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Michael Garnett


Michael Garnett is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy and currently both Admissions Tutor for Research Students and Programme Director for the MA. He received his BA and MPhil in philosophy at Cambridge University, before proceeding to a PhD at the University of Toronto. After briefly trying his hand as a secondary school teacher, he took up a College Lectureship at Wadham College, Oxford, before coming to Birkbeck in 2007.

Research Activity

  • Michael’s research interests are in social and political philosophy, ethics (especially moral responsibility), and philosophy of agency.
  • His current project is an investigation into the nature of freedom.  It has three strands, each corresponding to one of three traditional ways of thinking about the concept.  The first concerns freedom in the broadly ‘negative’ sense of absence of constraint: here it focuses both on formulating the best notion of ‘constraint’ and on issues concerning the measurement of opportunity. The second concerns freedom in the broadly ‘republican’ sense of absence of interpersonal domination: here it aims both to refine the relevant concept of domination and to tap what he takes to be some of the unappreciated explanatory power of the republican approach. The third concerns freedom in the broadly ‘positive’ sense of individual self-rule: here it aims to show that such approaches tend either to rest on indefensible conceptions of ‘self-rule’, or to confuse freedom with agency in a problematic way, or to collapse into one or other of the first two approaches.
  • Michael has been exploring these ideas in a series of papers and hopes eventually to draw them all together in a book.


Research Supervision

  • Michael welcomes research students in any of the areas of his research interests, and is always happy to receive enquiries from prospective students.