Ralph Jessop first entered full-time Higher education as a mature student after leaving a career in the Civil Service. He took his first degree at the University of Glasgow, graduating in 1988 with a joint Honours degree in English Literature and Philosophy.
In the same year he moved to the University of Cambridge to undertake doctoral research on the nineteenth-century man of letters, Thomas Carlyle under the supervision of Professor Stefan Collini. While at Cambridge he continued his interests in Philosophy by combining research on Carlyle and nineteenth century literature with work on 18th- and early 19th-century Scottish philosophers such as David Hume, Thomas Reid, and Sir William Hamilton among others.
After completing his doctoral research in 1992, he returned to Scotland to teach in the Universities of Glasgow and Aberdeen. At the University of Glasgow he taught English Literature and Philosophy from 1992-1997.
Between 1998 and 1999 he ran his own company retailing Scottish-made Art, Craft and Design goods, returning to academe in March 1999 to take up his current appointment in Literature and Philosophy at the Crichton Campus. He was a member of the editorial board of the Carlyle Encyclopedia, published in 2004, and he currently serves on the advisory board of the journal Carlyle Studies Annual. In 2008 he was the principal organiser (with Dr Carol Collins) of the Carlyle Conference (Dumfries) 2008.
Thomas Carlyle, Scottish Philosophy, and several literary figures associated with Carlyle remain key interests. In addition he is interested in the work of Descartes, Locke, Swift, Voltaire, Fielding, Hume, Reid, Burns, Sir William Hamilton, early 19th-century reviewers and essayists, contemporary argumentation theory, and Jürgen Habermas.
He is currently exploring the philosophical problems of knowledge and scepticism generated in the eighteenth century and how philosophical discourses about these problems are re-enacted or enmeshed in the literature of the 18th and 19th centuries.
Other more general areas of interest include moral philosophy and the presentation of moral problems in fictional works and several other philosohical approaches to the reading of fictional texts.