Dr Joseph Tarquin Foulkes Roberts

Dr Joseph Tarquin Foulkes Roberts

Birmingham Law School
Research Fellow in Law and Philosophy

Contact details

Birmingham Law School
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Joseph’s research lies at the intersection of bioethics and political philosophy. At Birmingham, Joseph is working on the Wellcome Trust funded project: Everyday Cyborg 2.0:  law’s boundary work and alternative legal futures‘. Prior to his appointment as a Research Fellow, Joseph was a Teaching Associate in Political Theory at the Manchester Centre for Political Theory (MANCEPT).


2019 PhD in Political Theory at MANCEPT, University of Manchester

2015 MA Ethics and Political Philosophy at University of Manchester

2014 BA Philosophy at Universitat de Barcelona


Joseph Roberts completed his PhD in Political Theory at the University of Manchester in 2019. During his time at the University of Manchester, Joseph lectured and led tutorials on two courses: Introduction to Political Theory and Challenges for Democratic Politics. Prior to studying for a PhD at Manchester, he completed an MA in Ethics and Political Philosophy and a BA in Philosophy in his hometown of Barcelona.


Area of Specialization: Political Philosophy, Bioethics and Normative Ethics

Area of Competence: Moral Philosophy, Democratic Theory

At the University of Birmingham Joseph is working on the Wellcome Trust funded Project ‘Everyday Cyborgs 2.0.: law’s boundary work and alternative legal futures‘ under the direction of Professor Muireann Quigley.

This project focuses on the novel regulatory challenges posed by our increased use of implanted and attached medical devices (IAMDs). These devices offer enormous therapeutic potential, However, their integration with persons creates difficulties for the law.

Unanswered questions include: (1) should internal medical devices which keep the person alive be viewed as part of the person or mere objects (or something else)?; (2) is damage to neuro-prostheses personal injury or damage to property?; (3) who ought to control/own the software in implanted medical devices?; and (4) how should the law deal with risks around unauthorised third party access and hacking? 

Dr Joseph Roberts’ main focus on the Everyday Cyborg 2.0. Project is to work on the normative and conceptual questions that the existence of everyday cyborgs pose and integrate these with the empirical components to develop a new account of everyday cyborgs in law.

Joseph’s second current line of research focuses on the notion of respect for persons and the limits of what we can consent to, in particular whether or not people can consent to ‘destructive choices’. Destructive choices are choices which threaten to destroy the agency of the person making them. Examples could be joining an oppressive cult or continuously consuming strong psychoactive drugs. Joseph’s research aims to provide an account of when engaging in destructive choices is permissible and what safe-guards ought to be put in place to ensure that people engaging in them do so willingly.


Recent publications


Roberts, J 2023, 'Recreational Drug Use and the Value of Community', Social Theory and Practice.

Roberts, J 2023, 'Taking Embodiment Seriously in Ethics and Political Philosophy', The Journal of Value Inquiry. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10790-023-09952-7

Roberts, J 2023, 'Taking embodiment seriously in public policy and practice: adopting a procedural approach to health and welfare', Monash Bioethics Review. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40592-023-00183-x

Roberts, J, Moore, V & Quigley, M 2021, 'Prescribing unapproved medical devices? The case of DIY artificial pancreas systems', Medical law international, vol. 21, no. 1, pp. 42-68. https://doi.org/10.1177/0968533221997510

Roberts, JTF 2020, 'How to Regulate the Right to Self-Medicate', HEC Forum. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10730-020-09415-7

Shepard , JA, Breton , M, Nimri , R, Roberts, J, Street , T, Klonoff , D & Barnard-Kelly , K 2020, 'User and Healthcare Professional Perspectives on Do-It-Yourself Artificial Pancreas Systems: A Need for Guidelines', Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology. https://doi.org/10.1177/1932296820957728

Roberts, J 2019, 'Body modification practices and the medical monopoly', Social Theory and Practice, vol. 45, no. 2, pp. 307-327. https://doi.org/10.5840/soctheorpract201971261


Quigley, M, Harris, J & Roberts, J 2024, Personal or Public Health? in M Boylan (ed.), International Public Health Policy and Ethics. 2 edn, The International Library of Bioethics, vol. 106, Springer, Cham, Cham, Switzerland, pp. 31-46. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-39973-2_3

Roberts, J & Quigley, M 2022, Being novel? Regulating emerging technologies under conditions of uncertainty. in D Lawrence & S Morley (eds), Novel Beings: Regulatory Approaches for a Future of New Intelligent Life. Elgar Law, Technology and Society series, Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd., pp. 139-169. https://doi.org/10.4337/9781800889262.00014

Book/Film/Article review

Roberts, J 2022, 'Clare Chambers, Intact: A Defence of the Unmodified Body: Allen Lane, London, 2022, Hardcover £20, ISBN 978-0-241-43904-3', The Journal of Value Inquiry. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10790-022-09893-7

Roberts, J 2019, 'Esposito, R. 2005. Persons and Things. Cambridge/Malden: Polity. 147 pp. ISBN: 978-0-7456-9065-0', Logical Analysis and History of Philosophy, vol. 21, pp. 267-271. https://doi.org/10.30965/9783957437907_016

Roberts, J 2019, 'Pharmaceutical Freedom: Why Patients have a Right to Self‐Medicate , Flanigan, Jessica, 2017 New York: Oxford University Press 288 pp, £25.99 (hb)', Journal of Applied Philosophy, vol. 36, no. 3, pp. 523-525. https://doi.org/10.1111/japp.12333


Roberts, J 2021, 'Ending the war on drugs: public attitudes and incremental change', The American Journal of Bioethics , vol. 21, no. 4, pp. 26-28. https://doi.org/10.1080/15265161.2021.1891351


Quigley, M, Downey, L & Roberts, J 2023, 'Regulatory Futures and Medical Devices: Where Next for Europe and the United Kingdom?', Law, Technology and Humans, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 1-4. https://doi.org/10.5204/lthj.3174.

Other contribution

Downey, L, Dickson, R, Roberts, J, Quigley, M & McHale, J 2021, Responses to the MHRA Consultation on the Future Regulation of Medical Devices in the UK.. <https://blog.bham.ac.uk/everydaycyborgs/wp-content/uploads/sites/95/2022/04/MHRA-Consultation-QA-24.01.22-website-version.pdf>

View all publications in research portal


political philosophy, bioethics, respect for persons, medical technology.