Professor of Philosophy




McNeill Bay, Victoria, British Columbia 2017

Paul Russell is Professor of Philosophy at Lund University, where he is also Director of the Lund|Gothenburg Responsibility Project (LGRP).


He is also a Professor of Philosophy at the University of British Columbia, where he is currently on leave (2020-2022).

Apart from these appointments he has also held a Research Fellowship at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge (1984-1987) as well as a number of visiting appointments at various universities, including Virginia (1988), Stanford (1989-1990), Pittsburgh (1996-1997) and North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2005). From 2015-2017 he held a half-time position as Professor at Gothenburg University.

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)]. His position at Lund has been made possible thanks to a major grant from the Swedish Research Council for "the international recruitment of leading researchers" (2014).

In 2007 he was awarded the UBC Killam Teaching Prize and in 2014 he was awarded the UBC Killam Faculty Research Prize. He has also served on the Editorial Board of both the Journal of the History of Philosophy [2013-2019] and Hume Studies [2005-2010].

Paul Russell holds a PhD from Cambridge University (1986), where his supervisor was Professor Sir Bernard Williams.

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. A second volume of essays, titled Making Sense of Hume, devoted to Hume and early modern philosophy, will be published by Oxford University Press next year. Many of these 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, Swedish and Hungarian.

London 2016

Address for Correspondence:


Department of Philosophy 1866 Main MallBuchanan E370Vancouver, BCCanada V6T 1Z1
Telephone: 604 827 0027
Department of Philosophy, Room B521,Helgonavägen 3, Lund,Box 192, Sweden, 221 00 Lund 30 Telephone: +46 (0)46 222 00 00______________________
LGRP Williams Conference Lund - June 2019 [photo by Yuuki Ohta] [L-R] John Hyman, Paul Russell, Adrian Moore

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.

[Publications, Talks, Awards, etc.]

Selected Interviews & Podcasts

Selected Online Essays:

Books & Edited Books


"The Limits of Free Will is a marvelous collection of papers by Paul Russell. It is full of insightful and illuminating critiques, but it also provides readers with an inter- esting and distinctive position on free will and moral responsibility. Russell often views the issues through a historical lens, but he also deftly gives proper attention to the current debates and literature. His approach is refreshing because it does not become tethered by the way others have framed these debates, and yet Russell locates his own positions and critiques within them as appropriate. The result is an excellent volume that provides new clarity and insight... Russell’s unique blend of pessimism and optimism is highly compelling and his arguments beautifully crafted, with great sensitivity to our deepest human concerns. The volume is enormously enlightening and will reward its readers many times over.
- Meghan Griffith, ETHICS

"It was both a pleasure and a revelation to revisit these articles together as a group, and to see what a powerful and unified vision of the nature of human freedom and responsibility Russell has put forward over these many years. What comes out most clearly after sustained engagement with Russell’s work is his deep humanity and his clear-eyed appreciation of what he takes to be our basic human predicament: namely, that we must see ourselves as free and morally responsible agents, even as we recognize the myriad ways in which luck and fate play an ineliminable role in shaping the moral quality of our lives.

"What stands out especially about this collection is the way in which Russell marries matters of fate and luck with our conception of ourselves as agents more broadly beyond the moral realm. .... The merits of this collection go well beyond being a valuable compendium of critical assessment of contemporary optimism and skepticism about moral responsibility. Russell harnesses decades of reflection on moral responsibility to construct a distinctive yet measured compatibilist alternative, one that acknowledges the limits of human control while upholding the dignity of our moral life."
- Robyn Repko Waller, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
"The free will debate is notoriously deadlocked, and Russell’s work thoughtfully opens up new areas of philosophical exploration. But more importantly, Russell’s philosophical facing-up to our limits as natural beings embodies intellectual humility and humanity in equal measure. As a young scholar, I am especially grateful to have encountered his work."
"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
Paul Russell’s The Riddle of Hume’s Treatise is one of the most important contributions to Hume scholarship of recent years, and deserves to be read by all who wish to untangle the complex threads of Hume’s masterpiece. Even those who remain unconvinced by the overall thesis will find much to value and to return to, and as such, it ranks as a permanent and significant achievement.
-Peter Millican, British Journal for the History of Philosophy

"All things considered, Paul Russell's The Riddle of Hume's Treatise is an excellent and thought-provoking text that is a pleasure to read. It provides a compelling case regarding the nature and significance of Hume's 'irreligious' motives. In so doing, it lends further support for a naturalistic reading of Hume, according to which Hume's skepticism serves his naturalism and, ultimately, his 'anti-Christian' motives. It deserves to have an important impact not only on Hume research, but on the narrative that drives undergraduate survey courses in the history of early modern philosophy as well."
- Rico Vitz, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

"... Russell’s erudition is monumental. And there is great coherence in his study. If you disagree on something, you have to match his scrupulous inquiry and discuss his point in detail."
- Michel Malherbe, Hume Studies

"...Russell’s Hume is playing chess on a lot of boards at once; he uses many devices—many argumentative and some more literary—to pursue the ends diagnosed by Russell. Russell is undoubtedly right that Hume’s irreligion is a fundamental feature that ties the whole Treatise together. "
- Eric Schliesser, Hopos

"...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
THE OXFORD HANDBOOK OF HUME (soon available in paperback)

"... this book is a significant contribution to the literature on Hume."-- Choice
"The Oxford Handbook of Hume, edited by Paul Russell, is an impressive collection of essays on the philosophical accomplishments and legacies of David Hume. In total 38 articles provide over 800 pages of first-rate Hume scholarship. .... This collection is impressively comprehensive in its overview of Hume scholarship, and as such is an excellent and arguably essential addition to the library of anyone with a serious interest in the philosophy of David Hume. .... Overall, there can be no question that Russell has succeeded in what he set out to achieve in this volume. The articles are not only individually rewarding, but Russell’s care in organizing the material shows and pays off. I came away from this volume wishing it had existed when I was a grad student...." - Katie Paxman, Journal of Scottish Philosophy
"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