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Dr Neil Manson

Senior Lecturer

Neil Manson


Tel: +44 1524 594668

Office Hours:

Neil's office hours SummerTerm are Wednesdays 12-2

PhD supervision

Philosophical aspects of consent and informed consent

Decision making in a medical context
Consent as a communicative act.
The ethics of spin, PR and media.

The ethics of secrecy and concealment.
The nature and ethical significance of genetic information.
Information privacy and epistemic virtue.

The vice of curiosity.
Applied ethics and social epistemology.

Current Teaching

PHIL100 - Introduction to Philosophy

PPR205 Knowledge and Reality

PPR307 History of Twentieth Century Philosophy

PPR 456 Paternalism, AUtonomy and Consent

PPR 392c  The Ethics of Communication


Research Interests

Neil C. Manson studied philosophy in London , taking his BA at King's College London in 1992 and his MPhil at University College London in 1995. He then went to Corpus Christi College Oxford, gaining his DPhil in 1998 with a thesis entitled Conscious Thought. From 1998 to 2005 he had two research fellowships at King's College Cambridge. He has taught philosophy in London, Oxford and Cambridge.

His main research interests are in consent, and related issues that arise to do with normative aspects of knowledge and communication. He is currently working on a number of papers on philosophical aspects of consent, which he hopes will (by some kind of magic) eventually emerge as a book. Central to these papers is the idea that there has been insufficient attention to consent as a general phenomenon (rather than consent in medicine, sexual consent etc), and, more specfically, to the nature of consent as a practical normative phenomenon. Consent is something that we do, both as consentors and recipients of consent (it is also something that we enforce, acknowledge, accommodate as bystanders, audiences, and in other normative roles). My aim is to offer a better, systematic, account of the various ways in which we can bring about normative change by our acts of consent.

Currently I am working on

Normative Control and the Scope of Consent:

Acts of consent are normatively transformative. Acts of consent bring about certain normative changes but not others: they have a normative scope. What explains the normative scope of consent? It cannot simply be a matter of the consentor's attitudes, intentions, decisions or state of mind. Better accounts of the scope of consent stress the way that consent is a transformative move within a normative context, a context, which, in turn, determines which descriptions of an act are normatively salient. But such accounts fail to register the fact that, in addition to our normative power to permit actions, we have a power to restrict and specify the normative scope of consent and, in doing so, to shape and adjust the normative landscape: to make some things normatively relevant that would otherwise not be so. The aim here is to introduce this idea of normative control, explain how it works, why our degree of normative control varies from context to context and why the notion of normative control is important for a better understanding of consent transactions.

Deception and Consent: beyond factum and inducement

Deception can undermine the normative force of consent, but does not always do so. This raises the challenge of accounting for when, how and why deception undermines consent. Legal discussions often draw upon a distinction between fraud in the factum and fraud in the inducement (where the former vitiates consent, the latter need not). This distinction (as others have noted) is not really fit for purpose, partly because it is framed in terms of the problematic notion of deception about the "nature of the act". Here I develop an alternative framework for thinking about deception and consent by focusing on the non-normative reasons that a deceiver may have for inducing an act of consent. In some contexts a deceiver can gain prudential benefits (in terms of performing an action, or in terms of avoiding sanction) by procuring an act of consent directed at some action X, whilst either (i) performing some other action Y; or (ii) performing both X and Y. By itself this does not entail any wrongdoing (other than that attached to the deception itself). However, where Y is an action prohibited without consent, consent to X may not "cover" the doing of Y. In such contexts consent is "vitiated" only in the sense that an action was performed for which no consent was given. This is a clearer formulation than fraud in the factum and better explains why this kind of deception involves a normative failing.

The Normative Power to Permit by Consent

Consent involves the exercise of a normative power: a power to bring about normative change. A normative power is something other than a mere causal power to bring about normative change: e.g., by moving house into school X's catchment area it may become permissible to apply for my child's place at that school. I may even perform the action precisely in order to bring about this kind of normative change. It is argued that normative powers proper differ from a mere causal power to bring about normative change in that they are direct: the normative change can be brought about simply by communicating one's intention to bring about that normative change. However, there are direct normative powers that are very unlike the power we have to permit by consent. A driving licensing agency has the power to permit others to drive. But this kind of normative power is very different from that of consent, because it is constrained by and answerable to an independent set of normative considerations (the fundamental normative ground is that of protecting people from the effects of incompetent drivers), but the normative power to consent is not constrained by or answerable to independent normative considerations in this way, the consenting party has the discretion to permit certain kinds of actions for whatever reason she wishes, for good reasons or bad, for whimsical reasons, or on the basis of long deliberation.



Applied philosophy/public policy

Neil Manson iis the Chair of the Society for Applied Philosophy; in the past he has been the treasurer, and an associate edictor of the Journal of Applied Philosophy

I have taken part in a wide range of applied philosophical and policy events and activities:



Spring 2008- invited member of the NHS Organ Donation Taskforce 'Ethics Working Group', working on issues to do with consent (e.g., opt-in, opt out, mandated choice) for organ donation.

March 08 -invited participant and respondent, British Academy workshop: 'Philosophy and Public Policy'.

May 08 - invited participant, MRC/Wellcome workshop: 'Regulation and Biomedical Research'

May 08 - invited participant, UK) Human Tissue Authority workshop on directed deceased (organ) donation.

July 08 - invited participant, Nuffield Council on Bioethics fact-finding meeting on (ethics of) dementia.

April 09 - invited speaker/participant in Public Health Genetics Foundation/CRASSH workshop 'Policy, Groups and Populations in a Genomic Era'

Jan 10 - invited participant in AHRC/Human Genetics Commission seminar 'Understanding Genetic Discrimination'

Jun 10 invited participant in Technology Strategy Board 'Knowledge sharing and extending the frontiers of knowledge' workshop.

Jan 11 invited speaker/participant AHRC/HFEA/SAP workshop 'Ethical issues in gamete and embryo donation'

May 11 invited participant in workshop on Ethics of Fabry Disease Newborn Screening Academisch Medisch Centrum, Amsterdam

June 12  Invited witness to UK Leveson Inquiry: Culture, Practice and Ethics of the Press

Nov 13: invited speaker South Norway Research Ethics Committee workshop on informed consent.


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