Meet your tutors
Congratulations on your offer to study with us! Our academics research the role of philosophy in a variety of subjects, such as art, history, religion and politics. We would like to give you a chance to learn more about Hannah…
Hannah Carnegy-Arbuthnott is a lecturer, and her research focuses on property rights and self-ownership.
Daydreaming about philosophy
I can’t remember why I was so keen on doing A level Philosophy in the first place, but I do remember that once I started studying, I was fascinated by it.
What really stood out to me was John Stuart Mill’s work, On Liberty. It was a dated text, but one that grappled with big political ideas which were provocative then, and still are now. Questioning this, and exploring my own interpretations of this text, felt intellectually stimulating. It inspired me to study Philosophy and German at Oxford.
After I graduated from my undergraduate degree, I worked in a digital marketing graduate role. But, I found myself daydreaming about philosophy: the concepts, debates and research that I could be doing. That’s when I decided to return to education, study for my postgraduate degree at UCL, and postdoc fellowships at Centre de recherche en éthique and Stanford’s Center for Ethics in Society. The rest is history!
You 'do' philosophy
What I love about philosophy is that it forces you to confront some deep-seated values that you may have held, and then might come to question. You think about matters which have a real bearing on how we should go about our day-to-day lives, how we treat people, and how we organise society.
As a subject, there’s an analytical element, but it’s also highly creative. I have always enjoyed this balance. You are encouraged throughout your degree to come up with new, interesting ideas, alongside being open to other people’s perspectives, and questioning them in a way that inspires more discussion.
My body, my choice
My research mainly focuses on philosophical theories around property rights and self-ownership. In terms of self-ownership, one of the basic questions is ‘do I own myself’?
The perspective I take is that we do have good reason to believe the rights we have over ourselves, and objects, can fall under ownership. There are ways that I can treat my body like property. If I wanted to, I could sell some of my hair to a wigmaker. There is a market for human hair, so, in some ways, I’m treating my hair as an item I can make a profit from. However, we can’t just think of ownership as meaning the same thing across a variety of contexts. If a stranger were to surprise me on the street and cut off my hair, we’d treat that as assault, not theft. There is an important moral difference.
Passionate about philosophy
My proudest achievement is that I still genuinely, really love philosophy and the work I do with research and teaching.
The reason I think that is an achievement is that my academic career hasn’t been a straightforward, linear process. I did my postgraduate study later on, and then moved across the Atlantic Ocean for postdocs in California and Montreal. While completing my postdoctoral work, I had several temporary positions before getting a permanent job.
I’m still in the early stages of my academic career, but what I’ve learned is that, despite the challenges I have experienced, my passion for the subject remains, and continues to develop through teaching talented students here at York.
Come in with an open mind
York has people working on so many different fields of philosophy, so you’ll have a lot of choice on topics to study. Two of my colleagues are doing a project on grief at the moment, and there are others working on the philosophy of art, time, ethics, logic, religion, psychiatry and perception.
Studying Philosophy gives you the transferable skills to go into a wide range of careers. When I was applying for graduate roles, they were looking for someone who could analyse data, be flexible, and come up with creative ideas. Philosophy stood me in good stead for this.
One of my main pieces of advice to students who are about to embark on a Philosophy degree at York is to come with an open mind. Come ready to challenge even your own preconceptions, and engage in discussion. Be prepared to not just be taught philosophy, but to do it!