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The University of Southampton
Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute

Professor Fiona Woollard BA Oxford, M.Litt St Andrews, PhD Reading

Professor, Faculty Ethics Committee Chair

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Professor Fiona Woollard is an Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southampton.

I am happy to supervise students in normative and applied ethics, in the philosophy of pregnancy and motherhood, in the ethics of artificial intelligence, and in the philosophy of sex.

Fiona Woollard joined Philosophy in September 2010. She completed her PhD at the University of Reading in 2008 and then held a temporary lectureship at the University of Sheffield for two years. She has research interests in normative ethics, applied ethics, epistemically transformative experiences and the philosophy of sex and pregnancy. She has published on topics including the distinction between doing and allowing harm, climate change and the non-identity problem, the moral significance of numbers, pornography and the norm of monogamy.

Fiona's monograph on the Doctrine of Doing and Allowing is available from Oxford University Press. The Doctrine of Doing and Allowing states that doing harm is harder to justify than merely allowing harm. Fiona defends the Doctrine of Doing and Allowing, arguing that this doctrine is necessary if anything is to genuinely belong to person - even that person's body. The monograph also explores the relationship between the Doctrine of Doing and Allowing and general ethical theories and its implications for our duties to aid distant strangers in severe need.

Fiona’s main current research is in the Philosophy of Pregnancy, Birth and Early Motherhood. Fiona shows that pregnancy, birth and early motherhood can challenge traditional ways of thinking about morality and knowledge. Fiona also identifies ways in which philosophical mistakes in our thinking about motherhood can influence the treatment of pregnant women and mothers, often leading to harmful consequences for these vulnerable groups. Fiona is working with parental support organisations, parent groups, health professionals and MPs to combat guilt and shame surrounding infant feeding decisions. She is also exploring ways in which work in the philosophy of pregnancy, birth and early motherhood can be used to help improve the treatment of women suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum or extreme pregnancy sickness. For more detail on Fiona’s work on the Philosophy of Pregancy, Birth and Early Motherhood, click here or here.

Fiona’s second current research project, with Will McNeill, explores philosophical and ethical issues surrounding autonomous systems, particularly the ethics of driverless cars. To find out more about this research project, click here.

Fiona held a Non-Residential Fellowship in Philosophy of Transformative Experience at the Experience Project (Templeton Foundation, University of Notre Dame, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) from September 2016 to February 2017 and a Mind Association Early Career Fellowship from October 2011 to April 2012. She was a Visiting Fellow at Harvard University from October to December 2011.

She is the Co-Treasurer of the British Society of Ethical Theory and a member of the Analysis Trust Committee.

Follow Fiona on Twitter here for further updates on her work.

Advice and Feedback Hours

I am on 75% research leave in Semester 2 2019-2020, but will still be holding one combined Advice and Feedback Hours and ERGO drop in hour. These will take place:

Wednesdays: 15:30-16:30

I will not be holding ERGO drop / advice and feedback hours on the 19th February, 26th February, 1st April, 6th May or 3rd June.

Research interests

Fiona's main research interests are in normative and applied ethics, in particular exploration of the nature and moral significance of deontological distinctions such as the distinction between doing and allowing harm, obligations to aid, body-ownership and philosophical issues surrounding pregnancy and motherhood. Her other research interests include the ethics of driverless cars and other autonomous systems, and the philosophy of sex.

Fiona is happy to supervise research students in normative and applied ethics, in philosophy of pregnancy and motherhood, in the ethics of artificial intelligence and in the philosophy of sex. Particularly appropriate topics include: deontological distinctions (doing vs allowing harm, intended vs foreseen harm), body-ownership, moral demandingness, obligations to aid, the non-identity problem, the rights and duties of pregnant women, euthanasia, abortion, surrogacy, organ donation and famine relief, monogamy and pornography.

Affiliate research group


Research project(s)

Philosophy of Pregnancy and Early Motherhood

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Book Chapters

  • Woollard, F., & Howard-Snyder, F. (2016). Doing vs. allowing harm. In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Stanford, US: Center for the Study of Lanugage and Information, Stanford University.
  • Woollard, F. (2010). Cheating with Jenna: monogamy, pornography and erotica. In D. Monroe, & G. Ponante (Eds.), Porn: Philosophy for Everyone - How to Think With Kink (pp. 93-104). Chichester, GB: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Woollard, F., & Weaver, B. R. (2009). Forsaking all others: monogamy, norms and value. In A. Cervantes-­Carson, & B. Oria (Eds.), Intimate Explorations Reading Across Disciplines (pp. 23-32). Oxford, GB: Interdisciplinary Press.

Creative Media and Artefacts



Review of Sexual Solipicism by Rae Langton, Times Literary Supplement (forthcoming)

Professor Fiona Woollard
Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Southampton, Avenue Campus, Southampton SO17 1BF, United Kingdom

Room Number: 65/1027

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