Nicholas Drake

Nicholas Drake

Position: Current PhD Student

School: School of Philosophy


Location: Level 6, RSSS Building, 146 Ellery Crescent


BA, Massey University

BA(Hons), MA, Victoria University of Wellington

MA, Washington University in St. Louis

Personal website:

Thesis title: Wellbeing and Public Policy; 2023

I'm a second-year PhD student in philosophy at ANU and a Global Priorities Fellow at the Forethought Foundation, Oxford. Before starting at ANU did MAs in philosophy at Victoria University of Wellington and Washington University in St. Louis.

My research is on the use of theories of wellbeing in public policy. Governments are increasingly using wellbeing frameworks with the aim of measuring and promoting wellbeing more directly than using things such as income and GDP as proxies for wellbeing. Governments create these wellbeing frameworks without having a clear idea of what wellbeing is. I argue that government wellbeing frameworks should use a theory of wellbeing, a clearly expressible view of what wellbeing is. A problem with doing so is that philosophers intractably disagree about which theory of wellbeing is correct, as they have conflicting intuitions about wellbeing. To avoid this problem, I use a new method to find the right theory of wellbeing for public policy. I argue that right theory of wellbeing for public policy is a particular kind of subjectivism about wellbeing.

Before working on wellbeing and public policy my research was in ethics and metaethics. I've published articles about reasons and love, Mill's metaethics, and moral bioenhancement, and have a commissioned chapter on utilitarianism forthcoming in a book on ethical theories from around the world.

Wellbeing, public policy, metaethics, normative ethics, applied ethics, Chinese philosophy

  1. “Utilitarianism.” Ethical Theory in Global Perspective (provisional title), edited by Michael Hemmingson. SUNY Press. (Forthcoming)
  2. “Love, Reasons, and Desire.” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice. 23(3): 591-605. (2020)
  3. “Choosing Normative Concepts, written by Matti Eklund.” Journal of Moral Philosophy. 17(4): 441-444. (2020) [Book review]
  4. “A Humean Constructivist Reading of J. S. Mill’s Utilitarian Theory.” Utilitas. 28(2): 189-214. (2016)
  5. “Is Moral Bioenhancement Dangerous?” Journal of Medical Ethics. 42(1): 3-6. (2016; first published online 2015)

Global Priorities Fellow, Forethought Foundation, Oxford

Instructor for Business Ethics, online, Washington University in St. Louis (2019); and Biomedical Ethics, Washington University in St. Louis (2018).

Assistant instructor for Philosophy and Public Policy and Fundamental Ideas in Philosophy, ANU; Confucian Thought, Philosophy of Mind, and Bioethics (twice), Washington University in St. Louis; Minds, Brains, and Persons, Contemporary Ethical Issues, Philosophy of Media and the Arts, Knowledge and Reality, and The Big Questions (twice), Victoria University of Wellington.

Grader for Ancient Philosophy, Washington University in St. Louis, and Minds and Persons, Victoria University of Wellington.

Updated:  14 February 2023/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications