Dr Neil  Williams

Dr Neil Williams

Teaching Fellow and Consultant in Applied Ethics

Summary: Teaching Fellow and Consultant in Applied Ethics


Neil’s time at the IDEA CETL is split between teaching applied ethics and engaging in the consultancy work of the centre. He came to the IDEA CETL from the University of Sheffield, where he completed his PhD and MA. His MA focused on aesthetics and social ontology, and his PhD thesis focused on developing an account of ethics from the work of the classical American pragmatists.

Research Interests

Neil is interested in the ethical side of the history of philosophy, with his primary research area being the classical American pragmatists. His aim is not just to understand these historical theories, but to apply their concepts and methodologies to contemporary issues. The ethical aspects of pragmatism which interest him are: pluralism (the idea that there is more than one good, which may come into conflict with each other); sentimentalism (the idea that moral perception and/or motivation requires an irreducible affective component); particularism (the idea that no one principle or set of principles can precisely determine what to do in particular ethical situations); second-personal ethics (the idea that ethical obligation is a matter of responding to another concrete person, rather than obeying an abstract law); and communal inquiry (the idea that we reach moral principles and conclusions through communal, democratic, investigation).

Current or Forthcoming Research Projects

Neil’s future research aims to apply pragmatist ethics to issues in environmental ethics, animal ethics, and the ethics of belief.


(forthcoming) “Kidnapping an Ugly Child: Was William James a Pragmaticist?” British Journal for the History of Philosophy.

(forthcoming) “Absolutism, Relativism, and Anarchy: Alain Locke and William James on Value Pluralism” Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society.

(forthcoming) “James and Hegel: Looking for a Home”, co-authored with Robert Stern, The Oxford Handbook to William James.