"The accident of where one is born is just that, an accident; any human being might have been born in any nation"
Martha Nussbaum, 'Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism' in For Love of Country (Beacon Press, 2002)

Friday, 19 December 2008

CFP: International Law and Global Justice, Oxford

On the 20th and 21st of May 2009, The Global Justice Network, with the support of the Centre for the Study of Social Justice and the Centre for International Studies at the University of Oxford, will host a two-day interdisciplinary workshop on 'International Law and Global Justice'.


Debates on international law and on global justice have for the most part proceeded separately. Only very few theorists have suggested that the project of designing principles of international/global justice is closely related to that of designing principles of international law. Taking the lead from this often underappreciated suggestion, in this workshop we aim to explore the connections between international law and global justice. In particular, we welcome papers - both legal and philosophical - discussing the following topics:
*The relation between coercion, law and (global) justice - An increasing number of political theorists have argued that obligations of justice only apply within political communities by virtue of the existence of a coercive legal system. What are the implications of this view for the question of global justice? Can we plausibly claim that international law is coercive in the same way in which domestic law is? If not, does this mean that principles of justice should not apply to it?
*The effectiveness of international law as a means to realising global justice - If international law is one of the most powerful instruments at our disposal to bring about a morally better world, what sort of reforms of the current international legal system would be necessary to move closer to the goal of global justice? Given the sui generis nature of the international legal system, how can such reforms be most fruitfully brought about?
*Global justice, international law and state sovereignty - Is the principle of the sovereign equality of states itself a principle of international/global justice or a hindrance to the quest for global justice? Would a world inhabited by states which are genuinely - as opposed to merely formally - equally sovereign be a just world? Or does the realisation of a just world require us to transcend the very idea of state sovereignty, moving from a system of international law to a global legal system?

Confirmed keynote speakers
Prof. Allen Buchanan (Duke University)
Prof. Terry Nardin (University of Singapore)

Submission instructions
If you wish to present a paper, please email a 600 word proposal and a short biographical note to the workshop convenors at globaljustice@politics.ox.ac.uk by February 29th 2009.Updated information will shortly be available on the Conference Website.

CFP: Rocky Mountain Ethics Congress

The second annual Rocky Mountain Ethics Congress:

An international conference geared to offer the highest quality, highest altitude discussion of ethics, broadly conceived.

August 6-9, 2009. Boulder, Colorado

The Center for Values and Social Policy in the Philosophy Department at the University of Colorado, Boulder is pleased to present the second annual RoME congress. Papers from all areas of ethics and political theory are invited. To encourage the participation of junior scholars, the University of Colorado will be awarding a Young Ethicist Prize of $500 for most meritorious submission. The prize competition is open to any participating untenured philosopher (including, but not limited to, tenure-track faculty, instructors, and graduate students).

Keynote speakers:
Speaker 1: Judith JarvisThomson (MIT)
Speaker 2: Thomas Pogge (YaleUniversity)
Speaker 3: TBD

Submission of abstracts: Feb 15, 2009.
Notification of acceptance: April 25, 2009.
Full paper submission for Young Ethicist Prize Consideration: June 1, 2009.

Abstracts (750-1000 words). Shorter or longer abstracts will not be accepted. Double spaced, prepared for blind-review. (Anticipate full papers at half-hour reading time or 4500 words, whichever is shorter.) In order to be considered for the Young Ethicist Prize, complete papers must be submitted by June 1, 2009 and must have already been accepted for participation. Announcement of a winner will be made at the event. Indicate in your submission whether you would consider being a commentator on another paper, should your paper not be accepted to the conference for presentation. Please submit abstracts electronically (in Word format) to Benjamin Hale (bhale@colorado.edu) and Alastair Norcross (Alastair.Norcross@colorado.edu).

Click here for a pdf of the Call for Papers.
Click here for information about last year's RoME Congress.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Crossovers in Applied Ethics

Another interesting post, this time on the Oxford Uehiro Centre's Practical Ethics Blog, from Roger Crisp on the crossovers between different debates in applied ethics. In particular, he argues that thinking about an issue like climate change can help us to see what is going on in debates surrounding abortion. The general point, that issues in practical ethics shouldn't be considered alone, is an important one. As he says, we must be conscious of the implications of our conclusions in one area on what we can consistently conclude in another. 

Philosophy and Science

There's an interesting post (as well as a good follow-up discussion) on Public Reason from Colin Farrelly arguing for stronger links between philosophy and science. 

To summarise very briefly, he argues that philosophers (especially moral and political philosophers) should be paying much more attention to developments in science and technology, rather than spending all of their time worrying about abstract ideas. I'd agree broadly with his general contention, although I think the relationship should work both ways, in that moral and political philosophy has important implications for science, as well as science having implications for philosophy. In particular, philosophy can and should guide our interpretation of scientific discovery. We must be wary of assuming too much about the implications of scientific investigation. Philosophy has an important role to play here.  

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Philosophers' Carnival

The 83rd Philosophers' Carnival is here.

CFP: Warwick Annual Grad Conference in Political Theory

Warwick 11th Annual Graduate Conference in Political Theory
14th February 2009

On Saturday 14th February 2009 from 10.00am to 6.30pm, the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick will host its eleventh annual conference for postgraduate students working in political theory or political philosophy. Previous events have been very successful, attracting a wide range of high quality papers, and participants from many countries. Past participants have reported that the conference provides a useful opportunity for graduate students to gain experience and receive feedback on work in progress. As well as postgraduate papers, there will be two plenary sessions:

Mathew Humphrey, University of Nottingham: 'Ideal Democratic Theory and Citizen Behaviour'
Leif Wenar, King's College London: 'Property Rights and the Resource Curse'

Postgraduates interested in giving papers should send abstracts (400-500 words) by no later than 21st January 2009. Papers may deal with any area within contemporary political theory, political philosophy, or the history of political thought, but should take no more than twenty minutes to present. It would be appreciated if those wanting to attend the conference would reserve a place no later than 6th February 2009. Attendance is free of charge and the Department will provide lunch.

All correspondence and further inquiries should be addressed to Matthew Clayton.

Postrad CFP: Northern Political Theory Association Conference

The annual conference of the Northern Political Theory Association will be held at the University of Stirling on 20 February 2009 .

Elizabeth Ashford (University of St Andrews) , Title to be confirmed
Dudley Knowles (University of Glasgow), 'Good Citizens and Good Samaritans'
Cillian McBride (Queen's University, Belfast), 'Rethinking the Politics of Recognition'
Fabienne Peter (University of Warwick) , 'Democratic Legitimacy'

Postgraduate Paper Competition:

One fully-funded place is reserved for the presenter of a postgraduate paper. Postgraduates who wish to enter the competition should submit a 500 word abstract by Monday 12 January to Rowan.Cruft@stir.ac.uk and Andrea.Baumeister@stir.ac.uk .

Friday, 5 December 2008

CFP: Environmental Justice and Global Citizenship

8th Global Conference
Environmental Justice and Global Citizenship
Friday 10th July - Sunday 12th July 2008
Mansfield College, Oxford

Call for Papers
Environmental Ethics, Sustainability and Education
This inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary conference aims to explore the role of ecology and environmental thinking in the context of contemporary society and international affairs, and assess the implications for our understandings of fairness, justice and global citizenship. 'Environmental justice' is conceived broadly as reflecting not only justice in the context of human communities but also towards other species, ecosystems, habitats, landscapes, succeeding generations and the environment as a whole. The 8th Global Conference on Ecological Justice and Global Citizenship will explicitly explore environmental ethics and sustainability. We are looking for papers which investigate and question the relationships of power and equity in the environmental context. Among these relationships, our environmental ethic has a central role, not only in terms of explaining current attitudes towards the environment, nature and natural resource use, but also the potential role it may play in shaping the future and enabling us to live more sustainably. In particular papers are sought which explore the role of education in shaping a modern environmental ethic, and the inherent challenges which accompany that role.

Papers, presentations, reports and workshops are invited on any of the following indicative themes:
* Environmental ethics
o New and emerging thinkers and trends of thought on environmental ethics
o The role and place of environmental protest in shaping our ethic
o Indigenous environmental ethics: relations between humans and 'nature'
o Property rights and private interests vs. pooling of human and ecological resources
o The need for greater multi- and trans-disciplinary collaboration
* Sustainability
o Engaging citizens in the processes of achieving increased sustainability
o The role of civil society: communities taking responsibility for the local environment
o Corporate Social Responsibility: transparency and accountability
o Achieving responsible consumption and production
o The role of NGOs in environmental and sustainability awareness raising
* Environmental education
o Teaching citizenship, identity and ethics
o Designing the ecological curriculum
o Integrating the concept of ‘sustainability’ and environmental awareness and education in the primary, secondary and higher education sectors
o The integration of distinct disciplines: The role of behavioural science in environmental education

300 word abstracts should be submitted by Friday 6th February 2009. If your paper is accepted for presentation at the conference, an 8 page draft paper should be submitted by Friday 5th June 2009. 300 word abstracts should be submitted to all Organising Chairs; abstracts may be in Word, WordPerfect, or RTF formats, following this order: author(s), affiliation, email address, title of abstract, body of abstractWe acknowledge receipt and answer to all paper proposals submitted. If you do not receive a reply from us in a week you should assume we did not receive your proposal; it might be lost in cyberspace! We suggest, then, to look for an alternative electronic route or resend.

Organising Chairs: Erika Techera, Senior Lecturer, Centre for Environmental Law, Macquarie Law School, Macquarie University, NSW 2109, Australia. E-mail: erika.techera@law.mq.edu.au
S. Ram Vemuri, School of Law and Business,Faculty of Law, Business and Arts, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, NT 0909, Australia. E-mail: ram.vemuri@cdu.edu.au
Rob Fisher, Network Founder and Leader, Inter-Disciplinary.Net, Freeland, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom. E-mail: ejgc8@inter-disciplinary.net

Perspectives are sought from
* people engaged in actor network theory, agriculture and agricultural economics, the built environment disciplines, conflict resolution and mediation, critical geography, environmental studies, human development and ecology, industrial relations and design, law and the legal professions, philosophy and ethics, political science and international affairs, public policy and advising, social sciences, sociology of science, theology, urban studies and western European studies
* people in the public and private sectors who are involved in planning and project development, policy-making and implementation, and negotiation and mediation at national and international levels
* people in Governmental, inter-governmental and non-governmental organisations, voluntary sector bodies, environmental charities and groups, business and professional associations

All papers accepted for and presented at the conference will be published in an ISBN eBook. Selected papers may be invited to go forward for development into 20-25 page chapters for publication in a themed ISBN hard copy volume. Multiple themed volumes are in print and/or in press from previous meetings of the project.The conference is sponsored by Inter-Disciplinary.Net as part of the 'Probing the Boundaries' programme of research projects. It aims to bring together people from different areas and interests to share ideas and explore various discussions which are innovative and exciting.

For further details about the project please visit: http://www.interdisciplinary.net/ptb/ejgc/ejgc.htm
For further details about the conference please visit: http://www.interdisciplinary.net/ptb/ejgc/ejgc8/cfp.htm

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

CFP: Philosopher's Rally

Philosopher's Rally 2009
12-13 May 2009
University of Twente campus, Enschede, the Netherlands

The third Philosopher's Rally is a two-day international student conference for philosophers, students and for all whose interests are in the field of philosophy. After two successful years in Groningen and Utrecht, now the University of Twente, Enschede will bring together aspiring and vested names in philosophy. The Rally aims to bring those people together to share their latest philosophical ideas, theories and approaches with the audience. The theme of this edition of the Philosophers’ Rally will be “Future Philosophy”. The Philosopher’s Rally 2009 seeks papers representing a broad range of topics covered by this theme. Further, because the University of Twente has a leading position in the philosophy of technology and philosophy of engineering science, presentations in these fields of philosophy are particularly welcomed, though presentations can cover any area of philosophy. Researchers, PhD, master and bachelor students are invited to hand in digital abstracts of approximately 500 words (with a maximum of 800) for a presentation during one of the two days. Presentations will be about half an hour, after whichthere is time for questions and debate.

Abstracts can be sent to: abstracts@ssf-philosophersrally.nl

Deadline for submissions: 12-12-2008.
Notification of Acceptance deadline: 30-01-2009.

Organizing Committee:· Matthew Vuijk· Bernd Kottier· Erik Baaij

Information and contact: info@ssf-philosophersrally.nl

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

ECPR 2009

Further to yesterday's CFP for a particular panel at the 2009 ECPR General Conference, here are details of the conference more generally:

The 5th ECPR General Conference will be held at Potsdam Universitat from 10-12 September 2009. The Academic Convenors for the conference are Professor Luciano Bardi (ECPR Executive Committee) and Professor Martin Bull (ECPR Academic Director).
There are 57 sections, with several accepted panels in each section. The deadline for paper proposals is 1st February 2009. 

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

CFP: Cosmopolitan Ethics and Climate ...

Interesting CFP for a panel at the 2009 ECPR...
CFP: Cosmopolitan Ethics and Climate Change Panel at 2009 ECPR

ECPR 2009 Potsdam, Germany

Panel: "Improving the Climate Regime: Cosmopolitan Solutions" 

The latest science of climate change shows that massive cuts in greenhouse gas emissions will be needed by mid-century to avert extreme, possibly catastrophic, harm to Earth?s climate system. Yet, despite ongoing and sometimes intense diplomatic efforts over two decades, governments of the world have been unable to agree to anything near the kind of regulation of pollution that would be required to achieve these cuts. This failure can be attributed to the nature of the climate change regime, which is premised on negotiations among states seeking to protect or promote their relatively narrow national interests. An alternative (or at least a supplement) to this interstate approach can be found in cosmopolitan conceptions of world affairs. 
Cosmopolitanism offers politically viable alternatives to the status quo regime that are just, practical and efficacious. This panel aims to highlight these alternatives, focusing especially on how cosmopolitan ideas might be moved from the realm of philosophy to the practical politics and policies of climate change. My aim in proposing this panel is to bring together people who believe that cosmopolitan philosophy and ethics can offer practical and workable alternatives to the prevailing state-centric climate change regime. I hope that we can gather a collection of papers, and have a lively discussion, on how cosmopolitanism can inform the climate change regime generally and policies and behaviors in particular. Put another way, the objective is not to develop cosmopolitan philosophy related to climate change as much as it is to enhance policies and practices through (practical) cosmopolitan ethics.

We can have up to seven papers in the panel comprising up to five presenters and two additional 'tabled' papers (the tabled papers can be discussed during the panel but the authors would not actually do a presentation; I'm assuming this limitation is simply to avoid having too many speakers using the allotted time, which seems a reasonable requirement). If we are fortunate enough to have seven quality papers,
it is my hope that we can collect them together in a book manuscript for submission to a university press and/or as a special issue of a scholarly journal. With this in mind, I hope the papers can be well-developed, in the range of 9,000-12,000 words (and possibly a bit longer if authors feel the need).

Please do consider proposing a paper for the panel. For guidelines on how to submit a paper proposal, please go to this website: 
http://www.ecpr.org.uk/potsdam/howtosubmit.asp. The SECTION is "Green Politics" (no. 13). The PANEL is "Improving the Climate Regime: Cosmopolitan Solutions" (no. 210). More information for paper givers can be found here: 
Please note that the DEADLINE for paper proposals is 1 February 2009

CFP: 3rd London Forum in Moral and Political Philosophy



27th March 2008


Supported by the Institute of Philosophy and UCL Philosophy Department

Following the success of the previous two years of the London Forum in Moral and Political Philosophy, graduate students working in any field within moral and political philosophy are invited to submit papers for the 2009 meeting. This will be held on 27th March at Stewart House, Bloomsbury, London.

The Forum aims to provide a friendly and supportive atmosphere in which graduate students can present their work and receive constructive feedback from their peers.

Submissions should be in the form of abstracts of 300-400 words, and should be sent to LFIMPP@gmail.com. The deadline for submissions  is 15th February 2009.

Paper selection will be by the Organisation Committee and Prof. Veronique Munoz-Darde.

This years keynote speaker is Dr. Thomas Pink (Kings College London)
*** correction: date is 27th March, not 9th as previously advertised ***

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Graduate Journals

The comments are fairly unanimous in response to this question on the merits of publishing in graduate journals - basically, 'don't do it'. Reading the comments, I ended up wondering why graduate journals are published in the first place - that's presumably a fair amount of time and effort going to waste if the comments are correct. It seems like there are at least some potential benefits to publishing in such a forum - peer feedback and experience of the publishing process are two that come to mind. Perhaps these journals would be appreciated slightly more if these aims were stated more clearly? If they are distinguished from 'proper' (I'd prefer 'professional') journals as serving different purposes then I'd hope people would not be held to account for articles published in such a way before their career had even begun. 


I've finally finished my new website, which has details of my research and other related things. It's now (hopefully) live - take a look at www.megankime.net

Monday, 17 November 2008

CFP: Northwestern Society for Ethical Theory and Political Philosophy



APRIL 23–25, 2009


Samuel Scheffler (NYU), “The Normativity of Tradition”
Seana Shiffrin (UCLA), “Inducing Deliberation”

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES: The deadline for submission is February 15, 2009. We welcome submissions from both faculty and graduate students, as some sessions will be reserved for graduate student presentations. Please submit an essay of approximately 4000 words and an abstract of not more than 150 words. Essay topics in all areas of ethical theory and political philosophy will be considered, although some priority will be given to essays that take up themes from the works of Samuel Scheffler and Seana Shiffrin (such as autonomy, distributive justice, legal philosophy, the morality of association, and responsibility). Essays and abstracts should be prepared for blind review in word, rtf, or pdf format. Graduate submissions should be sent by email to leegoldsmith2012@u.northwestern.edu; faculty submissions should be sent by email to garthoff@northwestern.edu. Notices of acceptance will be distributed no later than March 31, 2009. For more information, please contact Jon Garthoff at the email address above or visit the conference website.

Constructivism Project at Sheffield

An exciting new AHRC project is taking place at Sheffield in 2009, details below...

The Department of Philosophy of the University of Sheffield supported by the
Arts and Humanities Research Council will be hosting a series of events in 2009
devoted to the theme of Constructivism in Practical Philosophy.

7th February 2009
Workshop: Constructivism in Political Philosophy
Kirsten Budde (University of Sheffield)
Aaron James (University of California at Irvine)
Miriam Ronzoni (European University Institute, Florence),
Andrew Williams (University of Warwick)

28th March 2009
Workshop: Constructivism and Normative Epistemology
Simon Blackburn (University of Cambridge)
Matthew Chrisman (University of Edinburgh)
James Lenman (University of Sheffield)
Valerie Tiberius (University of Minnesota)

20th June 2009
Workshop: Constructivism and Practical Reason
Carla Bagnoli (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)
Michael Ridge (University of Edinburgh)
Yonatan Shemmer (University of Sheffield)
Jussi Suikkanen (University of Leeds)

14th-16th August 2009
Conference: Constructivism in Practical Philosophy
Michael Bratman (Stanford University)
Dale Dorsey (University of Kansas)
Nadeem Hussein (Stanford University) 
Aaron James (University of California at Irvine)
James Lenman (University of Sheffield)
Michael Ridge (University of Edinburgh)
T. M. Scanlon (Harvard University)
Yonatan Shemmer (University of Sheffield)
Sharon Street (New York University)
Valerie Tiberius (University of Minnesota)
Jay Wallace (University of California at Berkeley)
Andrew Williams (University of Warwick)

Project Coordinators
James Lenman (j.lenman@sheffield.ac.uk)
Yonatan Shemmer (y.shemmer@sheffield.ac.uk)

Administrative Assistant
Heather Arnold (h.e.arnold@sheffield.ac.uk)

Steering Committee
James Lenman, Yonatan Shemmer, Michael Ridge, Valerie Tiberius

Further details are or will be posted here:


Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Ratio Special Issue: Justice, Equality and Constructivism

The new issue of Ratio is a special issue* on Justice, Equality and Constructivism, containing articles by Richard Arneson, Michael Otsuka, Thomas Pogge, and Andrew Williams, amongst others. Well worth a read.

*access to full text for subscribers only

Friday, 7 November 2008

Sheffield Doc/Fest

The Sheffield International Documentary Festival, or Doc/Fest as it's more commonly known, is being held at the Showroom Cinema in Sheffield this weekend. 

One of the films in the festival is 'Examined Life' which features a series of conversations with leading philosophers, including Peter Singer, Martha Nussbaum, Kwame Anthony Appiah, and Slavoj Zizek. It's being screened at 2.30pm on Sunday afternoon (9th Nov).

Monday, 3 November 2008

New Public Reason Podcast Symposium

Following on from this year's successful series of podcasts, Public Reason are hosting another symposium in the Spring. The CFP can be found here


I've been having several problems with updating my blog - posts that I thought had been uploaded have instead apparently been disappearing into the ether. However, all seems to be working again as normal now, and some of the older posts have re-appeared. Hopefully things will remain working smoothly....

New Features on Academia.edu

Academia.edu has had another update - there are several improved features, and now users can have blogs on the site. Check it out here

New BPPA website launched

The new British Postgraduate Philosophy Association website has been launched. Check it out here

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Stirling Graduate Conference

Interesting postgraduate conference to be held at Stirling in December...

Conference Announcement

"Global Justice and Political Obligation"
2nd Law and Philosophy Postgraduate Conference
Department of Philosophy, University of Stirling
Stirling, Scotland (UK)
11-12 December 2008

Following the success of last year's Law and Philosophy Postgraduate Conference, this year the Department of Philosophy of University of Stirling is holding the 2nd Law and Philosophy Postgraduate Conference titled Law and Philosophy 2008: Global Justice and Political Obligation. Continuing on with the aim of last year's conference, this year's conference will bring together postgraduate students from a variety of disciplines working within the multiple intersections of Law and Philosophy. The focus of this year is global justice and political obligation.

We are honored to have the following two keynote speakers:
Professor John Horton (Keele University)
Professor Matt Matravers (University of York)


Ambrose Lee and Piero Moraro
Department of Philosophy
University of Stirling
Stirling, FK9 4LA
Tel: +44 (0)1786 467555
Fax: +44 (0)1786 466233
Email: a.y.lee@stir.ac.uk

Friday, 24 October 2008

King's Lecture in Ethics


New Challenges for Donor States

Board Member, Oxford Policy Management.
Principal, The Policy Practice.
Formerly: International Director of Christian Aid (1999-2004), and Research Fellow of the Overseas
Development Institute (1983-1999).

Author: Foreign Aid Reconsidered (1985), Does Foreign Aid Really Work? (2007, paperback 2008)

19 November 5 - 7pm
King’s College London
Safra Lecture Theatre
London WC2R 2LS

(Enter building “A” from the Strand, Safra Lecture Theatre is in building “B”)

There is a significant and growing literature focused on the question of states have a moral obligation to provide aid. Against this backdrop, it is, perhaps, surprising that most rich countries have explicitly stated that they do have a moral obligation to provide aid to poor countries. What remains insufficiently discussed and debated is precisely how that obligation can be, or ought to be fulfilled. This issue has become more urgent in recent years as new thinking by the major donors about the purpose of aid raises new questions and presents new dilemmas for the discussion of the ethical issues raised in rich states providing aid to poor countries.

The event is free, unticketed, and open to all.

Questions and comments from the audience will be welcomed.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Launch of the Globethics.net Library

Another useful digital resource...

Launch of the Globethics.net Library
A Global Digital Library on Ethics

A new global digital library on ethics was launched on 9 October 2008.  This library will provide users free access to full text versions of about 200 journals and more than a million documents in the field of applied ethics.

The digital library on ethics was developed by Globethics.net, a global network organization with the objective of empowering people in all regions of the world to reflect and act on ethical issues. They developed the Globethics.net Library to ensure that persons and institutions - especially in Africa, Asia and
Latin-America - have access to good quality and up to date knowledge resources. There is no cost involved in using the library. Individuals only need to register (free of charge) as participants on the Globethics.net website (www.globethics.net) to get access to all the full text journals, encyclopedias, e-books and other resources in the library.

The library does not only offer free access to knowledge sources, but also offers participants the unique opportunity to submit their own documents on applied ethics (like articles, journals, books, dissertations, newsletters) to the Globethics.net Library. This will ensure that their publications get more global exposure.

More information on how to access the library as well as on how to submit documents to the library is available on the Globethics.net website (www.globethics.net).

CFP: Society for Applied Philosophy Annual Conference

Another CFP for a great annual conference - the line up for next year's SAP gathering looks really good...

Annual Conference 2009
University of Leeds, 26-28 June

The Society for Applied Philosophy (UK) was founded in 1982 with the aim of promoting philosophical study and research that has a direct bearing on areas of practical concern. It arose from an increasing awareness that many topics of public debate are capable of being illuminated by the critical, analytic approach characteristic of philosophy, and by direct consideration of questions of value. These topics come from a number of different areas of social life - law, politics, economics, science, technology, medicine and education are among the most obvious. The purpose of the SAP is foster and promote philosophical work that is intended to make a constructive contribution to problems in these areas. It does so through events, conferences, and lecture programmes. 

The Annual Conference 2009 will be an open applied philosophy conference. Similar to the highly successful SAP 25th Anniversay event held in Oxford in 2005, there will once again be no specific theme and the panel will consider papers submitted for the programme from across the full range of topics in this area.

Please forward paper proposals (abstract) in .doc or .rtf file format, 300 word limit, and with (N.B.) the email subject line SAP AC2009 Abstract to admin@appliedphil.org by Friday 9 January 2009

All applicants will be notified of a decision by early February 2009

A prize will be awarded to the best postgraduate essay submission (awarded in advance of the conference on the basis of the full version of the paper after acceptance of the abstract). The winning student will receive free registration and accommodation at the conference as well as reimbursement for any travel expenses incurred within the United Kingdom. When you submit your abstract, please indicate in the body of your email message if you would like to be considered for this prize.


Prof Julia Annas (Arizona)
Prof Susan Mendus (York)
Prof John Cottingham (Reading)
Dr John Tasioulas (Oxford)
Dr Roger Crisp (Oxford)
Dr Elizabeth Ashford (St. Andrews)
Prof Nigel Biggar (Oxford)
Dr Rachel Cooper (Lancaster)


Society for Applied Philosophy

CFP: ALSP 2009 annual conference

CFP for ALSP annual conference. I presented at this year's conference and would highly recommend it to people who haven't been before...

2009 Annual Conference 'Ethics for the 21st Century'
July 2-4, 2009
University of Edinburgh - Department of Politics and IR, ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum


The last two decades have seen profound social and economic changes in all areas of our lives. To name but a few: borders have become both more open and more closed. We have witnessed unprecedented levels of technological development: from new medical technologies such as genetic engineering and cloning, to communication technologies such as the internet and new modes of warfare. Environmental degradation and climate change are now seen as pressing issues by most. 

On the one hand, we have gained considerable freedoms and opportunities (to shape our children, to access information, to use the internet as a tool for democratic governance, to travel, to exchange information, etc.). On the other hand, we are increasingly vulnerable to breaches of privacy and autonomy (such as identify theft), to denials of our freedoms (through, e.g., anti-terrorist legislation), to growing inequalities and distrust within heterogeneous societies, and to extreme forms of violence. 

ALSP 2009 aims to examine the ethical implications of those changes. It welcomes panels and papers across the disciplines of philosophy, politics, law and social policy, which explicitly discuss the complex relation between philosophical and practical analysis in relation to those concerns.  

It welcomes submissions on the following themes:
- Climate change: justice and climate change, ecological debt, future generations and climate change
- Genetic engineering, genetic testing, cloning, abortion and wrongful life, property rights in genetic material, xenotransplantation
- War: new wars v. old wars, new forms of warfare, wars over natural resources, mercenarism, terrorism, torture, the ethics of peacekeeping
- Electronic technologies: privacy and the internet, surveillance technologies, democracy and the internet, data security
- Migration and citizenship: border controls, refugee quotas, religious toleration in an age of terror
- Concepts and conceptions of rights, freedom and justice in the face of those changes.
- Business ethics in a globalised world

Confirmed keynote speakers

Professor Jeff McMahan, Rutgers University. Professor McMahan is one of the most innovative and thought-provoking philosophers of his generation. His work in the fields of bioethics (particularly abortion and genetics) and war has yielded seminal books and articles (see esp. his Ethics of Killing - Problems at the Margins of Life, Oxford University Press, 2002, and his numerous articles in Ethics, Utilitas, Law and Philosophy.)

Professor Jonathan Wolff, University College London. Member of the Nuffield Council for Bioethics. Professor Wolff's work is located at the crossroad of philosophy and public policy. His recent book Disadvantage (co-authored with A. De-Shalit, OUP 2007) is already an influential contribution to the philosophical literature on social justice.

Submission of Paper/Panel Proposals:

Submission of Papers: Please upload a title and abstract (c.300 words), as well as contact details, by February 1st, 2009, at http://www.lifelong.ed.ac.uk/alsp2009/

Submission of panels: we encourage submission of panels with up to three papers discussing a related topic. Panel conveners should upload a short outline of the panel theme, a list of participants and titles & short abstracts of the papers by February 1st, 2009. 

Paper givers will be expected to talk for no more than 20mns, followed by discussion. Selective contributions will be considered for subsequent publication in the conference proceedings. 

Important Dates:
*         Deadline for proposal submission: 1 February 2009
*         Notification of paper/panel acceptance: 1 March 2009
*         Registration: to open on 1 March 2009 and to close on 1 May 2009 

Conference Organisation:

The academic convenor of the conference is Professor C├ęcile Fabre, Department of Politics and IR, University of Edinburgh. 
For more information on registration, venue, etc. see the conference website at 

Forum for European Philosophy Event 

Forum for European Philosophy Event 

International Distributive Justice, Reciprocity, and the European Union
Andrea Sangiovanni, Lecturer, Department of Philosophy, King's College London
Tuesday 21 October, 6.30-8pm
Room G108, 20 Kingsway, LSE
The Role of Facts
Tuesday 4 November, 6.30-8pm
Room G108, 20 Kingsway, LSE
Equality, Reciprocity, and the State
Tuesday 18 November, 6.30-8pm
Room G108, 20 Kingsway, LSE
Solidarity in the European Union 


All events are free and open to all without registration
For further information contact Juliana Cardinale: 020 7955 7539
J.Cardinale@lse.ac.uk <mailto:

Forum for European Philosophy 
Room J5, European Institute
London School of Economics, WC2A 2AE 

Thursday, 9 October 2008

London Seminars 2


All Seminars held 4pm-6pm H103, Connaught House, LSE

Michaelmas Term

Oct 9th: Professor Chandran Kukathas (LSE) - Expatriatism: a theory of open borders
Oct 23rd: Dr. Andrea Sangiovanni (Kings College London) - Confronting the Facts
Nov 6th: Dr. Kai Spiekermann (Univeristy of Warwick) - TBC
Nov 20th: Dr. Patricia Owens (Queen Mary and Westfield) - Distinctions, Distinctions: "Public" and "Private" Force?
Dec 4th: Dr. Jonathan Quong (Manchester University) - Paternalism and

Lent Term
Jan 15th: Dr. Zophia Stemplowska (Manchester University) - Real World Duties
Jan 29th: Professor David Archard (Lancaster University) - Parental Rights, Children’s Rights, and the Liberal State
Feb 19th: Professor Philip Pettit (Princeton University) - TBC
Feb 26th: Professor Veronique Munoz-Darde (UCL) - TBC
Mar 12th: Professor Pablo Gilabert (Concordia University) - Humanist vs. Associativist Conceptions of Global Justice

Summer Term
April 30th: Dr. Jonathan Parkin (University of York) - Hobbes and Locke
May 14th: Professor Matthew Clayton (University of Warwick) - TBC

Seminar Series organised by Professor Chandran Kukathas and Dr. Philip Cook, Department of Government, LSE. For further information, please contact p.a.cook@lse.ac.uk

London Seminars 1

UCL Legal and Political Theory Seminars:

SEMINARS - 2008/2009
All seminars are from 5.00 pm to 7.00 pm and will be held in the Council Room, School of Public Policy, UCL, 29 Tavistock Square, London WC1. Papers can be downloaded from the following website: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/spp/seminars/pt

October - 2008
Wednesday 8 Chandran Kukathas - London School of Economics - Speaking on: ‘The Concept of Security’

Wednesday 29 (with Philosophy and Law) Robert Audi - University of Notre Dame - Speaking on: Kantian Intuitionism as a Framework for the Justification of Normative Judgments in Ethics and Politics

November 2008
Wednesday 12 Melissa Lane - King’s College, Cambridge - Speaking on: Motivation and the moral division of labour.

Wednesday 26 Stuart White - Jesus College, Oxford - Speaking on: TBC

December 2008
Wednesday 3 Annabelle Lever - London School of Economics - Speaking on: `Compulsory Voting’

Wednesday 10 Sue Mendus - University of York - Speaking on: TBC


Apologies for the lack of recent posts - my main excuse is that I've been suffering from a persistant chest infection for the last month or so that has slowed me down somewhat, but thankfully I'm now on the mend so hopefully normal service will be resumed. I've also been busy constructing a new website, more details of which to follow soon...

Academic Blogs

Interesting articles in THE about academic blogging here. Seems to me to underestimate the amount of academic blogs...

Friday, 19 September 2008

Society for Applied Philosophy News

Details of various events as well as the 2009 annual conference below...

The Inaugural Society for Applied Philosophy Annual Lecture:

Naturalism, Normativity, and Applied Ethics

will be delivered by

Baroness Onora O'Neill

(President of the Society for Applied Philosophy)

20 October 2008, 5pm, Exam Schools, High Street, Oxford

Future Annual Lectures
will be given by Professor Thomas Pogge (Yale) in 2009, and Professor Philip Kitcher (Columbia) in 2010. The venues and exact dates of these events are yet to be determined.

The American Philosophical Association:

The SAP will sponsor two sessions at the 2008 APA, Eastern Division, 27-30 Dec 08:

December 27, 2008 group session I - 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Topic: Global Ethics

Chair: David Archard (University of Lancaster-United Kingdom)

Speakers: Thomas Pogge (Yale University) Can Intellectual Property Rights Be Justified?
                Hillel Steiner (University of Manchester, UK) Fair Trade and Just Prices

December 29, 2008 Group Session VIII - 11:15 a.m.-1:15 p.m.

Topic: Applying Philosophy

Chair: Hugh LaFollette (University of South Florida)

Virginia Held (City University of New York-Graduate Center) Progress in Normative Theory
        Adam Swift (Oxford University) Political Philosophy in the Real World

Annual Conference 2009:

The Society's Annual Conference in 2009
 will be held at the University of Leeds on the weekend of 26-28 June.  This will be a non-themed applied philosophy conference featuring papers from a variety of areas within the field. Call for papers and further information forthcoming.

Public Reason Podcasts

The Public Reason Political Philosophy Podcast Symposium is due to start today. A new paper will be podcasted on the site every week for the next ten weeks, along with comments from a responder. 

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

CFP: Stirling Graduate Conference 2008

Thursday 11 - Friday 12th December 2008 
Department of Philosophy, University of Stirling, Scotland  

Keynote Speakers:  
Prof. John Horton (Keele University)  
Prof. Leif Wenar (King's College) 

Submission deadline: 10th October 2008 

Following the success of last year's event, the Department of Philosophy at Stirling University is holding the 2nd Postgraduate Conference Law and Philosophy. This event aims at bringing together postgraduate students working on any area of Political and Legal Philosophy. The focus of this year's Conference will be particularly, but not exclusively, on issues of Political Obligation and Global Justice (e.g. State Legitimacy, Anarchism, Civil Disobedience, Distributive Justice, Nationalism/ Cosmopolitanism, Legal Positivism, Natural Law, etc.).    

Contributions are invited from graduate students working on any topic in political and/or legal philosophy.  Each postgraduate presentation should be max 30 minutes, and will be followed by a 10-minute reply, and by an open discussion. Each session will last 90 minutes. Abstract of max. 500 words should be sent via email to lawandphilosophy2008@stir.ac.uk  by 10th October 2008. Selected participants will be required to send a full draft of their paper by 3rd November. Thanks to generous support from the Department of Philosophy of Stirling University, The Roberts Funds and The Scots Philosophical Club, there will be bursaries available for participant postgraduates. Inquiries should be sent to Ambrose Lee or Piero Moraro

JOBS: Salzburg Center for Ethics and Poverty Research

The Center for Ethics and Poverty Research (University of Salzburg) invites students to apply for Junior Fellowships and scholars to become Scholars in Residence (SiR) in Salzburg.  The Center, established in 2005, coordinates an international network and and conducts research in three areas:  
1) “Decent work” and questions of the future and ethics of work 
2) “European values” with a special focus on “solidarity” and an “ethics of sharing” 
3) “Resilience” and poverty alleviation 

Junior Fellows and SiR will become part of the research community at the Center for Ethics and Poverty Research. They should find space and time to do research and to pursue creative thinking. The Center aims at having three junior fellows and two Scholars in Residence at the same time. The Center is located in a scenic area on the Moenchsberg overlooking Salzburg – next to the newly established Center of European Union Studies of the University of Salzburg. It is expected that Junior Fellows and SiR:  
* work during their stay in one of the three research areas of the Center on a clearly defined question 
* are present during their stay in the Center 
* take part in the weekly Center Seminars 
* contribute to a publication of the Center. 

For SiR the Center will also organize a public lecture/seminar upon request. The Center will provide office space, accomodation and a monthly stipend of EURO 400. We invite students and scholars from all relevant disciplines to apply for the time period January 2009-December 2009. The suggested duration of the stay is a minimum of 2 months and a maximum of 12 months for students and a minimum of 1 month and a maximum of 4 months for scholars. 

If you are interested in becoming a Junior Fellow or Scholar in Residence in Salzburg please send an expression of interest including the suggested research topic/project and the preferred time frame to Professor Clemens Sedmak, the Director of the Center for Ethics and Poverty Resarch: clemens.sedmak@sbg.ac.at Center for Etics and Poverty Research University of Salzburg Franziskanergasse 1/IV A – 5020  Salzburg Tel: +43 (0)664 8525312 Fx: +43 (0)662 8044 2533

JOBS: Radboud University

As part of the NWO financed Vidi project “Cosmopolitanism in a world of interconnected threats and challenges” the Centre for Philosophy of Law of Radboud University Nijmegen seeks candidates for a postdoc and 2 PhD positions in the fields of legal and political philosophy. 
Candidates should submit a detailed CV and the names and e-mail addresses of two referees who may be contacted for confidential references. Applications should be received by September 30, 2008. Interviews are expected to take place in the second and third week of October, 2008. 
Post-doctoral Position in Philosophy of Law
PhD Candidate for 'Democratic representation within a globalized world'
PhD Candidate for 'World peace through world law'
Additional Information:  Dr. R. Tinnevelt, associate professor in Legal Philosophy  Telephone: 0031-(0)243615539  E-mail: r.tinnevelt@jur.ru.nl

Monday, 1 September 2008

Carnegie Ethics Online

The latest in the Carnegie Ethics Online series is a roundtable on 'The Myth of the Nation-State', featuring Devlin T. Stewart, Nikolas K. Gvosdev, and David A. Andelman. Read it here

Friday, 29 August 2008

Seyla Benhabib Interview

I've just read an interesting interview with Seyla Benhabib on the subject of 'the Public Sphere, Deliberation, Journalism and Dignity' (thanks to Christopher Ro for the link). Amongst other things, Benhabib talks about how the growth of the blogosphere and online media in general is either helping or hindering democratic deliberation. She concludes that journalism 

'is also about creating the enlarged mentality, by teaching us to see from the standpoint of others, even when we do not agree with them. We extend the boundaries of our sympathy by understanding the conditions of others who may be radically different than us. At its best journalism does this; it extends your vision of the world by making you see the world thought the eyes of the others. It informs you, as well as stretching your empathy across time and space. The best kind of journalism has this capacity of uniting the dignity of the generalised other with empathy for the concrete other.'
I wholeheartedly agree with this view of what journalism (and indeed philosophy) should be doing in a globalised world. I just wish I could express it quite so eloquently! 

Read the rest of the interview here.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Race and the American Presidential Election

There's an excellent article in today's Guardian newspaper on the race issue in the American presidential election. Slightly off topic for this blog I know, but well worth a read - thought-provoking and more than a little worrying. 

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

St Andrews Research Fellowships

Details below...

University of St Andrews
Centre For Ethics, Philosophy And Public Affairs

I. Visiting Research Fellowships 2009-10

Applications are invited for visiting research fellowships for the academic session 2009-10. The fellowship provides residential accommodation in St Andrews, an office in the University, and access to the usual facilities. Further details are available at 

Fellows are also expected to participate in activities of the moral philosophy group. Where relevant applicants may propose to work on projects that they would wish to have considered for inclusion in the Centre's publication series (see below). Applications, including a c.v., a statement of research intentions, and an indication of the period during which the fellowship would be held, should be submitted no later than 1 December 2008 to:

Human Resources,
University of St Andrews,
College Gate,
St Andrews,
Fife, KY16 9AL
Scotland. UK.                                                                                                                          
II. St Andrews Studies in Philosophy and Public Affairs

The series will include monographs, collections of essays and occasional anthologies of source material representing study in those areas of philosophy most relevant to topics of public importance, with the aim of advancing the contribution of philosophy in the discussion of these topics. For further information on the series see 

Leiter on 'The State of the Vocation'

Interesting article from Brian Leiter in The Philosophers' Magazine Online on the state of academic philosophy as a profession and vocation here

Public Ethics Radio

Another addition to the growing wealth of philosophy resources online - Public Ethics Radio. Details below...

The idea of Public Ethics Radio is to engage ethicists in discussion of pressing practical dilemmas Each program focuses on a particular theme - military intervention, international trade, political corruption - and takes as it starting point some more specific issue that is prominent in the public consciousness. 
The show is hosted by Christian Barry and produced by Matt Peterson
Public Ethics Radio is a production of the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, an Australian Research Council Special Research Centre, at the Australian National University, the University of Melbourne, and Charles Stuart University. 

The first episode features Thomas Pogge on Pharmaceutical Innovation. Upcoming episodes will feature Leif Wenar (Kings College London) on the Resource Curse, Jessica Wolfendale (University of Melbourne) on Torture Lite, and Larry Temkin (Rutgers) on Extending Human Lifespans. 

Monday, 25 August 2008

Monday, 18 August 2008

Brooks' 5 tips for getting published

Thom Brooks has written a very helpful and readable article on publication for early-career academics which can be found here. It develops some of the ideas from his previous advice for graduates on getting published, which can be found here

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

New Philosophy Bookmarking Site: 'Sympoze'

Yet another site to add to the list:

Sympoze is a new social networking and bookmarking site for philosophers. Sympoze will help you stay current on what professional philosophers are reading and enjoying. Sympoze is currently in beta testing. If you would like to join and start submitting and/or voting up content from philosophy blogs, online papers, and philosophy journal articles, then email Andrew Cullison via [lastname] [at] [fredonia] [dot] [edu].

Social bookmarking is a way for social networks to collectively save, rate, and promote online content. At Sympoze users can submit links to philosophy content that they enjoy - from philosophy blog posts, links to unpublished papers, or links to published journal articles they enjoy or think other philosophers will enjoy. Once a user submits a link, the rest of the Sympoze community can "digg" the content. Popular scoops will automatically be promoted to the front page so everyone (including non-users) can get an up to the minute update concerning what's hot in philosophy.

The unique feature about Sympoze is that User accounts are limited to persons with graduate degrees in philosophy or who are enrolled in a philosophy graduate program. This will ensure that the content being voted up and down will reflect the opinions of professional philosophers - however, everyone will be able to view the content that philosophers vote up and down. Philosophers are encouraged to submit links to any philosophy content available online including links to their own material be it a blog post, an online paper, or a link to a philosophy journal article.

Academia.edu New Look

Academia.edu - the popular networking site for academics - has had a makeover. The main change is the addition of a function which allows one to search departments and view the members of particular universities in a 'tree' 

Paris and Bavaria by Train

I've been away for a long weekend visiting family in Bavaria, Germany. We decided to travel by train rather than fly, for various reasons, both altruistic (environmental concern) and selfish (fear of flying). We took the Eurostar to Paris, spent an afternoon walking down the Seine and an evening drinking wine overlooking Notre Dame, before boarding the sleeper to Augsburg (nr. Munich). We arrived fairly refreshed at about 8am the next morning, feeling rather smug. I'd recommend to anyone planning a trip to Western Europe from the UK to consider traveling by train - all the information needed on timetables etc. can be found here

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Peer Review

There's an interesting post from Nigel Warburton over at Virtual Philosopher on the peer review process in academia, with an equally interesting reply from Tim Crane - I especially like the idea of getting a grant not to publish!

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society now on JSTOR

The Aristotelian Society is delighted to announce that the Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 1896-2002 are now available on JSTOR.

WTO talks collapse

A couple of good comment pieces from the Guardian's blog site on the collapse of the WTO talks and the structure of the world trade system here and here

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

CFP: Third International Applied Ethics Conference - Hokkaido

2nd Call for Papers
Third International Applied Ethics Conference in Sapporo
21-23 November 2008
Center for Applied Ethics and Philosophy (CAEP)
Hokkaido University

We are delighted to announce the Third International Applied Ethics Conference on 21-23 November 2008 at Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan. We invite the submission of papers on the following topics:
Meta-Normative Ethics
Bio/Medical Ethics
Engineering Ethics
Ethics of Science and Technology
Information Ethics
Environmental Ethics
Business Ethics
International/Global Ethics

Confirmed keynote speakers include:
Ruth Chadwick (Cardiff University, UK)
Lee Shui Chuen (National Central University, Taiwan)
Andrew Light (University of Washington, USA)
Michael Seigel (Nanzan University, Japan)

Those participants who wish to present a paper are asked to submit a 300-500 word abstract by 6th September, and a full paper by 31st October to CAEP. All accepted papers are considered for publication in the printed and electronic formats.

Conference Chair: Takahiko Nitta (Director, CAEP)
Program Chair: Shunzo Majima (Deputy Director, CAEP)

CFP: Societies Without Borders

Call for Papers

Societies Without Borders
Human Rights & the Social Sciences

Societies Without Borders is an official tri-annual journal of Sociologists Without Borders, published by Brill. What the world's peoples have in common - not withstanding the borders that divide them - is the aspiration to achieve human rights - the rights to food, housing, health care, education, decent work, free speech, to speak one's conscience, as well as the right to a fair trial, to a safe environment, and the right to peace. What the world's people are beginning to discover is that this aspiration is not only a common one, but it can only be pursued collectively in disregard of the borders that divide people. People may live in societies, derive their identities from their societies, but the pursuit of human rights is pursued and coordinated across borders. The journal, Societies without Borders, aims for high caliber scholarly analysis and also encourages submissions that address pioneering thought in human rights, globalism, and collective goods.
Authors are cordially invited to submit articles to the journal editors Judith Blau and Alberto Moncada, and books for review to the Associate Editor Keri Iyall Smith.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Friday, 25 July 2008

Impartiality and 'one thought too many'

Yesterday I gave a talk within our department to fellow graduate students on the topic of impartiality in moral and political philosophy, and more specifically, on Bernard Williams’ famous ‘one thought too many objection’. I’ve been working on the subject on and off for a while, but this is the first time that I’ve collected my thoughts on the matter into a coherent(ish) whole. Below is a precis of my talk.
The classic problem raised against impartiality is that it clashes with our commonsense understanding of how we can, and should, act towards specific other people, most obvious in the case of friends and family. A crude version of impartial morality requires me to take the interests of my family and strangers to have equal importance, and forbids me from giving special preference to the needs of those close to me. This is intuitively wrong, and so any moral theory that implies such a conclusion must be wrong also. The most common response to this type of objection against impartialist morality is to make a distinction between first-order and second-order impartiality. Brian Barry's argument in Justice as Impartiality hinges on this distinction, in fact, he claims that once we have made it properly, the debate between partialists and impartialists will be neutralised. First-order impartiality refers to the level of action, whereas second-order impartiality refers to the level of principle. Barry argues that most critics of impartiality are directing their attacks at first-order impartiality, when in fact, most impartialists do not endorse this demanding form of impartiality in the first place.
Second-order impartiality demands that principles of morality are justified impartially. For a contractarian like Barry this is done by ensuring that principles cannot be reasonably rejected by any individual. Moral principles that are justified impartially will not necessarily require impartial action - for example, a principle requiring that parents favour their own children over the children of strangers could be justified impartially. What is different about partiality that is impartially justified at the level of principle is that is must hold equally for everyone - so if I think that I am right to favour my own children over those of others then I must recognise that other parents will also be right to favour their children over mine.
Once we accept the distinction between first and second-order impartiality the problems impartialists face do fade somewhat - second-order impartiality is much less demanding and conflicts less with our intuitively valuable personal relationships. However anti-impartialists are still critical. Probably the most famous criticism of impartialist approaches to ethics comes from Bernard Williams. Williams accepts that a second-order impartialist can explain why it is permissible for a husband to save his wife from drowning when faced with a choice between saving her and a stranger. But he argues that the attempt to justify his partiality by reference to a higher order principle is inappropriate, because all the justification that is needed is 'because she is my wife'. Any further justification, such as 'and in these situations it is permissible to save one's wife' is 'one thought too many'.
In the example of saving one’s wife then it seems that Williams is right that further justification is not needed, and that we think badly of someone who offered the further justification without prompting. But this doesn't mean that no justification is provided - by saying 'because she is my wife' the husband appeals to the obligations implicit within that relationship. If a passing alien who had no grasp of the concept of marriage enquired why the husband chose to save his wife over the other casualty then it wouldn't be out of place for him to offer the further justification that Williams wants to avoid. And, importantly, there are some cases in which it is at least an open question whether the husband would be justified in saving his wife over a stranger (if the stranger is someone extremely important to the survival of the human race, say). So we can examine the relationship of marriage and question how much partiality between spouses is legitimate.
However I think anti-impartialists like Williams would respond that this examination, and search of justification of partiality, is itself inappropriate. Natural sentiments and personal relationships are by nature not subject to demands for justification – and if we do so then we threaten the nature of these relationships.
It seems to me that this argument trades on confusion over what is being justified. Williams is right that love itself can’t be justified (and that we shouldn’t try), but this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t justify it when love affects the distribution of goods and resources between people. The distribution of love doesn’t need justification, but the effect that love can have on the distribution of other goods does. When I fall in love with someone I don’t have reasons that are fully spelled out and it would be inappropriate to try and provide them. I don’t have to justify being in love with X rather than Y. But once I am in love with X rather than Y I do have to justify how I allow this to affect distribution of goods between me, X, and Y. If I want to spend all my money on luxuries for X whilst leaving Y to starve then I should justify this to Y, and if I can’t, then I am not free to do so.
It seems likely that ‘I am in love with X’ carries a certain justificatory weight, but also likely that this will be capable of being outweighed in some circumstances. It is certainly the case that I am not justified in favouring X in all circumstances just because I am in love with them – if I am a judge of a competition that X is taking part in then the fact that I am in love with X is not relevant at all. This is an obvious case, and other cases are obvious in the other direction. The one’s in the middle are the ones that we have to think about. So to bring the example of the husband saving the wife back in, he has to justify how he distributes his ability to save people between his wife and the stranger. Given that he can only save one person he is fully justified in saving his wife most of the time. But the fact that this is justified with reference to higher order impartial principles does not denigrate in any way the relationship between the husband and wife.
I have futher thoughts on how relevant the husband's motivation is, and whether it is problematic if his motivation and reasons are in conflict, but I will save those for another day.

CFP: International Theory

Call for papers from International Theory...

International Theory: A Journal of International Politics, Law and

International Theory (IT) promotes theoretical scholarship about the positive, legal, and normative aspects of world politics respectively. IT is open to theory of absolutely all varieties and from all disciplines, provided it addresses problems of politics, broadly defined and pertains to the international. IT welcomes scholarship that uses evidence from the real world to advance theoretical arguments. However, IT is intended as a forum where scholars can develop theoretical arguments in depth without an expectation of extensive empirical analysis. IT’s over-arching goal is to promote communication and engagement across theoretical and disciplinary traditions. IT puts a premium on contributors’ ability to reach as broad an audience as possible, both in the questions they engage and in their accessibility to other approaches. This might be done by addressing problems that can only be understood by combining multiple disciplinary discourses, like institutional design, or practical ethics; or by addressing phenomena that have broad ramifications, like civilizing processes in world politics, or the evolution of environmental norms. IT is also open to work that remains within one scholarly tradition, although in that case authors must make clear the horizon of their arguments in relation to other theoretical approaches.

International Theory invites authors to submit original theoretically oriented articles on the positive, legal, and/or normative aspects of world politics. Because IT is multidisciplinary with a broad intended audience, contributions must be as accessible as possible to readers from a wide range of disciplines and theoretical traditions. Papers that are primarily empirical or policy oriented are not a good fit.

More details and submission guidelines can be found here.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Online Reading Group: John Broome's 'Weighing Lives'

The moral philosophy department at St Andrews are hosting a reading group focusing on John Broome's book Weighing Lives. For those who live near enough there will be physical discussion sessions, but for everyone else there will also be an online discussion forum. The reading group will conclude with a symposium to be held at St Andrews in October. Further details can be found here.

Conference: Human Rights in Theory and Practice

From Public Reason...

Human Rights in Theory and Practice

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations in 1948, and in recognition of the UDHR’s 60th anniversary, the Institute for Law and Philosophy will host a one-day conference featuring panels on a range of philosophical and legal aspects of human rights. Committed participants include Charles Beitz (Princeton), Allen Buchanan (Duke), Roger Clark (Rutgers-Camden), James Nickel (Arizona State), Thomas Pogge (Yale), and Joseph Raz (Columbia/Oxford), with ther additions still to come. Details to follow.
Registration is required, and there is a registration fee of $25 ($10 for students). To rgister, please e-mail and send a check, payable to Rutgers University, to: John Oberdiek, Rutgers University School of Law-Camden, 217 North 5th Street, Camden, NJ 08102.