Pauline Phemister


Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

Early modern philosophy, particularly focusing on issues in metaphysics, ethics and aesthetics; ecological philosophy

Personal profile


Pauline Phemister M.A. Ph.D. (Edinburgh) returned to the department in 2005, prior to which she held a British Academy Post-doctoral Fellowship at the University of Oxford and taught at the Universities of Nebraska-Lincoln and Liverpool. She is author of Leibniz and the Natural World and The Rationalists: Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz. Her most recent book - Leibniz and the Environment - develops a Leibnizian  ecological philosophy.  She has also published abridged edition of John Locke's Essay concerning Human Understanding for Oxford World's Classics. Among her other projects, she leads the local Edinburgh activities of the international Uncertain Human Future Council, was a co-investigator on an AHRC project on Ancestral Time (2013-16) and is currently the Principal Investigator on the RSE funded interdisciplinary project, Living Organisms and their Choices. 

Research Interests

Early modern philosophy, particularly Leibniz, and contemporary ecological philosophy.  Her current research interests bring seventeenth century philosophical ideas to bear on issues of the environment and deep ecology. 


Courses taught


The Rationalists: Spinoza and Leibniz (Honours Year 4)

Philosophy and the Environment (Honours Year 4)


The Rationalists: Spinoza and Leibniz (UG Year 4/MSc)

Philosophy and the Environment (UG Year 4/MSc)

MSc/PhD Philosophy Proseminar, 1 seminar

Dissertation in Philosophy, 2 students (UG Year 4)


Contemporary Debates in the History of Philosophy (MSc)

Mind and Body in Early Modern Philosophy (MSc)

MSc/PhD Proseminar, 1 seminar

Greats: From Plato to the Enlightenment, introductory and final lectures (UG Year 1)

Philosophy and the Environment (UG Year 4/ MSc)

Dissertation in Philosophy, 1 student (UG Year 4)

MSc Dissertation in Philosophy, 3 students (MSc)


Administrative Roles

College (Edinburgh)

Mentor, Post-doctoral fellow, IASH, 2013-14

Mentor, Mentoring Connections Programme, 2016-

Acting Director, IASH, 2009-10

Deputy Director, IASH, 2008-12

College Research Committee, 2009-10

Hume Tercentenary Steering Group, 2009-2011 (Chair, 2009-2010)

KE/Impact Committee, 2009-12

Edinburgh Centre for Climate Change Steering Group, 2009


School Academic Misconduct Officer, 2018-


Chair, British Society for the History of Philosophy, 2011-14

Member, Management Committee, British Society for the History of Philosophy, 2008-to date

Associate Editor, British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 2011+

Book Review Editor, British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 2009-11

Member, CHCI Humanities for the Environment Steering Group, 2009-

External Examining, Phd, MSc, UG: various

Departmental  (Edinburgh)

Research Advisor:Philosophy, 2015-18

Course Organiser (Greats, sub-Hounours, 2014-19; Philosophy and Environment, 2006+; MSc, Minds and Bodies in Early Modern Philosophy, 2007+;MSc Introduction to Philosophical Method, 2007-08; History of Modern Philosophy, 2008, MSc Introduction to Advanced Philosophical Method, 2006-08.

Personal Tutor (40+ students), 2007+.

Member, Search Committee for Chair in Philosophy, 2007.

Convenor of the Board of Examiners, Philosophy, 2006 -08

Chair, Teaching Programme Review, Philosophy. 2005-06.


PhD, July 1985, University of Edinburgh 

John Macmurray Prize (University of Edinburgh, 1985)

Scottish Education Department, Major Studentship (1981‑84)


Dip. Lib., 1981, College of Librarianship Wales


MA (Hons.) II, i, 1980, University of Edinburgh

Bruce of Grange Hill Award (University of Edinburgh, 1980)


Education/Academic qualification

Philosophy, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Matter from Monads: a Study of the Interrelations between Monads and Bodies in the Philosophy of G. W. Leibniz, University of Edinburgh


  • BD Speculative Philosophy
  • Early Modern Philosophy


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