Dr Alex Silk

Department of Philosophy
Associate Professor in Philosophy

Contact details

ERI Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I specialise in philosophy of language, ethics, and metaethics. My main research projects include work on context-sensitive language and normative and evaluative discourse. I also have projects on Nietzsche, predication, philosophy of law, and mood.


  • PhD in Philosophy (University of Michigan, 2013)
  • MA in Philosophy (University of Michigan, 2010)
  • BA in Philosophy (Wheaton College, 2008)


I joined the Philosophy Department in 2013 after completing my PhD in philosophy at the University of Michigan. I specialise in philosophy of language, ethics, and metaethics. Much of my research has focused on normative uses of language and how incorporating insights from philosophy of language and linguistics can shed light on broader philosophical debates. My 2016 book, Discourse Contextualism (OUP), applies the project to a range of theoretically recalcitrant expressions, such as epistemic vocabulary, normative vocabulary, vague gradable adjectives, and predicates of personal taste. The paper "Normative Language in Context" (Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Vol. 12) was awarded the Marc Sanders Prize in Metaethics. Recent work has examined the prospects for a linguistic theory that posits explicit representations of context in linguistic structure and meaning. My 2021 book, Semantics with Assignment Variables (CUP), develops the syntax and compositional semantics and applies it to diverse linguistic shifting phenomena, such as with quantifiers, attitude ascriptions, relative clauses, questions, and conditionals. I also have projects on Nietzsche, predication, and philosophy of law. 


  • Philosophy of Language
  • Nietzsche
  • Moral and Political Philosophy
  • Research Skills and Methods (postgraduate)
  • Human Rights (postgraduate)

Postgraduate supervision

I'm happy to supervise graduate students in philosophy of language, ethics, and metaethics.

Find out more - our PhD Philosophy  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


  • Philosophy of Language, Metaethics, Ethics, Nietzsche

Grant projects:

  • Leverhulme Research Fellowship: “Context-Sensitivity in Normative Language and Discourse,” 2019–2020
  • AHRC Early Career Research Grant: “Context-Sensitivity in Natural Language,” 2016–2018


Recent publications


Silk, A 2019, Semantics with assignment variables. Cambridge University Press.

Silk, A 2016, Discourse Contextualism: a framework for contextualist semantics and pragmatics. Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198783923.001.0001


Silk, A 2022, 'Challenges for independence-driven and context-repair responses to the proviso problem', Natural Language Semantics, vol. 30, no. 3, pp. 363-377. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11050-022-09194-6

Silk, A 2019, 'Evaluational Adjectives', Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. https://doi.org/10.1111/phpr.12635

Silk, A 2019, 'Expectation biases and context management with negative polar questions', Journal of Philosophical Logic, pp. 1-42. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10992-019-09512-0

Silk, A 2019, 'Theories of vagueness and theories of law', Legal Theory, vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 132-152. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1352325219000028

Silk, A 2018, 'Commitment and states of mind with mood and modality', Natural Language Semantics, vol. 26, no. 2, pp. 125-166. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11050-018-9144-4

Silk, A 2017, 'How to embed an epistemic modal: attitude problems and other defects of character', Philosophical Studies, vol. 174, no. 7, pp. 1773–1799. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11098-016-0827-8

Silk, A 2017, 'Modality, Weights, and Inconsistent Premise Sets', Journal of Semantics, vol. 34, no. 4, pp. 683-707. https://doi.org/10.1093/jos/ffx014

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Silk, A 2022, Weak and strong necessity modals: on linguistic means of expressing “a primitive concept ought”. in B Dunaway & D Plunkett (eds), Meaning, decision, and norms: themes from the work of Allan Gibbard. Michigan Publishing, pp. 203-245. https://doi.org/10.3998/mpub.9948199

Silk, A 2017, Normative Language in Context. in Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Volume 12. Oxford University Press.


Silk, A 2018, Nietzsche and contemporary metaethics. in P Katsafanas (ed.), The Nietzschean Mind (Routledge philosophical minds). Routledge.

Silk, A 2017, Metaethical Contextualism. in T Mcpherson & D Plunkett (eds), The Routledge Handbook of Metaethics. 1st Edition edn, Routledge, New York, pp. 102-118. <https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/e/9781351817929>

Book/Film/Article review

Silk, A 2021, 'Nietzsche's Values: John Richardson, Nietzsche's Values, Oxford University Press, 2020, 546pp., $99.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780190098230', Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, vol. 2021, no. 9. <https://ndpr.nd.edu/reviews/nietzsches-values/>

Silk, A 2016, 'Critical notice: Having it both ways: hybrid theories and modern metaethics', Analysis. https://doi.org/10.1093/analys/anw031

View all publications in research portal