Photo of Dr Nigel Pleasants

Dr Nigel Pleasants

B.Sc. (Bristol); M.Phil., Ph.D. (Cambridge)


Extension: 3253

Telephone: 01392 723253

Director of Education, Senior Lecturer

Office Hours:

Mondays 14:30 - 15:30

Fridays 12:15 - 13:15

- or by arrangement

Having initially worked on Wittgenstein's philosophy in relation to critical social theory, my main research and teaching is now in the domains of social philosophy, social/practical ethics, and philosophy of social science. The overall theme that motivates and guides my research and teaching is to examine in a variety of ways the relationship between social structure and moral agency. I have written articles on the Holocaust, slavery and abolition, animal ethics, Wittgenstein and moral certainty, the badness of death and wrongness of killing, institutional wrongdoing and moral perception. I am hoping to produce a book manuscript on philosophical reflections on the Holocaust and genocide in the near future. I teach undergraduate courses on Social Philosophy, The Holocaust, genocide and Society, and Social Ethics, and a postgraduate course on Philosophy of Social Science.

Selected Publications

(See Academia page for downloads)

Forthcoming: 'Would Aristotle have seen the wrongness of slavery if he had undergone a course of moral enhancement?' in Michael Hauskeller and Lewis Coyne (eds.), Moral Enhancement: Critical Perspectives (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

(2017) ‘Ordinary Men: Genocide, Determinism, Agency and Moral Culpability’, Philosophy of the Social Sciences, Online First :

(2016) ‘The question of the Holocaust’s uniqueness: Was it something more than or different from genocide?’ Journal of Applied Philosophy 33 (3), 297–310.

(2015) ‘If killing isn’t wrong, then nothing is: A naturalistic defence of basic moral certainty’ Ethical Perspectives 22 (1), 197 – 215.

(2010) 'Moral argument is not enough: The persistence of slavery and the emergence of abolition', Philosophical Topics 38 (1), 139-60.

(2009) ‘Structure, agency, and ontology for Political Scientists?’ (A response to Colin Hay), Political Studies 57 (4), 885-891.

(2009) 'Wittgenstein and Basic Moral Certainty', Philosophia 37 (4), 669-679 (Special issue: The Third Wittgenstein Conference, edited by D. Moyal-Sharrock).

(2008) ‘Wittgenstein, ethics and basic moral certainty’, Inquiry 51 (3), 241- 67.

(2008) ‘Institutional wrongdoing and moral perception’, Journal of Social Philosophy 39 (1), 96–115.

(2008) ‘Structure and moral agency in the antislavery and animal liberation movements’, in  D. Grumett and R. Muers (eds.) Eating and believing: interdisciplinary perspectives on vegetarianism and theology. London: T&T Clark, pp. 198-216.

(2008) Review essay on P. Tabensky (ed.) Judging and understanding: essays on free will, narrative, meaning and the ethical limits of condemnation, in Philosophical Papers 37 (1), 177-84.

(2006) ‘Nonsense on stilts? Wittgenstein, ethics, and the lives of animals’, Inquiry 49 (4), 314-36

(2004) ‘The concept of learning from the study of the Holocaust’, History of the Human Sciences 17 (2/3), 187-210 (Special issue: What is to be learned? Theorising the Holocaust, edited by M Peacock & P Roth)

(2003) ‘Social criticism for “critical critics”?’ (A response to Stephen Kemp), History of the Human Sciences 16 (4), 95-100.

(2003) ‘A philosophy for the social sciences: realism, pragmatism, or neither?’ Foundations of Science 8 (1), 69-87.

(2002) ‘Rich egalitarianism, ordinary politics, and the demands of justice’, Inquiry 45 (1), 97-118.

(2002) ‘Towards a critical use of Marx and Wittgenstein’, in G. Kitching & N. Pleasants (eds.), Marx and Wittgenstein: knowledge, morality and politics. London: Routledge, pp.160-81.

(2000) ‘Winch and Wittgenstein on understanding ourselves critically: descriptive not metaphysical’, Inquiry 43 (3), 289-318.

(2000) ‘Winch, Wittgenstein, and the idea of a critical social theory’, History of the Human Sciences 13 (1), 78-91.

(1999) Wittgenstein and the idea of a critical social theory: a critique of Giddens, Habermas and Bhaskar. London: Routledge.

(1997) ‘The post-positivist dispute in social studies of science and its bearing on social theory’, Theory, Culture & Society 14 (3), 143-56.

(1996) ‘A Wittgensteinian social theory? Introducing reflexivity to Marxism’, Philosophy of the Social Sciences 26 (3), 397-416.