•  40
    Anthropocentrism and the Argument from Gaia Theory
    Ethics and the Environment 15 (2): 51. 2010.
    Anthropocentrism holds that the only things valuable in themselves are: human beings, their desires and needs, and the satisfaction of those. In turn, Gaia theory holds that the Earth and all creatures on it constitute something akin to a vast living being. Many layfolk maintain that Gaia theory implies the falsity of anthropocentrism, and thus puts the kibosh on that doctrine. But philosophical writers deny this implication. This paper therefore argues for what we may call “the Kibosh Thesis”—t…Read more
  •  13
    Poverty exists in all societies, and is widely considered a bad thing. This suggests two questions. First, why, if at all, is it a bad thing that poverty persists in a given society? Second, why is it a bad thing to be poor? This paper aims to give us a better purchase on the first question by tackling the second. Accordingly, it asks: What is it that, above all else, makes it a bad thing to be poor? What is the chief bad-maker of individual poverty? In answer, the paper argues that what chiefly…Read more
  •  7
    The question: Why, if at all, is justice the first virtue of social institutions? is one of the chief questions of current political philosophy. But political philosophers have not asked: Why should societies strive to be just? In answer, this paper argues that societies should strive for social justice because unless they do so, morality will lack legitimate authority for most of its members. Call this "the undermining morality explanation." The paper first considers and tries to rebut three al…Read more
  •  10
    What is a people?
    with Paulina Ochoa Espejo
    This paper outlines and defends a processual theory of peoplehood. On our theory, a people is, roughly speaking, composed of two things. First, an unfolding series of events coordinated by the practices of constituting, governing, or changing a polity's authoritative institutions. Second, individual persons whose lives and interests are intensely affected by these events and institutions. We call this theory deep processualism. We outline the theory by showing how it would answer five questions:…Read more
  •  14
    Philosophical pessimism consists of a set of theses offering a gloomy view of humanity and its destiny. These theses, and the philosophical position they comprise, have been held by Leopardi, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Camus, Cioran, and perhaps Unamuno and Freud. This paper asks: What are this position's theoretical foundations? What are the theories which underpin and justify the position and its constituent theses? In answer, this paper argues that pessimism's foundations consist of three theor…Read more
  •  18
    The questions: "What are the functions of law?" "What is morality's function?" are familiar problems in legal and moral philosophy. But political philosophy has not pressed the corresponding question about politics. This paper accordingly asks: What are politics' main functions? In answer, the paper argues for the Dual-Function Thesis: politics has two main functions: first, to allow groups and their members to make a significant mark on the world and society, a mark more significant than the me…Read more
  •  81
    Many philosophers and political theorists now agree that morality and ethics are not the same. But in virtue of what do morality and ethics — understood as what philosophical and empirical ethics together study — differ? This question is important because unless we answer it, we shall not be able to give an adequate philosophical account of morality. In answer to the question, this paper argues that what distinguishes morality from ethics is that ethics is a set of normative requirements aimed a…Read more
  •  55
    It is widely agreed that oppression is wrong. But what, above all, makes it wrong? What is its chief wrong-maker? This paper argues that what chiefly makes oppression wrong is that it violates two principles of political morality. The first is the principle of wrongful benefit: no one should benefit from her own wrong. The second is the principle of institutionalized harm: no social group should be subjected to an unjustified institutionalized harm. Let us call this explanation of oppression's w…Read more
  •  26
    Everyone agrees that freedom is a good, and many would hold that it is a supreme good. But do human beings need freedom? That is, do we need freedom in the same way that we need food, shelter, love, and the respect of others? In this paper, I argue, first, that we do have a vital need for a good measure of negative freedom. I call this "the Negative Necessity Thesis." I then argue, second, that we do not have a vital need for positive freedom. This I call "the Positive Non-necessity Thesis." Fol…Read more
  •  1
    What are the different styles by which political theorists deal with intellectual problems? This question is important because if we do not answer it, we shall not know why methodological disagreements are so much more intense and heated than substantive disagreements. Nor shall we know why particular political theorists take the positions they do in methodological controversies. This paper argues that there are now five main styles by which political theorists deal with intellectual problems: t…Read more
  •  2
    This Chapter elucidates and defends the third and final premise of the dissertation's argument. The premise defended here runs thus: Any theory claiming that a certain set of normative requirements ranges over (a) some actions, (b) some states of affairs, (c) some ways of life, or (d) some policies, the actualization of which would advance or set back the interests of persons, analytically depends on some theory claiming that a certain set of normative requirements ranges over (i) all actions, (…Read more
  •  42
    Constitutional responsibility
    with Andras Szigeti
    This paper asks whether an individual or a political community (henceforth: 'constitutional community') ever incurs moral responsibility for the requirements made by the norms of their constitution. We argue, first, that any constitutional community bears collective moral responsibility for those requirements. We reach this thesis by showing that (i) a constitutional community is a group which can take collective actions attributable to the group as a whole, and (ii) any given set of constitutio…Read more
  •  85
    The analytical–Continental divide: Styles of dealing with problems
    with Paulina Ochoa Espejo
    European Journal of Political Theory 15 (2): 138-154. 2016.
    What today divides analytical from Continental philosophy? This paper argues that the present divide is not what it once was. Today, the divide concerns the styles in which philosophers deal with intellectual problems: solving them, pressing them, resolving them, or dissolving them. Using ‘the boundary problem’, or ‘the democratic paradox’, as an example, we argue for two theses. First, the difference between most analytical and most Continental philosophers today is that Continental philosopher…Read more
  •  6
    Terrorism & the Types of Wrongdoing
    Public Affairs Quarterly 24 (3): 197-208. 2010.
    One of the many striking theses for which Virginia Held argues in How Terrorism Is Wrong is that terrorism is not necessarily morally wrong. In principle, she argues, terrorism can sometimes be permissible . Call this "the Non-necessity Thesis," or NNT. As so often in this deep and thought-provoking book, Held gives a powerful and illuminating argument to this thesis. The argument begins by asserting what we may call "the Violations Distribution Principle" : if we must have rights violations, th…Read more