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Politics and International Relations (PIR): People


Philip Cook

Philip Cook
Dr Philip Cook
Lecturer in Political Theory; Co-Director, SKAPE (Centre for Science, Knowledge, and Policy); Editor-in-Chief, Res Publica; Convenor, Political Theory Research Group
3.29 Chrystal Macmillan Building 15a George Square Edinburgh UK EH8 9LD
+44(0)131 651 1577
Research Interests
Political Theory, Political Philosophy, Social Justice, Education and Schools, Children and Childhood, Family Relationships, Children and Democracy, Contractualism, Children and Young People, Child Labour

Guidance and Feedback Hours

  • Semester 2: Mondays 4pm-5pm and Tuesdays 4pm-5pm during teaching weeks (for other availability please email)


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 in Political Theory (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 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 working on issues around justice in schools and education; the place of work in children's lives; and children's entitlements to political participation (including voting). 

Child-Labour is a particular focus at the moment. Though this is a topic of considerable ethical importance, there is a very limited investigation of the topic in moral and political philosophy. I have begun to explore the ethical complexity of child-labour in my forthcoming chapter 'What's Wrong with Child-Labour?' in the Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Childhood and Children. I am keen to establish more firmly the grounds of our moral objections to child-labour, and also to develop an account of the positive value of work in children's lives. I am a member of an emerging group of academics, policy professionals, and activists who campaign against abolitionist approaches to child-labour, and who argue for a more positive approach to regulating good work as part of childhood. For further information on this group see:

My work on child-labour formed the basis of a public performance at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival as part of the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas. My show 'Bring Back Child-Labour!' presented my main ideas to a wide public audience, and attracted some media coverage.

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 am currently a Co-Director of SKAPE (Centre for Science, Knowledge, and Policy). 

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 am Editor-in-Chief of Res Publica - A Journal of Moral, Legal and Political Philosophy (together with 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 St. Augustine, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Marx, Mill, Arendt, Gandhi, and Rawls. I convene an Honours Undergraduate Course 'What's Wrong With Inequality?', and a Postgraduate course 'Explanation and Understanding in Social Science.' I also contribute to the courses 'Education and Policy' and 'Knowledge, Science, and Politics' convened by colleagues in other areas of the School of Social and Political Science.

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 Digital Education Officer 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.


'What's Wrong with Child-Labour?' in The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Childhood and Children, Gideon Calder, Anca Gheaus, Jurgen de Wispelaere eds. (London: Routledge, 2018)

'What We Talk About When We Talk About Equality' in Working for Equality: policy, politics, people, Richard Freeman, Fiona McHardy, Danny Murphey eds. (Paisley: CCWB Press, 2017), pp 15-18

'Liberalism, Contractarianism, and the Problem of Exclusion' in The Cambridge Companion to Liberalism, Steven Wall, ed. (Cambridge University Press, 2015), pp. 87-111

'Citizenship at the Margins', Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, 16 (3) 2013 (special issue co-edited with Jonathan Seglow

'Against a Minimum Voting Age' Critical Review of Social and Political Philosophy, 16 (3), 2013, pp. 439-458

'Two Types of Self-Censorship: Public and Private' (co-authored with Conrad Heilmann), Political Studies, 61 (1), 2013, pp. 178-196.

'On the Duties of Shared Parenting' Ethics and Social Welfare, 6 (2), 2012, pp. 168-181.

'Fairness, Consensus, and the Justification of the Ideal Liberal ConstitutionCanadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence, 22 (1), 2009, pp. 165-186.

An Augmented Buck-Passing Account of Reasons and Value: Scanlon and Crisp on What Stops the BuckUtilitas, 20 (4),  2008, pp. 490-507. 

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 theory, particularly on topics of social justice, 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