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Dr Emily Thomas

Associate Professor

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Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy  
Member of the Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies  


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Currently on research leave.


I’ve written a lot on space and time in seventeenth to early twentieth century philosophy. I’m also interested in the metaphysics of substance, change, motion, idealism, process, personal identity, and philosophy of religion. I'm fascinated by the philosophy of travel. I like digging out the work of rich but under-studied figures, including women philosophers who have traditionally been neglected in the history of philosophy.

I have published two scholarly books: Absolute Time: Rifts in Early Modern British Metaphysics (2018, Oxford University Press) and Early Modern Women on Metaphysics (2018, Cambridge University Press). I have also written a trade book, The Meaning of Travel: Philosophers Abroad (2020, Oxford University Press). It explores philosophical issues around travel, from the “Age of Discovery” to the present day, including maps, climate change, and wilderness. Amongst other places, it's been reviewed in The Wall Street JournalThe Spectator, and Literary Review.

In 2020, I won a Philip Leverhulme Prize for exceptional research. My earlier work has been supported by a Veni research grant from the Netherlands Research Council, a stipend from the John Templeton Foundation, and a Rising Star grant from the British Academy.

Recently I’ve begun a new, AHRC Leadership Fellows project, into early twentieth century metaphysics of time. Does the present moment move? Is the future real? Does time have a direction? At the turn of the twentieth century, why did British philosophers become so worried about these questions?

I am committed to getting philosophy out beyond the academy. You can listen to me talking about Bergson and time on BBC Radio 4's In Our Time; and about travel on BBC Radio 4’s Start the Week. My writing has appeared in venues such as Aeon, the New Statesman, History Today, and The Conversation.

I tweet regularly about philosophy @emilytwrites

In addition to my position at Durham, I am an Honorary Fellow at the ACU Dianoia Institute of Philosophy. Previously, I studied for my PhD at the University of Cambridge (2013), and held a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Groningen (2013-2016). I sit on editorial or advisory boards for the British Journal for the History of Philosophy, the International Association for the Philosophy of Time, and the Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Philosophers. At Durham, I am a Senior Fellow of University "Castle" College. For my popular books I am represented by United Agents

For further information about my research, popular writing, and media work, please see my personal website

Research interests

  • Space and time
  • Early modern metaphysics
  • Nineteenth & twentieth century metaphysics
  • Women in the history of philosophy
  • Philosophy of travel
  • Pictures in the history of philosophy


Authored book

  • Thomas, Emily (2020). The Meaning of Travel: Philosophers Abroad. Oxford University Press.
  • Thomas, Emily (2018). Absolute Time: Rifts in Early Modern British Metaphysics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Book review

Chapter in book

  • Thomas, Emily (Accepted). Cavendish, Conway, and Cockburn on Matter. In The Routledge Handbook of Women and Early Modern European Philosophy. Detlefsen, Karen & Shapiro, Lisa Routledge.
  • Thomas, Emily & Janiak, Andrew (Accepted). Space and its Relationship to God. In Cambridge History of the Scientific Revolution. Miller, David & Jalobeanu, Dana Cambridge Cambridge University Press.
  • Thomas, Emily (Accepted). Locke, Newton, and Edmund Law. In The Lockean Mind. Gordon-Roth, Jessica & Weinberg, Shelley Routledge.
  • Thomas, Emily (2020). The History of Philosophy and its Disappeared Women. In Philosophy by Women: 23 Philosophers Reflect on Philosophy and Its Values. Vintiadis, Elly Routledge.
  • Thomas, Emily (2020). Travel Writing and Early Modern Experimental Philosophy. In Encyclopedia of Early Modern Philosophy and the Sciences.
  • Thomas, Emily (2018). Anne Conway on the Identity of Creatures over Time. In Early Modern Women on Metaphysics. Thomas, Emily Cambridge Cambridge University Press.
  • Thomas, Emily (2017). Creation, Divine Freedom, and Catharine Cockburn: An Intellectualist on Possible Worlds and Contingent Laws. In Women and Liberty, 1600-1800. Oxford Oxford University Press.
  • Thomas, Emily (2016). Samuel Alexander’s Spacetime God: A Naturalist Rival to Current Emergentist Theologies. In Alternative Concepts of God. Buckareff, Andrei A. & Nagasawa, Yujin Oxford: Oxford University Press. 255-273.

Edited book

  • Thomas, Emily (2018). Early Modern Women on Metaphysics. Cambridge University Press.

Journal Article