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Paul Billingham

Paul Billingham

(MA, MPhil, DPhil)

Associate Professor of Political Theory and Fellow and Tutor in Politics, Magdalen College
Political Theory
01865 276 015
Magdalen College
Office Address:
Magdalen College, Oxford, OX1 4AU

I joined DPIR as an Associate Professor in April 2018. Prior to this, I was a Junior Research Fellow at Christ Church, Oxford, from October 2015.

My research centres on the relationship between the actions of the state and the beliefs and values of citizens, especially their religious beliefs. I consider both the way in which citizens’ beliefs might constrain state action, given the liberal demand that laws be justified to all citizens, and the ways in which the state might permissibly seek to influence citizens’ values, to conform them to liberal ideals. The former question concerns public justification and public reason, while the latter concerns the state's role in value-promotion and moral formation. Through this focus, my work touches upon many important topics within political theory, including state legitimacy, pluralism, freedom of conscience, religious exemptions, and the place of religion within public life.

More recently, I have developed an interest in the phenomenon of public shaming, especially online public shaming, and have begun working on the ethical questions raised by this practice.

Curriculum vitae: Download Paul Billingham Cv July 2021 (170.8KB)

Research Interests

Most of my research has been on debates concerning public justification and public reason: what kinds of reasons of values should be used to justify political institutions and laws, in the face of our many moral, philosophical, and religious disagreements? I have explored competing accounts of public justification and examined the implications of theories of public reason for religious citizens, and the compatibility of the view with Christianity, in particular. This has included interacting with the work of theologians.

I am currently writing (half of) a book where I debate with another philosopher the place of religion in politics, and particularly within democratic deliberation.

My other current project considers how the liberal state ought to respond to citizens - and especially religious groups - whose beliefs and practices do not seem to cohere with liberal values. Should the state actively confront, and seek to transform, the views of such citizens? On the other hand, should the law protect the autonomy of religious groups, including by granting them exemptions, even when this allows them to engage in illiberal practices? Thinking about these questions has also led me to work on broader questions regarding the collective dimensions of religous liberty, and the rights and freedoms of religious groups and institutions.

Finally, I have also written on the use of the Internet, particularly social media, to criticise (perceived or actual) moral failures and misdemeanours. Under what conditions can this so-called 'online public shaming' be justified? And what are the responsibilities of the state, social media organisations, and the public, in response to cases of unjustified or disproportionate shaming?

More information about all of these research projects is available on my website.

Political Theory Liberalism Religion


Undergradaute: Introduction to the Theory of Politics (first year paper); Theory of Politics (core finals paper); Advanced Theories of Justice (finals paper).

Graduate: Theory of Politics MPhil core course; Reasonable Disagrement & Political Argument (second year MPhil option).


NB: Downloadable versions of most of these papers are available on my website.


  1. Does Faith Belong in Politics?: A Debate. Under contract with Routledge, within the series Little Debates About Big Questions, expected 2023. Debating with Marilie Coetsee.

Journal Articles

  1. ‘A Framework for Analyzing Public Reason Theories’, European Journal of Political Theory (online first, doi: 10.1177/1474885120925381). (Co-authored with Anthony Taylor.)
  2. ‘Can Christians Join the Overlapping Consensus? Prospects and Pitfalls for a Christian Justification of Political Liberalism’Social Theory and Practice, 47(3) (2021): 519-547.
  3. ‘Enforcing Social Norms: The Morality of Public Shaming’European Journal of Philosophy, 28(4) (2020): 997-1016. (Co-authored with Tom Parr.)
  4. ‘Reasonable Disagreement About, and Within, Watson and Hartley’s Political Liberalism’Journal of Applied Philosophy, 37(5) (2020): 836-845.
  5. ‘Online Public Shaming: Virtues and Vices’Journal of Social Philosophy, 51(3) (2020): 371-390. (Co-authored with Tom Parr.)
  6. ‘The Scope of Religious Group Autonomy: Varieties of Judicial Examination of Church Employment Decisions’Legal Theory, 25(4) (2019): 244-271.
  7. ‘State Speech as a Response to Hate Speech: Assessing ‘Transformative Liberalism’’, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 22(3) (2019): 639-655.
  8. ‘State Sovereignty, Associational Interests, and Collective Religious Liberty’Secular Studies, 1(1) (2019): 114-127.
  9. ‘Consensus, Convergence, Restraint, and Religion’Journal of Moral Philosophy, 15(3) (2018): 345-361.
  10. ‘Liberal Perfectionism, Moral Integrity, and Self-Respect’The American Journal of Jurisprudence, 63(1) (2018): 63-79. (Co-authored with Anthony Taylor.)
  11. ‘Public Reason and Religion: The Theo-Ethical Equilibrium Argument for Restraint’, Law and Philosophy, 36(6) (2017): 675-705.
  12. Convergence Liberalism and the Problem of Disagreement Concerning Public JustificationCanadian Journal of Philosophy, 47(4) (2017): 541-564.
  13. ‘Liberal Perfectionism and Quong's Internal Conception of Political Liberalism’Social Theory and Practice, 43(1) (2017): 79-106.
  14. ‘How Should Claims for Religious Exemptions be Weighed?’Oxford Journal of Law and Religion, 6(1) (2017): 1-23.
  15. ‘Can My Religion Influence My Conception of Justice? Political Liberalism and the Role of Comprehensive Doctrines’Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, 20(4) (2017): 403-424.
  16. ‘Does Political Community Require Public Reason? On Lister’s Defence of Political Liberalism’Politics, Philosophy & Economics, 15(1) (2016): 20-41.
  17. ‘Convergence Justifications Within Political Liberalism: A Defence’Res Publica, 22(2) (2016): 135-153.

Book Chapters

  1. ‘Should We Shame Those Who Ignore Social Distancing Guidelines?’, in Aveek Bhattacharya and Fay Niker (eds.), Political Philosophy in a Pandemic (Bloomsbury Academic, forthcoming 2021), pp. 205-216. (Co-authored with Tom Parr.)
  2. ‘State Responses to Incongruence: Toleration and Transformation’, in Mitja Sardoč (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Toleration (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming 2021).
  3. ‘Shaping Religion: The Limits of Transformative Liberalism’, in Jonathan Seglow and Andrew Shorten (eds.), Religion and Political Theory: Secularism, Accommodation and The New Challenges of Religious Diversity ( ECPR Press / Rowman & Littlefield International, 2019), pp. 57-77.
  4. ‘Exemptions for Religious Groups and the Problem of Internal Dissent’, in John Adenitire (ed.), Religious Beliefs and Conscientious Exemptions in a Liberal State (Hart Publishing, 2019), pp. 51-69.
  5. Law, Religion, and Public Reason’, in Russell Sandberg, Norman Doe, Bronach Kane, and Caroline Roberts (eds.), The Research Handbook on Interdisciplinary Approaches to Law and Religion (Edward Elgar Press, 2019), pp. 128-148. (Co-authored with Jonathan Chaplin.) 

Book Reviews

  1. ‘Review of Benjamin R. Hertzberg, Chains of Persuasion: A Framework for Religion in Democracy’, Journal of Moral Philosophy (forthcoming).
  2. Review of Christine Sypnowich, Equality Renewed: Justice, Flourishing and the Egalitarian Ideal, Ethics, 129(1) (2018): 144-149.

Introductions to Journal Special Issues

  1. ‘Introduction to the Special Issue on Religious Diversity, Political Theory, and Theology: Public Reason and Christian Theology’, Social Theory and Practice, 47(3): 451-456 (2021). (Co-authored with Jonathan Chaplin.)
  2. ‘Introduction: Diverse Religious Responses to Religious Diversity’, Political Theology, 21(4) (2020): 279-281. (Co-authored with Jonathan Chaplin.)
  3. ‘Introduction to the Symposium on Matthew Kramer’s Liberalism with ExcellenceThe American Journal of Jurisprudence, 63(1) (2018): 1-7. (Co-authored with Anthony Taylor.)
  4. ‘Introduction: Hate, Offence and Free Speech in a Changing World’Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 22(3) (2019): 531-537. (Co-authored with Matteo Bonotti.)