Department of Political Science


Dr Emily McTernan

Emily McTernan
Associate Professor in Political Theory and MA LPT Programme Director
Room: 4.02, 29/30 Tavistock Sq.
Email: e.mcternan@ucl.ac.uk



Emily McTernan is currently Associate Professor in Political Theory at University College London. Until 2019, she ran the department’s MA in Legal and Political Theory. She has also held visiting positions at the School of Philosophy, ANU (June-December 2015; August 2016), and Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona (October 2018), has been an Associate Editor of Res Publica and is currently an Area Editor at Ergo.
Her research has been funded by a Leverhulme Research Fellowship, as well as from a Templeton Religion Trust project ('The beacon project') and an ARC grant ('Political normativity and the feasibility constraint'). Emily has also won event funding from the Society of Applied Philosophy with Liam Shields, and a British Academy/Leverhulme Trust Small Grant to establish a network on social equality with Martin O’Neill, Christian Schemmel and Fabian Schuppert.
She earned her doctorate at the History and Philosophy of Science Department, University of Cambridge in 2013. Emily will be on research leave with an extension to her Leverhulme Research Fellowship for Spring 2022.


Emily’s research defends the fundamental and pervasive significance of social norms within political philosophy, something often overlooked in favour of laws and formal institutions. She has examined the overlooked role of social norms and social practices within relational egalitarianism, within discussions of civic virtue and education, and in debates over the value of parenting and funding fertility treatment. This work has been published in journals including The Journal of Political Philosophy, Political Studies, Bioethics, The Journal of Applied PhilosophyEthical Theory & Moral Practice and Philosophy, Politics & Economics, as well as in edited collections.

But mostly, at present, she is finishing a book, On Taking Offence, to be published in the Feminist Philosophy series with OUP. Her account of offence has been published in Philosophy & Public Affairs. You can read it here: https://doi.org/10.1111/papa.12188. Or you can watch a short, animated YouTube video on this research, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RA9MKS-ZBt8 


Book (in production)

  • On Taking Offence. In production at Oxford University Press, (Est. publication date May 2023).

Articles & chapters 

  • Against visitor bans: Freedom of association, COVID-19, and the hospital ward. Journal of Medical Ethics, online first (2022) doi:10.1136/ medethics-2022-108297.
  • In the eyes of the beholders: Microaggressions, lived experience, and collective experience. Analysis, forthcoming, 2022. Book symposium on Rini’s The Ethics of Microaggression
  • Civic education, moral character, and liberal states. In Doris, J. & M. Vargas (eds), The Handbook of Moral Psychology (Oxford University Press, 2022).
  • Taking offense: An emotion reconsidered. Philosophy & Public Affairs, 49 (2) (2021), 179-208.
  • A puzzle of enforceability: Why do moral duties differ in their enforceability?. Co-authored with Christian Barry, Journal of Moral Philosophy 19 (2021): 229-253
  • Justice, feasibility, and social science as it is. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 22 (2019): 27–40
  • Microaggressions, equality, and social practices. Journal of Political Philosophy, 26 (3) (2018): 261-281.
  • Uterus transplants and the insufficient value of gestation. Bioethics, 32 (2018): 481– 488.
  • Those who forget the past: An ethical challenge from the history of treating deviance. In Treatment for Crime: Philosophical Essays on Neurointerventions in Criminal Justice, eds. David Birks & Tom Douglas. (Oxford University Press, 2018).
  • How to be a responsibility-sensitive egalitarian: From metaphysics to social practice. Political Studies, 64 (3) (2016): 748-764.
  • Should fertility treatment be state funded? Journal of Applied Philosophy, 32 (2015): 227- 240.
  • How to make citizens behave: Social psychology, liberal virtues, and social norms. Journal of  Political Philosophy, 22 (1) (2014): 84-104.
  • The inegalitarian ethos: Incentives, respect, and self-respect. Politics, Philosophy & Economics, 12 (1) (2013): 93-111.

General audience 

  • Why hospitals should not ban visitors. Blog: Journal of Medical Ethics Forthcoming (2022) https://blogs.bmj.com/medical-ethics/
  • Why offence is good. Institute of Art and Ideas online magazine (2020). Available at https://iai.tv/articles/why-taking-offence-is-good-auid-1955?_auid=2020
  • If you care about social equality, you want a big state. Juncture, Institute of Public Policy Research, Party Conference Issue, 23 (2016): 138–144. With Martin O’Neill, Christian Schemmel and Fabian Schuppert.
  • Rescuing responsibility for the left. Juncture, Institute of Public Policy Research, 22 (2016): 298–303.
  • Should the state pay for you to have kids? Forum for European Philosophy Blog (21 Sep 2015) https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/theforum/789/
  • I teach the postgraduate modules Meanings of Liberty, Contemporary Political Philosophy II, and an undergraduate module Philosophy, Values, and the Social Sciences.
  • I have PhD students currently working on social equality and dementia, and on republicanism.
  • My PhD supervision interests are: equality (esp. relational/social egalitarianism, distributive justice), responsibility, political emotions, social norms & social practices, civic virtue & citizenship, freedom of association, political theory & architecture, and fertility treatments.