Professor Helen Steward

Professor Helen Steward

Professor of Philosophy of Mind and Action

+44 (0)113 343 3661

Summary: Philosophy of Action/Free Will; Philosophy of Mind; Metaphysics.

Location: Michael Sadler


My research interests lie mainly in the philosophy of action and free will, the philosophy of mind, and the metaphysical and ontological issues which bear on these areas (e.g. causation, supervenience, levels of explanation, the event/state distinction, the concepts of process and power). I have also worked on the category of animality and on understandings of the human being which take seriously our membership of the animal kingdom, and related biological and evolutionary perspectives on ourselves. More recently, I have been branching out into the philosophy of perception (especially with respect to the senses of touch, movement and proprioception); and the philosophy of representation and content. I have recently also become interested in (though not necessarily yet committed to) enactivist approaches to the human mind.

From 2014-16, I was the holder of an AHRC Fellowship, working on a project entitled 'Persons as Animals: Understanding the Animal Bases of Agency, Perceptual Knowledge and Thought'. This project initiated my recent foray into the philosophy of perception and of representation, and I am continuing to work on these questions. The project also involved a collaboration with Chester Zoo, concerned with the question how varying views of humanity's position within the animal kingdom might affect our concern to care for it. This collaboration continues.  

The metaphysics of free will has always been, and continues to be, a particular interest; my second book 'A Metaphysics for Freedom' (OUP) was published in March 2012. This book argues for a distinctive version of incompatibilism, based on the idea that there is a conflict not only between determinism and free human action, but also between determinism and the activities of a wide variety of animals. Special issues of Inquiry and a book symposium in Res Philosophica devoted to this work were published in 2013 and 2014 respectively, containing comments by a range of contributors, together with my responses. 

I have also worked recently on the category of process, and in particular, its relevance to agency. 'Actions as Processes' appeared in Philosophical Perspectives 26 (2012) and  'Processes, Continuants and Individuals' in Mind 122 (2013). 

I am an associate editor for the journal Philosophical Explorations. 

You can watch my inaugural lecture here:

Research Interests

  • Philosophy of Action (especially the free will/determinism debate)
  • Animals and their similarities to, and differences from, human beings
  • Philosophy of Mind (mental causation; mental ontology; the self; personal identity; philosophy of perception; representation and content)
  • Metaphysics (causation, modality, some aspects of time)

I am happy to offer graduate supervision in the first three of these areas, and in certain specific regions of the fourth!

Selected Publications

  • ‘Making the Agent Reappear: How Processes Might Help’, in Roman Altshuler and Micahel Sigrist (eds.), Time and the Philosophy of Action (London: Routledge, 2016).

  • ‘Libertarianism as a Naturalistic Position’ in Kevin Timpe and Daniel Speak (eds.), Free Will and Theism (Oxford: OUP, 2016).

  • ‘Agency Incompatibilism and Divine Agency’, European Journal of Philosophy of Religion, 7 (3) 2015: 67-78.

  • ‘Helping It’ in Andrei Buckareff, Carlos Moya and Sergei Rosell (eds.), Agency, Freedom and Moral Responsibility, (London: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2015).

  • 'What is a Continuant?', Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volume, LXXXIX, 2015: 109-23.

  • ‘Do Animals Have Free Will?’, The Philosophers’ Magazine, 68 (1), Apr 2015: 43-48. Read this article here:

  • A Metaphysics for Freedom, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012) - link to NBiP podcast here:

  • ‘Responses’, Inquiry 56 (2013): 681-706. (This contains my responses to the comments of eight authors on my monograph, A Metaphysics for Freedom, to which a special issue of Inquiry was dedicated).

  • 'Processes, Continuants and Individuals', Mind 122 (2013): 781-812.

  • 'Actions as Processes', Philosophical Perspectives 26:1 (2012): 373-88.

  • Downloadable versions of papers freely available via White Rose Research Online

Other Publications


  • Agency and Action ed. H. Steward and John Hyman (Cambridge: CUP, 2004).
  • The Ontology of Mind: Events, Processes and States (Oxford: OUP, 1997).


  • ‘Précis of ‘A Metaphysics for Freedom’’ and ‘Responses to Randolph Clarke, John Bishop and Helen Beebee’, Res Philosophica 91:3 (2014): 513-18 and 547-57. 
  • ‘Causing Things and Doing Things’ in C.G. Pulman (ed.) Hart on Responsibility (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), pp.71-90.
  • ‘The Metaphysical Presuppositions of Moral Responsibility’, Journal of Ethics 16:2 (2012): 241-71.
  • Perception and the Ontology of Causation', in Naomi Eilan, Hemdat Lerman and Johannes Roessler (eds.), Perception, Causation and Objectivity: Issues in Philosophy and Psychology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011):139-60.
  • ‘Moral Responsibility and the Concept of Agency’, in Richard Swinburne (ed.), Free Will and Modern Science (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 2011: 141-57. 
  • 'Free Will' in J.Shand (ed.) Central Issues of Philosophy (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009): 152-64.
  • 'The Truth in Compatibilism and the Truth of Libertarianism', Philosophical Explorations 12.2 (2009): 167-179.
  • 'Fairness, Agency and the Flicker of Freedom', Nous 43 (2009): 64-93.
  • 'Animal Agency', Inquiry 52 (2009): 217-31.
  • ‘Agency, Causality and Properties’, in Frontiers of Philosophy in China 6 (3), 2011. Available online (DOI) 10.1007/s11466-011-0146-2.
  • 'Determinism and Inevitability', Philosophical Studies 130 (2006), 535-63.