Monthly Archives: May 2008

On the charge “That is Utopian”

Greetings Public Reasoners, Nicole’s post has gotten me thinking (okay, it’s gotten me to post; I’ve been thinking about this for a while) about the significance of data to political theory. In particular, it’s gotten me thinking about people charging that some political theory is too utopian.

For example, suppose I propose that we eliminate the system of nation-states and replace it with some other system (take your pick). One might reject that proposal out of hand simply because it is too utopian. But to what does this claim amount? Is it a sort of “Can’t get there from here” sort of claim? I.e., does it amount to saying something like, “That would be great, but we could never achieve that state of affairs given present, although contingently existing, constraints”? Or, is it something more – a claim about nomological necessity? But, what laws of nature would the realization of such a proposal (whatever it is) violate? read more...

Posted in Posts, Problems | 12 Comments

Experimental Political Philosophy

Some people might be interested in an experiment that will be appearing in Utilitas on how people think about meeting needs. I should mention that the experiment plays a rather minor role in the paper which argues for a new principle for meeting needs and critiques several of the alternatives (including the principle David Miller advocates in Principles of Social Justice). It will appear on my website shortly. I should also mention that the experiment was conducted with Yali Corea-Levy at the University of Arizona.


Thanks! -Nicole

Posted in Posts, Problems | 9 Comments

Why Libertarians Should Be Welfare Liberals

I came across a nice paper by John Simmons a while back on why libertarians should be actual consent theorists and decided that I could combine his argument with something derived from an argument I’ve got coming out in the American Philosophical Quarterly to show that libertarians (who accept the following assumptions) should be welfare liberals. I’ve got the link to a draft of the paper on my website ( but thought I’d post the argument here, just to see if any one has any thoughts on it. The assumptions that follow block some obvious objections. read more...

Posted in Posts, Problems, Working Papers | 12 Comments

Why not hybrid embryos?

Recently, British MP’s voted to allow the creation of hybrid embryos for medical research. These embryos would be 99.9% “human” but 0.1% “cow” or “rabbit” — the animal element is simply the use of animal eggs, from which animal DNA is extracted, human DNA implanted, the “hybrid” embryo is then given an electric shock, and then stem cells harvested for use in research. All matter must be destroyed within 14 days. (Q&A on hybrid embryos can be found here.)

This move has been highly controversial for several reasons. Some of these reasons include the following:

1. It is morally wrong to mix human and animal DNA in this way.

This first reason is perhaps the primary reason behind opposition to this legislation. There are several problems with this argument.

First, what do we mean by “morally wrong”? It is easy to claim a position is “morally wrong”; it is difficult to prove a position is morally wrong in a compelling way. That is, deontologists and consequentialists can agree on many ethical issues, but they will not agree on all ethical issues. Who then decides? We would have to see the best arguments on both sides in order to see which view should prevail. It is no use to say that x is “morally wrong” without a full account of morality, not least as there are many different camps and what is wrong (and right) is not self evident.

Posted in Posts, Problems | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Justice, Culture and Tradition

Institute for Advanced Study: 2-4 June 2008

Via Jacob T. Levy, a conference on Walzer at the IAS in Princeton:

To recognize Michael 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 (IAS), Princeton, New Jersey.

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CFP: Harvard Graduate Conference in Political Theory

Harvard: 31 October – 1 November 2008 | CFP: 1 August 2008

Via Jacob T. Levy:

The Department of Government (FAS) at Harvard University will host its second conference for graduate students in political theory and political philosophy from October 31 – November 1, 2008. Papers on any theme or topic within political theory—from the history of political thought to contemporary normative and conceptual theory—will be considered. Between seven and twelve papers will be accepted.

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