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:

week commencing 27/3/17

Tuesday 15:00 & Friday 12:00

Term 3

Tuesdays 15:00 & Thursdays 14:00 - 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.


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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.

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 of P. Tabensky (ed.) Judging and understanding: essays on free will, narrative, meaning and the ethical limits of condemnation, 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

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: ‘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.

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

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.

1998: ‘From critical theory to Habermas’s critical social theory: a change of paradigm?’, Imprints: A Journal of Analytic Socialism 3 (1), 49-78.

1997: ‘Free to act otherwise? A Wittgensteinian deconstruction of the concept of agency in contemporary social and political theory’, History of the Human Sciences 10 (4), 1-28.

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

1997: ‘The epistemological argument against socialism: a Wittgensteinian critique of Hayek and Giddens’, Inquiry 40 (1), 23-45.

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

1996: ‘Nothing is concealed: de-centring tacit knowledge and rules from social theory’, Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 26 (3), 233-255.