Dr Ellen Clarke

Dr Ellen Clarke


I did my undergraduate studies at Leeds, in Philosophy, before going on to Bristol to take an MA in Philosophy and History of Science. I stayed on at Bristol to take my PhD with Samir Okasha, defending my thesis 'Biological Individuality and the Levels of Selection' in 2010.

Since then I've had two postdocs (in Vienna and in Oxford) and two children, before returning to Leeds as a Lecturer in Jan 2017.

I’m on the steering commitee of the European Philosophy of Science Association.


  • Lead for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Research interests

My research explores the metaphysics and epistemology of biological science, especially the ontology of the living world. It asks questions such as What biological objects are there and what sorts of things are they? Where does each end and another begin? How can we explain how they came into being? What role do the concepts we assign them play in evolutionary theory? I've applied these questions to species, organisms, genes, plants, bacteria, societies, symbioses ideas and more.

I'm also interested in social ontology more broadly and in the social and political dimensions of the evolution of cooperation, whether it be cooperation between biological or social entities.

Most recently, I've been exploring cultural evolution theory, a set of ideas that conceive of culture as responding to natural selection in a way that is analagous to what happens when living organisms compete for survival and reproduction.

I blog about philosophy, biology and motherhood: philosomama.

Selected publications are available as preprints on my personal website

<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>

Professional memberships

  • https://www.philinbiomed.org/
  • http://philsci.eu/
  • https://extendedevolutionarysynthesis.com/people/

Student education

I teach Feminist Philosophy, introductory logic, Philosophy of Biology, Philosophy of Race and introductory Philosophy of Science.

I am available to supervise final projects on any of these topics.

I am also available to supervise doctoral students on any thesis concerning philosophy of biology, but especially evolutionary biology or cultural evolution theory.

Research groups and institutes

  • Philosophy
  • History and Philosophy of Science

Current postgraduate researchers

<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>