Dr Jonathan Seglow

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. I also have a side interest in Axel Honneth’s critical theory of recognition, and in aspects of applied ethics and moral philosophy (when I can understand it).

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. I was co-editor of Res Publica 2006-12.

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 (see below). Years ago 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 both the longstanding arguments for freedom of speech, and reasons for limiting it. 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. A novel justification for free speech based on recognition theory (me) and republicanism (Matteo) is forthcoming in Philosophy and Social Criticism. We intend to do more develop the ideas there in the future.

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 recent journal articles on the justification of religious establishment, on sacred spaces, and on accommodation and legal exemptions for religious adherents. My most recent paper considered 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 academia.edu page.

Teaching

Undergraduate:

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

Postgraduate:

  • PR5416 Political Concepts 
  • PR5909 Contemporary Political Thinkers

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