Paul Russell

Professor of Philosophy,

Lund University

Heraclitus and Democritus [1630s]. Artist: Nicolaes Eliasz. Pickenoy (Amsterdam 1588-1650/65)

PR - Piana, Corsica 2019

Address for Correspondence:

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

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

Since 1987 he has been a Professor of Philosophy at the University of British Columbia (half-time since 2015). [He is currently on leave from UBC and will retire from UBC in 2022.]


Other appointments that he has held include 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.

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

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 has recently been elected a Beaufort Visiting Fellow at St. John's College, Cambridge for Lent term 2023.

In 2017 he published The Limits of Free Will [Oxford University Press] a volume of selected essays on the topic of free will and moral responsibility. In 2021 he published a second volume of essays, titled Recasting Hume & Early Modern Philosophy [Oxford University Press], a collection of papers on Hume and early modern philosophy. 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 Times Literary Supplement, The Scotsman, the Globe & Mail, the Vancouver SUN, and AEON. Selections of his work have been translated into several languages, including Chinese, Polish, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, and Hungarian.

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.

From the cover

"Paul Russell is one of the two or three leading Hume scholars of the past quarter-century, and both the high quality of his work and the intrinsic interest of his themes will draw in a wide range of readers-including not only scholars of Hume and British empiricism (for whom it will be essential), but scholars of modern philosophy more generally, as well as practicing epistemologists and ethicists."

-Kenneth Winkler, Yale University


In this collection of essays, philosopher Paul Russell addresses major figures and central topics of the history of early modern philosophy. Most of these essays are studies on the philosophy of David Hume, one of the great figures in the history of philosophy. One central theme, connecting many of the essays, concerns Hume's fundamental irreligious intentions. Russell argues that a proper appreciation of the significance of Hume's irreligious concerns, which runs through his whole philosophy, serves to discredit the deeply entrenched framework for understanding Hume - and much of early modern philosophy - in terms of the idea of "British Empiricism". In a substantive introduction, Russell outlines how his various insights overlap and connect to each other.

Recent Articles and Papers:

[Forthcoming/ In Preparation]

  • Hume's 'Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion': A Critical Guide. Edited and Introduced. Cambridge University Press.

  • "Responsibility After 'Morality': Strawson's Naturalism and Williams' Genealogy". P. F. Strawson and His Legacy. A. Bengtson, B. De Mesel and S. Heyndels, eds. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • "Free Will and the Tragic Predicament: Making Sense of Williams", in Agency, Fate and Luck: Themes from Bernard Williams. A. Szigeti & M. Talbert, eds. New York: Oxford University Press.

  • "David Hume's Treatise of Human Nature", Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

  • “Moral Responsibility and Existential 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 Taliaferr.

  • Review of Julian Baggini's The Great Guide: What David Hume can teach us about being human and living well, for the Times Literary Supplement.


  • “Hume’s Scepticism and the Problem of Atheism”. In P. Russell, Recasting Hume and Early Modern Philosophy: Selected Essays. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 303-339.

  • "Responsibility Skepticism and Strawson's Naturalism". [Review Essay on Pamela Hieronmyi, Freedom, Resentment and the Metaphysics of Morals] ; Ethics, 131.4 (2021), 754-776.

  • "The Misuse of Morality"; Review of Grandstanding, by J. Tosi & B. Warmke, for the Times Literary Supplement. [April 2021]


  • Introduction to Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion [Dialoger om naturlig religion]. Translated into Swedish by Jan Landgren. Nya Doxa: Nora (Sweden).

  • "'True Religion' and Hume's Practical Atheism", In Sceptical Doubt and Disbelief in Modern European Thought: A New Pan-American Dialogue, V. Rosaleny & P. Smith, eds. Springer: Dordrecht. Pp. 191-225

  • Hume on Free Will”, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: (Winter 2007 Edition; substantial revision May 2020), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),

URL = < >.


    • “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". [December 2018]

  • [Review of] Dennis C. Rasmussen, The Infidel and the Professor: David Hume, Adam Smith, and the Friendship that Shaped Modern Thought. For Rivista di Filosofia. 106.2 (2018), 485-492.

  • “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.


Recent and Forthcoming Talks & Presentations...

PR speaking at 2019 Lund conference on Themes from Bernard Williams [in the Old Bishop’s House, Lund University].- photo by Yuuki Ohta

@ 2021 (September) -- University of Antwerp, Belgium. Conference: ‘Natural Religion and the Scottish Enlightenment’. Invited keynote speaker (title: "David Hume and the Radical Enlightenment"). Organised by Willem Lemmens & Esther Kroeker.

@ 2021 (October ) -- [POSTPONED due to Covid] University of Zurich, Center for Ethics. Masterclass on Moral Responsibility. Invited teacher. Organized and led by Philipp Schwind & Jörg Löschke.

@ 2022 (July) The 48th Annual Hume Society Conference, 4-8 July 2022, Prague, Czech Republic. Invited plenary speaker. Organized by Lorenzo Greco and Hynek Janousek.
@ 2022 (July) -- Portland, Oregon. NEH Summer Institute: David Hume in the Twenty-first Century: Perpetuating the Enlightenment. Invited speaker. Organizers Angela Coventry & Elizabeth S. Radcliffe.

Selected Interviews & Podcasts

Select Online Essays and Commentary:

The Scotsman, September 23, 2020

The Globe & Mail, June 11, 1999


The Limits of Free Will: Selected Essays ( 2017)


"The Limits of Free Will is a marvelous collection of papers ... It is full of insightful and illuminating critiques, but it also provides readers with an interesting and distinctive position on free will and moral responsibility. .. 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.
-- Angela Smith, Ethical Theory & Moral Practice______
".... 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 Riddle of Hume's Treatise (2008)



"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 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... it ranks as a permanent and significant achievement.
-Peter Millican, British Journal for the History of Philosophy

"... 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

Freedom and Moral Sentiment (1995)


"...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

BOOKS EDITED and Introduced....


(now available in paperback 2020)

"... 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. .... 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..."
-- 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


(available in Routledge paperback 2016)


"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. ... 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

New Swedish translation of Hume's Dialogues...

Hume, David Dialoger om naturlig religion Översättning: Jan Landgren

David Hume, Dialoger om naturlig religion

Utgåvan är försedd med ett nyskrivet förord av professor Paul Russell vid University of British Columbia och Lunds universitet. Översättning av Jan Landgren. Tryckår: 2020
The edition is provided with a newly written preface by Professor Paul Russell at the University of British Columbia and Lund University. Translation by Jan Landgren. Printing year: 2020

PR & Moby Oak Bay, BC - 2016
PR - Lismore, Scotland August 1962