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Dr James Wilson
Room B7, 18 Gordon Square
  • Senior Lecturer
  • Dept of Philosophy
  • Faculty of Arts & Humanities

I have been a Lecturer in Philosophy and Health at UCL since 2008, and have been Director of the Centre for Philosophy, Justice and Health since January 2013. In 2011-12, I spent nine months on secondment to the Royal Society, working on the Science as an Open Enterprise report. This report identifies the principles, opportunities and problems of sharing scientific information, and makes a number of recommendations to scientists and their institutions, policymakers and others about how to create a socially responsible open data regime.

Before UCL, I was Lecturer in Ethics for four years (2004-8) at the Centre for Professional Ethics, Keele University, and held temporary lectureships in Philosophy at Birkbeck (2003-4) and University of Roehampton (2002-3). I received my PhD (an examination of Kantian accounts of morality) from UCL in 2002.

I am joint coordinator of the International Association of Bioethics’s Philosophy and Bioethics Network (INPAB). INPAB’s main aim is to promote high quality philosophical reflection in bioethics. INPAB also runs a blog (which I rarely contribute to any more), and a mailing list. I am the Philosopher in Residence of the Hackney Podcast.

Research Summary

I am a philosopher and ethicist. Many people (especially philosophers themselves) tend to assume that philosophy is not a practical discipline. Philosophy’s supposed lack of utility is seen as a badge of pride by some philosophers, and a reason to dismiss it by somewhat greater numbers of nonphilosophers.

Both are mistaken. Philosophy done well springs from, and returns to, the problems we face in living in the world. The problems that most urgently require philosophical reflection in any generation will usually be those which come out of changed conditions of human life, rather than those which simply continue long-running philosophical debates at a greater level of sophistication. John Dewey put it best: “Philosophy recovers itself when it ceases to be a device for dealing with the problems of philosophers and becomes a method, cultivated by philosophers, for dealing with the problems of men.”

Because of this my research often addresses new problems that are currently outside the philosophical mainstream, but now require systematic and rigorous reflection. What principles should govern the ownership of ideas? When are inequalities in health and life expectancy unfair? What should the limits be on state interventions to improve the health of the population? What is the fairest way to distribute limited healthcare resources?

Teaching Summary
I am Director of the MA Philosophy, Politics and Economics of Health. In 2013-14 I will be teaching postgraduate modules in the Philosophy, Politics and Economics of Health (term 1) and Global Justice and Health (term 2), and undergraduate modules in Aesthetics (PHIL2030), and in Political Philosophy (PHIL2044)
Academic Background
2002 PhD Doctor of Philosophy – Philosophy University of London
1994 BA Hons Bachelor of Arts (Honours) – Greek and Philosophy University of Bristol
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