Dr Jonathan Floyd

Dr Jonathan Floyd

Dr Jonathan Floyd
Senior Lecturer in Political Theory

G.02, 3 Priory Road,
11 Priory Road, Clifton, Bristol
(See a map)


Telephone Number (0117) 331 0981

School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies

Personal profile

I hold a BA (Hons), MSc, MA, and DPhil. Prior to coming to Bristol I was a Research Fellow, and then a British Academy Post-Doctoral Fellow, in the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford. I was also a Junior Research Fellow at St. Hilda's College, Oxford, a Senior Research Scholar at University College, Oxford, and a Stipendiary Lecturer at St. Hilda's College, Oxford. As a grad student I took Masters Degrees at Edinburgh and Columbia, before taking my DPhil (PhD) at Oxford. During this period, I also took courses at Berkeley, NYU, and the New School.

Since 2004, I've won or held the following prizes or fellowships: College Scholarship (Edinburgh, 2004); ESRC doctoral studentship (declined, 2004); PhD Faculty Fellowship (Columbia, 2004); Exchange Scholarship (Columbia/Berkeley, 2005); AHRC doctoral studentship (Oxford, 2005); GA Paul Scholarship (University College, Oxford, 2007); Research Fellowship (Centre for Political Ideologies, Oxford, 2009); Senior Research Scholarship (University College, Oxford, 2009); Leverhulme Early-Career Fellowship (declined, 2010); Junior Research Fellowship (St. Hilda's College, Oxford, 2010); British Academy Post-Doctoral Fellowship (Oxford, 2010); British Academy 'Rising Star' Engagement Award (Bristol, 2017); University Research Fellowship (2018).

In 2016 I won the most votes across the University in a competition to find Bristol's 'best lecturers'. Details of the public lecture given as a result of that vote can be found here. In 2017, I won the Students' Award for 'Outstanding Teaching' in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law, at the annual Bristol Teaching Awards


My research concerns the nature of political theory, and in particular the way in which we justify political principles, such as 'distribute resources so as to maximise the position of the worst off', 'only coerce individuals or groups in order to stop them harming other individuals or groups', and 'contribute a fair share to any cooperative schemes from which you derive a significant benefit'. Within this area, I have written on the nature of reflective equilibrium, the relationship between political theory and practical reason, the relationship between facts and principles, and the uses of things like intuitions and considered judgements in the process of principle-justification.

I've talked on these and other issues in various forums over the past few years, including invited talks at Yale, Leeds, The British Academy, Oxford, UCL, Sheffield, LSE & The Historical Institute, ANU, Sydney, Kyoto, Doshisha, Keio, Exeter, and Münster. Further papers have also been presented at the American Political Science Association annual convention, the International Studies Association annual convention, the Political Studies Association annual conference, the European Consortium of Political Research annual conference, and the Manchester Workshops in Political Theory.

The best bits of this research are captured in four separate book projects: Political Philosophy versus History? (Cambridge University Press, 2011) [co-edited with Marc Stears]; Is Political Philosophy Impossible? (Cambridge University Press, 2017); What's the point of political philosophy? (Polity, 2019); and Political Philosophy (Oxford University Press, under contract for 2020). For reviews of my work (though not my work alone), see e.g. here and here. For critical responses to my work, see, e.g. here and here. For my reply to the latter response, see here. For further material, see my Academia.Edu profile.


I first taught Political Theory in 2004 at the University of Edinburgh, though most of my past teaching has been at Oxford, where I first taught in 2006. This teaching covered both contemporary and historical political theory (from Plato up to Weber), and was done on behalf of various colleges (Blackfriars, Brasenose, Exeter, Hertford, Queen’s, St. Hilda’s, University, and Wadham). I also taught visiting international students over this period, including from places like Pomona and Wellesley, and in 2010 taught a very enjoyable 'great books' course to a group of AB scholars from Duke University, as organised by New College, Oxford, and The Department of Continuing Education.

At Bristol I now teach 'Political Concepts'  (POLI-11101) and 'The History of Western Political Thought' (POLI-29004). The first of these provides a general introduction to political theory, whilst the second takes in a sequence of 'great books', running from Plato to Nietzsche. From 2017 I'll also be teaching a new third-year unit entitled 'How to Win a Political Argument'.

For my view on how much more widely we ought to be teaching political theory, see here.

Fields of interest

Methodology; justification; intuitions; judgements; reflective equilibrium and coherentism; contextualism; constructivism; thought experiments; ideal/non-ideal theory; moralism/realism; experimental ethics; analytic/continental political theory; and the relationship between political theory and, respectively, practical reason, history, and political science.

Key publications

  1. Floyd, J, 2019, ‘What's the Point of Political Philosophy?’. Polity Press
  2. Floyd, J, 2017, ‘Is Political Philosophy impossible?’. Cambridge University Press
  3. Floyd, J, 2016, ‘Normative behaviourism and global political principles’. Journal of International Political Theory, vol 12., pp. 152-168
  4. Floyd, J, 2015, ‘Analytics and Continentals: Divided by nature but united by praxis?’. European Journal of Political Theory, vol 15., pp. 155-171
  5. Floyd, J & Stears, M, 2011, ‘Political Philosophy versus History?: Contextualism and Real Politics in Contemporary Political Thought’. Cambridge University Press

Latest publications

  1. Floyd, J, 2018, ‘Normative behaviourism as a solution to four problems in realism and non-ideal theory’. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, vol 26.
  2. Floyd, J, 2016, ‘Should Global Political Theory get real?’. Journal of International Political Theory.
  3. Floyd, J, 2016, ‘Raz on practical reason and political morality’. Jurisprudence.
  4. Floyd, J, 2016, ‘Rawls' Methodological Blueprint’. European Journal of Political Theory, vol 16., pp. 367-381
  5. Floyd, J, 2011, ‘Relative Value and assorted historical lessons’. in: Political Philosophy versus History?: Contextualism and Real Politics in Contemporary Political Thought. Cambridge University Press, pp. 206

Full publications list in the University of Bristol publications system

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