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Vanessa Louise Rampton

vanessa rampton

Current Post / Principal Activity:

Society in Science – Branco Weiss Fellow, Chair of Philosophy II, ETH Zurich, Switzerland

Contact details:


I studied history, political science and law as an undergraduate in Geneva, and it was then that I became interested in how philosophical ideas are adapted and ‘lived out’ differently in different circumstances. After learning Russian I began working as a translator for the President of Russia’s official website (, which cemented my interest in political philosophy in Russia.

I went on to study history and philosophy with particular reference to Russian culture at University College London (School of Slavonic and East European Studies) where I received an M.A. in 2006. My Ph.D. (King’s College, 2013) used the Russian experience of liberalism as a case-study to look at how thinkers who sympathize with core liberal ideas (meliorism, universalism, individualism, and recognition of a tension between different values) adapted those ideas to the Russian context. My research at Cambridge addressed questions that I am still working on, such as the extent to which historical and cultural context affect knowledge claims and ethical beliefs, the relationship between liberalism and teleological views of progress, and the problems associated with liberal universalism.

I held a two-year post-doctoral fellowship in Zurich (Chair of Practical Philosophy, ETH Zurich) from 2015 to 2017 where I conducted research on narratives of progress in liberal politics and philosophy. As of 2017 I hold a Society in Science – Branco Weiss Fellowship, and my research investigates the links between culture, knowledge and ethics, this time with reference to contemporary medicine as practiced in Europe and North America.  Now that I work outside of a Slavonic Department, I continuously find that Russian and eastern European examples provide a very illuminating (and even subversive) perspective when discussing issues in ethics or political philosophy, as often those disciplines are informed by Western historical examples. Moreover, the intellectual history of eastern Europe serves as a constant reminder that philosophy is always bound up with the particular historical and cultural context in which philosophical reflection is conducted.

Academic Publications:

  • (in press) Individual’naia svoboda i sotsial’naia spravedlivost’: zashchita prava Bogdanom Kistiakovskim (translated version of 2013 chapter below), in Russkaia filosofiia prava: P. I. Novgorodtsev, L. I. Petrazhitskii i B. A. Kistiakovskii (Russian Legal Philosophy: P. I. Novgorodtsev, L. I. Petrazhitskii, and B. A. Kistiakovskii), ed. by Elena Anatol’evna Pribytkova (Moscow: Fond im. G. P. Shchedrovitskogo, Institut filosofii RAN and ROSSPEN).
  • (2016) The Impossibility of Conservatism? Insights from Russian History, forthcoming in The Monist (special issue on conservatism), ed. by Martin Beckstein and Francis Cheneval, vol. 99, no. 4.
  • 2014 Religious Thought and Russian Liberal Institutions: The Case of Pavel Ivanovich Novgorodtsev, in Thinking Orthodox in Modern Russia: Culture, History, Context, ed. by Patrick Lally Michelson and Judith Deutsch Kornblatt (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press), pp. 235-52.
  • 2013 Individual Freedom and Social Justice: Bogdan Kistiakovskii’s Defense of the Law, in Landmarks Revisited: The Vekhi Symposium One Hundred Years On, ed. by Ruth Coates and Robin Aizlewood (Brighton, MA: Academic Studies Press), pp.128-45.


Major Fellowships

  • 2017—         Society in Science – Branco Weiss Fellowship
  • 2015—2017 ETH Zurich Post-Doctoral Fellowship
  • 2007—2012 Cambridge Commonwealth Trust Scholarship

Other Grants

  • ETH Zurich and University of Zurich Centre History of Knowledge (Zentrum Geschichte des Wissens (ZGW)) workshop grant
  • George L. Mosse Program in History, University of Wisconsin-Madison travel grant
  • Multiple Ferris travel grants, King’s College, University of Cambridge
  • Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), University of Cambridge, conference grant
  • Centre for East European Language-Based Area Studies (CEELBAS) conference grant
  • CRASSH, University of Cambridge, funding for a bi-weekly study group on Russian culture

Languages known and studied:

Native: English

Fluent: French, Italian, German and Russian

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