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Clare Carlisle studied philosophy and theology at Trinity College, Cambridge, gaining her BA in 1998 and her PhD in 2002, and she remains grateful to Trinity College for the scholarship that supported her doctoral studies. Her travels in India after completing her PhD deepened her interest in devotional and contemplative practices. She is the author of six books, most recently On Habit (Routledge, 2014), Philosopher of the Heart: The Restless Life of Søren Kierkegaard (Allen Lane / Penguin / FSG, 2019), and Spinoza’s Religion: A New Reading of the Ethics (Princeton University Press, 2021).

Professor Carlisle joined King’s in 2011, and in addition to her research and teaching for the Department of Theology and Religious Studies she works in the Office of the Dean as AKC Director. In 2015 she became an AKC (Associate of King’s College).

Research interests and PhD supervision

  • 19th-century philosophy, especially Kierkegaard and George Eliot
  • Early modern philosophy, especially Spinoza
  • Philosophies of religious life
  • Ethics and human flourishing
  • Philosophies and theologies of desire
  • Repetition, habit and practice
  • European thought and its history
  • Philosophy as art and contemplation
  • Encounter between theological and philosophical traditions

Clare Carlisle’s research – on Kierkegaard, on Spinoza, on habit and practice, and on the philosophy of religious life – converges at the interface between philosophy, theology and literature. She has written four books on Kierkegaard, including the innovative philosophical biography Philosopher of the Heart, a TLS Book of the Year in 2019. Her work on Spinoza includes her edition of George Eliot’s translation of the Ethics (Princeton University Press, 2020) and her book Spinoza’s Religion: A New Reading of the Ethics (2021), which shows how Spinoza reconfigures the very concept of religion. This book develops some of the insights in her 2017 article ‘Spinoza’s Acquiescentia’, winner of the JHP Article Prize. Professor Carlisle is currently working on the life, art and philosophy of George Eliot, and is writing a philosophical biography titled The Marriage Question: George Eliot and Mrs Lewes, under contract with Allen Lane in London and FSG in New York.

Professor Carlisle’s research on habit draws on the histories of philosophy and theology to clarify the concepts of habit and practice, and articulate an original interpretation of their significance. An outline of this project is set out in her book On Habit, named by Choice as an Outstanding Academic Title of 2014. Professor Carlisle’s collaborations on ethical and spiritual desire, funded by the John Templeton Foundation, have yielded a philosophical account of desire and devotion, and this work informs her philosophy of religious life and practice.

Professor Carlisle welcomes enquiries from prospective research students who would like to work with her on doctoral projects relating to the research themes listed above.

For more details, please see her full research profile.


Clare Carlisle teaches undergraduates modules in the Philosophy of Religion, including Thinking About Evil (4AAT1501) and Philosophy of Religious Life (6AAT3602)

Expertise and public engagement

Clare Carlisle writes regularly on philosophy, religion and ethics for The Guardian and the Times Literary Supplement.  Her Guardian articles include series on Kierkegaard, Spinoza, Bertrand Russell, and the problem of evil. She has contributed to BBC Radio 4 programmes, including ‘In Our Time’ (on Kierkegaard, and on the Ontological Argument) and ‘The Moral Maze’.

Clare is also a course instructor for the IAI Academy, a new educational platform offering courses from world-leading scholars on the ideas that matter. A link to Clare's course can be found below: