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John Tillson

While at Warwick, Dr John Tillson was a Teaching Fellow with academic responsibilities for admissions, outreach and recruitment activities. David Woods has taken over this role. Dr Tillson is now Lecturer in Philosophy of Education at Liverpool Hope University.


  • PhD Philosophy of Education, Dublin City University, Institute of Education.
  • MA Philosophy of Education, University College London, Institute of Education
  • PGCE Religious Education (Secondary), University College London, Institute of Education
  • BA Philosophy, University of Durham

Brief biography

Dr Tillson completed his doctoral studies on a scholarship from the Irish Centre for Religious Education in 2015. In the final year of his doctoral studies he taught undergraduate and postgraduate Philosophy of Education at Dublin City University. After defending his thesis he worked as a Teaching Fellow in Philosophy at St Patrick’s College, Dublin City University, teaching existentialism and the philosophy of education. In September 2018 he became an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and in November of the same year he became a full fellow.

He is the author of Children, Religion and the Ethics of Influence (Bloomsbury, 2019) and has published peer reviewed articles on video game ethics, Curriculum Theory, ethics education, religious education, and educational epistemology and metaphysics. He has presented papers at academic proceedings around Europe, North America and Australasia, and has been awarded honorary lifetime membership of Humanists UK, the Conway Hall Ethical Society, and of Trinity College Dublin’s Metaphysical Society.

Research interests

The ethics and nature of formative influence; religious education; moral education; philosophy of education; ethical theory; philosophy of religion.

Research grants and scholarships

  • Research Grant: Principal Investigator ($39,969.50) with Winston Thompson (Co-PI), ‘Pedagogies of Punishment: How and Why Should Schools Punish Students (If At All)?' awarded by the Centre for Ethics and Education (2019-2020)

  • PHD Scholarship (€51,000), awarded by the Irish Centre Religious Education (2012 - 2015)

  • Doctoral Award Scheme (£12,000), awarded by the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain, declined in favour of the ICRE Scholarship (2012)
  • MA Scholarship (£3,624), awarded by the Conway Hall Ethical Society (2009 - 2010)

Selected publications


Praise for the book:

An almost universal assumption is that forming children’s religious identity is something that adults permissibly do as parents, religious teachers, or the like. John Tillson argues with great force and ingenuity that this is simply a huge moral mistake. Tillson’s prose is a model of clarity, and though there is much here to interest scholars in the area of children’s rights, the book is accessible to anyone who cares about the questions it raises and is ready to consider the subversive answers it gives. This is a brilliant and provocative book.

Eamonn Callan (Pigott Family School of Education Professor, Stanford University)

The belief that parents have a right to raise their children within a religious tradition - be it in school or outside - is widely assumed to be correct. But is it? John Tillson presents a careful, well-crafted case for a conclusion many will find a shocking. Tillson has the virtue of writing in an engaging, accessible way. This is a valuable contribution to an important debate. It is a book that nicely illustrates how analytic philosophy can both effectively challenge received wisdom and generate conclusions that have significant, real-life consequences.

Stephen Law (Reader in Philosophy, Heythrop College)

Children, Religion and the Ethics of Influence is a detailed, closely argued, and richly resourced contribution to the philosophy of education. Tillson provides a carefully constructed, comprehensive, and analytically rigorous rebuttal of the view that it is morally permissible to attempt to instil religious beliefs in children. This is a work that is stacked full of interesting and controversial arguments, from questions about well-being and the moral responsibilities of parents, to arguments for and against the existence of a deity. The upshot is an exciting and ingenious intervention into the live moral and political debate surrounding the appropriate role of parents, teachers, and other educators with regard to religious belief and worries about indoctrination.

David Stevens (Associate Professor in Political Philosophy, University of Nottingham)

 Editorial Roles

Journal articles

Book chapters

Book reviews

Year book articles

Creative philosophical writing

Links to other profiles
Google Scholar
Times Educational Supplement



Department of Philosophy
University of Warwick

Room: S2.47

Email: J dot Tillson dot 1 at warwick dot ac dot uk