Onora O'Neill, Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve

The Right Honourable Professor
The Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve
Personal details
Born 23 August 1941 (1941-08-23) (age 70)
Nationality British
Alma mater Oxford University
Occupation Philosopher and Politician

Onora Sylvia O'Neill, Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve CBE FBA FMedSci FRS FAAAS (Hon.) MRIA (Hon.) (born 23 August 1941) is a philosopher and a crossbench member of the House of Lords.

The daughter of Sir Con Douglas Walter O'Neill, she was educated at St Paul's Girls' School, London, and studied philosophy, psychology and physiology at Oxford University, and went on to complete a doctorate at Harvard, with John Rawls as supervisor. She is a professor of philosophy at the University of Cambridge, a former President of the British Academy and chaired the Nuffield Foundation 1998-2010. [1] In 2003, she was the founding President of the British Philosophical Association (BPA). Until October 2006, she was the Principal of Newnham College, Cambridge.



O'Neill has written widely on political philosophy and ethics, international justice, bioethics and the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. Her books include:

  • Rethinking Informed Consent in Bioethics (2007) (with Neil Manson)
  • Autonomy and Trust in Bioethics (2002) (The 2001 Gifford Lectures)
  • A Question of Trust: The BBC Reith Lectures 2002 (Cambridge University Press, 2002)
  • Bounds of Justice (2000)
  • Towards Justice and Virtue (1996)
  • Constructions of Reason: Exploration of Kant's Practical Philosophy (1989)
  • Faces of Hunger: An Essay on Poverty, Development and Justice (1986)
  • Acting on Principle (1975)

Philosophical views

Across various works, O'Neill has defended and applied a constructivist interpretation of Kantian ethics heavily influenced by John Rawls, emphasizing the importance of trust, consent and respect for autonomy in a just society. She has written extensively about trust, noting "that people often choose to rely on the very people whom they claimed not to trust" and suggesting that we "need to free professionals and the public service to serve the public...to work towards more intelligent forms of accountability...[and] to rethink a media culture in which spreading suspicion has become a routine activity".[2]

Honors and distinctions

She has been president of the Aristotelian Society (1988 to 1989), a member of the Animal Procedures Committee (1990 to 1994), chair of Nuffield Council on Bioethics (1996 to 1998), a member and then acting chair of the Human Genetics Advisory Commission (1996 to 1999) and a member of the select committee on BBC Charter Review. She is presently chair of the Nuffield Foundation (since 1997), a trustee of Sense About Science (since 2002), a trustee of the Ditchley Foundation, and a trustee of the Gates Cambridge Trust. She also served as President of the British Academy between 2005 and 2009. She is on the Advisory Board of Incentives for Global Health, the NGO formed to develop the Health Impact Fund proposal.

She was made a Life peer as Baroness O’Neill of Bengarve, of The Braid in the County of Antrim in 1999, and in 2007 was elected an honorary FRS.[3] She is also a Foreign Hon. Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1993) and the Austrian Academy of Sciences (2002), a Foreign Member of the American Philosophical Society (2003), and Hon. Member Royal Irish Academy (2003), a Foreign Member of the Leopoldina (2004) and the Norwegian Academy of Sciences (2006)[4] and a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences.[5] She is an elected fellow of the Hastings Center, an independent bioethics research institution. [6]. She is a Distinguished Senior Fellow of the School of Advanced Study, University of London, an honour awarded in 2009.

Notes and references

  1. ^ Biography of Officers of the British Academy
  2. ^ Onora O'Neill on the Reith Lectures 2002
  3. ^ British Academy Press Release
  4. ^ House of Lords biography
  5. ^ Debretts People of Today 2007
  6. ^ The Hastings Center Hastings Center Fellows. Accessed November 6, 2010

See also

External links

Academic offices
Preceded by
Sheila Browne
Principal of Newnham College, Cambridge
Succeeded by
Patricia Hodgson

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