"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)

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Article Submission Update

Some news: my article on David Miller and Human Rights has been rejected by Phil Quarterly. This was what I expected would happen, given the stature of the journal. The reviewer's comments were really positive, and the main reason that they have passed is that they feel the subject matter is too specific for a broad philosophy journal. As for the content, there was very little criticism, so I'm very pleased with that! I've now submitted the article to the Journal of Applied Philosophy, which is hopefully a more suitable home for the piece. 

Wednesday, 28 May 2008


I've just received some information on a great site that I had previosuly not come across. Called 'e-International Relations', it's a resource designed for people interested in international politics, and is run by students at universities across the world.

e-IR is an online resource for students of international relations. Established in November 2007, the site aims to collect, in one digital repository, a wide variety of resources helpful to students of international politics, diplomacy and global governance. e-IR is non-profit and is unaffiliated with any institution. The objects of e-IR are to:
Publish regular editorials by staff and guest writers; collate important news from politics and international relations departments in UK universities; publish high-quality student essays in international relations (citing the author and the course for which the essay was submitted); actively encourage the discussion and commentary of articles, editorials, essays and issues in international politics.
As the site grows we hope to:
Publish an online peer-reviewed journal of international relations, accepting unsolicited submissions from students; review courses in international relations, and the departments within which they fall, to provide guidance to students for future study and research; and review books, academic journals, and events (conferences, seminars etc.) to highlight key issues in international relations and any emerging research that may be of benefit or interest to students.

The site is really well designed and definitely worth a look. I hope to be submitting a comment piece to them in the next month or so.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Parekh Interview

Courtesy of The Brooks Blog - see here for an interesting interview with Bhikhu Parekh on the BBC's BOOKtalk programme.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Conference: Justice, Culture and Tradition

June Conference on the work of Michael Walzer...

"Justice, Culture and Tradition" Conference
June 2-4, 2008,
Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ

Michael Walzer, Professor Emeritus in the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study, has written extensively on a variety of topics in political theory and moral philosophy. His most acclaimed work to date, "Just and Unjust Wars" (1977), is the classic contemporary text on the morality of war. To recognize Walzer's contributions to the ethical and political philosophy of the twentieth century, a conference titled "Justice, Culture and Tradition" will take place June 2-4, 2008, at the Institute for Advanced Study.
The academic committee of the conference includes Yitzhak Benbaji (Bar-IlanUniversity, Shalom Hartman Institute), Amy Gutmann (the University of Pennsylvania), and Avishai Margalit (IAS).
The Conference will consider the following questions:
* How should liberalism treat cultures, cultural diversity and cultural identities?
* How should the just society distribute resources and the goods social life produces?
* When is waging war justified? What is the meaning of national self-defense and how is it related to self-defense in the domestic realm?
* Is an international system constituted from fully sovereign states justified, or should the international society be federalized?
Conference speakers include: Charles R. Beitz, Yitzhak Benbaji, Pierre Birnbaum, Mitchell Cohen, Michael Doyle, Ruth Gavison, Amy Gutmann, Moshe Halbertal, Axel Honneth, George Kateb, Will Kymlicka, Jacob T. Levy, Menachem Lorberbaum, Avishai Margalit, Jeff McMahan, Susan Neiman, David Novak, Brian Orend, Martin Peretz, Nancy L. Rosenblum, Michael J. Sandel, Thomas Scanlon, Haim Shapira, Charles Taylor, Georgia Warnke, Leon Wieseltier, and Noam J. Zohar.
Michael Walzer will attend and comment on the papers presented.
For more information, conference agenda, and to register your attendance, please go to "Justice, Culture and Tradition" Conference. All sessions are free and open to the
public, and seating is on a first come, first served basis.
Organized by Professor Yitzhak Benbaji of Bar-Ilan University and Shalom Hartman Institute, this conference was made possible by the generous support of the following:
* Fritz Thyssen Stiftung
* Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs
* Institute for Advanced Study
* Shalom Hartman Institute
* YIVO Institute for Jewish Research
* Bar-Ilan University, Faculty of Law
* Heinrich Boell Foundation

--------To attend this conference, or for further information regarding this conference, please email Danielle Candy (dcandy@cceia.org), or call her at 212-838-4120, ext. 259.

New Website: Graduate Junction

I've just been sent some information about a new website that's been set up by some students in Durham. It's a good idea, and if it works could be really helpful.

Graduate Junction is designed to help graduate researchers make contact with other researchers interested in their work. The idea is to connect people who would otherwise not be aware of each other, perhaps in different groups, departments or institutions. Increasing communication can prevent duplication of effort and help the spread of new ideas.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

CFP: Thick Concepts

Early CFP for July 2009 conference...

University of Kent, Canterbury, UK
3rd-5th July, 2009

Invited Speakers:
Jonathan Dancy (Reading; Texas, Austin)
Daniel Elstein (Leeds)
Allan Gibbard (Michigan, Ann Arbor)
Chris Hookway (Sheffield)
Tom Hurka (Toronto)
Simon Kirchin (Kent)
Jerry Levinson (Maryland)
Adrian Moore (Oxford)
Michael Smith (Princeton)
Alan Thomas (Kent)
Pekka Vayrynen (Leeds)
Nick Zangwill (Durham)

Supported by The Mind Association, and The University of Kent.

Many philosophers are familiar with the distinction between thin and thick concepts. Canonical examples of thin concepts include goodness and badness, rightness and wrongness. There are supposedly many examples of thick concepts, including cruelty, kindness, beauty, elegance, and curiosity. A number of issues arise in relation to thin and thick concepts. Many might be familiar with a key debate, namely how one should construe the relationship between thick concepts' supposed descriptive aspects and their supposed evaluative aspects. Do we have here two separable elements, or are they best characterized as essentially inseparable, resulting in a form of evaluation that is more specific than that found in thin concepts? There might also be some familiarity with other issues raised, for example the question of whether either sort of concept allows one to think and judge in ways that make evaluative knowledge (or something like it) a possibility and stable. But there are other issues that tend not to be as well known. For example, is there a difference in kind between thin and thick concepts or is there only a difference of degree? If the former, how might it be made out? Furthermore, although writers will often use thick ethical concepts as their main examples, it is commonly acknowledged that thick concepts crop up in many areas of everyday thought. Are there any key differences between, say, ethical and aesthetic thick concepts, differences in how they behave as thick
concepts? Thick ethical concepts might have some degree of normativity, but how is this aspect related to the evaluative aspect and is it present in typical aesthetic concepts? And, in all of this, is there any difference of note between thick language, thick concepts, and (supposed) thick features?
There are many other relevant issues. What is notable about most of the questions concerning thick concepts is that there is relatively little written on them, despite the familiarity of the distinction between the thin and the thick. There are some articles here, and some discussions in books there. However, a few writers are beginning to investigate and study thin and thick concepts systematically, including some of the invited speakers. The principal aim of this conference is to bring together a number of philosophers of international repute who are interested in thick concepts so that they can both pursue some of the familiar debates, and raise and discuss new questions and ideas. It is envisaged that the discussions will be of interest to moral philosophers, aestheticians, epistemologists, metaphysicians, and philosophers of language amongst others.

Call for Papers:
There will be open sessions in which some non-invited speakers can present their work. Papers dealing with any aspect of thick concepts are encouraged. Submissions should be emailed to the conference organiser, Simon Kirchin, at: thickconcepts@kent.ac.uk by Monday 2nd February 2009. Submissions should be prepared for blind review, be a maximum of 2,000 words long, have an additional 200 word abstract at the start, and contain lines of thought presentable in 20 minutes. The author's name, affiliation, and email address should be sent in a separate file. Word or PDF files are preferred. Decisions will be made by 30th April 2009. Postgraduates in particular are encouraged to apply, with a prize of 50 pounds available for the best postgraduate talk. (Speakers in the open sessions will not be reimbursed for any costs incurred.) A conference website, with details about bookings, etc., will appear early in 2009.

Res Publica Postgraduate Essay Prize

For any eligible students:

For the fourth year running, Res Publica (the journal of the Association for Legal and Social Philosophy) will be awarding a prize for the best paper submitted by a current postgraduate student in 2008. This may be in any area of moral, legal or social philosophy, and should conform to the normal requirements for submissions - please see the website address below for details.
All entries must be received by 1 October 2008, with the winner to be announced in December 2008. The winner will receive £100 and a year's subscription to the journal. The winning essay will be published in Volume 15 (2009). The prize will be judged by a panel of referees, along with the journal editors.
For more information please contact:
Gideon Calder gideon.calder@newport.ac.uk
Jonathan Seglow j.seglow@rhul.ac.uk
Co-editors, Res Publica

Past Prize Winners:
Alexandra Couto, 'Privacy and Justification' 12.3 (2006)
Alasdair Cochcrane, 'Animal Rights and Animal Experiments: An Interest-Based Approach' 13.3 (2007)
Göran Duus-Otterström, 'Betting Against Hard Determinism' (forthcoming, 2008)

Monday, 12 May 2008

Relational and Non-Relational Approaches to Justice

I'm trying to puzzle something out in relation to the way in which I classify different approaches to distributive justice in the first section of my thesis. I've drawn a distinction between relational and non-relational approaches to justice (see earlier comments on this here). I make it following Sangiovanni, Julius, Nagel, Pogge, Caney and so on, but generalise somewhat from all of their accounts. I drew this distinction in the following way:

According to a relational approach, obligations of justice arise through association and relationships. Absent such interaction, considerations of justice are inappropriate. In other words, it is certain features of particular relationships and associations which make them justice-apt (which features of which types of relationship are relevant will vary). Accoring to the non-relational approach, by contrast, obligations of justice are not linked to interaction and associatin, existing prior to them and independently of them. considerations of jsutice are therefore appropriate even when no interaction has taken place - relationships and associations are not needed to make a situation justice-apt.

The distinction is relevan to global justice debates because it fundamentally alters the grounds of any kind of global justice. Rawlsian views are relational - they ground justice in relationships and interactions between people. On these views principles of (egalitarian) justice apply to the basic structure, and not before the basic structure exists. Competing (generally cosmopolitan) theorists of global justice, such as Kok Chor Tan, argue that egalitarian principles are relevant prior to and absent such interaction and insitutions.

I took these approaches to be differing answers to the question: 'How do relational facts determine principles of justice?' but I now see that this needs further clarification. The question they are answering is 'Are principles of justice relevant prior to or absent the existence or some kind of relationship or interaction between individuals?', or to put it in more person-specific terms, 'Can I owe any kind of egalitarian justice to someone with whom I have no interaction or relationship?' One, more general, way to understand this is, 'Are relational facts a relevant consideration when determining the scope of principles of justice?'. This is different, of course, the separate question ‘Are relational facts a relevant consideration when determining the content of principles of justice?’. To the first question the answer for the relational and non-relational approaches is clear – ‘yes’ and ‘no’ respectively. To the second question it seems to me that both approaches can answer either yes or no, depending on other aspects of the theory in question. A further related but separate question is ‘Are relational facts a relevant consideration for departing from general principles of justice?’. Again, both approaches can answer yes or no to this question.

The upshot of all this, it seems to me, is that the non-relational approach is not necessarily committed to some kind of universalism, or 'impartiality thesis', about the content of principles of justice. The relational approach is therefore not necessarily any better placed to provide principles of justice which account for our intuitively stronger obligations to those with whom we are in relationships, or with whom we share institutions.

I might be wrong, and non-relational approaches might be committed to excluding relational considerations from questions about both the scope and content of principles of justice. If this is so, then presumably it's because the justification for excluding relational considerations from questions about scope also implies excluding them from questions about content.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

BPPA University Rep

As a result of working on our BPPC bid, I've volunteered to be the Sheffield University rep for the BPPA. University reps are there to provide a local source of information about the BPPA and its activites. Hopefully I'll be able to promote the work that they do to students here at Sheffield over the next year or so. More information on the BPPA and how to get in touch can be found here.

Wenar on Rawls in the SEP

I'm slightly late on this, but Leif Wenar's new entry on John Rawls in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy can be found here. It comes highly recommended!

Encyclopedia of Global Justice

Springer are working on an Encyclopedia of Global Justice, due to be published in September 2009. The editor is Professor D K Chatterjee of the University of Utah.

The Encyclopedia of Global Justice will serve as a complete reference for all key terms and concepts of global justice, broadly conceived.
The question of justice across national boundaries, recently the focus of intense debate due to the ethical challenges of modern globalization, spans the range from extreme global egalitarianism to various kinds of extended nationalism and limited globalism. The topic covers several disciplines and raises both theoretical and applied issues in such areas as relations among nations, world poverty, human rights, global development, environmental concerns, and the justifiability of military conflicts, among others.
The Encyclopedia reflects this reality and provides an interdisciplinary approach that combines empirical research with theoretical arguments, drawing terms and concepts from political philosophy and theory, ethics, international law and legal theory, development economics, public policy, and applied ethics, including legal, business, medical, military, religious, environmental, and feminist ethics as they relate to all aspects of global justice. Because the term "global justice" is itself a matter of contention, prompting questions regarding how it relates to and differs from "international justice," an important part of the project is to clarify such definitional issues and include entries that seek to address the related methodological concerns.
The goal of this timely and comprehensive encyclopedia is to provide a premier reference guide for students, scholars, policy makers, and others interested in assessing the moral consequences of global interdependence and understanding the concepts and arguments that shed light on the myriad aspects of global justice. The Encyclopedia will be organized in A-to-Z format with cross-referencing of entries around a series of broad themes, making it convenient for students, scholars, and general readers to access the relevant entries on a specific theme.

I've been fortunate enough to have been provisionally assigned a couple of the entries: 'Associative Duties', and 'Duties to Non-Compatriots'. The word limits are short (500 and 2000 respectively) but hopefully I'll be able to be concise and clear!

More information on the project can be found here.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

BPPA Conference Bid

A few of us at Sheffield have decided to put together a bid to host next year's British Postgraduate Philosophy Conference, which is the BPPA's annual conference. Despite being one of the largest philosophy departments in the UK, Sheffield doesn't seem to host that many conferences (in contrast with, say, Manchester). The BPPC was orginally established at Sheffield (it was known then as the National Postgraduate Analytic Philosophy Conference) in 1997, and it would be nice for it to come back to where it originally started!

The blurb from the BPPA:

"The BPPA Annual Conference (BPPC) is one of the longest running and most prestigious postgraduate philosophy conferences in the land, known to many as the Joint Session for Postgrads. The conference has a reputation for showcasing high quality postgrad philosophy, providing useful postgrad careers advice, and simultaneously enabling postgrad philosophers to socialise and have fun in a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere."

It's quite a lot of work, but hopefully should be fun, and is really good experience - it's also nice to have other projects on the go apart from thesis writing! The bid is due by 13th June, and if successful, we'd be putting the conference on over the weekend 17th-19th July 2009.