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Dr Christopher Belshaw

Profile summary

Professional biography

Christopher Belshaw studied philosophy at the University of York, and later at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has taught at both institutions, as well as at S. Martin's College (Lancaster) and Lancaster University, joining the OU as Arts Staff Tutor in 1994. His major concerns are with the theoretical side of applied ethics - questions of the value of death, the nature of a person and so on - and with related questions in aesthetics and metaphysics. He is currently working on a new book for Acumen Press - 'Creatures: Animals, Value and Morality', planned to appear in 2013.

Research interests

I wrote my dissertation (on Hume and causal scepticism) under Nathan Salmon, who for long sat at the feet of Saul Kripke. But although I am still interested in Hume, both as a man and as a philosopher (though they are surely connected - how could any decent civilized person not be a sceptic?) I began to develop interests elsewhere in philosophy, reading and being utterly captivated by Reasons and Persons and thereafter wanting to pursue an interconnected range of contemporary philosophical problems. Besides, I found I didn’t really have either the memory or the attention to detail required to do history of philosophy in any serious way.
12 Modern Philosophers Christopher Belshaw and Gary Kemp, Wiley-Blackwell, 2009
Annihilation: The Sense and Significance of Death Acumen, 2008
10 Good Questions about Life and Death, Blackwell Publishing, 2005
Ideas (An Access Text in Philosophy) The Open University (1998)
Environmental Philosophy: Reason, Nature and Human Concern Acumenand McGill-Queens (September 2001)
Contested Environments eds. Nick Bingham, Andrew Blowers and Chris Belshaw Wiley 2003 (from the Open University course U216 Environment)
Chapters in Books
‘Abortion and Metaphysics’, Consensus in Bioethics: Proceedings,  Preston, 1998 pp 63-71
‘Later Death/Earlier Birth’, MidWest Studies in Philosophy – Life and Death,  Blackwell, 2000
‘Death, Brains and Persons’, Suffering, Death and Identity eds. Fisher, Prinozic, et. al. Rodopi, 2002
‘Landscape, Parks, Wilderness’, Contested Environments eds. Belshaw, Bingham, Blowers, Wiley, 2003
‘Teaching Ethics in Universities and Teaching Professional Ethics’, Universities, Ethics and Professions eds. Strain et al., Routledge, 2009
‘Harm and Time’,The Metaphysics and Ethics of Death  ed. Taylor OUP, in press
‘Death, Value and Desire’, The Oxford Handbook on Death eds. Bradley et al., OUP, forthcoming
Journal Articles
'Hume and Demonstrative Knowledge' Hume Studies, (April 1989)
'Scepticism and Madness' Australasian Journal of Philosophy, (December 1989)
'Asymmetry and Non-Existence' Philosophical Studies, (April 1993)
'Abortion, Value and the Sanctity of Life' Bioethics, (April 1997)
'Gold' Theoria (Spain) September 1998
'Death, Pain and Time' Philosophical Studies (February 2000)
'Identity and Disability' Journal of Applied Philosophy (December 2000)
and in Routledge Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics eds. Chadwick and Schroeder (Routledge, 2001)
'More People – Better People' Ethical Theory and Moral Practice (June 2003)
‘Are You of Good Character?, Nursing Standard (July 2003, with Ann Gallagher)
‘In Defence of Environmental Philosophy’, Environmental Ethics  (Fall 2004)
‘My Beginnings’, The Monist (July 2006)
‘Privacy, Confidentiality and Harm’, Nursing Ethics (January 2010)
‘Animals, Identity and Persistence’, Australasian Journal of Philosophy (September 2011)
‘What’s Wrong with the Experience Machine?’, European Journal of Philosophy forthcoming
‘A New Argument for Anti-Natalism’, South African Journal of Philosophy forthcoming
Nicholas Jolley, The Light of the Soul, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, June 1992
Ronald Dworkin, Life’s Dominion, Mind, April 1995
Oliver Johnson, The Mind of David Hume, Canadian Philosophical Reviews, March 1996
Paola Cavalieri,  The Animal Question, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, July 2002
David Basinger Religious Diversity, The Shap Journal, September 2002
Steve Holland Bioethics: A Philosophical Introduction, Applied Philosophy, December 2005
Gwen Griffith-Dickson  The Philosophy of Religion, The Shap Journal, September 2006
David Benatar Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews  2006
Jens Johannson  Mortal Beings: On the Metaphysics and Value of Death, The Philosophical Quarterly 2007
John Lizza Persons, Humanity and the Definition of Death, The Philosophical Quarterly 2008
Geoffrey Scarre Death, Journal of Value Inquiry 2008
Todd May Death, The Philosophical Quarterly 2009
Mark Johnston Surviving Death, Times Higher Educational Supplement  April 2010
Simon Critchley How to Stop Living and Start Worrying,  Times Higher Educational Supplement December 2010
Julian Savulescu and Nick Bostrom (eds). Human Enhancement , Times Higher Educational Supplement  April 2011
Ben Bradley Well-Being and Death, Mind 2011
Richard Ryder Speciesism, Painism and Happiness, Times Higher Educational Supplement   July 2011
Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka Zoopolis, Times Higher Educational Supplement  forthcoming
David Archard and David Benatar Procreative Beneficence, Journal of Moral Philosophy forthcoming
See also Open Research Online for further details of Christopher Belshaw’s research publications.

Teaching interests

Like many in this country, I had no introduction to philosophy at school, and learnt about it only when I’d already started an undergraduate degree in music, at York. No joint degree was available and so, once bitten, I changed departments, learning most about my new interest from Roger Woolhouse and Andrew Ward, both of whom are still at York. There were doldrums, and some years, before I went, on a reasonably attractive fellowship to Santa Barbara to study for the Ph.D.
I approve wholeheartedly of the American education system. First, I was made to work, having to take a range of courses, including some serious logic (from Peter Hylton), and write regular term papers before starting on my dissertation.
Second, I was made to teach, initially as an assistant but before very long my own courses. And young Californians are a demanding bunch.
Third, it was evident that undergraduates were made to work, cranking through essays, and midterm and final exams in a way that would simply exhaust the average student in Britain. It’s no wonder America thinks of itself as the best country in the world.
I joined the OU in 1994 (I think - either the memory or the attention to detail is letting me down here) and since then have added environmental philosophy to my list of interests. Also jazz. I’ve never been entirely sure that changing departments, as an undergraduate, was a good move.


What's wrong with the Experience Machine? (2014-12)
Belshaw, Christopher
European Journal of Philosophy, 22(4) (pp. 573-592)

A new argument for anti-natalism (2012-04)
Belshaw, Christopher
South African Journal of Philosophy, 31(1) (pp. 117-137)

Harm, change and time (2012)
Belshaw, Christopher
Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, 37(5) (pp. 425-444)

Animals, identity and persistence (2011)
Belshaw, Christopher
Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 89(3) (pp. 401-419)

Privacy, confidentiality and harm (2010-01)
Belshaw, Christopher
Nursing Ethics, 17(1) (pp. 133-134)

More lives, better lives (2003-06)
Belshaw, Christopher
Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 6(2) (pp. 127-141)

Annihilation: the sense and significance of death (2009)
Belshaw, Christopher
ISBN : 9781844651351 | Publisher : Acumen Publishing | Published : Stocksfield, UK

10 good questions about life and death (2005-04)
Belshaw, Christopher
ISBN : 1405125772 | Publisher : Blackwell Publishing

Environmental philosophy: reason, nature and human concern (2001-10-01)
Belshaw, Christopher
ISBN : 190268320x | Publisher : Acumen and McGill-Queens University Press | Published : UK, Canada

Death, value and desire (2013-12)
Belshaw, Christopher
In: Feldman, Fred; Bradley, Ben and Johannsen, Jens eds. The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Death. Oxford Handbooks in Philosphy
ISBN : 9780195388923 | Publisher : OUP | Published : Oxford, UK

Teaching ethics in universities and teaching professional ethics (2009)
Belshaw, Christopher
In: Strain, John; Barnett, Ronald and Jarvis, Peter eds. Universities, Ethics and Professions (pp. 113-125)
ISBN : 9780415991193 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London/New York

Death, brains, and persons (2002)
Belshaw, Christopher
In: Fisher, Robert N.; Primozic, Daniel T.; Day, Peter A. and Thompson, Joel A. eds. Suffering, Death and Identity. Value Inquiry Book Series/Personalist Studies (135) (pp. 141-154)
ISBN : 978-90-420-1173-1 | Publisher : Rodopi | Published : Amsterdam/New York

12 Modern Philosophers (2009)
Belshaw, Christopher and Kemp, Gary eds.
ISBN : 9781405152617 | Publisher : John Wiley and Sons Ltd | Published : Chichester

My Beginnings (2007-10)
Belshaw, Christopher