A. John Simmons

  • Commonwealth Professor of Philosophy, University of Virginia
  • Professor of Law

A. John Simmons is Commonwealth Professor of Philosophy and professor of law at the University of Virginia, where he has taught since 1976. He received his A.B. from Princeton University in 1972 and his Ph.D. in philosophy from Cornell University in 1977. He has been an editor of the journal Philosophy & Public Affairs since 1982.

He is the author of Moral Principles and Political Obligations (Princeton, 1979), The Lockean Theory of Rights (Princeton, 1992), On the Edge of Anarchy: Locke, Consent, and the Limits of Society (Princeton, 1993), Justification and Legitimacy: Essays on Rights and Obligations (Cambridge, 2000), Is There a Duty to Obey the Law? For and Against (with C.H. Wellman) (Cambridge, 2005), Political Philosophy (Oxford, 2008) and many other publications on topics in moral, political and legal philosophy. Two of his articles have been selected for inclusion in The Philosopher’s Annual. He has edited the books International Ethics (Princeton, 1985) and Punishment (Princeton, 1995).

Simmons has chaired the University of Virginia’s Philosophy Department and its Program on Political and Social Thought, and he received Virginia’s All-University Teaching Award in 1992-93 (in the inaugural year of that award). He taught Ethics as a special consultant for six years at the FBI National Academy, has given the Becker Distinguished Alumnus Lecture at Cornell University, and will give the 2013 Auguste Comte Lectures at the London School of Economics.

Simmons' current research interests include the moral significance of national boundaries.


  • Ph.D.
    Cornell University
  • M.A.
    Cornell University
  • A.B.
    Princeton University



Political Philosophy (Oxford, 2008)

Is There a Duty to Obey the Law? (with C.H.Wellman)(Cambridge, 2005)

Justification and Legitimacy: Essays on Rights and Obligations (Cambridge, 2001).

Punishment (editor) (Princeton, 1995).

On the Edge of Anarchy (Princeton, 1993).

The Lockean Theory of Rights (Princeton, 1992).

Editor of International Ethics (editor) (Princeton, 1985).

Moral Principles and Political Obligations (Princeton, 1979).


"Authority", in D. Estlund, The Oxford Handbook of Political Philosophy (Oxford, 2012).

"Disobedience and Its Objects," 90 B.U. L. Rev.1805 (2010).
HeinOnline (PDF)

"Ideal and Nonideal Theory," 38 Phil. & Pub. Aff.5 (2010).

"Justification and Legitimacy," Ethics (1999).

"'Denisons' and 'Aliens': Locke's Problem of Political Consent," Social Theory and Practice (1998).

"Makers' Rights," The Journal of Ethics (1998).

"Historical Rights and Fair Shares" Law and Philosophy (1995).

"Inalienable Rights and Locke's Treatises" in John Locke: Critical Assessments (Routledge, 1992).

"Associative Political Obligations," Ethics (1996).

"The Principle of Fair Play" in Readings in Social and Political Philosophy (Oxford, 1986). 

Current Courses

No courses were found for this instructor.

All Courses

Contemporary Political Theory
Rights (seminar)
Duty to Obey (seminar)
Rescue, Charity and Justice

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