Call for Papers: Theory and Practice: The Limits of Ethics for Guiding Action, 15-16 March 2013, University of Toronto

Centre for Ethics Graduate Associates Conference, University of Toronto

“Theory and Practice: The Limits of Ethics for Guiding Action”

Keynote Speaker: Colin Farrelly, Queen’s University

Western social and political thought has long been concerned with the limitations of theoretical inquiry in beneficially guiding human behavior. From Aristotle’s debate with Plato on the nature of the ideal city to Marx’s famous assertion that “the philosophers have only interpreted the world; the point, however, is to change it!”, philosophers have long debated the relationship between theory and practice. More recently, this debate has resurfaced as a challenge to ‘ideal’ theories of justice and politics associated with twentieth century Anglo-American thinkers such as John Rawls and G.A Cohen. The critique of ideal theory is also evident in the continental philosophical tradition through the work of Axel Honneth and Nancy Fraser. The so-called ‘realist’ challenges to such theories are manifold. On the one hand, they include an antipathy to theorizing utopias and aspirations toward consensus and ‘full compliance’ with theoretically established norms. On the other hand, contemporary ethical realists tend to promote greater empirical accuracy in normative theorizing. This tendency is motivated by a desire to replace broad normative claims with more context-specific reasoning.

This latest form of the realist challenge to ideal theory has triggered myriad rejoinders and restatements. Nevertheless, questions abound. How is this latest attempt to theorize the limits of ethical and political theory distinct from its precursors or analogues in Western and non-Western traditions? How do these discussions inform and transform contemporary debates about global justice? How are we to theorize the relationship between individual agency and collective responsibility in the context of ethical dilemmas such as climate change? Can the purview of ethical discourse be more robustly extended to the firm or do recent corporate scandals reflect the limits of ethical theorizing? Taken together, these questions reflect the broader theoretical controversies and practical considerations associated with the limits of ethical inquiry.

We invite papers from all disciplines that seek to address these questions and controversies. The conference will be comprised of five thematic panels:  1) Comparative Approaches to the Limits of Ethics; 2) Traditional Responses to the Limits of Philosophy; 3) Ethics at the Border: Rethinking the Limits of Global Justice; 4) Agency and Responsibility – Collective and Individual; 5) Prerequisites of Business Ethics in Theory and Practice.

Applicants are asked to fill out the attached form and e-mail it to graduateassociates@gmail.com by Friday January 18, 2013.

Limited travel funding will be available for accepted papers.

See here for more information on each panel (pdf).

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