History of philosophy

The history of philosophy, from the ancient through modern to recent developments

Work in the history of philosophy is active and varied at Edinburgh, spanning ancient philosophy from the pre-Socratics right up to the emergence of analytic philosophy and its linguistic turn. Whether it is ancient metaphysics, philosophy of science in modern philosophy, British empiricists or analytic philosophy, our work in the history of philosophy profits from interacting with our colleagues working in the same areas of contemporary philosophy. Naturally, scholarship is part of our practice of the history of philosophy and several of us have contributed to canonical editions of important works in the history of philosophy.

From antiquity to the twentieth century

In ancient philosophy, our interests span a wide range of topics including philosophy in late antiquity, early medicine, science and, of course, metaphysics. We are working to understand early modern and modern philosophers who contributed to debates on ethics, language, science, and the nature of existence—to name a few. With expertise in early modern philosophy, our interests also extend to subsequent developments such as the German Romantics and British Hegelians. In the twentieth century, we are working on phenomenology and early analytic philosophy.

Interdisciplinary collaboration

Our researchers collaborate across disciplines, especially with colleagues in Classics, Divinity, History, English, Politics and other inter-disciplinary venues such as the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH). Along with colleagues based in Classics, we have contributed to major projects such as the Oxford Classical Text of Plato and the Archelogos databases of ancient philosophy arguments.

Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities

Emotions First

Embodied Values

Kant and the laws of nature

Archelogos website


Core philosophy faculty working in History of Philosophy at Edinburgh include:

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Research interests
Dr Mahrad Almotahari History of medieval Islamic Thought
Dr Fedor Benevich In his research, Dr Benevich focuses on the history of metaphysics, epistemology, and the philosophy of mind in the Islamic world. He has written on the critical adaptation of ancient philosophical theories in the Arabic intellectual tradition, Islamic philosophical theology (kalām), and post-classical Islamic philosophy. He is also interested in Islamic ethics and political philosophy.
Dr Damian Caluori Ancient philosophy, theories of the soul and in metaphysics more generally, late ancient Platonism, Plotinus
Dr Mazviita Chirimuuta History of Philosophy of Science
Dr Alix Cohen Early modern philosophy, Kant, Kantian ethics, Rousseau, Hume
Dr Jonathan Cottrell Early Modern Philosophy, Hume
Professor Guy Fletcher Ethics, Mill
Professor Michael Gill Hume
Dr Inna Kupreeva Ancient and medieval philosophy and science, Aristotelian tradition
Dr David Levy Platonic moral philosophy, Simone Weil, Wittgenstein
Dr Beri Marušić Sartre
Jen Smalligan Marušić Dr Marusic’s research is in the History of Modern Philosophy; she is especially interested in John Locke, David Hume and British Empiricism. She is currently working on a book project on Locke's epistemological outlook in his An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.
Professor Michela Massimi Kant, philosophy of science, early modern philosophy
Dr Filipa Melo Lopes History of Feminist Philosophy
Professor Pauline Phemister 17th century philosophy, Leibniz, Descartes, Spinoza, Locke, philosophy and the natural world
Dr Alasdair Richmond Berkeley, metaphysics of time, philosophy of science, British empiricists, epistemology, philosophy of explanation
Dr David Ward Kant, Hegel, Merleau-Ponty, phenomenology

Other faculty with interests in the history of philosophy include:

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Research interests

Dr Thomas Ahnert


Law and moral philosophy, the intellectual history of early modern Europe, early modern religious thought, interdisciplinary connections in the early modern period, enlightenment responses to classical antiquity, reception of Newtonian science in Germany

Professor Douglas Cairns


Greek society and ethics, emotions

Professor John Cairns


Legal thought and legal education in the Scottish enlightenment

Professor Andrew Erskine


Hellenistic political philosophy

Professor David Fergusson


Reformed theology from the 16th century to the present day, the relationship between church and society, political liberalism, natural sciences

Dr Sara Parvis


Early Christian philosophy, patristics

Dr Nicholas Phillipson


Cultural and intellectual history of early modern and modern Scotland, especially the Scottish enlightenment; early-modern British and French political thought

Dr Simon Trepanier


Presocratics, papyrology

Professor Charlie Withers


Historical geography of science; geography, travel and exploration; geography and the Enlightenment; histories of cartography

Postgraduate study

Meetings and events

We regularly organise events around themes in the history of philosophy, including conferences, seminars and reading groups, for example:

You can see a full list of philosophy reading groups and research seminars below. In addition, there are many relevant seminars within classics, theology, history, politics and other subjects that may also of interest to scholars and students of the history of philosophy. The Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities compiles a list of these events across the college.