Neil A. Manson

Professional Background

I received my philosophy from the University of Maryland-College Park in May 1989 and my Ph.D. in philosophy from Syracuse University in December 1998. I held the post of Gifford Research Fellow in Natural Theology at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland from January 1999 through May 2001. In the 2001-2002 academic year I was Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Center for Philosophy of Religion at the University of Notre Dame. I was a visiting assistant professor of philosophy at Virginia Commonwealth University in the 2002-2003 academic year before I was hired as an assistant professor at the University of Mississippi in 2003. I was promoted to associate professor in 2009.

Teaching Interests

So far at the University of Mississippi I have taught courses in introductory logic, introduction to philosophy, philosophy of religion, philosophy of science, philosophical issues in science and religion, advanced logic, environmental philosophy, and medical ethics, as well as various service courses. Elsewhere I have taught ethics, the history of early modern philosophy, metaphysics, and epistemology. In addition to conveying the relevant material, in all courses I seek to develop in students the ability to think critically, write cogently, and ask sharp questions.

Research Interests

My central research areas concern metaphysics, philosophy of science, and philosophy of religion. A specific area of research concerns contemporary versions of the Design Argument for the existence of God. My dissertation "Why Cosmic Fine-tuning Needs to be Explained" concerned the Fine-tuning Argument - the version of the Design Argument based on the seemingly "just right" nature of the physical parameters of the universe. I put together an anthology on this topic, God and Design: The Teleological Argument and Modern Science (Routledge, 2003). My introduction gives some sense of my take on the issues. I also wrote "The Design Argument" specifically for undergraduates; it was published in Delight in Thinking: An Introductory Reader (McGraw-Hill, 2006), edited by Steve Hales and Scott Lowe.

I've also published several papers relevant to the Design Argument: "There Is No Adequate Definition of 'Fine-tuned for Life'" (Inquiry, September 2000); "Anthropocentrism and the Design Argument" (Religious Studies, June 2000); "Cosmic Fine-tuning, Many-Universe Theories, and the Goodness of Life," in Willem B. Drees, ed., Is Nature Ever Evil? Religion, Science, and Value (Routledge, 2003); with Michael Thrush, "Fine-tuning, Multiple Universes, and the 'This Universe' Objection" (in Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, March 2003); "The 'Why Design?' Question" in Yujin Nagasawa and Erik Weilenberg, eds., New Waves in Philosophy of Religion (Ashgate, 2008); and "The Fine-Tuning Argument" in the online journal Philosophy Compass. "The Design Argument and Natural Theology" is forthcoming in Russell Re Manning, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Natural Theology. I've also published reviews of several books relevant to the Design Argument: Nick Bostrom's Anthropic Bias and Niall Shanks' God, the Devil, and Darwin (for Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews), as well as John Leslie's Infinite Minds (in Religious Studies vol. 40, no. 4). I also served as co-editor (with Jay Richards) of a special issue of Philosophia Christi entitled Philosophical Issues in Intelligent Design (vol. 7, no. 2). I was responsible for the section "Symposium on the Fine-tuning Argument," which included contributions from Robin Collins, Alex Pruss, and Timothy & Lydia McGrew. I have weighed in on the Fine-tuning Argument in public lectures at the universities of Cambridge, St. Andrews, Edinburgh , Western Ontario, Waterloo, and Memphis, among other places. I was interviewed about the Fine-tuning Argument by blogger Luke Muelhauser for his web site Common Sense Atheism (look under "Philosophy Podcast"). I have also addressed the controversy over "Intelligent Design Theory" in public lectures at Arkansas-Little Rock, Indiana State, Huntington, and South Alabama. For a lighthearted look at the Design Argument, take a look at "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Beer" in Steven Hales, ed., Beer and Philosophy (Blackwell, 2007).

I have also published in other areas of philosophy of religion. "God as an Incorporeal Person" appeared in Appraisal: The Journal of the Society for Post-Critical and Personalist Studies (vol. 6, no. 1). My review of God and Time: Essays on the Divine Nature (ed. David Woodruff and Gregory Ganssle) appeared in Philosophical Books (vol. 46, no. 1).

Another area of interest is philosophy and public policy. In "Formulating the Precautionary Principle" (Environmental Ethics vol. 24) I set out a framework within which various versions of the precautionary principle can be stated, then argue that any workable version must meet a variety of constraints. In "The Concept of Irreversibility: Its Use in the Sustainable Development and Precautionary Principle Literatures" (The Electronic Journal of Sustainable Development volume 1, issue 1) I pursue one of the themes I raised in "Formulating the Precautionary Principle" - the clarification of concepts (e.g. irreversibility, irreplaceability, catastrophe) the content of which is usually just taken for granted in the environmental decision-making literature. I was honored to express my views on the precautionary principle for the BBC Radio 4 programme Analysis: Risky Business. I have also co-authored "Genetic Testing and Insurance: Why the Fear of 'Genetic Discrimination' Does Not Justify Regulation" with Gregory Conko of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and was interviewed by Paul Molloy on the topic on his radio show "Freedom Works!" I have also written two papers on gambling, including "Addiction and the Diagnostic Criteria for Pathological Gambling" in Don Ross, Harold Kincaid, David Spurrett, and Peter Collins, eds., What Is Addiction? (MIT Press, 2010).

Currently I am finishing preparation of The Continuum Companion to Metaphysics (Continuum, forthcoming). After that I will dig into writing two textbooks: Environmental Philosophy, which will appear as part of Palgrave MacMillan's Studies in Philosophy series, and Philosophy of Religion, which will appear as part of Blackwell's This Is Philosophy series.


In addition to the standard philosophical pasttimes of gossiping, griping, and talking politics, I enjoy the great outdoors through golfing, hiking, country driving, and fly-fishing. I occasionally win a free beer at the pool table. I am almost certainly bigger than you.

I am distinct from Neil C. Manson, a very fine philosopher at the University of Lancaster specializing in applied philosophy and the philosophy of mind. His home page is here.

Contact Information

Neil A. Manson

Department of Philosophy and Religion

Bryant Hall

The University of Mississippi

University MS 38677-1848



telephone: 662/915-6713