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Dr Sean Cordell

Sean Cordell photo

Profile summary

Professional biography

I was introduced to the proper activities of education and philosophy some years ago at the Open University, an experience from which, happily, I’ve never fully recovered.  There I completed my first degree in Humanities with Philosophy before moving to full time study at the University of Sheffield, where I completed a Masters then a PhD in philosophy. After that and before returning to the OU in 2013, I was a research fellow at the University of Birmingham and a lecturer at Sheffield.

Research interests

Prompted by questions arising from undergraduate study, I wrote my doctoral thesis on some political implications and problems for neo-Aristotelian virtue ethics. Fortunately I have since been able to develop some of these themes through the intertwining research strands of social and moral philosophy and applied ethics. I’ve a continuing general interest in the ethical dimensions of social roles and of the ways that institutions do and should define these roles and, in particular, a growing body of literature on the virtues of social collectives. Currently, Alex Barber and I are working on an edited collection of fifteen papers under the title 'The Ethics of Social Roles' for Oxford University Press, comprising work which was developed in our network project (see 'Research Activity').

Articles and Chapters
With Jon Pike: 'Armstrong was a Cheat: A Reply to Eric Moore', forthcoming in Sport, Ethics and Philosophy.
'Can there Be an Ethics for Institutional Agents?' in Kendy M. Hess, Violetta Igneski and Tracy Isaacs (eds), Collectivity. Rowman and Littlefield, 2018.
'Group Virtues: No Great Leap Foward with Collectivism', Res Publica, 2017, 23: 43-59.
‘Virtuous Persons and Social Roles’, Journal of Social Philosophy, 2011, 42: 254-273.
(See a response from Stephen Holland in part of ‘Furthering the Sceptical Case against Virtue Ethics’, Nursing Ethics, 2013, 13: 266–275).
'The Biobank as Ethical Subject’, Health Care Analysis, 2011, 18: 282-194
With Kenneth McLaughlin: ‘Doing What’s Best, but Best for Whom? Ethics and the Mental Health Social Worker’, in Malcom Carey (ed.), Practical Social Work Ethics: Complex Dilemmas within Applied Social Care. Ashgate, 2013.
With Heather Widdows: ‘The Ethics of Biobanking: Key Issues and Controversies’ , Health Care Analysis, 2011, 18: 282-194.
‘Why Communities and Their Goods Matter: Illustrated with the Example of Biobanks’, Public Health Ethics, 2011, 4: 14-25.
‘Constructing Effective Ethical Frameworks for Biobanking’, Dilemata: International Journal of Applied Ethics, 2010, 4: 15-31.
With Heather Widdows, Florence Bellivier and Christine Noiville: ‘Lost Property? Legal Compensation for Destroyed Sperm: A Reflection and Comparison Drawing On UK and French Perspectives’, Journal of Medical Ethics, 2011, 37: 747-751.
Book Reviews
Unfit for the Future: The Need for Moral Enhancement, by Ingmar Persson and Julian Savulescu, in The Philosophical Quarterly, 2014, 64 (255): 330-332.
Aristotelian Philosophy: Ethics and Politics from Aristotle to MacIntyre, by Kelvin Knight, in Journal of Moral Philosophy, 2009, 6: 137-139.

Externally funded projects

Role Ethics Network
RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Co-investigator01 May 201631 Jan 2018AHRC Arts & Humanities Research Council

This project will advance a number of debates about the place of social roles in political, social and moral life. Building on the work we have done at the Role Ethics Workshop held in 2013, we aim to do this by bringing together scholars and practitioners from around the world and across the disciplines of philosophy, political theory and social sciences. Over 18 months we would aim to hold three workshops followed by a project conference, from which we would seek to publish proceedings in an edited collection. Going by previous bids, the time each of us would spend on this over the project period would average 1.5 hours per week, though this will be subject to calculation bearing in mind the cost constraints of the bid.


Armstrong was a Cheat: A Reply to Eric Moore (2019)
Pike, Jon and Cordell, Sean
Sports, Ethics and Philosophy ((Early Access))

Group Virtues: No Great Leap Forward with Collectivism (2017-02-28)
Cordell, Sean
Res Publica, 23(1) (pp. 43-59)

Lost property? Legal compensation for destroyed sperm: a reflection and comparison drawing on UK and French legal perspectives (2011-12)
Cordell, Sean; Bellivier, Florence; Widdows, Heather and Noiville, Christine
Journal of Medical Ethics, 37(12) (pp. 747-751)

Virtuous persons and social roles (2011-10)
Cordell, Sean
Journal of Social Philosophy, 42(3) (pp. 254-272)

The biobank as an ethical subject (2011-09)
Cordell, Sean
Health Care Analysis, 19(3) (pp. 282-294)

The ethics of biobanking: key issues and controversies (2011-09)
Widdows, Heather and Cordell, Sean
Health Care Analysis, 19(3) (pp. 207-219)

Why communities and their goods matter: illustrated with the example of biobanks (2011-04)
Cordell, Sean and Widdows, Heather
Public Health Ethics, 4(1) (pp. 14-25)

Constructing effective ethical frameworks for biobanking (2010)
Cordell, Sean and Widdows, Heather
Dilemata, 4(2) (pp. 15-31)

Can there be an Ethics for Institutional Agents? (2018-10-16)
Cordell, Sean
In: Hess, Kendy; Igneski, Violetta and Isaacs, Tracy eds. Collectivity: Ontology, Ethics, and Social Justice (pp. 61-79)
ISBN : 978-1-7866-0630-3 | Publisher : Rowman and Littlefield | Published : London

Doing what’s best, but best for whom? Ethics and the mental health social worker (2013-08)
McLaughlin, Kenneth and Cordell, Sean
In: Carey, Malcom and Green, Lorraine eds. Practical Social Work Ethics: Complex Dilemmas Within Applied Social Care (pp. 111-130)
ISBN : 978-1-4094-3825-0 | Publisher : Ashgate | Published : Farnham