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Professor Susan James FBA

Early modern philosophy including philosophical psychology, epistemology, social and political philosophy and philosophy of art, focusing especially on Spinoza; philosophy of gender; social and political philosophy
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About this Fellow

Philosophy, as many early-modern authors understood it, teaches us how to live as happily and harmoniously as human beings can. Much of Susan James’s recent work considers how early modern metaphysics, epistemology, social psychology, political philosophy and ethics were thought to contribute to the overall project of living well. Passion and Action: The Emotions in Seventeenth-Century Philosophy (1997) concentrates on the role of the passions in early modern conceptions of the good life. In her work on Margaret Cavendish, James explores Cavendish’s efforts to blend philosophical insight and fantasy into a productive form of self-understanding. Two book on Spinoza, Spinoza on Philosophy, Religion and Politics (2012) and Spinoza on Learning to Live Together (forthcoming 2020) range over the religious and political aspects of a philosophical way of life. Alongside her historical interests, James has written about contemporary issues in political philosophy and the philosophy of gender. Her next research project will be about the philosophy of art.

Susan James is Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College London. She has held visiting positions at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, Boston University, Princeton University, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Chicago.



Current post

  • Professor of Philosophy, Birkbeck, University of London

Past Appointments

  • Chair of Philosophy Department, University of Cambridge, 1997 - 1999
  • Anniversary Reader in Philosophy, Birkbeck, University of London, 2000 - 2002
  • Chair of Philosophy Department, Birkbeck, University of London, 2003 - 2006
  • John Findlay Visiting Professor, Boston University, 2008 - 2008
  • Kohut Visiting Professor, University of Chicago, 2017 - 2017


Other Political Studies: Political Theory, Government and International Relations Fellows

Professor Rae Langton

Ethical aspects of speech act theory and social epistemology; metaphysics of properties; history of philosophy, especially Kant; free speech, hate speech and media ethics; feminist perspectives on pornography and objectification

Professor Matthew Kramer

Political, moral, and legal philosophy: deontological ethics; justice; moral realism as a moral doctrine; legal positivism and legal objectivity; rights and freedom

Professor Jane Mansbridge

Democratic theory; the problem of legitimate coercion, understood through theories of negotiation, representation, deliberation and deliberative systems, participation, political equality, everyday activism, feminism, and public recognition of collective