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Susan James

Professor of Philosophy


Susan James received her BA, MA and PhD degrees in Philosophy at the University of Cambridge. She taught for two years at the University of Connecticut before returning to Cambridge, where she held a Research Fellowship at Girton College, and then a Lectureship in the Faculty of Philosophy. She moved to Birkbeck in 2000 and has held research positions in Israel, Germany, Australia and America. In 2013-14, she is a Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Faculty Fellow at the Center for Human Values, Princeton University.

Research Activity

  • Susan James's overlapping areas of philosophical research are the history of seventeenth and eighteenth century philosophy, political and social philosophy, and feminist philosophy. Within the history of early modern philosophy her work has focused on the passions and their ethical and political implications.
  • In 2012-13, Susan presented many papers at conferences/workshops, including three (in Sydney, in Ghent, and in Gottingen) which were organized in response to her book Spinoza on Philosophy, Religion and Politics. (Details are in a linked list, under publications below.)
  • She is using her 2013-14 Fellowship to complete a collection of essays for OUP, Spinoza on Learning to Live Together. She will argue that for Spinoza philosophy is a practical art of living and an inherently political enterprise. In subsequent years, she hopes to pursue two collaborative projects, one on philosophy as the art of living, the other on the epistemology of hope and fear. She also plans to continue research she has recently been doing on the history of modern conceptions of rights.


  • Details of recent talks with a fuller list of publications is here.
  • Books:
  • The Content of Social Explanation. Cambridge University Press, 1984; digitally printed paperback 2009.
  • Beyond Equality and Difference. Co-edited with Gisela Bock, Routledge, 1992.
  • Passion and Action: The Emotions in Early Modern Philosophy. Oxford University Press, 1997 – available at Oxford Scholarship Online.
  • Visible Women: Essays in Legal Theory and Political Philosophy. Co-edited with Stephanie Palmer, Hart, 2002.
  • The Political Writings of Margaret Cavendish. Cambridge University Press, 2003.
  • Spinoza on Philosophy, Religion and Politics: The Theologico-Political Treatis. Oxford University Press, 2012 – available at Oxford Scholarship Online.
  • Three recent papers:
  • ‘Spinoza on the Passionate Dimension of Philosophical Reasoning’. In Sabrina Ebbersmeyer ed., Emotional Minds. The Passions and the Limits of Pure Inquiry in Early Modern Philosophy (de Gruyter, 2012)
  • ‘When Does Truth Matter? Spinoza on the Relation between Theology and Philosophy’. European Journal of Philosophy’, vol. 20:1 (2012)
  • ‘Creating Rational Understanding: Spinoza as a Social Epistemologist’, Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 85:181-199 (2011).

Research Supervision

  • 17th and 18th century philosophy, especially ethics, political and social philosophy, psychology, philosophy of mind; political philosophy; feminist philosophy. I welcome students who want to work in one or more of these areas. Please feel free to email me.