Paul Russell

London 2016

Professor of Philosophy,



Paul Russell is a Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Lund University, where he is Director of the Lund|Gothenburg Responsibility Project (LGRP). His position at Lund is a half-time research position and has been made possible thanks to a major grant from the Swedish Research Council for "the international recruitment of leading researchers" (2014).

He has been a Professor of Philosophy at the University of British Columbia since 1987, but is now only half-time. He is currently on leave from UBC until January 2020.

Apart from these positions he has also held a number of visiting appointments at various universities, including Virginia (1988), Stanford (1989-1990), Pittsburgh (1996-1997) and North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2005). More recently, he held a half-time position as Professor at Gothenburg University (2015-2017).

Among the various honours and awards he has received are a Fowler Hamilton Visiting Fellowship at Christ Church, Oxford University (2010) and the Journal of the History of Philosophy prize for best book published in the history of philosophy in 2008 [awarded to The Riddle of Hume's Treatise (Oxford University Press)]. He has also been awarded the UBC Killam Teaching Prize (2007) and the UBC Killam Faculty Research Prize (2014).

His most recent book is The Limits of Free Will [Oxford University Press: 2017], a volume of selected essays on the topic of free will and moral responsibility. His papers have been published in a variety of academic journals [Mind, Ethics, etc.], as well as in influential collections and anthologies [e.g. the Oxford Handbooks, Cambridge Companions, etc.]. Along with his academic publications he has also published opinion pieces and reviews in a variety of venues including, the Globe & Mail, the Vancouver SUN, the Times Literary Supplement, and AEON. Selections of his work have been translated into several languages, including Chinese, Polish, Italian and Hungarian.

[For a brief biography, my CV, a complete list of my publications, and other information see the separate pages - available on the pull-down bar on the left side of this page.


"Bernard Williams: Ethics from a Human Point of View" -- in TLS "Footnotes to Plato" (December 2018)

Philosophy of Action: Conversation with Paul Russell (November 2018)


Graduate: Cambridge University PhD (1986)

Undergraduate: Edinburgh University M.A (Honours) - 1st class (1979)

Research Interests

Paul Russell's interests cover the areas of free will and moral responsibility along with various topics in early modern philosophy. Within the area of free will and moral responsibility he is particularly interested in the challenge of scepticism and theories of responsibility that appeal to reactive attitudes or moral sentiments. On the subject of early modern philosophy he is especially concerned with the philosophy of David Hume and how his philosophy relates to problems of religion and atheism.

PR - Rue Mouffetard, Paris 2009Photo: Oisin Deery


My books can be viewed on the web site: here

Links to a number of my articles and papers can be found at my web site: here

and my PhilPeople page: here

Awards and Honours (Selected)

- Major Swedish Research Council grant for "the international recruitment of leading researchers" (2014).

- UBC Killam Faculty Research Prize (2014).

- Fowler Hamilton Visiting Fellow at Christ Church , Oxford University (2010).

- Journal of the History of Philosophy Prize for best book published in the history of philosophy in 2008 [The Riddle of Hume's Treatise (Oxford University Press)].

- UBC Killam Teaching Prize (2007)

- Kenan Distinguished Visitor at North Carolina, at Chapel Hill (2005).

- Mellon Fellowship at Stanford University (1989-90).

- Research Fellowship at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge (1984-1987).


"These are all uniformly excellent papers, beautifully written and offering a unique and important perspective on the topics of free will and moral responsibility."

- Michael McKenna, University of Arizona

"Paul Russell's subtle, incisive, and deeply human essays have had enormous influence on work in agency and responsibility for going on three decades. One cannot understand the state of play in many of the wide range of topics in the field without grappling with Russell's sharp critical insights and deftly drawn positions."

- David Shoemaker, Tulane University

"This is the Golden Age of free will philosophy. Paul Russell is a very significant participant in this, and moreover a philosopher with a distinct and rare voice."

Saul Smilansky, University of Haifa



"Paul Russell has given us a marvelously good book.... [He] offers original and compelling accounts of the irreligious implications of central arguments of the Treatise on an impressive range of should never again be claimed that the Treatise is largely unconcerned with questions of religion."

- Don Garrett, Philosophical Review

"This book is a triumph and a model for work in the history of philosophy. It offers a powerful reading of the Treatise and of Hume's intentions in writing it, while also correcting common misunderstandings about Hume's place in early modern thought. It deserves to be read by anyone interested in Hume or in early modern philosophy."

- Colin Heydt, Journal of the History of Philosophy

"This is a terrific tome.... Why is this book so important? Quite simply, this is one of the best contextualist studies of Hume's A Treatise of Human Nature ever written. .... one of the best books on Hume I have ever read. "

- Kevin Meeker, Mind


"...Russell's account imbues Hume's texts with fresh significance and interest....Russell gives us much to grapple with and learn from."

-- Ira Singer, Ethics

"Russell's book makes an important contribution to the literature on Hume's moral philosophy, especially in showing a breadth to his view that is sometimes obscured by too heavy a focus on his subjectivism. And Russell's discussion of Hume's relevance for contemporary debates over naturalism in ethics will be of interest to a wider philosophical audience."

-- Donald Ainsle, The Philosophical Review

"Russell's book, which is the first full analysis of Hume's theories on this key theme, does justice to their complexity and systematic character, and by relating them to more recent debates shows us, once again, why Hume remains such a continual source of philosophical stimulus. It [Russell's book] is excellent, creative scholarship."

--Terry Penelhum, Canadian Journal of Philosophy




"... this book is a significant contribution to the literature on Hume."

-- Choice

"An impressive recent addition to the Hume literature is the Oxford Handbook of Hume, edited by Paul Russell. The term "handbook" belies its heft; at over 800 pages, and weighing over 3 pounds, it is a battleship of current scholarly thinking on Hume...the Oxford Handbook will provide a fine reference source both for Hume's thought, and for current thinking about Hume's thought. As Hume literature has grown, a volume such as this may be particularly useful...[a] timely and useful book."

-- Metapsychology Online Reviews



"The essays collected in this volume have made incredible contributions to the free will debate. It is remarkable to have so many influential works collected in this way, and anyone interested in the free will debate would benefit greatly from having this collection close at hand."

--William Simkulet, Metapsychology Online Reviews



"This is an outstanding collection. P.F. Strawson's "Freedom and Resentment" is one of the most important and influential papers in the debates about free will and moral responsibility. It is thus very helpful to haveStrawson's paper published together with an excellent set of papers that treat central issues in it. The editors have done a superb job of bringing this material together, and they have provided a clear and helpful introductory essay. This will become an essential book for both scholars and students."

- John M. Fischer, University of California Riverside, USA

Recent Papers & Articles


“Moral Responsibility and Metaphysical Attitudes”, In The Oxford Handbook of Moral Responsibility. D. Nelkin and D. Pereboom, eds. Oxford University Press: New York.

David Hume and the Philosophy of Religion, in Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia for Philosophy of Religion. Eds. Stewart Goetz and Charles Taliaferro.


“Hume’s Optimism and Williams’ Pessimism”, in Ethics beyond the Limits: New Essays on Bernard Williams’ Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy. S. G. Chappell and M. van Ackeren, eds. Routledge: London. Pp. 37-52.


"Bernard Williams: Ethics from a Human Point of View" -- in TLS "Footnotes to Plato".

“Free Will and Affirmation: Assessing Honderich’s Third Way”, in Ted Honderich on Consciousness, Determinism, and Humanity. G. Caruso, ed. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Pp. 159-79.

[Review of] Hume’s Critique of Religion: Sick Men’s Dreams. Alan Bailey and Dan O’Brien. Philosophical Quarterly.


“Free Will Pessimism”. Vitterhetsakademien Yearbook 2017/ Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities. Pp. 47-63.

"Free Will Pessimism". In Oxford Studies in Agency and Responsibility, Volume 4, edited by David Shoemaker. Oxford University Press. Pp. 93-120.

“Free Will and Moral Sense: Strawsonian Approaches”, in Meghan Griffith, Neal Levy, Kevin Timpe, eds. Routledge Companion to Free Will. Pp. 96-108.

[Review of] Conversation and Responsibility, Michael McKenna. Philosophical Review, 126.2 (2017), 285-95.

[Review of] Towards a Humean True Religion, Andrew Willis. For Journal of the History of Philosophy 55.1 (2017), 168-9.


“Hume, Irreligion and the Myth of British Empiricism”, The Oxford Handbook of HUME, P. Russell, ed. Oxford University Press. Pp.109-37.

Review of James Harris, Hume: An Intellectual Biography - in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews (June 2016).


“’Hume’s Lengthy Digression’: Free Will in the Treatise”, The Cambridge Companion to Hume's Treatise, A. Butler & D. Ainslie, eds. Cambridge University Press. Pp. 230-51.


Recent and forthcoming Talks/Presentations

2020 (May)

Oxford Hume Forum - University of Oxford: TBA [tentative]

2019 (June)

KU Leuven - University of Leuven. Institute of Philosophy.Conference: “Free Will and Methodology” (June 6-7, 2019). Keynote speaker. [Co- organized by Stefaan Cuypers and Audun Bengtson] Title: “Naturalism, Genealogy and Responsibility Scepticism”.

2019 (March)

Departmental of Philosophy, Seminar. University of Haifa. Title: Free Will Scepticism

Departmental Seminar (March 4th, 2019). The Buchmann Faculty of Law. Tel Aviv University. Title: Free Will Scepticism.

2018 (October)

Institute of Philosophy, Institute of Philosophy, Research Centre for the Humanities, Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Conference: Free Will and Epistemology. (organized by László Bernáth.)

2018 (March)

University of British Columbia (March). Nexus | ISGP Annual Student Conference: “Is Responsibility an Illusion?”. Keynote speaker.

2018 (February)

University of British Columbia (February). UBC Association of Professors Emeriti. Topic: Free Speech. Panelist and presenter.

2017 (November).

University of Hamburg Title: Hume’s Scepticism and the Problem of Atheism”. Hume Workshop. Maimonides Centre for Advanced Studies. (Organized by Máté Veres, Stephan Schmid and Josef Stern.)

2017 (October).

Ferrara, Italy Title : “Hume’s Sensible Atheism”. International Symposium "Around the Eighteenth Century" (Organized by Andrea Branchi.)

2017 (September)

-Central European University, Budapest. “ Naturalism, Genealogy and Responsibility Scepticism”.

2017 (June)

University of Bonn. Conference: "Free Will and Moral Responsibility in Historical and Cultural Perspective". (Organized by M. Forster, M. Gabriel, and C. Wenzel.)

2017 (June)

Ghent University . Conference: “Justice Without Retribution”. Title: “Naturalism, Genealogy and Responsibility Scepticism. (Organized by G. Caruso, F. Focquaert, D. Pereboom, E. Shaw.)

2017 (March)

Central European University, Budapest : Invited lecturer CEU Center for Religious Studies, for the university-wide doctoral seminar “Reason, Unreason and Nature in Religion”. Topic: "Hume's Sceptical Atheism". (Organized by Aziz Al-Azmeh.)

2016 (December)

Einstein Foundation, Berlin (December). Workshop: "Moral Address". Title: "Free Will Pessimism and Moral Address". (Organized by R. Jay Wallace and Daniele Bruno.)

2016 (October)

"Hume's Scepticism and the Problem of Atheism", Department of Philosophy, University of Basel. (Organized by Gunnar Hindrichs.)

[For a complete list see the separate page - pull-down bar on left-side.]

Photo: (Greek and Roman scupture, Glyptotek Art Museum, Copenhagen)




Philosophy Bites: Paul Russell on Fate (December 2010)

Philosophy Bites: Paul Russell on David Hume's Philosophy of Irreligion (April 2011)

Simply Charley: David Hume and the Philosophy of Irreligion (September 2016)

Central European University [Philosophy Department Colloquium]: Naturalism, Genealogy and Responsibility Scepticism (September 2017)


VANCOUVER SUN article April 2016 (Doug Todd):

On moral posturing and intolerance....

VANCOUVER SUN article March 2015 (Doug Todd):

UBC prof wins $12 million from Sweden to explore global moral problems.

GLOBE & MAIL article June 1999:

‘The supremacy of God’ does not belong in the Constitution


AEON: "The Limits of Tolerance" A religious worldview cannot expect the same kinds of tolerance as racial, gender, or sexual identities....

Photo: Cato the Younger ( Glyptotek Art Museum, Copenhagen)