Matthew Chrisman


  • Philosophy
  • School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences

Contact details



Room 4.06, Dugald Stewart Building

3 Charles Street, Edinburgh
Post code


Matthew is Professor of Ethics and Epistemology in the Philosophy Department at the University of Edinburgh. His research is focused on ethical theory, political philosophy, philosophy of language, and epistemology. He has published widely in these areas, including books with Oxford University Press and Routledge and articles in Noûs, Synthese, The Journal of Philosophy, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Philosophers' Imprint and Philosophical Studies.


Ph.D. Philosophy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2006, M.A. 2002; B.A. Rice University, Houston Texas, 1999.

Responsibilities & affiliations

Subject Editor (Value Theory) for Thought: A Journal of Philosophy, 2018-

Member of the Young Academy of Scotland, Royal Society of Edinburgh, 2016-

Deputy Head of  School of Philosophy, Psychology, and Language Sciences, 2018-2019

Eidyn Research Centre, Steering CommitteeMember, 2012-2017

Head of Philosophy, 2015-2018

Senior Tutor for School of Philosophy, Psychology, and Language Sciences 2012-2014

Undergraduate teaching

Matthew is on research leave in the academic year 2020-21, but he routinely teaches the following undergraduate courses at the University of Edinburgh:

  • Morality and Value (lectures on the Status of Morality, Social Contract Theory, Why Be Moral, Kantianism, Contractualism, Virtue Ethics)
  • Meta-Ethics
  • Environmental Ethics

Postgraduate teaching

Matthew is on research leave in the academic year 2020-21, but he has taught the following masters-level courses at the University of Edunburgh

  • Advanced Philosophical Method (MSc)
  • Further Topics in Meta-Ethics (MSc)
  • Further Topics in Normative Ethics and Political Philosophy
  • Further Topics in Political Philosophy
  • Environmental Ethics (MSc)

Student consultation hours: by appointment while on research leave.

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Areas of interest for supervision

Matthew welcomes applications from students wishing to do research on any of his areas of research interest.

Current PhD students supervised

Past PhD students supervised

Silvan Wittwer (2013-2018):  Evolution and the Possibility of Moral Knowledge (secured employment as a 2-year postdoc at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University)

John O’Connor (2009-2016, part-time): Moral Naturalism and Self-Constitution (secured employment as the Prior of Blackfriars Oxford; and then Assistant Editor, New Blackfriars and a Member of Pastoral Team, St Albert’s University Chaplaincy and Parish)

Alan Wilson (2011-2015): On the Nature, Identity and Possibility of the Moral Virtues (secured employment as Visiting Lecturer, University of Glasgow; and then postdoc Wake Forest University, then lecturer at Bristol University)

Sebastian Köhler (2010-2014): Beyond Frege Geach - Neglected Challenges for Expressivism (secured employment as lecturer at Princeton University and then Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter at Universität Duisburg-Essen, then assistant professor at Frankfurt School of Finance & Management).

Ashley Taylor (2010-2014): The Circumstances of Justice: An Alternative Account (secured employment as lecturer at University of Toronto, and then lecturer at University of Sheffield)

Sam Wilkinson (2009-2013): Monothematic Delusions and the Nature of Belief (secured employment as 2-year postdoc at Durham University, 4-year postdoc at University of Edinburgh, then lecturer at University of Exeter)

Raymond Critch (2007-2010): Autonomy, Fraternity, and Legitimacy: Foundations for a New Communitarianism (secured employment as assistant professor, Memorial University of Newfoundland)

Research summary

For an overview of Matthew's research, please view his inaugural professorial lecture :

Matthew's monograph The Meaning of 'Ought': Beyond Descriptivism and Expressivism in Metaethics was published by Oxford University Press in 2016.

Matthew's textbook What Is This Thing Called Metaethics? was published with Routledge in 2016.

Matthew's edited collection (with Nate Charlow) Deontic Modality was published by Oxford University Press in 2016.

Current research interests

Matthew's research concerns (i) Metanormative theory, especially the discursive role of ethical statements, the meaning of ‘ought’ and the nature of rules and norms, (ii) Epistemology, especially epistemic norms, the nature of doxastic agency and virtue, and social epistemology (iii) Philosophy of Language, especially the theory of meaningfulness, the interaction between semantics and metasemantics, and speech-act theory, (iv) Political Philosophy, especially the epistemic role of public discourse, socially extended knowledge, civil disobedience and protest.

Knowledge exchange

Matthew is a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh's Post-Covid Futures Commission, contributing to the working group on Public Debate & Participation.

Matthew is leading the Responsible Debate Project for the Young Academy of Scotland, whose initial workshop for a draft charter of responsible public debate for Scotland was held on May 13, 2019, with follow up events at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Festival of Politics at the Scottish Parliament.

Matthew developed the Wireless Philosophy video "Obligations to Obey the Law" (2018):

Matthew (with Alice König and Sarah Virgo) wrote “Politics in Scotland” for the Young Academy of Scotland Brexit Report (2017):

Matthew organised Should You Trust What You Hear (About Science): An Enlightenment Debate: Hume vs. Reid, a public debate at the Edinburgh International Science Festival in 2015

Matthew helped to develop and continue to contribute to Introduction to Philosophy a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC):

Under his lead, members of the MOOC team have developed a popular book Philosophy for Everyone (Routledge 2014, expanded 2nd edition 2016) on the basis of this course.

Project activity

Latest research grants/projects

Current project grants

Matthew is a British Academy Mid-Career Fellow, working on a project called "Thinking for Ourselves: Freedom in Believing and Social Norms for Belief." This project aims to improve understanding of how our beliefs are formed and contribute to wider agreement of standards for constructive contribution to public debate. The main research goal is to complete a book articulating and motivating a novel philosophical theory of freedom of belief and norms for belief. This philosophical theory also informs and motivates civic outreach efforts, which are part of Matthew's ongoing work with the Young Academy of Scotland to create a charter for responsible public debate.

Past project grants

Matthew was the PI on Foundations of Normativity ( an International and Interdisciplinary Research Grant funded through the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, £30K, 2015-17, to pursue an international and interdisciplinary research network across Philosophy, Law, and Politics between University of Edinburgh and several other institutions. This has resulted in four annual Foundations of Normativity Workshops and associated events:

2015: Epistemic, Legal, and Moral Rules
2016: Moral and Legal Normativity
2017: Political, Legal, and General Norms
2018: Contemporary Moral Epistemology