Joseph Roberts

Colleges, School and Institutes

Research interests

Area of Specialization: Political Philosophy, Bioethics and Normative Ethics

Area of Competence: Moral Philosophy, Democratic Theory

At the University of Birmingham Joseph is working on the Wellcome Trust funded Project ‘Everyday Cyborgs 2.0.: law’s boundary work and alternative legal futures‘ under the direction of Professor Muireann Quigley.

This project focuses on the novel regulatory challenges posed by our increased use of implanted and attached medical devices (IAMDs). These devices offer enormous therapeutic potential, However, their integration with persons creates difficulties for the law.

Unanswered questions include: (1) should internal medical devices which keep the person alive be viewed as part of the person or mere objects (or something else)?; (2) is damage to neuro-prostheses personal injury or damage to property?; (3) who ought to control/own the software in implanted medical devices?; and (4) how should the law deal with risks around unauthorised third party access and hacking? 

Dr Joseph Roberts’ main focus on the Everyday Cyborg 2.0. Project is to work on the normative and conceptual questions that the existence of everyday cyborgs pose and integrate these with the empirical components to develop a new account of everyday cyborgs in law.

Joseph’s second current line of research focuses on the notion of respect for persons and the limits of what we can consent to, in particular whether or not people can consent to ‘destructive choices’. Destructive choices are choices which threaten to destroy the agency of the person making them. Examples could be joining an oppressive cult or continuously consuming strong psychoactive drugs. Joseph’s research aims to provide an account of when engaging in destructive choices is permissible and what safe-guards ought to be put in place to ensure that people engaging in them do so willingly.


Joseph Roberts completed his PhD in Political Theory at the University of Manchester in 2019. During his time at the University of Manchester, Joseph lectured and led tutorials on two courses: Introduction to Political Theory and Challenges for Democratic Politics. Prior to studying for a PhD at Manchester, he completed an MA in Ethics and Political Philosophy and a BA in Philosophy in his hometown of Barcelona.