•  1
    Our public debate over secularism has suffered from a kind of amnesia about the historical genesis of the modern, secular, and tolerant state. The transition away from the highly intolerant and persecutory regimes of late-medieval and early-modern Europe was greatly facilitated by four important developments. First, Europeans learned that social order and cohesion are threatened less by diversity than by intolerance of diversity. Second, the traditionally paternalist vision of the state’s role w…Read more
  •  2
    Which Procedure for Deciding Election Procedures?
    In Andrew Potter, Daniel Marc Weinstock & Peter Loewen (eds.), Should We Change How We Vote? Evaluating Canada's Electoral System, Montreal: Mcgill-queen's University Press, 2017.. pp. 188-196. 2017.
    One way to evaluate electoral rules is instrumental: we ask what effects they tend to produce. A second way is constitutive: we ask what kinds of values they embody, or whether the procedures they effect respect people's rights or moral status. A third way is genetic: we ask by what procedure the electoral rules were adopted. I shall argue that in judging the value or the legitimacy of electoral rules, we must consider not only (1) the values they serve instrumentally and (2) the values, rights,…Read more
  • In Defence of Imperfection: An Election-Sortition Compromise
    In John Gastil & Erik Olin Wright (eds.), Legislature by Lot, . pp. 249-255. 2019.
  • Democratic theory claims that the exercise of political power is legitimate only to the extent that it conforms to the will of the people; cultural nationalism claims that it is legitimate only to the extent that it conforms to the pre-political culture of the nation. But democracy and cultural nationalism both face a parallel problem: How to determine the boundaries of the collectivity that is supposed to legitimize political power? This problem explains why democracy is disposed to collapse in…Read more
  •  10
    Reply to Critics of Hobbes and the Two Faces of Ethics
    Online Colloquium of the European Hobbes Society. 2019.
    Author's reply to reviews of "Hobbes and the Two Faces of Ethics" Sandra Field, Michael LeBuffe, and Daniel Eggers, in online colloquium on book.
  •  39
    Review Symposium (review)
    with Joseph Carens, Rainer Bauböck, and David Miller
    Political Theory 43 (3): 380-411. 2015.
  •  216
    Samuel Scheffler has recently argued that some relationships are non-instrumentally valuable; that such relationships give rise to “underived” special responsibilities; that there is a genuine tension between cosmopolitan egalitarianism and special responsibilities; and that we must consequently strike a balance between the two. We argue that there is no such tension and propose an alternative approach to the relation between cosmopolitan egalitarianism and special responsibilities. First, while…Read more
  •  28
    Introduction to Hobbes and the Two Faces of Ethics
    Online Colloquium of the European Hobbes Society. 2018.
    Overview of "Hobbes and the Two Faces of Ethics" to kick off online colloquium on book, with responses by Sandra Field, Michael LeBuffe, and Daniel Eggers, ending with reply from Arash Abizadeh.
  •  45
    According to a subjectivist theory, normative reasons are grounded in facts about our desires. According to an instrumentalist theory, reasons are grounded also in facts about the relevant means to desired objects. These are distinct theories. The widespread tendency to conflate the normativity of subjective and instrumentalist precepts obscures two facts. First, instrumentalist precepts incorporate a subjective element with an objective one. Second, combining these elements into a single theory…Read more
  •  1
    Hobbes and the Two Faces of Ethics
    Cambridge University Press. 2018.
    Reading Hobbes in light of both the history of ethics and the conceptual apparatus developed in recent work on normativity, this book challenges received interpretations of Hobbes and his historical significance. Arash Abizadeh uncovers the fundamental distinction underwriting Hobbes's ethics: between prudential reasons of the good, articulated via natural laws prescribing the means of self-preservation, and reasons of the right or justice, comprising contractual obligations for which we are acc…Read more
  •  86
    Was Fichte An Ethnic Nationalist? On Cultural Nationalism And Its Double
    History of Political Thought 26 (2): 334-359. 2005.
    Even though Fichte's Reden an die deutsche Nation arguably constitutes one of the founding texts of nationalist political thought, it has received little scholarly attention from English-speaking political theorists. The French, by contrast, have a long tradition of treating Fichte as a central figure in the history of political thought, and have given considerable attention to the Reden in particular. While the dominant French interpretation, which construes the Reden as a non-ethnic cultural n…Read more
  •  219
    Publicity, Privacy, and Religious Toleration in Hobbes's Leviathan
    Modern Intellectual History 10 (2): 261-291. 2013.
    What motivated an absolutist Erastian who rejected religious freedom, defended uniform public worship, and deemed the public expression of disagreement a catalyst for war to endorse a movement known to history as the champion of toleration, no coercion in religion, and separation of church and state? At least three factors motivated Hobbes’s 1651 endorsement of Independency: the Erastianism of Cromwellian Independency, the influence of the politique tradition, and, paradoxically, the contributio…Read more
  •  253
    Critics of state sovereignty have typically challenged the state’s right to close its borders to foreigners by appeal to the liberal egalitarian discourse of human rights. According to the liberty argument, freedom of movement is a basic human right; according to the equality or justice argument, open borders are necessary to reduce global poverty and inequality, both matters of global justice. I argue that human rights considerations do indeed mandate borders considerably more open than is the …Read more
  •  2
    Rhetoric, the Passions, and Difference in Discursive Democracy
    Dissertation, Harvard University. 2001.
    How can liberal democracies mobilize their citizens and effect their social integration, while accommodating their tremendous heterogeneity and respecting their freedom? Neo-Kantian liberals and cosmopolitans such as Habermas reject appeals to shared ethnicity, culture, or nation, for fear that they effect the suppression of difference; communitarian critics retort that theories like Habermas's are impotent to motivate social integration. My goal is to show that this theoretical impasse is an ar…Read more
  •  31
    Hobbes’s agnostic theology before Leviathan
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 47 (5): 714-737. 2017.
    Prior to 1651, Hobbes was agnostic about the existence of God. Hobbes argued that God’s existence could neither be demonstrated nor proved, so that those who reason about God’s existence will systematically vacillate, sometimes thinking God exists, sometimes not, which for Hobbes is to say they will doubt God’s existence. Because this vacillation or doubt is inherent to the subject, reasoners like himself will judge that settling on one belief rather than another is epistemically unjustified. Ho…Read more
  •  204
    A Critique of the “Common Ownership of the Earth” Thesis
    Les ateliers de l'éthique/The Ethics Forum 8 (2): 33-40. 2013.
    In On Global Justice, Mathias Risse claims that the earth’s original resources are collectively owned by all human beings in common, such that each individual has a moral right to use the original resources necessary for satisfying her basic needs. He also rejects the rival views that original resources are by nature owned by no one, owned by each human in equal shares, or owned and co-managed jointly by all humans. I argue that Risse’s arguments fail to establish a form of ownership at all and,…Read more
  •  161
    Hobbes on the Causes of War: A Disagreement Theory
    American Political Science Review 105 (02): 298-315. 2011.
    Hobbesian war primarily arises not because material resources are scarce; or because humans ruthlessly seek survival before all else; or because we are naturally selfish, competitive, or aggressive brutes. Rather, it arises because we are fragile, fearful, impressionable, and psychologically prickly creatures susceptible to ideological manipulation, whose anger can become irrationally inflamed by even trivial slights to our glory. The primary source of war, according to Hobbes, is disagreement, …Read more
  •  102
    According to the special-obligations challenge to the justice argument for more open borders, immigration restrictions to wealthier polities are justified because of special obligations owed to disadvantaged compatriots. I interrogate this challenge by considering three types of ground for special obligations amongst compatriots. First, the social relations that come with shared residence, such as participation in a territorially bounded, mutually beneficial scheme of cooperation; having fundame…Read more
  •  194
    There are at least five important arguments for why liberal egalitarianism permits states, under today's circumstances, to close their borders to foreigners: the public order, domestic economy, social integration, political threat, and domestic welfare arguments. Critical examination of these arguments suggests that liberal egalitarianism, rather than supporting a right to close one's borders to foreigners, mandates borders considerably more open than is the practice of today's self-styled libe…Read more
  •  34
    By the time Hobbes wrote Leviathan, he was a theist, but not in the sense presumed by either side of the present-day debate concerning the sincerity of his professed theism. On the one hand, Hobbes’s expressed theology was neither merely deistic, nor confined to natural theology: the Hobbesian God is not merely a first mover, but a person who counsels, commands, and threatens. On the other hand, the Hobbesian God’s existence depends on being constructed artificially by human convention. The Hobb…Read more
  •  83
    Two arguments apparently support the thesis that collective identity presupposes an Other: the recognition argument, according to which seeing myself as a self requires recognition by an other whom I also recognize as a self (Hegel); and the dialogic argument, according to which my sense of self can only develop dialogically (Taylor). But applying these arguments to collective identity involves a compositional fallacy. Two modern ideologies mask the particularist thesis’s falsehood. The ideology…Read more
  •  68
    Against the dominant view in contemporary Hobbes scholarship, I argue that Hobbes’ philosophy of language implicitly denies that linguistic expressions refer to anything. I defend this thesis both textually, in light of what Hobbes actually said, and contextually, in light of Hobbes’ desertion of the vocabulary of suppositio, which was prevalent in semantics leading up to Hobbes. Hobbes explained away the apparent fact of linguistic reference via a reductive analysis: the relation between words …Read more
  •  33
    Hobbes on Mind: Practical Deliberation, Reasoning, and Language
    Journal of the History of Philosophy 55 (1): 1-34. 2017.
    Readers of Hobbes usually take his account of practical deliberation to be a passive process that does not respond to agents’ judgements about what normative reasons they have. This is ostensibly because deliberation is purely conative and/or excludes reasoning, or because Hobbesian reasoning is itself a process in which reasoners merely experience a succession of mental states (e.g. according to purely associative mental structures). I argue to the contrary that for Hobbes deliberation (and hen…Read more
  •  38
    Liberal nationalists advance two claims: (1) an empirical claim that nationalism is functionally indispensable to the viability of liberal democracy (because it is necessary to social integration) and (2) a normative claim that some forms of nationalism are compatible with liberal democratic norms. The empirical claim is often supported, against postnationalists’ view that social integration can bypass ethnicity and nationality, by pointing to the inevitable ethnic and cultural particularities o…Read more
  •  86
    Wage competition and the special-obligations challenge to more open borders
    with Manish Pandey and Sohrab Abizadeh
    Politics, Philosophy and Economics 14 (3): 255-269. 2015.
    According to the special-obligations challenge to the justice argument for more open borders, immigration restrictions to wealthier polities are justified because of special obligations owed to disadvantaged compatriots negatively impacted by the immigration of low-skilled foreign workers. We refute the special-obligations challenge by refuting its empirical premise and draw out the normative implications of the empirical evidence for border policies. We show that immigration to wealthier politi…Read more
  •  64
    On the philosophy/rhetoric binaries: Or, is Habermasian discourse motivationally impotent?
    Philosophy and Social Criticism 33 (4): 445-472. 2007.
    The susceptibility of Habermas' socio-political theory to the charge of motivational impotence can be traced to a problem in the way in which he conceives of discursive practical reason. By implicitly constructing the notion of discursive rationality in contrast to, and in abstraction from, the rhetorical and affective components of language use, Habermas' notion of discursive practical reason ends up reiterating the same binaries — between reason and passion, abstract and concrete, universal an…Read more
  •  432
    Democratic Theory and Border Coercion
    Political Theory 36 (1): 37-65. 2008.
    The question of whether or not a closed border entry policy under the unilateral control of a democratic state is legitimate cannot be settled until we first know to whom the justification of a regime of control is owed. According to the state sovereignty view, the control of entry policy, including of movement, immigration, and naturalization, ought to be under the unilateral discretion of the state itself: justification for entry policy is owed solely to members. This position, however, is inc…Read more
  •  51
    Sovereign Jurisdiction, Territorial Rights, and Membership in Hobbes
    In A. Martinich & Kinch Hoekstra (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Hobbes, Oxford University Press. 2016.
    Although sovereign jurisdictional authority is not itself a kind of property right for Hobbes, it is the object of the sovereign’s (not the state’s) proprietary rights. Jurisdictional authority for Hobbes is foundationally over persons rather than territory, so that the sovereign’s territorial jurisdiction is parasitic on jurisdiction over persons. Territory nevertheless plays a significant role in determining subjects’ political obligations because the sovereign’s ability to protect subjects is…Read more