay is Your Cake?: Religious Accommodation, Integrity and Discrimination' is forthcoming in Social Theory and Practice. A short blog post about one of these cases is here and one on parallels between ethical veganism and religious belief is here.

Partiality and Special Duties. I’m interested in the basis of our duties to friends, family members, colleagues, fellow citizens, and so on. The basic problem is how these special duties can be justified, given that every person in the world enjoys equal moral worth. I explored special duties at length in my 2013 book Defending Associative Duties, and more recently have written on parents’ duties to their children, on the parallels between friendship and fellow citizens, and, in a forthcoming book chapter, on the neglected topic of partiality towards siblings

Recent and draft papers are on my page.



  • PR2490 Contemporary Political Theory (co-convenor)
  • PR3107 Freedom of Expression: Concepts and Controversies


  • PR5416 Political Concepts 
  • PR5909 Contemporary Political Thinkers

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or