Portrait of Dr Eleanor Curran

Dr Eleanor Curran

Senior Lecturer in Law
Research Ethics Officer, Chair of the KLS Research Ethics Advisory Group
Academic Advisor

About

Dr Curran earned her PhD in philosophy at the City University of New York (CUNY) in 1998. She was a teaching fellow and tutor at King’s College London from 1998 to 2001 and a research philosopher at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-Disability from 1999-2000, working on Brain Computer Interface systems. She then took up a post as lecturer in the law department at Keele University, specialising in medical ethics and law. She moved to Kent Law School in 2006 and published a monograph on Thomas Hobbes’s theory of rights in 2007. She regularly publishes articles on Hobbes’s political philosophy and is an active member of the International Hobbes Association and the European Hobbes Society. 

Dr Curran is currently writing a monograph on the philosophy and jurisprudence of rights.

Dr Curran has an interest in legal ethics and developed and convenes one of the first courses on legal ethics to be taught as part of an undergraduate law degree at a British university.

Research interests

Dr Curran’s research interests include: the political philosophy of Thomas Hobbes, early modern political thought, the philosophy and jurisprudence of individual rights, the history of rights theory, legal ethics, moral philosophy and jurisprudence. 

Teaching

Dr Curran principally teaches Undergraduates in the area of Morality, Ethics and the Law.

Supervision

I am happy to supervise PhD students writing on: Hobbes, early modern political philosophy, rights theory, the history of rights theory, jurisprudence.

Publications

Article

  • Curran, E. (2013). An Immodest Proposal: Hobbes Rather than Locke Provides a Forerunner for Modern Rights Theory Roseneil, S. ed. Law and Philosophy [Online] 32:515-538. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10982-012-9149-y.
    In this paper I argue that we should look to Hobbes rather than to Locke as providing a philosophical forerunner of modern and current rights theories and further, that Hobbes’s theory has relevance to and ‘speaks to’ current philosophical and jurisprudential analysis of the foundations of rights, in a way that Locke’s theory cannot. First, I summarise the argument that Hobbes does have a substantive theory of individual rights. Second, I argue that the project undertaken by A. J. Simmons, to ‘reconstruct’ Locke’s theory of rights without the theological premises, cannot succeed. Locke’s theory of natural rights is thoroughly dependent on its theological premises. Third, I argue that Hobbes’s theory of rights is not dependent on theological premises. Finally, I try to illustrate the ways in which Hobbes’s theory is still relevant and useful for current debates within rights theory.
  • Curran, E. (2012). Hobbes on Equality: Context, Rhetoric, Argument. Hobbes Studies [Online] 25:166-187. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/18750257-02502003.
    It is often argued that Hobbes’s arguments for natural and political equality are used instrumentally. This paper does not argue against the instrumental arguments but seeks to broaden the discussion; to analyse aspects of Hobbes’s arguments and comments on equality that are often ignored. In the context of the anti-egalitarian arguments of leading contemporary royalist commentators, Hobbes’s arguments and remarks are strikingly egalitarian. The paper argues, first, that there is an ideological disagreement between Hobbes and leading royalists on equality. Second, that Hobbes believes in natural equality as well as using the arguments for equality instrumentally.
  • Curran, E. (2010). Blinded by the Light of Hohfeld: Hobbes’s Notion of Liberty. Jurisprudence: An International Journal of Legal and Political Thought [Online] 1:85-104. Available at: https://doi.org/10.5235/204033210791557218.
  • Curran, E. (2006). Lost In Translation. Some Problems with a Hohfeldian Analysis of Hobbesian Rights. Hobbes Studies XIX:58-76.
  • Curran, E. (2006). Can Rights Curb the Hobbesian Sovereign? The Full Right to Preservation, Duties of Sovereignty and the Limitations of Hohfeld. Law and Philosophy [Online] 25:243-265. Available at: http://www.springerlink.com/content/v145768t2403737t/fulltext.pdf.
  • Curran, E., Syakec, P., Penny, W., Johnsrud, I., Roberts, S., Owen, A. and Stokes, M. (2004). Cognitive Tasks for Driving a Brain-computer Interfacing System: a Pilot Study. IEEE Transactions on Rehabilitation Engineering 12:48-54.
  • Curran, E. (2003). Learning to Control Brain Activity: a Review of the Production and Control of EEG Components for Driving Brain-computer interface (BCI) systems. Brain and Cognition [Online] 51:326-336. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/0.1016/S0278-2626(03)00036-8.
    Brain–computer interface (BCI) technology relies on the ability of individuals to voluntarily and reliably produce changes in their electroencephalographic (EEG) activity. The present paper reviews research on cognitive tasks and other methods of generating and controlling specific changes in EEG activity that can be used to drive BCI systems. To date, motor imagery has been the most commonly used task. This paper explores the possibility that other cognitive tasks, including those used in imaging studies, may prove to be more effective. Other factors which influence performance are also considered in relation to selection of tasks, as well as training of subjects.
  • Curran, E., Sykacek, P., Pickup, L., Gibbs, M., Curran, E., Stokes, M. and Roberts, S. (2003). Probabilistic Methods in BCI Research. IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering 11:192-195.
  • Curran, E. (2002). A Very Peculiar Royalist. Hobbes in the Context of his Political Contemporaries. British Journal for the History of Philosophy [Online] 10:167-208. Available at: http://journalsonline.tandf.co.uk/link.asp?id=7dcd8n5d89px9bpp.
  • Curran, E. (2002). Hobbes’s Theory of Rights: A Modern Interest Theory. Journal of Ethics [Online] 6:63-86. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1023/A:1015875902334.
    The received view in Thomas Hobbes scholarship is that the individual rights described by Hobbes in his political writings and specifically in Leviathan are simple freedoms or liberty rights, that is, rights that are not correlated with duties or obligations on the part of others. In other words, it is usually argued that there are no claim rights for individuals in Hobbes's political theory. This paper argues, against that view, that Hobbes does describe claim rights, that they come into being when individuals conform to the second law of nature and that they are genuine moral claim rights, that is, rights that are the ground of the obligations of others to forebear from interfering with their exercise. This argument is defended against both Jean Hampton's and Howard Warrender's interpretations of rights in Hobbes's theory. The paper concludes that the theory of rights underlying Hobbes's writing is not taken from Natural Law but is probably closer to a modern interest theory of rights.

Book

  • Curran, E. (2007). Reclaiming the Rights of the Hobbesian Subject. Hampshire, UK: Palgrave Macmillan Publishers.
    In this ground breaking book Curran seeks to reveal Hobbes’ contribution to the theory of individual rights and to the history of the concept of individual rights. Beginning by examining Hobbes’s pronouncements on rights in the context of the writing of his contemporaries – both royalist and parliamentarian, she goes on to Hobbes’s arguments for the universal inalienability of crucial rights to self-preservation and self-defence echo those of the radical parliamentarian Levellers. And yet in the intervening centuries Hobbes’s political theory has come to be seen as lacking any substantive rights for subjects. Curran develops an argument that in Leviathan, Hobbes does describe genuine political rights for subjects and he provides for their protection by the duties of others. She also argues that the Hohfeldian analysis, that dominates current discussions of rights, has contributed to a distorted reading of Hobbesian rights. In asking what sort of theory of rights underlies Hobbes’s descriptions, she argues that it is not a theory of natural rights tied to the premises of natural law but is instead a modern, secular, interest theory.

Book section

  • Curran, E. (2017). Hobbes Comes out for Equal Marriage. In: Courtland, S. D. ed. Hobbesian Applied Ethics and Public Policy. London: Routledge. Available at: https://www.routledge.com/Hobbesian-Applied-Ethics-and-Public-Policy/Courtland/p/book/9781138691636.
  • Curran, E. (2013). Hobbes’s Theory of Rights: A New Application. In: Lloyd, S. ed. Hobbes Today: Insights for the 21st Century. Cambridge University Press, pp. 25-48. Available at: http://www.cambridge.org/aus/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9781107000599#contributors.
  • Curran, E. (2012). Hobbes in the History of Rights Theory. In: Lloyd, S. ed. The Bloomsbury Companion to Hobbes. Bloomsbury Academic. Available at: http://www.continuumbooks.com/books/detail.aspx?BookId=157261&SubjectId=1020&Subject2Id=1400.

Review

  • Curran, E. (2014). ’Comments on Larry May’s ’Limiting Leviathan: Hobbes on Law and International Affairs’. Hobbes Studies 27:178-184.

Forthcoming

  • Curran, E. (2019). Hobbesian Sovereignty and the Rights of Subjects: Absolutism Undermined?. Hobbes Studies.
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