Allan McKenna



PhD topic

James Wilson’s Lectures on Law


Dr Dot Reid
Dr Gavin Anderson


Prior to joining the School of Law for his PhD, Allan McKenna taught for CIEE and ECES study-abroad programs at Charles University in Prague. He holds an MSc. in Philosophy of Mental Disorders from King’s College, London and M.A. in Philosophy (Social Sciences) from the University of Glasgow. Allan is currently examining the role played by Scottish jurisprudence in the founding of the United States.

Research Interests

James Wilson was born in Carskerdo, Scotland in 1742. He was educated at the Universities of Saint Andrews, Glasgow, and Edinburgh before emigrating to the British colony of Pennsylvania in 1765. Wilson was instrumental in the founding of the United States of America, as one of only six individuals to sign both the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and Constitution in 1787. In 1789 he was nominated by George Washington to Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. In 1790 he was appointed first Professor of Law at the Academy and College of Philadelphia.Although he never returned to his native home, Lectures on Law (1790-91) reveals the enduring influence of Scottish philosophers such as Thomas Reid, Francis Hutcheson, and Henry Home, Lord Kames.  

Despite his towering role in Anglo-American legal and political history, Wilson has been neglected and tragically forgotten. In line with a growing body of literature which connects the birth of the United States with the Scottish Enlightenment (e.g. Wills, 1978; Herman, 2001), scholars are beginning to explore links between Wilson and the Scottish school of Common Sense (Robinson, 2007; Ewald, 2010). However, the precise character and nature of Wilson’s Scottish inheritance has not been examined at length. 

How can reading Lectures on Law through the lens of Scottish philosophy illuminate contested terms and phrases in the Declaration of Independence (i.e. “self-evident,” “inalienable rights,” and “pursuit of happiness”)? Will charting connections between Wilson and currents in Scottish legal and moral philosophy help to understand what was uniquely ‘Scottish’ about ‘the Scottish Enlightenment’? Wilson claimed his model of government was a government fit for mankind: “the best system of government which has ever been offered to the World.” Would it be appropriate to assess his work in the context of other early proposals for global government by William Penn (1693), Abbé de Saint-Pierre (1713),Jeremy Bentham (1789), and Immanuel Kant (1795)?


E.C.E.S. Course Instructor:  An Introduction to Philosophy of Psychiatry:

Spring/Autumn 2012 - 2017                       

C.I.E.E. Course Instructor: Psychoanalysis & Art, Psychoanalysis & Society: 

Summer/Autumn 2015

Spring/Summer/Autumn 2016

Spring/Summer 2017


John Ferguson Jaffrey Bursary for Mental Philosophy, University of Glasgow 2006 - 2008. 

Award to participate in The Future of the Embodied Mind Summer School. San Sebastian, September 2011. 

College of Social Sciences scholarship, University of Glasgow, 2017-2020

Additional Information

Academic Conference Presentations

British Psychological Society Consciousness and Experiential Psychology Section, Oxford 11/9/09: Reconceiving Delusion (talk)

International Network for Philosophy and Psychiatry Annual Conference, Lisbon 13/10/09: Reconceiving Delusion (talk) 

Philosophy and Psychiatry: the Next Hundred Years. Making Change Happen. St. Catherine`s College, Oxford 26/07/13 (poster)

Teaching Workshops

Active-learning teacher’s workshop. C.I.E.E. May 23rd-24th, 2016

Designing and Using Presentations in the Classroom. British Council. May 19th, 2017