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.



(See Academia page for downloads)

Forthcoming: ‘Ordinary Men: Genocide, Determinism, Agency and Moral Culpability’, Philosophy of the Social Sciences

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)


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 ‘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.

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.

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.