Centre for Research on Discretion and Paternalism Bergen

David Archard

David Archard

Emeritus Professor in part-time position


David Archard is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Queens University of Belfast, having previously taught at the Universities of Ulster, St Andrews and Lancaster. He has held Visiting Professorships in China, Switzerland, Norway and the USA.


He has published extensively in applied ethics, philosophy of law and political philosophy, especially on the topics of children, the family, consent, nationalism, democracy, and the relation of philosophy to policy.


He is Chair of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, Honorary Vice President of the Society for Applied Philosophy, and a member of the clinical ethics committee of Great Ormond Street Hospital.


His personal website is: https://www.davearchard.co.uk

Ph.D. (London School of Economics and Politics)

B.A. in Politics and Philosophy (Corpus Christi College, University of Oxford)

Get to know David

What are you working on right now?

I am completing some articles and chapters on the nature of the family, on sex education, and on the relation between ethical recommendations and policy. But what I want to work on over the next year is the puzzling and problematic relationship between the view that there is moral equality of all humans and the view that it is morally right to treat adults differently from children. And I want to understand how this makes a difference to what we think is wrong about paternalism and why everyone should have the vote

Is there a book you’d recommend within your field?

For my generation of English-speaking moral and political philosophers John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice is the canonical text. But I’d recommend Joel Feinberg’s magisterial four volume The Moral Limits of the Criminal Law which is a wonderfully thoughtful, rich, comprehensive, always incisive review of what the liberal understanding of individual liberty is. And Bernard Williams’ Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy is a brilliant provocative account of what it should mean to lead a good life and how moral philosophy doesn’t always help us. Sorry, that’s three (actually six!) books but I find impossible to recommend just one!

If you had to choose a different field, what would it be?

Law. I’d like to say football but I was never that good.

Is there a TV-show you are binging?

One we binged on is Shtisel which is that rare thing, a series without sex or violence and no real heroes or heroines but which is a warm funny and occasionally very sad portrait of the lives of various people in the orthodox Jewish community in Jerusalem.

What are you listening to these days?

Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, Rachmaninov, Vaughan Williams and Mahler.

If you were prime minister for a day, what would you do?

Some unprintable things to some of our previous Prime Ministers! But one thing? Lower the voting age to 16.

Place you’ve been where you never want to go back to?

Uzbekistan and in particular Samarkand which we visited as one of our journeys to explore the Silk Road. Despite the magical name and the extraordinary architecture of its golden age, it had awful food, miserable people, and an oppressive sense of the worst Russian influences.

And a place you’ve been where you’d like to go back?

Pakistan. Not an obvious tourist destination but a wonderfully interesting place with a fascinating history, extraordinary hospitality, and occasionally the dramatically unexpected. And nothing beats standing at the top of the Khyber Pass looking into Afghanistan and thinking about all those, including Alexander the Great, who have passed this way.