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Dr Garrath Williams

Senior Lecturer

Garrath Williams

Lancaster University

County South



Tel: +44 1524 592427

Office Hours:

My office is B74, County South. No regular office hours in Summer term 2015-16 - please e-mail me to arrange an appointment

Research overview

My research interests fall across ethics, political theory and applied ethics. One of my main interests, in all three of these areas, is in the many facets of the concept of responsibility. In ethics, I also work on Kant, and in political theory, I have a special interest in Hannah Arendt. In applied ethics, I am involved in collaborative research on children, health and public policy, including the EU-funded project I.Family which investigates diet and health-related behaviours in a large cohort of families across Europe. I also work on ethical issues in collaborative design of public services, and have worked on ethical issues in biomedical research. 

PhD supervision

I have research interests across normative ethics, political theory and applied ethics, and would be especially interested to hear from potential doctoral students considering research on Kant's practical philosophy, Hannah Arendt, and the philosophy of responsibility.


I took all my degrees at Manchester University - BA (Hons) in Philosophy and Politics, MA in Health Care Ethics, and my PhD (on theory of action in Kant's philosophy) in the Department of Government. I subsequently lectured in Political Theory in Manchester's Department of Government, then in philosophy at the Centre for Professional Ethics, University of Central Lancashire, before coming to Lancaster University.

I have held visiting fellowships at the University of St Andrews (in its Centre for Ethics, Philosophy and Public Affairds), at the European Academy for the Study of the Consequences of Scientific and Technological Advances, Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany, and most recently at Copenhagen Business School's Department of Intercultural Communication and Management.

Current Teaching

I have taught moral philosophy, political thought and applied ethics. My recent teaching at Lancaster includes 

  • Continental Philosophy, on Nietzsche, Foucault and Arendt (PPR302, available in 2014-15) 
  • Philosophical Issues in Politics and Economics (PPR211, available in 2014-15)
  • Ethics, especially Kantian ethics, and bioethics

Research Interests

My main interest over the past several years has been the concept of responsibility and its practical manifestation. Responsibility brings together a number of fundamental areas of enquiry. Contemporary philosophers have focussed on two related topics. One is the nature of responsible agency - especially what distinguishes sane adult human beings from other, non-responsible agents. The other is the justification of blame and punishment, as modes of holding people (or organisations) responsible for wrong-doing. I am also interested in two further topics: One is how we define and allocate responsibilities to people - not only general moral duties, but also more particular responsibilities attaching to particular social roles. The other concerns the virtue of responsibility: if all sane adults are responsible, it is still true that some are more responsible than others.

In the history of philosophy, I have worked on Kant (going back to my doctoral thesis), Hannah Arendt (editing four volumes of 'Critical Assessments' of her work), Nietzsche and Hobbes.

I also work in applied ethics, with colleagues in Lancaster's Centre for Bioethics and Medical Law. I am currently involved in a large EU funded project on childdren, diet and health, called I.Family. This follows an earlier project, IDEFICS, focussed on childhood obesity. Both projects are coordinated by BIPS (Bremer Instituts für Präventionsforschung und Sozialmedizin) and Bremen University. Previously, I have done training and consultancy in police ethics (with the Lancashire Constabulary), training and writing in research ethics, and research on the storage of genetic materials, especially from human donors. I have also recently started collaborating on an AHRC-funded project called Leapfrog, which is developing innovative ways to promote wider engagement in the design of public services.

Research Grants

I have been involved in a series of European funded collaborative projects relating to health and biotechnology, contributing especially in the ethics and public policy. I am currently Principal Investigator at Lancaster for the EU Framework 7 project I.Family - Determinants of eating behaviour in European children, adolescents and their parents, March 2012 to February 2017. Coordinated by Wolfgang Ahrens at Bremen University, this major collaborative project investigates the determinants of dietary and health-related behaviours in a large cohort of European families. Lancaster University is responsible for ethical aspects, policy implications and stakeholder involvement, and I sit on the project Steering Committee both as a chair and co-chair.

I.Family follows an earlier project, IDEFICS (Identification and prevention of dietary-and lifestyle-induced health effects in children and infants), funded by the EU under Framework 6 from 2007-2012. This was an epidemiological and intervention project on childhood obesity, involving over 16,000 children. Lancaster's contribution focussed on the ethical and public policy dimensions of the study and its findings. Again, I was Principal Investigator at Lancaster for this project and sat on the project Steering Committee as a co-chair.

I have also recently started collaborating with colleagues in LICA (Lancaster Institute for Contemporary Arts) and Glasgow School of Art on an AHRC-funded project called Leapfrog (2015-2017). The project is developing innovative ways to promote wider engagement in the design of public services, and my role concerns ethical issues in the development and use of new engagement methods.

Earlier projects in which I was involved include INES - Institutionalisation of Ethics in Science Policy (FP6) and Eurogenbank (FP4), on genetic banking in six European countries. I have also done training and consultancy in police ethics and in research ethics.

Additional Information

Follow me on Twitter: @GarrathWilliams

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