Dean of Faculty
Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Professor of Political Theory
Contemporary Political Theory; Philosophy of the Social Sciences; Politics of Diversity and Recognition.
My primary interest is in contemporary moral and political philosophy, specifically in clarifying the demands of justice and outlining conditions of democratic legitimacy in modern pluralist societies. This has led me to engage with several influential theoretical perspectives particularly within the tradition of critical social theory as developed by Jürgen Habermas, Axel Honneth and others. With respect to debates concerning the demands of egalitarian justice, both within the state and beyond it, I have been interested in the political liberalism of John Rawls and in the work of libertarian, communitarian, cosmopolitan, Marxist, feminist and post-structuralist critics of Rawls’s approach. I am also exercised by philosophical questions regarding the nature of the social sciences and the possibility of a critical interrogation of the political world, and in the various ways in which social hope feeds into such research. Over a number of years I have sought to develop a normative-theoretical perspective on demands for recognition, particularly in contexts of national diversity such as Northern Ireland. I am currently exploring other uses of recognition theory, including its potential as a framework for re-thinking the meaning of secularism in contemporary politics. My general outlook is informed both by the concerns of analytical political theory, and those of ‘continental’ philosophical traditions, especially critical theory and hermeneutics. I have been first supervisor of 16 PhD students who have completed dissertations in a range of topics in political theory and critical philosophy.