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Prof Jennifer Hornsby

  • Overview



    Jennifer Hornsby is an Emeritus Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, where she was a Tutorial Fellow from 1978 until she came to Birkbeck. She has been Professor at Birkbeck since 1995—full-time until 2017, and now, being semi-retired, 0.2.
    She was a founder member of the Centre for the Study of the Mind in Nature, Oslo, and a Co-Director for ten years until 2017. She has held research positions in U.S.A., Australia and Norway. She is a Fellow of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, of the British Academy, and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


    • My most cited article is from 2001. It has led to various publications on slurs, epithets, derogatory words, pejoratives. It is 'Meaning and uselessness: how to think about derogatory words'.

    Office hours

    Although I hold a 0.2 post, I'm apt to work in my Birkbeck office on most weekdays. When Covid-related restrictions are no longer in place, appointments to meet me there can be made (using email).


    • BA, University of Oxford, 1973
    • MPhil, University College London, 1976
    • PhD, University of Cambridge, 1978

    Visiting posts

    • Visiting Fellowship, All Souls College, 10-2017 to 06-2018

    Professional activities

    I am on the editorial board of the journal Theoria, and I review articles for this and for several other philosophy journals.

    I am a collaborator on an Austria-based project on group silencing / group speech, and a Sweden-based project on The Agent and Patient of Language Use.

    Professional memberships

    • I am a member of the Aristotelian Society (and on its Council, having been its President in 1997–8).

    • I am a Fellow of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.

    • I am a Fellow of the British Academy.

    • I am a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

  • Research


    Research interests

    • Philosophy of language, philosophy of mind and action, metaphysics, epistemology.

    Research clusters and groups

    • member, LEMM (Language, Epistemology, Metaphysics, and Mind)
  • Supervision and teaching

    Supervision and teaching


    Jen welcomes research students in any of the areas of her research interests:

    • Philosophy of action, mind and language
    • Metaphysics: especially causality and “events, states, processes”
    • Topics in social and feminist philosophy relating to language use

    She currently is, or recently has been, supervising research students on questions about agency, personal identity, practical knowledge, evolution (in biology).

    Doctoral alumni since 2013-14

  • Publications




    Book Review

    Book Section

    • Hornsby, Jennifer (2012) Knowledge of meaning and epistemic interdependence. In: Schantz, E.R. (ed.) Prospects for Meaning. Current Issues in Theoretical Philosophy. Berlin, Germany: De Gruyter. pp. 383-398. ISBN 9783110196238.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (2011) Ryle’s Knowing how and knowing how to act. In: Bengson, J. and Moffett, M. (eds.) Knowing How: Essays on Knowledge, Mind, and Action. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. pp. 80-100. ISBN 9780195389364.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (2011) Actions in their circumstances. In: Ford, A. and Hornsby, Jennifer and Stoutland, F. (eds.) Essays on Anscombe's Intention. Cambridge, U.S.: Harvard University Press. pp. 105-127. ISBN 9780674051027.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (2011) Ryle's knowing how and knowing how to act. In: Bengson, J. and Moffett, M.A. (eds.) Knowing How: Essays on Knowledge, Mind, and Action. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780190200220.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer and Goulder, N. (2011) Action. In: Craig, E. (ed.) Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Abingdon: Routledge. ISBN 9780415073103.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (2010) Physicalism, conceptual analysis, and acts of faith. In: Ravenscroft, I. (ed.) Minds, Ethics, and Conditionals: Themes from the Philosophy of Frank Jackson. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. pp. 43-60. ISBN 9780199267989.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (2010) Trying to act. In: O’Connor, T. and Sandis, C. (eds.) A Companion to the Philosophy of Action. Blackwell Companions to Philosophy Series. Chicester: Wiley. pp. 18-25. ISBN 9781405187350.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (2010) The standard story of action: an exchange. In: Aguilar, J.H. and Buckareff, A.A. (eds.) Causing Human Action: New Perspectives on the Causal Theory of Action. Cambridge,: The MIT Press. pp. 57-68. ISBN 9780262514767.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (2009) Five questions in the philosophy of action. In: Aguilar, J.H. and Buckareff, A.A. (eds.) Philosophy Of Action: 5 Questions. 5 Questions. Copenhagen, Denmark: Automatic Press/VIP. ISBN 8792130089.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (2008) Agency and alienation. In: de Caro, M. and MacArthur, D. (eds.) Naturalism In Question. Cambridge, U.S.: Harvard University Press. pp. 173-187. ISBN 9780674030411.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (2008) Acting for reasons: a disjunctivist thesis. In: Haddock, A. and Macherson, F. (eds.) Disjunctivism: Perception, Action, Knowledge. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. pp. 244-261. ISBN 9780199231546.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (2008) A disjunctive conception of acting for reasons. In: Haddock, A. and Macpherson, F. (eds.) Disjunctivism: perception, action, knowledge. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199231546.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (2008) Davidson and Dummett on the social character of language. In: Amoretti, M.C. and Vassallo, N. (eds.) Knowledge, Language, and Interpretation. Frankfurt, Germany: Ontos Verlag. pp. 107-122. ISBN 9783868380002.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (2008) Speech acts and performatives. In: Lepore, E. and Smith, B.C. (eds.) Oxford Handbook in Philosophy of Language. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199552238.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (2007) Knowledge and abilities in action. In: Kanzian, C. and Runggaldier, E. (eds.) Cultures: Conflict, Analysis, Dialogue (Proceedings of the 29th International Wittgenstein Symposium). De Gruyter. pp. 165-180. ISBN 9783110328936.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (2007) Knowledge in action. In: Leist, A. (ed.) Action in Context. Berlin, Germany: De Gruyter. ISBN 9783110898798.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (2007) Knowledge, belief and reasons for acting. In: Beaney, M. and Penco, C. and Vignolo, M. (eds.) Explaining the Mental. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Press. pp. 88-105. ISBN 9781847182975.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (2005) Truth and ontology. In: Beebee, H. and Dodd, J. (eds.) Truthmakers. Mind Association Occasional Series. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. pp. 33-47. ISBN 9780199283569.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (2005) Truth without truthmaking entities. In: Beebee, H. and Dodd, J. (eds.) Truthmakers: The Contemporary Debate. Mind Association occasional series. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. pp. 33-48. ISBN 9780199283569.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (2004) Agency and actions. In: Hyman, J. and Steward, H. (eds.) Agency and Action. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. pp. 1-23. ISBN 9780521603560.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (2004) Alienated agents. In: De Caro, M. and Macarthur, D. (eds.) Naturalism in Question. Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Harvard University Press. pp. 173-187. ISBN 9780674030411.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (2003) Children's action control and awareness: comment on Frye and Zelazo. In: Roessler, J. and Eilan, N. (eds.) Agency and SelfAwareness: Issues in Philosophy and Psychology. Consciousness & Self-Consciousness Series. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press. pp. 263-274. ISBN 9780199245628.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (2003) Free speech and hate speech: language and rights. In: Egidi, R. and dell'Utri, M. and de Caro, M. (eds.) Normatività Fatti Valori. Macerata, Italy: Quodlibet. pp. 297-310. ISBN 9788874620982.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (2001) Singular terms in contexts of propositional attitude. In: Follesdal, D. (ed.) Philosophy of Quine. Abingdon, UK: Routledge. ISBN 9780815337379.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (2001) Truth: the identity theory. In: Lynch, M.P. (ed.) The Nature of Truth: Classic and Contemporary Perspectives. Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: MIT Press. pp. 663-681. ISBN 9780262621458.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (2000) Feminism in philosophy of language: communicative speech acts. In: Fricker, Miranda and Hornsby, Jennifer (eds.) The Cambridge Companion to Feminism in Philosophy. Cambridge Companions to Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 87-106. ISBN 9780521624510.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (1999) Anomalousness in action. In: Hahn, L.E. (ed.) The philosophy of Donald Davidson. Library of Living Philosophers. Chicago, U.S.: Open Court Publishing. pp. 623-636. ISBN 081269399X.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (1998) Dualism in action. In: O'Hear, A. (ed.) Current Issues in Philosophy of Mind. Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. pp. 377-401. ISBN 521632971.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (1997) Agency and causal explanation. In: Mele, A. (ed.) Philosophy of Action. Oxford Readings in Philosophy. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. pp. 283-307. ISBN 9780198751755.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (1997) Thinkables. In: Sainsbury, M. (ed.) Thought and Ontology. Milan, Italy: Franco Angeli. pp. 63-80. ISBN 9788846401793.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (1995) Illocution and its significance. In: Tsohatzidis, S.L. (ed.) Foundations of Speech Act Theory: Philosophical and Linguistic Perspectives. Abingdon, UK: Routledge. pp. 187-207. ISBN 9781138993082.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (1995) Speech acts and pornography. In: Dwyer, S. (ed.) The Problem of Pornography. Philosophy Series. Belmont, USA: Wadsworth Publishing Company. ISBN 9780534220440.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (1993) Agency and causal explanation. In: Heil, J. and Mele, A. (eds.) Mental Causation. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198239291.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (1993) On what's intentionally done. In: Gardner, J. and Horder, J. and Shute, S. (eds.) Action and Value in Criminal Law. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. pp. 55-74. ISBN 9780198258063.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (1990) Descartes, Rorty and the mind-body fiction. In: Malachowski, A.R. (ed.) Reading Rorty: Critical Responses to Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature and Beyond. Wiley Blackwell. pp. 41-57. ISBN 9780631161493.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (1989) Semantic innocence and psychological understanding. In: Tomberlin, J. (ed.) Philosophical Perspectives. Atascadero, California, USA: Ridgefield. pp. 549-574. ISBN 9780917930487.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (1988) Physicalism, events and part-whole relations. In: LePore, E. and McLaughlin, B. (eds.) Actions and Events: Perspectives on the Philosophy of Donald Davidson. Wiley Blackwell. ISBN 9780631161875.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (1988) Things done with words. In: Dancy, J. and Moravcsik, J. and Taylor, C.C.W. (eds.) Language Duty and Value. Redwood City, California, USA: Stanford University Press. pp. 27-46. ISBN 9780804714747.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (1987) Animal intelligence. In: Blakemore, C. and Greenfield, S. (eds.) Mindwaves: Thoughts on Intelligence, Identity and Consciousness. Blackwell Publishers. pp. 195-204. ISBN 9780631146230.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (1986) Physicalist thinking and conceptions of behaviour. In: Pettit, P. and McDowell, J. (eds.) Subject, Thought and Context. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198249443.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (1981) Verbs and events. In: Dancy, J. (ed.) Proceedings of the Keele Conference in Philosophy of Logic and Language. Keele, UK: Keele University Press. pp. 88-111.
    • Hornsby, Jennifer (1980) Actions and abilities. In: Haller, R. and Grassl, W. (eds.) Language, Logic and Philosophy: Proceedings of the 4th International Wittgenstein Symposium, 25th August to 2nd September 1979, Kirchberg/Wechsel, Austria. Proceedings of the International Wittgenstein Symposium. Springer. pp. 387-391. ISBN 9789027790408.