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Politics and International Relations (PIR): People


Philip Cook

Philip Cook
Dr Philip Cook
Senior Lecturer
3.29 Chrystal Macmillan Building 15a George Square Edinburgh UK EH8 9LD
+44(0)131 651 1577
Research Interests
Political Philosophy, Social Justice, Education and Schools, Children and Childhood, Family Relationships, Children and Democracy, Contractualism, Children and Young People, Child Labour, Applied ethics, the philosophy of social sciences, Egalitarianism

Guidance and Feedback Hours

  • Semester 2: My normal Guidance and Feedback hours are Mondays 4pm-5pm & Thursdays 4pm-5pm during teaching weeks. However, due to other commitments, these days and times vary. I have a detailed list of days and times on the door to my office, please consult these and sign up for an available appointment. My research day is Friday in Semester 2, I am not normally available for meetings on my research day.

Co-Editor-in-Chief, Res Publica


I joined the University of Edinburgh in June 2013. Prior to my appointment at Edinburgh, I was a Lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Leicester (2009-13), and LSE Fellow (2006-9).

I was a Programme Visitor at the Research School for Social Sciences at Australian National University (2008), and Visiting Scholar, Department of Philosophy at the University of Victoria in Canada (2013). 


  • Senior Fellow UK Higher Education Academy
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Digital Education (University of Edinburgh)
  • PhD (LSE)
  • MSc Political Theory (LSE)
  • BSc (Econ) Government and International History (LSE)

Research Interests 

My research is in the broad fields of political philosophy and applied ethics. My recent research has focused on the moral and political status of children. I am particularly interested in understanding children's claims of justice as democratic equals. I am currently focusing on issues around justice in schools and education. I have also worked on the ethics of parenting, the ethics of child labour, and argued in defence of child enfranchisement.

Previous work on justice in education and schooling was supported by an ESRC Small Grant ‘Schools, Children, and Social Justice’. 

I also have research interests in contractualism in moral and political philosophy. I am especially interested in exploring contractualist responses to problems of exclusion: how may children, people with various kinds of disabilities, and the elderly be included in the scope of contractualist justification?

I am keen to pursue political philosophy in an interdisciplinary context. I am a founding member of the SSPS Education and Society Research Group, and participate actively in Centre for Science, Knowledge, and Policy: SKAPE (I was Associate Director 2014-17, and Co-Director 2017-18). 

I contribute to a variety of public and policy engagement activities. I have organised a range of events as part of the Just World Institute's 'Ethics Forum' that brought together scholars, politicians and activists to discuss topics of current public concern; I recently co-organised a conference on 'Philanthropy and Social Justice' with academics and practitioners; and am a member of the Academy of Government's 'Reference Group on Inequalities' which considers responses to social inequality in Scotland with leaders from business, campaign groups, central and local government, and the voluntary sector.

I have performed shows at Edinburgh Fringe Festival as part of the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas: 'Bring Back Child Labour!' and 'Abolish Childhood!' where I discussed how commitments to equality and social justice have radical implications for our approaches to childhood.

I am Editor-in-Chief of Res Publica - A Journal of Moral, Legal and Political Philosophy (together with  Dr. Clare Chambers and Dr. Sune Laegaard). 

Res Publica is published on behalf of the Association for Social and Political Philosophy.


I currently convene the first-year undergraduate core-course 'Political Thinkers' which introduces students to figures such as Hobbes, Locke, Marx, Mill, Arendt, Gandhi, and Rawls. I convene an Honours Undergraduate Course 'What's Wrong With Inequality?', and a post-graduate version 'Equality and its Critics'. These course considers the recent debates in political philosophy around equality, and relates these debates to practical social and policy issues. I also convene a course focused on 'Education and Social Justice' that has a particular focus on bringing together debates in recent egalitarian political philosophy and developments in education policy internationally. I also co-convene a Postgraduate course 'Explanation and Understanding in Social Science' together with Tod Van Gunten (Sociology). This course addresses a range of issues in the philophy of socieal science, and I lead discussions around social ontology in particular (considering such thinkers as John Searle, Margaret Gilbert, Michael Bratman, Margaret Archer, and Brian Epstein). I also contribute to the courses 'Education Politics and Policy' and 'Knowledge, Expertise, and Policy' convened by colleagues in other areas of the School of Social and Political Science delivering sessions on topics such as education and equality, markets and vouchers in education, and ethical expertise in policy.

I have strong interests in digital education, especially online distance learning and blended learning. While at University of Leicester I was Director of Distance Learning in Politics and International Relations, and helped develop a range of successful  online distance learning post-graduate programmes. Since joining the University of Edinburgh, I have served as Director of Digital Education for the School of Social and Political Science, helping to develop online distance learning courses and programmes across the School further. I have recently completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Digital Education based at the Moray House of Education, University of Edinburgh, to help build my expertise in this area further.

I engage actively in pedagogical research. I was recently awarded a Principal's Teaching Award Small Grant to conduct research into the effect on student motivation and attainment of a blended-learning study skills programme I introduced.

I also enjoy developing workshops and  learning and teaching resources for colleagues involved with teaching, both in areas of general pedagogy (such as assessment literacy) and e-learning (such as flipped classroom).

I was awarded a University Teaching Fellowship while at University of Leicester.

In August 2016 I was awarded a Senior Fellowship of the UK Higher Education Academy.


Edited Book

Journal Articles

Book Chapters

My Edinburgh Research Explorer listing can be accessed here (including links to open-access versions of my papers):

We have a thriving PhD research community in Political Theory at Edinburgh. Please see for further information.

Topics interested in supervising

I am happy to supervise students working in contemporary political philosophy, particularly on topics of social justice, equality, childhood, schooling/education, family relations, free speech/censorship, democracy, and contractualism.

If you are interested in being supervised by Philip Cook, please see the links below for more information:

PhD in Politics; MSc (R) Political Theory; MSc (R) Politics