Philosophy and Public Affairs
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of St Andrews
Unit of AssessmentPhilosophy
Summary Impact TypeCultural
Research Subject Area(s)
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies, Literary Studies
Philosophy and Religious Studies: Philosophy
Summary of the impact
St Andrews philosophers have brought their expertise into dialogue with
professionals and members of the wider public, on matters of current
concern. The impact has been created in three domains:
- Impact on professional practice (Haldane's research on values,
practical reasoning and punishment helps healthcare professionals make
difficult decisions, and helps judges reflect upon ethical dilemmas);
- Impact on Christian organisations and institutions (Haldane's research
on the role of religion in education and in public life influences
educators, campaigners, and policy-makers);
- Impact on public debate about environmentalism and climate change
(Mulgan's work on future generations and Scruton's research on
environmental conservatism have played significant roles in public
debate, in part mediated by Mulgan's introductory writings).
John Haldane (Professor, in post since 1983) has written widely
across areas of ethical theory and practical ethics, social and political
philosophy, philosophy of religion, and philosophy of education; many of
his papers are collected in his Faithful Reason (2004), Reasonable
Faith (2009) and Practical Philosophy (2010). He has
developed a distinctive account of the role of philosophy in the wider
world, arguing against an idea of `applied philosophy' according to which
philosophy is first completed and then applied to practical issues,
preferring instead a `practical philosophy' which begins with questions
posed by human practice and develops philosophical responses to the issues
raised [1, especially the `Introduction' and chapter 1]. Haldane
articulates an account of the `public philosopher', set in contrast with
those presented by Rawls and by Habermas, with a particular focus on
questions about how religious commitments and concepts can enter into
public reasoning about the practical challenges which face us .
Haldane has a long-standing research interest in the role of values in
education, in the context of an account of education as a norm-bearing and
norm-constrained social practice. For example, he edited Values,
Education and the Human World (St Andrews Studies in Philosophy and
Public Affairs, Imprint Academic, 2004), a collection of the Victor Cook
lectures, contributing his own chapter `The Nature of Values' to section I
`Values and Values Education'; the volume was described as `highly
engaging...well-written and thought-provoking' (Journal of the
Philosophy of Education). Earlier work includes `Education:
Conserving Tradition' in Almond (ed.) An Introduction to Applied
Ethics (Blackwell 1995), and `The Very Idea of Spiritual Values'
. Haldane's recent `Understanding Education' (chapter 13 of ) argues
for a conception of education as `conserving bodies of knowledge,
sentiment and conduct as these are incarnate in traditional practices.'
Roger Scruton (Professorial Fellow, in post since 2011) argues for
a conservative environmentalism in his Green Philosophy: How to think
seriously about the Planet . Ideas of trusteeship, tradition,
home and land are set in a philosophical context reaching back to Hume,
Smith, Burke, Hegel, and Tocqueville; Scruton develops a notion of
`oikophilia', love of the household, which enables him to distinguish his
conservatism from more market-focused strains. For example, chapter 8,
`Beauty, Piety and Desecration', draws upon Scruton's earlier work in
aesthetics, particularly his books on architecture, to argue that `no
cogent environmental policy can be developed that does not, in the contest
between beauty and utility, put beauty first' [4, p.257].
Tim Mulgan (Professor, in post since 2005) has developed a
much-discussed theory of our obligations to future generations, based on a
distinctive rule-consequentialist account of the morality of individual
reproduction. In his Future People , he argues that the
resulting theory accounts for a wide range of independently plausible
intuitions concerning individual morality, intergenerational justice, and
international justice. In his `The Demanding Future' , he develops
these ideas further, by drawing on connections with his earlier book The
Demands of Consequentialism (Oxford University Press 2005).
References to the research
 John Haldane: Practical Philosophy: Ethics, Society and Culture
(St Andrews Studies in Philosophy and Public Affairs, Imprint Academic,
2010). [Book] Evidence of quality: reprints 11 essays published since 1993
(plus some earlier pieces), original sources include journals such as Journal
of Applied Philosophy, Philosophy, and Social Philosophy
and Policy (CUP); described as `erudite, sharp and wide-ranging' (Philosophical
 John Haldane: `Reasoning about the Good and the Role of the Public
Philosopher' in John Keown and Robert P. George (eds.) Reason,
Morality and Law (Oxford University Press, 2013). [Chapter] Evidence
of quality: leading publisher; other distinguished contributers include
Raz, Waldron, Crisp, Kenny, Gardner, Kramer, and Pink.
 John Haldane: `The Very Idea of Spiritual Values' in Carr and Haldane
(eds.) Spirituality, Philosophy and Education (Routledge 2003).
[Chapter] Evidence of quality: well-regarded publisher; other contributors
include Cottingham, Halstead, Dunne; to be re-issued in paperback
 Roger Scruton: Green Philosophy: How to Think Seriously About the
Planet (Atlantic Books, January 2012), published as How to Think
Seriously About the Planet: The Case for an Environmental Conservatism
by Oxford University Press in the US. [Book] Evidence of quality:
described as `dazzling' (Simon Jenkins, Sunday Times) and
`valuable' (Caroline Lucas, Independent); published by OUP
Philosophy (within `Practical Ethics' list).
 Tim Mulgan: Future People, (Oxford University Press, 2006).
[Book] Evidence of quality: leading publisher; described as `incredibly
impressive' (NDPR), `fascinating and extremely worthwhile' (Mind);
59 citations listed on Google Scholar.
 Tim Mulgan: `The Demanding Future' in Chappell (ed.) The Problem
of Moral Demandingness (Palgrave Macmillan 2009). [ChapterEvidence
of quality: well-regarded publisher; other contributors include O'Neill,
Swanton, Cruft, Hooker; Mulgan's chapter appears on reading list for
IDEA5270M (Global Environmental Ethics) at the University of Leeds.
Details of the impact
This research has had significant impact in three domains: professional
practice, Christian organisations, and public debate about
Impact on professional practice
Together with clinicians and other professionals from NHS Scotland and the
Scottish Government, Haldane was a member of the working group which
produced the report Making Difficult Decisions in NHS Boards in
Scotland, published March 2010 (the difficult decisions in question
concern prioritisation of healthcare resources) [S3]. Haldane, the
only philosopher involved, was able to draw upon his research on values
and practical reasoning (e.g. , especially the papers in section I).
This report has been cited by further NHS documents, for example A
Framework for Decision-Making for the Scottish Pre-Implantation Genetic
Diagnosis and Screening Service, and the NHS Shetland
Decision-Making Policy; it was cited by Nicola Sturgeon MSP in
responding to written question S3W-39407 in the Scottish Parliament In
March 2011. [S4]
Between 2010 and 2013, both Haldane and Dr Lisa Jones (Principal Teaching
Fellow, in post since 2004), have worked with the Judicial Skills
Committee of the Scottish Judiciary, providing ethics training as part of
quarterly residential courses. These courses were attended by judges,
sheriffs and other judicial officials from Scotland, Italy, Ireland,
Romania, Germany, and elsewhere, including Chief Justices of the UK and
Canada, and the Master of the Rolls. Feedback on these courses includes "Excellent
contribution that set agenda for a very lively discussion of a wide
range of topical issues with direct bearing on judicial work"
(25/2/2010) and "made me give thought to the time I take in my working
day to think of fundamental ethical or philosophical issues arising in
cases. I will now make time" (2/2/11). [S2]
In developing this training, Jones and Haldane used various elements of
Haldane's research in practical philosophy. For example, `Crime,
Compensation and Social Solidarity' (, chapter 11), was relevant to the
following session held in 2012-13: "`Ethics of Punishment' by Prof John
Haldane, University of St Andrews. This presentation looked at theories
of punishment and the philosophical angle of what punishment entails.
This was followed by some problem scenarios put to the participants,
looking at ethical dilemmas they could potentially face. Feedback for
the course was positive. Delegates noted that the sessions were
interesting and informative." [S5, p.16]
Impact on Christian institutions and organisations
Haldane is a leading Catholic thinker, who has published philosophical
research on the role of religion and philosophy in the public sphere (e.g.
), including work in philosophy of education (e.g.  chapter 13
`Understanding Education', and ). Christian institutions worldwide have
sought his expertise, and he has engaged formally with the following:
Pontifical Council for Culture (Rome): Haldane is a Consultor,
one of a group of experts asked to, `assist the Council by their
research and the information and opinions they provide'.
- The Center for Ethics and Culture (Notre Dame, US) brings
together policymakers, physicians and academics `to share the richness
of [the] Catholic moral and intellectual tradition'): Haldane is a
Senior Research Fellow.
- The Anscombe Bioethics Centre (Oxford) is not affiliated to
any HEI, but `engages in scholarly dialogue with academics and
practitioners of other traditions. It contributes to public policy
debates as well as to debates and consultations within the Church. It
runs educational programmes for, and gives advice to, Catholics and
other interested healthcare professionals and biomedical scientists':
Haldane is a member of the Academic Advisory Council.
Campion College (Sydney) is a Catholic liberal arts college
(the first in Australia): Haldane is a member of the International
Advisory Board, tasked with `providing advice and assistance to the
College on issues related to its broad educational interests and
- The St Ninian Institute (Dundee) is an educational institute
serving the Diocese of Dunkeld as well as the Catholic community in
Scotland: Haldane is a member of the Board of Trustees.
- The Catholic Union of Great Britain is the leading lay
organization in Great Britain to champion the teachings of the Catholic
Church in the public sphere: Haldane is Vice-President (Scotland).
Some of this impact lies within the higher education sector, and is
included not as impact on research or the advancement of academic
knowledge, but as impact on students, teachers and administrators in these
institutions, via advice on structures, curricula and public activities
(as per Annex C of the REF Assessment Framework and Guidance on
Haldane has taken part in several high-profile public debates about the
role of religion in public affairs. For example, he debated `Secularism
and Faith in the Public Square' with Christopher Hitchens in the
Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford (2010); the video has been downloaded over
200,000 times from YouTube [S7], and prompted debate across blogs
from many different perspectives. He spoke at the 2012 Battle of Ideas at
the Barbican on `The New Culture Wars', and debated `Tradition: Friend or
Foe of Freedom' live on Australia's ABC network (July 2013). He has also
engaged with politicians and other public figures; for example, one
crossbench peer writes "I have benefited from John Haldane's writings
on fundamental ethical, social and political ideas, as are found in his
book Practical Philosophy: Ethics, Culture and Society (2010) ,
finding them useful in my own thinking for example about the nature of
liberalism and about difficult and contested issues such as euthanasia."
Impact on public debate about environmentalism and climate change
Tim Mulgan's Future People  paved the way for his Ethics
for a Broken World: Imagining Philosophy After Catastrophe (Acumen,
October 2011). Aimed at a broad audience, this book takes the perspective
of future people living in a world where material resources are
insufficient to meet everyone's basic needs, and is presented as a series
of `history of philosophy' lectures reflecting back on the thought of our
times. The ethical questions which currently concern us are shown to look
very different from the perspective of a ruined world.
Ethics for a Broken World has sold over 800 copies to date, and
has been warmly reviewed both in academic journals, and in wider fora: "What
is particularly impressive about this book is the engaging style in
which it is written. It is accessible, entertaining, and even funny.
This makes it the perfect book for those with an amateur interest in the
subject." (Philosophy Now July 2013).
Likewise, Mulgan's research has influenced Scruton's Green Philosophy)
: e.g. reference to Mulgan's  on p.187 of Scruton's . Green
Philosophy has been received with great interest by reviewers across
the national press: "philosopher Roger Scruton's thoughtful study on
environmentalism in the conservative tradition arrives at a timely
moment ... a valuable contribution to the debate over environmental
politics" (Caroline Lucas MP, Independent 13/1/12), "Agree
or disagree, Scruton has written a dazzling book" (Simon Jenkins, Sunday
Times 1/1/12), "Scruton's case for a green conservatism is
compelling" (Julian Baggini, Financial Times 30/12/11). [S8]
It has attracted widespread discussion on websites including
lowimpact.org, bryanappleyard.com, themonthly.com.au,
conservativehome.blogs.org, and Critical Marxist blog
tendancecoatsey.wordpress.com, typically with lively debate in the
comments section. [S9]
Both Mulgan and Scruton have given a number of public talks based on this
research. For Mulgan, these include public lectures about the `Broken
World' ideas in St Andrews (2008), Auckland (2009), and at Dutch
think-tank the Club of Amsterdam (2010). For Scruton these include talks
and debates about environmentalism at UK think-tank the Policy Exchange
(2012), the Royal Society of Arts (2012), the Gladstone Club (2012) the
Forum for European Philosophy at the LSE (2013), and in Basel (2012); he
also discussed Green Philosophy on Radio 4's Start the Week
Sources to corroborate the impact
[S1] Email from member of the House of Lords, confirming Haldane's
interactions with him.
[S2] Letter from Director of the Judicial Institute for Scotland,
confirming feedback from judges and others on ethics training provided by
Haldane and Jones.
[S3] Making Difficult Decision in NHS Boards in Scotland, 2010.
Haldane's membership of working group confirmed on p.32.
ReferenceNumbers=S3W-39407&ResultsPerPage=10 Report referred to
in Scottish parliament.
Source of quotation on `punishment' session for Judicial Skills Committee
[S6] Websites confirming Haldane's roles within various Christian
Council for Culture, The
Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture, The
Anscombe Bioethics Centre, Campion
College and The
Catholic Union of Great Britain.
Download figures for Haldane-Hitchens.
[S8] Reviews of Green Philosophy in the national press.
[S9] Blog discussions of Green Philosophy
[S10] Evidence of public lectures, talks and debates by Mulgan and