Lucas Swaine

Academic Appointments

Associate Professor of Government

230 Silsby Hall
HB 6108
B.A. (Hons.), M.A. University of Manitoba
D.Phil., University of Sussex
A.M., Ph.D., Brown University

Selected Publications

Ethical Autonomy: The Rise of Self-Rule (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020): This book reconsiders the importance of personal autonomy for democratic citizenship and for good lives. It charts the evolution of autonomy and examines the proliferation of autonomy in free societies. The book pinpoints serious deficiencies in received ideals and practices of personal autonomy. It elaborates an argument in favor of ethical autonomy, an alternative kind of autonomy that integrates individual self-rule with moral character. Ethical autonomy includes important restraints on an autonomous individual’s imagination, deliberation, and will. It supports central liberal commitments, it fits with reasonable pluralism, it enhances active and astute forms of democratic citizenship, and it is grounded in fundamental principles of liberty of conscience. This novel understanding enriches the values of freedom, toleration, respect, individual rights, limited government, and the rightful rule of law.

The Liberal Conscience: Politics and Principle in a World of Religious Pluralism (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006; paperback edition, 2008).

“Freedom of Thought as a Basic Liberty,” Political Theory, Vol. 46, No. 3 (2018), pp. 405-25. Available at:

“Can Islam Transform Liberalism?” Politics, Religion & Ideology, Vol. 19, No. 3 (2018), pp. 285-304. Available at:

“Legal Exemptions for Religious Feelings,” in Religious Exemptions, ed. Kevin Vallier and Michael Weber (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018), pp. 74-96.

“The Origins of Autonomy,” History of Political Thought, Vol. 37, No. 2 (2016): 216-37.

Works in progress

Freedom of Thought: First of the Liberties (book project): This project provides a comprehensive treatment of the nature and value of freedom of thought. It offers sustained analysis of the central features of this key freedom, illuminating various pressures and threats to freedom of thought and offering ways creatively to address them. The book's topics include: the political history of freedom of thought; freedom of thought as a basic liberty; violations of freedom of thought; freedom of thought in relation to cognate freedoms of speech, conscience, religion, and association; the importance of freedom of thought in democratic deliberation; freedom of thought in education; legal accommodations for freedom of thought; and protection of freedom of thought from dangers posed by new technologies, state surveillance, social and political pressures, and self-imposed diminution.