Professor Rae Langton

Faculty Chair and Knightbridge Professor of Philosophy at Faculty of Philosophy, University of Cambridge

Knightbridge Professor of Philosophy, Faculty of Philosophy

Rae Langton has been Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge, and Fellow of Newnham, since September 2013. In 2017 Rae Langton was elected to be the Knightbridge Professor of Philosophy. The Knightbridge chair was founded in 1683 by John Knightbridge, Fellow of Peterhouse. It has been held by many eminent Cambridge philosophers, including Henry Sidgwick, who founded Newnham College in 1871.

Rae was born and raised in India. She was educated in India (Hebron School, 1966-79), Australia (Sydney, BA Hons. 1986), and the USA (Princeton, PhD 1995). Rae has taught philosophy in Australia, Scotland, the USA, and England, and she has dual Australian and UK nationality.

Rae was Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh from 1999-2004, a position for which David Hume had once been turned down. Rae was Professor of Philosophy at MIT from 2004-2013. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2013, and to the British Academy in 2014. Rae was one of five Cambridge faculty among Prospect Magazine’s voted list of 50 ‘World Thinkers 2014’, chosen for ‘engaging most originally and profoundly with the central questions of the world today’. In 2015 Rae gave the John Locke Lectures in Oxford’s Trinity Term, and for that period was Visiting Fellow at All Souls College. rae was also The Mind Senior Research Fellow for 2015-16.

Rae works in moral and political philosophy, history of philosophy, metaphysics, philosophy of law, speech act theory, and feminist philosophy. She has a long-standing interest in speech acts and social justice. Speech is not just a matter of making meaningful noises, but of doing things with words. With this in mind, we see that certain forms of speech, including hate speech and some pornography, can subordinate people, altering social norms and authority patterns, and legitimating inequality. Some speech can also silence, by making certain speech acts difficult or impossible—for example, when ‘No’ doesn’t count as a sexual refusal. A speech act approach to language and social life prompts questions at the intersection of philosophy of language, politics and law; and sheds light on the politics of gender and race, hate and violence. Rae also works in ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, and the history of philosophy. She has a project about empathy and imagination, and their role in aesthetics and ethics.