Dr Andrew Kirton

Dr Andrew Kirton


My background is in philosophy. I did my BA, MRes and PhD at University of Manchester, where I also worked as a teaching assistant in philosophy for several years. After that I worked as a research assistant on a British Academy funded project, based at Blavatnik School of Govt. in Oxford, researching the crisis of trust in institutions, and the duties on corporations to be trustworthy. I joined Leeds in Sept 2018 as that project was finishing its first phase.

In 2023 I completed a PGCert in Counselling theory and practice.

The most substantial other jobs I’ve done have been working in an online record shop, and several years as an HR and payroll officer in local government.


Research interests

My main ongoing research interest is in understanding what morality is and how it comes from our basic social / emotional wiring. In other words, I think about what makes people tick and how ethics / morality falls out of that ticking, in a way that might help us understand better what aspect of human nature morality and moral talk is really doing or expressing. I’ve ended up approaching this from the angle of asking why and in what way trusting someone makes us vulnerable to them. I’m interested in psychology and my approach also focuses on empirical research, especially stuff around attachment theory. I’m also generally interested in agency and what it is, and work broadly from a philosophy of action / mind type of angle.

There’s a number of research topics I’m interested in but I am currently thinking most about:

- Intelligence and sentience e.g. what it means in artificial intelligence systems, and the relation of intelligence to consciousness

- Responsibility and explainability of artificial intelligence systems and their relation to trust

- The psychology of reasoning; cognitive dissonance and what different types of argument are doing in our heads

- The relationship between rigour and different kinds of bodies of knowledge; comparing e.g. maths, science and pseudosciences (where the differences lie)

- How we generate bodies of knowledge and what motivates us to learn

- The relationship of all the above to the nature of morality


(On the second-last one: I’ve an ongoing interest in pedagogy/teaching, and have a Leeds Institute of Teaching Excellence-funded project exploring how to minimise what I think of as ‘gatekeeping’ structures in teaching, where ‘gatekeeping’ means effectively: making students jump through hoops in a way that doesn’t really train them as critically engaged thinkers, but simply moulds them in our preferred image.)

I’m interested in supervising any PhD projects that touch on the above kinds of issue directly or indirectly. I’m currently supervising two PhD students working on the responsibilities on institutions regarding trust and risk, and trust and algorithms on social media platforms.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • BA (Hons) Philosophy
  • MRes Philosophy
  • PhD Philosophy
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • PGCert Interpersonal and Counselling Skills

Student education

I mainly teach on the following topics:

  • Philosophy and ethics of science (Is science better than non- /pseudo-science? Should scientists be activists? Issues around trust in science, ethics of pharmaceutical companies and recreational drugs)
  • Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, data ethics, autonomous systems
  • Ethics of privacy, confidentiality, consent and autonomy

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for Love, Sex, and Relationships
<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>