History of Philosophy


The history of philosophy is incredibly rich and fascinating, with lots to offer those who are interested not only in the history of ideas, but also in contemporary debates, and who wish to learn from the past: how we got to think about issues as we do today, but also how we might think about them differently. The subject itself is changing, with greater focus on traditions and individuals which have been neglected previously, such as non-Western philosophy, and women and BAME thinkers. The methodology is also changing, with more attention paid to historical context, to non-philosophical texts, and to different research methods such as corpus analysis. Now is an exciting time to be engaged in the history of philosophy.

Sheffield has had a long tradition of excellence in this area: for example P. H. Nidditch, who was the editor of key works by Hume and of Locke, was one of the first professors in the department. In recent years, a feature of the history of philosophy at Sheffield has been its breadth, which has included research on key thinkers such as Aristotle, Plato and Kant, but also less well-known traditions such as pragmatism. There is also equal weight given to both ‘analytic’ and ‘continental’ thinkers, as well as a growing focus on Chinese philosophy. Every year the department organises a Women in the History of Philosophy lecture, to bring to the fore philosophers whose work deserves a more prominent place in the canon. Previous lectures have focused on Rose Rand, Sophie de Grouchy, and Jane Addams. Sheffield was also a founding department of the Centre for the History of Philosophy, which organises seminars and other events between departments in northern England specializing in the history of philosophy. Staff are on the management committee of the British Society for the History of Philosophy and of the Hegel Society of Great Britain. Funded research initiatives have included projects on idealism and pragmatism, and on Luther. Our PhD students have worked on a range of topics, from ancient to modern philosophy, and we have been highly successful in placing our students in academic positions in this field, including recent appointments at the University of Durham, Roehampton University, and Manchester Metropolitan University. The breadth of our interests mean we can also offer a wide variety of undergraduate modules in this area, which are always highly popular.

Ancient philosophy 

Angie Hobbs specializes in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, and has published widely - and made many radio and television programmes - on the Presocratics, Plato, Aristotle and the Hellenistics.  She has also recently published works on how classical models of heroism were interpreted and reshaped during World War I. Jimmy Lenman is also interested in ancient Greek Philosophy, especially Plato and Aristotle and ancient Chinese philosophy, especially Confucius. Yonatan Shemmer is also interested in Mencius.

Representative publications: 

  • Hobbs, A. (2000). Plato and the Hero. Cambridge University Press.
  • Hobbs, A. (2017). “Socrates, eros and magic”. In V. Harte & R. Woolf (eds), Rereading Ancient Philosophy: Old Chestnuts and Sacred Cows. Cambridge University Press.
  • Hobbs, A. (2018). “Who lied?  Classical heroism and World War 1” in a special edition of Classical Receptions Journal

Early modern philosophy

Bob Stern is particularly interested in Martin Luther, especially his debates with Erasmus concerning free will. He has written two entries on Luther for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy which will appear shortly – one on Luther himself and one on his influence on later philosophies. He plans to develop a larger research project on the latter topic. Angie Hobbs has recently been writing about the renaissance of Greek philosophy in the works of Ficino and Thomas More. Max Khan Hayward is interested in the Scottish Sentimentalist tradition, particularly Hume and Smith. Yonatan Shemmer is interested in the history of political philosophy, and has a particular sympathy for the work of Hume and Rousseau.

Representative publications:

  • Hobbs, A. (2019). “The erotic magus: Ficino’s De Amore as a guide to Plato’s Symposium”. In J. Finamore & T. Nejeschleba (eds), Platonism and its Legacy. Prometheus Trust Publishers.
  • Hobbs, A. (forthcoming). “More and the republics of Plato” in C. Shrank and P. Withington (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Thomas More’s ‘Utopia’. Oxford University Press.
  • Stern, R. (2020). “Martin Luther” and “Martin Luther’s influence on philosophy”, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Modern philosophy

Bob Stern has worked extensively on German idealism, particularly Kant and Hegel. One central interest is the debate between these two thinkers across a range of issues – metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, social philosophy, religion – where in general Bob favours Hegel’s approach. Chris Bennett is interested in Kantian and post-Kantian practical philosophy, and has published on the German poet, philosopher and playwright Friedrich Schiller. Bob Stern’s other C19th interests include figures such as Kierkegaard and Marx, as well as the British idealists and the classical American pragmatists. Joshua Forstenzer also writes about American Pragmatism. His first book focused on John Dewey and subsequent essays engaged with the figure of Richard Rorty. His new project engages with Jane Addams, W.E.B. Dubois, Matthew Lipman, Ann Sharp, and other 20th century thinkers influenced by the tradition of Pragmatism.

In 20th century philosophy, Komarine Romdenh-Romluc works on the phenomenological movement, particularly Merleau-Ponty, while she is currently writing about Frantz Fanon. Bob Stern has developed an interest in the Danish philosopher and theologian K. E. Løgstrup, and has explored the affinities between his ideas and the work of Emmanuel Levinas, and also Iris Murdoch. Rosanna Keefe is interested in the Twentieth Century history of Analytic Philosophy, especially within Philosophy of Language. She has also published on Sartre.

Representative publications:

  • Forstenzer, J. (2019). Dewyean Experimentalism and the Problem of Method in Political Philosophy. Routledge.
  • Romdenh-Romluc, K. (2010). Merleau-Ponty and the ‘Phenomenology of Perception’. Routledge.
  • Stern, R. (2002/2013). Hegel’s ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’. Routledge.
  • Stern, R. (2009). Hegelian Metaphysics. Oxford University Press.
  • Stern, R. (2015). Kantian Ethics. Oxford University Press.
  • Stern, R. (2019). The Radical Demand in Løgstrup’s Ethics. Oxford University Press.
  • Stern, R. (co-ed) (2019). Levinas and Løgstrup, special issue of The Monist.