Dr. Claire Benn

Areas of specialization:

Ethics (normative and applied); Philosophy of Technology

Areas of competence:

Political Philosophy; Aesthetics; Introductory Philosophical and Formal Logic


Personal website

I received my PhD in July 2014 from the University of Cambridge. I received my MPhil in 2010 and my BA in 2009 also from the University of Cambridge. My area of specialization is in ethics, in two capacities: normative questions including supererogation, blame, atonement and forgiveness, as well as applied questions in the ethics of technology.

In my doctoral thesis, The Nature and Value of the Supererogatory, I give a substantive account of what it is for an action to go above and beyond the call of duty. I also show why ethical theories and individuals need to make room for such actions, theoretically and practically. My thesis helps to grant us insight into a wonderfully positive side of our moral lives. Often overlooked in the traditional ethical discussions of liars, murderers, promise-breakers and thieves, I give an analysis of the realm of the supererogatory instead encourages us to take more seriously those modest gift-givers, blood-donors, saints and heroes who similarly populate our moral world.

My work as a Polonsky Postdoctoral Fellow at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute concerns the ethics of technology. Much of the current debate in the ethics of technology has focused on the ways in which innovations in technology provide opportunities for us to act in wrong and impermissible ways. I explore some of these, such as in my work on virtual child pornography. I also examine whether innovations in the rapidly developing technologies of artificiality can also lead to changes in the opportunities, means and nature of what it is to be and to do good. The ethics of virtuality challenge our notions about whether there is a distinction to be drawn between doing good and ‘merely’ seeming to be good, and about the ethical status of play and fantasy. As the virtual infiltrates and dominates our lives we have to face the ethical challenges it presents, as well as exploring the ethical opportunities it offers.


  • ‘Over-Demandingness Objections and Supererogation’. In: The Limits of Moral Obligation: Moral Demandingness and Ought Implies Can, ed. Marcel van Ackeren and Michael Kühler, (Routledge, 2016). See https://www.routledge.com/products/9781138824232
  • ‘What is Wrong with Promising to Supererogate’. Philosophia (March 2014) Volume 42, Issue 1. DOI 10.1007/s11406-013-9480-z, for full text see http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11406-013-9480-z#
  • ‘Psychological Perfectionism and the Paradox of Obligation’. CAPE Studies in Applied Philosophy and Ethics, 2014