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Professor of Philosophy, University of Southampton

Fiona Woollard is a Professor in Philosophy at the University of Southampton. 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 paper ‘"Mother Knows Best: Pregnancy, Applied Ethics, and Epistemically Transformative Experiences" was been awarded the prize for best paper published in the Journal of Applied Philosophy in 2021. The paper argued that pregnancy provides access to knowledge about what is involved in requiring someone to remain pregnant against their will that is relevant to the ethics of abortion - and that it is very difficult to acquire without being pregnant. The paper explores the implications for work on the ethics of abortion - and in other issues involving epistemically transformative experiences.

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.

Fiona’s second current research project, with Will McNeill, explores philosophical and ethical issues surrounding autonomous systems, particularly the ethics of driverless cars.

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.


  • –present
    Professor of Philosophy, University of Southampton