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Dr Neil Manson

Senior Lecturer

Neil Manson

Lancaster University

County South



Office Hours:

Because I am on research leave 2019-20 I won't be having office hours - you can email me on n.manson@lancaster.ac.uk though

Research overview


My main research interest is permissive consent. This covers questions to do with what consent is, how it works, and how it can be undermined.  It has applications in biomedical ethics: the nature, justification and limits of informed consent;  the nature and role of consent in legitimating biobank research; the contrast between explicit consent and other kinds of “consent” in organ donation policy (tacit, presumed, deemed).  My work with Onora O'Neill on consent is in Rethinking Informed Consent in Bioethics (CUP, 2007); I will soon be working on a monograph, provisionally entitled Permissive Consent: An Essay in Normative Cartography.

PhD supervision

The nature of consent; the nature and limits of informed consent (in medical ethics and elsewhere); consent and organ donation policy; adolescent consent; consent to uses of personal information; biobank consent policy; sexual consent; deception and consent; other topics in the ethics of communication.

Current Teaching

PHIL100 - Introduction to Philosophy

PPR 213 Epistemology

PPR307 History of Twentieth Century Philosophy

PPR 456 Paternalism, Autonomy and Consent



Research Interests

I studied philosophy at King's College London, University College London and Corpus Christi College Oxford. From 1998 to 2005 I was a fellow of King's College Cambridge.  Since 2005 I’ve been at Lancaster University, and enjoying living bang in the middle of the city (which, oddly, is only a few minutes walk from open fields!)

My main research interest these days is consent.  More specifically, permissive consent, the kind of consent that renders others actions permissible (rather than consent as agreement or consent to be bound by a set of rules).  Although we all engage in permissive consent practices (seeking, giving, negotiating, revising) consent in our everyday lives, it turns out that permissive consent is philosophically pretty complex, and a bit odd in places. I see my work over the past few years as a kind of normative cartography – getting to know the terrain, mapping it, exposing some of the oddities and perplexing features that, in a sense, were there all along (it’s a bit like wandering around a city that you know taking photos (which I like doing too), and you suddenly notice things, or realise that there is a non-obvious connection between two parts of the city.    My cartographic journeys have covered topics in medical ethics, including such oddities as a seeming asymmetry between consent and refusal in adolescent treatment (roughly, in some countries, including the UK, there are situations where an adolescent has the legal power to permit her own treatment, but she may not have the power to refuse it). All very odd, but with the right viewpoint, the puzzle disappears.  Other recent work includes papers on consent to research, and biobank consent (especially upon what is required by way of making a decision to participate).  A very different region of the consent terrain is sexual consent, and here I have done some work on how and why deception might invalidate consent.

In 2019-20 I will be on sabbatical in order to give a more “joined up” overview – working title Permissive Consent: an Essay in Normative Cartography  (it may end up being called something else). 

I'm a great believer in the idea that philosophers should try to say, and do, things that take them beyond the insular world of the "academy".  I'm currently chair of the Society for Applied Philosophy (and have been involved with the Society, and its journal, the Journal of Applied Philosophy for many years now).  I've also been involved in a wide variety of applied philosophy discussions, workshops, and committees. I'm currently a member of the (UK) Medical Research Ethics Committee "Ethics, regulation, and public involvement committee".

You may be looking at this page because we've met on an applicant visit day, or university open day - that would be with my "admissions tutor" hat on  - if you have any queries about studying philosophy at Lancaster, as an undergraduate, then do contact me (email is on the right).

If you are interested in doing a PhD, I’m keen to consider proposals to do with any area of consent, informed consent, and, because these are (in my view) essentially communicative practices, I’m also interested in proposals to do with the ethics of communication (freedom of speech, lying, deception, civility)  and how these are transformed by context and media.

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