Rachel Finlayson

Rachel Finlayson

Research Interest

Rachel Finlayson is a Ph.D. student in political science at Columbia University. She studies political belief and ideology using theoretical and qualitative empirical methods. 

As a theorist, Ms. Finlayson focuses on the intellectual virtues of open-mindedness and steadfastness. She explores questions such as: Is open-mindedness a democratic obligation? Under what circumstances might epistemic steadfastness be a conflicting obligation? In probing the possible boundaries of these obligations, she explores their roles in mitigating epistemic injustice, producing political action, and promoting democratic values. 

To support this work, Ms. Finlayson uses qualitative and ethnographic methods to examine complementary questions. Are political beliefs largely emotional, or rational? What produces, or changes, these dynamics? In what circumstances do political convictions become so powerful that they compel individuals to political action? Ms. Finlayson focuses on the political psychology, group dynamics, and ideological narratives that produce entrenched or extreme political beliefs. She is particularly intrigued by the distinctive nature of religion in shaping political values and identities.

Ms. Finlayson recently completed an M.Phil. in politics (political theory) at Oxford, where she was a Wadham College Senior Scholar and Rotary Global Grant Scholar. Her master's thesis (forthcoming) compares open-mindedness and epistemic steadfastness as democratic obligations, and proposes limits on these obligations.

Please find prior publications here:

"Public Reasoning Together: Gender and Political Deliberation." The Journal of Politics 84, no. 3 (2022): 1556-1569. (with Ryan Davis)


"When Should We Be Open to Persuasion?" Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 24 (2021): 123-136. (with Ryan Davis)