Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton
Politics and International RelationsPart of Economic, Social and Political Science

Dr Ben Saunders BA, M.Phil, D.Phil, FHEA

Associate Professor in Political Philosophy

Dr Ben Saunders's photo
Related links
Personal homepage

Dr Ben Saunders is Senior Lecturer/Associate Professor in Political Philosophy within Politics & International Relations at the University of Southampton.

I joined Southampton in September 2014, having previously held lectureships in Oxford (2008-10) and Stirling (2010-14). Before this, I read for a first degree in PPE and a doctorate in Politics, at Jesus College Oxford.

My teaching and research generally lies at the intersection between politics and philosophy, but I am particularly interested in three (somewhat overlapping) areas:

1. Democratic theory, including both questions of institutional design (such as who should get a vote or what voting system should be used) and the ethics of voting (that is, whether citizens have obligations to vote in particular ways or at all). Representative publications in this area include:

‘Democracy, Political Equality, and Majority Rule’ Ethics 121:1 (2010), pp. 148-77.

‘The Democratic Turnout ‘Problem’’ Political Studies 60:2 (2012), pp. 306-20.

‘Defining the Demos’ Politics, Philosophy and Economics 11:3 (2012), pp. 280-301.

2. The moral and political thought of the English philosopher, MP, and social reformer John Stuart Mill, in particular regarding democracy and the proper limits of state action. Representative publications in this area include:

‘J. S. Mill’s Conception of Utility’ Utilitas 22:1 (2010), pp. 52-69.

‘Reformulating Mill’s Harm Principle’ Mind 125:500 (2016), pp. 1005-32.

3. Normative assessments of public policy interventions, in light of their effects on values such as freedom, fairness, etc. Some of these are related to democratic theory (e.g. compulsory voting) or to Mill (e.g. applying his harm principle), though other areas of interest include organ donation and reproduction. Representative publications in this area include:

‘Opt-Out Organ Donation without Presumptions’ Journal of Medical Ethics 38:2 (2012), pp. 69-72.

‘Minimum Pricing for Alcohol: A Millian Perspective’ Contemporary Social Science 8:1 (2013), pp. 71-82.

‘First, Do No Harm: Generalized Procreative Non-Maleficence’ Bioethics 31:7 (2017), pp. 552-8.

I teach undergraduate and/or postgraduate modules relating to all of these areas and am also interested in supervising PhDs in any of these areas, or other areas of contemporary analytic political theory.

My work has previously been supported by grants from inter alia the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Mind Association, and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. I am keen to repay this through public engagement, for instance through media appearances and popular writing, including contributing occasional pieces to a number of blogs, such as The ConversationDemocratic Audit, and our own department blog.

I previously served as Doctoral Programme Director for Politics and International Relations (2015-17) and, since 2018, I have been Deputy Director of the Graduate School in the newly-formed Faculty of Social Sciences, a role which involves oversight of doctoral training.

I am also an Associate Editor of the Springer journal Res Publica, which is the journal of the Association for Social and Political Philosophy.

Research interests

Democratic theory, including the franchise, who should vote, majority rule, and representation.

John Stuart Mill, including hedonism, liberalism, paternalism, and representative government.

Applied/practical ethics, including organ donation, procreative ethics (selection/enhancement), and animal rights.

My M.Phil and D.Phil concerned the place of majority rule in democratic theory. I was supervised by Prof David Miller and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Board/Council. A paper based on this research appeared in Ethics 121(1).

Research group

Political and Legal Philosophy

Deputy Director of the Faculty Graduate School

I am an Associate Editor of the journal Res Publica (

I have previously supervised PGR students working on democracy and the ownership of natural resources. I welcome applications or enquiries from prospective students in any of my research interests.

PAIR1004: Political Ideas
PAIR2002: Political Thinkers
PAIR2026/3033: Democratic Theory
PAIR6007: Citizenship and Democracy
PAIR6040: The Ethics of Public Policy

Dr Ben Saunders
Office hours semester 1 (2019-20) : Thursdays 10-11; Fridays 11-12.

Room Number : 58/3095

Dr Ben Saunders's personal home page
Share this profile Share this on Facebook Share this on Twitter Share this on Weibo
Privacy Settings