Dr Christopher Finlay

Dr Christopher Finlay

Department of Political Science and International Studies
Reader in Political Theory

Contact details

+44 (0)121 414 5091
+44 (0)121 414 3496
Department of Political Science and International Studies
School of Government and Society
Muirhead Tower
University of Birmingham
Edgbaston, Birmingham,
B15 2TT, United Kingdom

Christopher J. Finlay is a Reader in Political Theory. He teaches and writes on international political theory, particularly just war theory, terrorism and the ethics of political violence, and on the history of political thought.


  • Ph.D in Modern History, University of Dublin, Trinity College.
  • B.A. in History and Political Science (First Class Honours), University of Dublin, Trinity College.


Christopher J. Finlay is a Reader in Political Theory. He teaches and writes on international political theory, particularly just war theory, terrorism and the ethics of political violence, and on the history of political thought.

Christopher recently completed a project focusing on the ethical and theoretical dimensions of the concept of terrorism and its relationship with theories of revolution, armed resistance and war. This work addresses contemporary debates in just war theory, international relations, political theory and applied ethics. He has published widely on these themes and related issues such as military intervention and torture. Christopher's book, Terrorism and the Right to Resist: a Theory of Just Revolutionary War will be published by Cambridge University Press later in 2015. Work for this project was supported by a British Academy / Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship in 2010-11.

Christopher's previous work explored the social contexts and concerns of moral and political philosophy in the Scottish Enlightenment. His book, Hume’s Social Philosophy (London: Continuum, 2007), completed a project funded by the Irish Research Council for Humanities and Social Sciences on Possessive Individualism and the Social Thought of the Scottish Enlightenment. He has also written on the political thought of Adam Ferguson and on education and moral philosophy in the Enlightenment.


Current teaching:

  • POLS 102: Classical Political Thought, Plato to Rousseau
  • Theory and Ethics of Terrorism and Violence (MA-Level)
  • Ethical Dimensions of Terrorism, Political Violence and War (MA-Level)


  • POLS G75: Modernity and its Critics


Research interests: Political Theory; ;Just War Theory; Applied Ethics; History of Political Thought; Enlightenment Political Thought; Terrorism; Non-state political violence; Torture; Human Rights

Current Projects: I am currently working on a series of papers exploring the following themes: 

  1. Critical Dimensions of the Ethics of Political Violence:particularly focused on conceptual foundations and deeper assumptions upon which just war theory and related approaches towards ethics in armed conflict is practiced. 
  2. Human Rights, Oppression and Radical Politics:papers explore the relationship between the ideal of human rights and the themes of oppression, resistance and revolution in political thought.
  3. Security in Political Philosophy: particularly focused on the relationship between conceptions of security and liberty in the history of liberal and republican political thought.

Other activities

Administrative responsibilities

  • POLSIS Director of Learning and Teaching (2012-present)
  • POLSIS Director of Graduate Admissions (2007-2010)
  • Deputy Director, POLSIS Graduate School (2009-2010)

Other professional appointments

  • British Academy - Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellow, 2010-2011



Finlay, C. J. (2015) Terrorism and the Right to Resist: A Theory of Just Revolutionary War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

Carey, D. and Finlay, C. J. (eds). (2011) The Empire of Credit: The Financial Revolution in Britain, Ireland and America 1689-1815 (Dublin:Irish Academic Press)

Finlay, C. J. (2007) Hume’s Social Philosophy: Human Nature and Commercial Sociability in A Treatise of Human Nature (London: Continuum International Publishers).

Special Issues

Special Issue of Thesis Eleven: Critical Theory & Historical Sociology on ‘Violence, Power and Revolution: Critical Perspectives in the Theory and Politics of Democratization’ (Vol. 97, May 2009) co-edited with Stefan Auer.

Articles and Chapters (selected)

(forthcoming) ‘Bastards, Brothers, and Unjust Warriors: Ethics and Enmity in Just War Cinema,’ Review of International Studies.

(forthcoming) ‘How Subversive are Human Rights? Civil Subversion and the Ethics of Unarmed Resistance’ in Soft War: the Ethics of Unarmed Conflict, ed. Michael Gross and Tamar Meisels, foreword by Michael Walzer (New York: Cambridge University Press).

Finlay, C.J. (2016) ‘Just and Unjust Wars in Syria: the Questionable Ethics of Bombing ISIS,’ The Ethical War Blog, Stockholm Centre for the Ethics of War and Peace [http://stockholmcentre.org/just-and-unjust-wars-in-syria-the-questionable-ethics-of-bombing-isis/]

Finlay, C.J. (2015) ‘Terrorism and the Right to Resist,’ The Plot [http://www.the-plot.org/2015/09/17/terrorism-and-the-right-to-resist/]

Finlay, C.J. (2014) ‘Terror,’ in The Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Political Thought, ed. Michael Gibbons.

Finlay, C. J. (2013) 'Fairness and Liability in the Just War: Combatants, Non-Combatants, and Lawful Irregulars,' Political Studies, 61.1: 142-60.

Finlay, C. J. ( 2011) ‘Dirty Hands and the Romance of the Ticking Bomb Terrorist: a Humean Account,’ Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, 14.4: 421-42.

Finlay, C.J. (2011) ‘Commerce and the Law of Nations in Hume’s Theory of Money,’ in The Empire of Credit: the Financial Revolution in the British Atlantic World, 1690-1800, eds. Daniel Carey and Christopher Finaly, Dublin: Irish Academic Press.

Finlay, C. J. (2010) ‘Terrorism, Resistance and the Idea of “Unlawful Combatancy”,’ (Review Essay) Ethics & International Affairs, 24.1: 91-104.

Finlay, C. J. (2010) ‘Legitimacy and Non-State Political Violence,’ Journal of Political Philosophy, 18.3: 287-312.

Finlay, C. J. (2009) ‘How to do things with the word “terrorist”,’ Review of International Studies, 35.4: 751-74.

Finlay, C. J. (2009) ‘Hannah Arendt’s Critique of Violence,’ Thesis Eleven: Critical Theory & Historical Sociology, 97: 26-45.

Finlay, C. J. (2008) ‘Self-Defence and the Right to Resist,’ (Critical Notice), International Journal of Philosophical Studies, 16.1: 83-98.

Finlay, C. J. (2007) ‘Reform Interventions and Democratic Revolution,’ European Journal of International Relations, 13.4: 555-81.

Finlay, C. J. (2006) ‘Violence and Revolutionary Subjectivity, Marx to Žižek,’ European Journal of Political Theory, 5.4: 373-97. (Reprinted in Mike O’Donnell (ed.) Structure and Agency, Sage Books, forthcoming, 2010.)

Finlay, C. J. (2006) ‘Rhetoric and Citizenship in Adam Ferguson’s Essay on the History of Civil Society’, History of Political Thought, vol. XXVII, no. 1: 27-49.

Finlay, C.J. (2005) ‘Philosophy and the Individual in Commercial Society: towards an interpretation of David Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature, Books I and II’’, in Ireland and Scotland: Order and Disorder, 1600-2001, eds. R. J.  Morris and Liam Kennedy, Edinburgh: Birlinn Books.

Finlay, C. J. (2004) ‘Hume’s Theory of Civil Society,’ European Journal of Political Theory. 3.4: 369-91

Finlay, C.J. (2001) ‘Enlightenment and the University: Philosophy, Communication and Education in the Early Writings of David Hume’, History of Universities, 16.1 (2000; published, 2001): 103-34.