School of Social and Political Science

Dr Philip Cook

Job Title

Senior Lecturer

Philip Cook photo

Room number


Building (Address)

Chrystal Macmillan Building

Street (Address)

15a George Square

City (Address)


Country (Address)


Post code (Address)


Research interests

Research interests

My recent in political philosophy has focused on the moral and political status of children. I am particularly interested in understanding children's claims of justice as equal citizens. I currently focusing on issues around justice in schools and education. I have also worked on the ethics of parenting, the ethics of child labour, and argued in defence of child enfranchisement.

Previous work on justice in education and schooling was supported by an ESRC Small Grant ‘Schools, Children, and Social Justice’. 

I also have research interests in contractualism in moral and political philosophy. I am especially interested in exploring contractualist responses to problems of exclusion: how may children, people with various kinds of disabilities, and the elderly be included in the scope of contractualist justification?

Together with Dr. Mihaela Mihai, we co-founded a new University centre called CRITIQUE: Centre for Ethics and Critical Thought. CRITIQUE was launched in September 2020, and aims to bring together staff, students, and external partners with interests in an ethical and critical approach to issues in public affairs. CRITIQUE runs a vibrant programme of activities, including lectures, seminars, reading groups, writing retreats, and methods training. I served as Co-Director in its inaugural year, 2020-21.

I am keen to pursue political philosophy in an interdisciplinary context. I am a founding member of the SSPS Education and Society Research Group, and participate actively in Centre for Science, Knowledge, and Policy: SKAPE (I was Associate Director 2014-17, and Co-Director 2017-18). 

I contribute to a variety of public and policy engagement activities. I have organised a range of events as part of the Just World Institute's 'Ethics Forum' that brought together scholars, politicians and activists to discuss topics of current public concern; I co-organised a conference on 'Philanthropy and Social Justice' with academics and practitioners; and was a member of the Academy of Government's 'Reference Group on Inequalities' which considered responses to social inequality in Scotland with leaders from business, campaign groups, central and local government, and the voluntary sector.

I have performed shows at Edinburgh Fringe Festival as part of the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas: 'Bring Back Child Labour!' and 'Abolish Childhood!' where I discussed how commitments to equality and social justice have radical implications for our approaches to childhood.

I served as Editor-in-Chief of Res Publica - A Journal of Moral, Legal and Political Philosophy between 2012-2020 (together with  Dr. Clare Chambers and Dr. Sune Laegaard). Res Publica is published on behalf of the Association for Social and Political Philosophy.

Topics interested in supervising

I am happy to supervise students working in contemporary political philosophy, particularly on topics of social justice, equality, childhood, schooling/education, family relations, free speech/censorship, democracy, and contractualism.

If you are interested in being supervised by Philip Cook, please see the links below (open in new windows) for more information:


I joined the University of Edinburgh in June 2013. Prior to my appointment at Edinburgh, I was a Lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Leicester (2009-13), and LSE Fellow (2006-9).

I was a Programme Visitor at the Research School for Social Sciences at Australian National University (2008), and Visiting Scholar, Department of Philosophy at the University of Victoria in Canada (2013). 


  • Senior Fellow UK Higher Education Academy
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Digital Education (University of Edinburgh)
  • PhD (LSE)
  • MSc Political Theory (LSE)
  • BSc (Econ) Government and International History (LSE)


My teaching focuses on equality, social justice, and education. I convene an Honours Undergraduate Course 'What's Wrong With Inequality?', and a post-graduate version 'Equality and its Critics'. These courses consider recent debates in political philosophy around equality, and relate these debates to  social and policy issues. I also convene a course focused on 'Education and Social Justice' that has a particular focus on bringing together debates in recent egalitarian political philosophy and developments in education policy.  I also contribute to the courses 'Education Politics and Policy' and 'Knowledge, Expertise, and Policy' convened by colleagues in other areas of the School of Social and Political Science delivering sessions on topics such as education and equality, markets and vouchers in education, and ethical expertise in policy.

Between 2015-2020 I convened the first-year undergraduate core-course 'Political Thinkers.' During this time I worked collaboratively with colleagues to diversify the curriculum and introduce thinkers from a wider range of traditions, geographies and identities. In previous years I have co-convened a Postgraduate course 'Explanation and Understanding in Social Science' together with Tod Van Gunten (Sociology). This course addresses a range of issues in the philophy of socieal science, and I led discussions around social ontology in particular (considering such thinkers as John Searle, Margaret Gilbert, Michael Bratman, Margaret Archer, and Brian Epstein).

I have strong interests in digital education, especially online distance learning and blended learning. While at University of Leicester I was Director of Distance Learning in Politics and International Relations, and helped develop a range of successful online distance learning post-graduate programmes. Since joining the University of Edinburgh, I have served as Director of Digital Education for the School of Social and Political Science, helping to develop online distance learning courses and programmes across the School further. I have recently completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Digital Education based at the Moray House of Education, University of Edinburgh, to help build my expertise in this area further. During the period affected by the pandemic, I led on supporting the move to online learning in Politics and International Relations, and also helped develop online learning toolkits and training resources for the School of Social and Political Science more widely.

I engage actively in pedagogical research. I was awarded a Principal's Teaching Award Small Grant to conduct research into the effect on student motivation and attainment of a blended-learning study skills programme I introduced.

I also enjoy developing workshops and  learning and teaching resources for colleagues involved with teaching, both in areas of general pedagogy (such as assessment literacy) and e-learning (such as flipped classroom).

I was awarded a University Teaching Fellowship while at University of Leicester.

In August 2016 I was awarded a Senior Fellowship of the UK Higher Education Academy.


Edited Book
Journal Articles
Book Chapters

My Edinburgh Research Explorer listing can be accessed here (including links to open-access versions of my papers):

We have a thriving PhD research community in Political Theory at Edinburgh. Please see for further information.

Staff Hours and Guidance

I am on sabbatical during the academic year 2022-23, and will not be holding Feedback and Guidance Hours.