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Fay Niker


I have recently been awarded my PhD and will be taking up a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Ethics in Society, Stanford University, in September 2017.

Research interests:

  • Contemporary Political Theory
  • Applied Ethics
  • Behavioural Public Policy
  • Intersections between Normative and Empirical research, including Experimental Philosophy
  • Moral Psychology and Virtue Ethics


  • PhD candidate in Political Theory, University of Warwick (2013-2017), Pass, No Corrections
  • MPhil in Political Theory, Balliol College, University of Oxford (2011-2013), Distinction.
  • BA (Hons) in Philosophy & Political Science, Trinity College, University of Dublin (2007-2011), First Class Honours and Gold Medal.


(i) Doctoral research

Designing Policy Ecologies for Living Well: A Theory of the Political Morality of Public Nudging

Supervisors: Professor Adam Swift and Dr. Matthew Clayton.

Abstract: The thesis provides a full assessment of the moral permissibility of a set of new belief and behaviour modification techniques, now commonly known as “nudges”, which are grounded in and justified by reference to our new insights into human psychology. It asks what forms of nudging are permissible in light of the state’s new understanding of its capacity to modify behaviour using these insights; and it develops an ethico-political account of living well that directs this normative investigation. There are two main strands to this analysis of public nudging, one relating to behaviour change policies designed for the sake of the target and the other relating to those designed for the sake of others. Across both strands, it is argued that the kinds of interventions that are permissible share a similar character: specifically, they are compatible with creating and sustaining the conditions for living well, on account of their playing an ecological-educative role in supporting citizens’ personal autonomy and practical reasoning. The thesis uses its in-depth normative analysis as the basis for engaging with current practices in behavioural policymaking and for setting out an ethically-sensitive policy framework to guide the design of nudge interventions in practice. The extended argument presented in these pages offers a distinctive and timely contribution to this debate, setting out arguably the most sustained and complete philosophical assessment of the ethics of nudging in the literature to date.

(ii) Other research projects

Empirically-Grounded Conception(s) of Autonomy

Collaborators: Professor Peter B. Reiner (National Core for Neuroethics, University of British Columbia) & Dr. Gidon Felsen (University of Colorado, Denver).

This interdisciplinary collaboration focuses on exploring the idea of autonomy, both empirically and theoretically. We are interested in understanding more about the so-called 'folk' conception of autonomy, and have been collecting data on this using experimental philosophy techniques, including contrastive vignette surveys. This work so far has explored public attitudes concerning what counts as due and undue external influence, and introduces and tests the idea of pre-authorization - a novel conceptual framework for thinking about the role of interpersonal relationships in autonomous decision-making and action. We have also published a paper synthesizing philosophical and neurobiological perspectives on pro-attitude incorporation and revision, and its role in autonomy. So far, we have published articles in Neuroethics and The American Journal of Bioethics.

(iii) Research assistance

I also work as Kimberley Brownlee's research assistant (Professor in Philosophy, University of Warwick; June 2015 – present). This is a varied role, including: conference/ workshop organization, proof-reading and copy-editing, commenting on working papers, researching for lectures and papers, and summarizing relevant literature.

Funding Awards and Scholarships

  • 2015 Horowitz Foundation Grant, Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy, $7,500 (April 2016).
  • John L. Stanley Award for most outstanding project in History and Ethics, Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy, $1,500 (April 2016).
  • Overseas Institutional Visit Award, ESRC Doctoral Training Centre: Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona (March-June 2016).
  • Warwick Transatlantic Fellowship, Humanities Research Centre: National Core for Neuroethics, University of British Columbia, Canada (May-June 2015) to carry out interdisciplinary research.
  • Doctoral Event Grant, ESRC Doctoral Training Centre: One-day interdisciplinary conference on the relationship between empirical psychology and normative political theory.
  • ESRC Studentship & Chancellor’s Scholarship: 3.5 years PhD funding (Sept. 2013 – July 2017).
  • E. Haigh Studentship, jointly funded by Corpus Christi College and DPIR: D.Phil funding at the University of Oxford, 2013-2015 (declined).
  • Departmental Studentships, DPIR, University of Oxford: £5,000 in 2011/12 and £2,000 in 2012/13.
  • Wray Travelling Scholarship, Philosophy Department, Trinity College Dublin: Funding to take up postgraduate degree at the University of Oxford, €3,000. Awarded July 2011.
  • Gold Medal, awarded to exceptional first class degree candidates by the Board of Trinity College, University of Dublin. Awarded on June 2011; received November 2011.
  • Foundation Scholarship, Trinity College, University of Dublin: Full scholarship, including tuition, on-campus accommodation, and daily Commons. Awarded May 2009.
  • John Isaac Beare Prize, Philosophy Department, Trinity College Dublin. Awarded June 2008.
  • John Henry Bernard Prize, Philosophy Department, Trinity College Dublin. Awarded June 2008.


  • Niker, F. (forthcoming, 2017), ‘Policy-led Virtue Cultivation: Can we ‘nudge’ citizens towards developing virtues?’, in T. Harrison and D. Walker (eds.), The Theory and Practice of Virtue Education, London: Routledge.
  • Specker Sullivan, L., and Niker, F. (2017), 'Relational Autonomy, Maternalism, and the Nocebo Effect', The American Journal of Bioethics 17 (6), pp. 52-54.
  • Niker, F., Reiner, P.B., and Felsen, G. (2016), ‘Pre-authorization: A novel decision-making heuristic that may promote autonomy,’ The American Journal of Bioethics 16 (5), pp. 27-29. DOI: 10.1080/15265161.2016.1159761.
  • Niker, F., Reiner, P.B., and Felsen, G. (2015), ‘Updating our Selves: Synthesizing philosophical and neurobiological perspectives on incorporating new information into our worldview,’ Neuroethics, DOI: 10.1007/s12152-015-9246-3 (published online: 18th December 2015).

Conferences and workshops

(i) Papers given:
  • ‘Pre-authorization, Personal Autonomy and Conative Nudges’, Conative Nudges: Changes in Desires international conference, University of Rennes, 3-5 October 2016.
  • ‘Claims versus Freedoms’, workshop on Kimberley Brownlee’s Social Rights manuscript (forthcoming OUP), University of Warwick, 23 September 2016 [invited].
  • ‘Cognitive Biases and their Impact on Autonomy’, Graduate Conference in Legal and Political Theory, University of Warwick, 13 February 2016.
  • ‘Policy-led Ecological Virtue Cultivation’, Cultivating Virtues: Interdisciplinary Approaches conference, Oriel College, University of Oxford, 7-9 January 2016.
  • ‘The Role of Guilt in Behaviour Modification Policies’, Behavioural Public Policy: Theory and Practice workshop, Centre for Ethics & Law, University College London, 9 November 2015 [invited].
  • ‘The Folk Conception of Autonomy: What, if anything, can experimental philosophy tell us about the nature of personal autonomy?’, Autonomy in Moral and Political Philosophy MANCEPT workshop, University of Manchester, 1-3 September 2015.
  • ‘Clarifying the Relationship between Nudge and Choice-Manipulation’, Graduate Conference in Legal and Political Theory, University of Warwick, 15 February 2014.
  • Roundtable discussant (with David Miller, Mark Philp, and Alice Baderin), Recent Themes in Adam Swift’s Work: Ideal Theory, Family and Education, Centre for the Study of Social Justice, University of Oxford, 8 May 2013 [invited].
(ii) Organisation:
  • International workshop on Kimberley Brownlee's Social Rights (forthcoming, OUP), 23 September 2016.
  • Warwick Graduate Conference in Legal and Political Theory, 14 February 2015 (co-organized with Christopher Bennett).
(iii) Summer Schools:
  • Two-week Applied Philosophy Summer School, Central European University, Budapest (received full scholarship). Lecturers included Jeff McMahan, Richard Arneson & Victor Tadros.


  • Guest Mini-Lecture for The Ethics of Sociability, a third-year undergraduate Philosophy module taught by Professor Kimberley Brownlee (February 2016). Topic: Autonomy and Nudging.
  • Seminar Tutor for Political Theory from Hobbes, a second-year undergraduate compulsory PAIS module taught by Professor Andrew Reeve (2014/15). Thinkers covered: Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Burke, Paine, Wollstonecraft, Mill, and Marx.
  • Seminar Tutor for Justice, Democracy, and Citizenship, a first-year undergraduate PAIS module taught by Professors Adam Swift, Andrew Mason, and Michael Saward (2013/14).
  • ‘Teaching and Learning in Higher Education for Postgraduates’ Certificate.

Wider Engagement

  • Member, The American Philosophical Association; Society of Applied Philosophy; Society for Women in Philosophy UK.
  • Blogger, Justice Everywhere, a collaborative blog about justice in public affairs (2014-present).
  • Blogger & Graduate Mentor, OxPolicy: The Oxford Student Think Tank (2013-2014).
  • Academic Tutor with Team Up, a social venture charity training students to tutor children from low-income backgrounds (2012-2014; weekly commitment during term-time).

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Fay Niker

Office: D1.02

Department of Politics and International Relations, Social Sciences Building, The University of Warwick, CV4 7AL.