Saturday, January 30, 2010

Essays by Allen Buchanan on ethics and international law

Human Rights, Legitimacy, and the Use of Force

by Allen Buchanan

(Oxford University Press, 2009)


The thirteen essays by Allen Buchanan collected here are arranged in such a way as to make evident their thematic interconnections: the important and hitherto unappreciated relationships among the nature and grounding of human rights, the legitimacy of international institutions, and the justification for using military force across borders.

A major theme of Buchanan's book is the need to combine the philosopher's normative analysis with the political scientist's focus on institutions. Instead of thinking first about norms and then about institutions, if at all, only as mechanisms for implementing norms, it is necessary to consider alternative "packages" consisting of norms and institutions. Whether a particular norm is acceptable can depend upon the institutional context in which it is supposed to be instantiated, and whether a particular institutional arrangement is acceptable can depend on whether it realizes norms of legitimacy or of justice, or at least has a tendency to foster the conditions under which such norms can be realized. In order to evaluate institutions it is necessary not only to consider how well they implement norms that are now considered valid but also their capacity for fostering the epistemic conditions under which norms can be contested, revised, and improved.



Part I: Human Rights
1. Justice, Legitimacy, and Human Rights (2000) [preview]
2. Taking the Human Out of Human Rights (2006)
3. Equality and Human Rights (2003)
4. Human Rights and the Legitimacy of the International Legal Order (2008)

Part II: Legitimacy
5. The Legitimacy of Global Governance Institutions (2006)
6. The Legitimacy of International Law (2008)
7. Democracy and the Commitment to International Law (2006)
8. Constitutional Democracy and International Law: Are They Compatible? (2008)

Part III: The Use of Force
9. The Internal Legitimacy of Humanitarian Intervention (1999)
10. Beyond the National Interest (2002)
11. Institutionalizing the Just War (2006)
12. Justifying Preventive War (2007)
13. From Nuremburg to Kosovo: The Morality of Illegal International Legal Reform (2001)

Allen Buchanan is Professor of Philosophy at Duke University. See also his collected essays on health care: "Justice and Health Care" (Oxford University Press, 2009).

Video: Martha Nussbaum, "Same-Sex Marriage and the Constitution"

In October of last year, The University of Chicago Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) Alumni Group presented a lecture by professor Martha Nussbaum, lecturing on the legal and moral debates surrounding same-sex marriage in the U.S.

A video of Martha Nussbaum's lecture is now available here.

See also Martha Nussbaum's "A Right to Marry? Same-Sex Marriage and Constitutional Law", published in Dissent, Summer 2009.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Two papers on Public Reason

New papers on public reason:

Micah Schwartzman - "The Sincerity of Public Reason" (January, 2010) (Associate Professor of Law, University of Virginia)

"An important objection to the idea of public reason is that it permits and perhaps encourages citizens and public officials to give insincere justifications for their political decisions. Against this objection, I defend a principle of sincere public justification. First, I claim that political justifications must be public in two senses. They must be based on shared or public reasons, and those reasons must be presented in public discourse. Actual publicity, or the giving of reasons in public, is valuable for a number of reasons, but I focus mainly on its ability to improve the quality of political decisions. After defining the general concept of sincerity, and guarding against a certain form epistemic or psychological skepticism about it, I offer a principle of sincere public justification. I then defend that principle against two competing alternatives, a more demanding principle that includes a stringent motivational requirement, and a less demanding principle that abandons public sincerity in favor of private sincerity. Lastly, having stated and justified an ideal of public sincerity, I show how that ideal can be used to respond to the objection that public reason permits or encourages insincere political justification."

Jonathan Quong - "The Structure of Public Reason" (January 2010) (Lecturer in Political Philosophy, University of Manchester)

Some political philosophers believe that if the exercise of political power must be publicly justifiable in order to be legitimate, then this will effectively preclude religious convictions from playing any justificatory role in politics. (.....) In recent work, however, Gerald Gaus and Kevin Vallier (among others) have presented an alternative view regarding the structure of public reason, and this alternative view makes public reason far more hospitable to religious convictions. Gaus and Vallier claims that the position sketched in the preceding paragraph rests on several errors regarding the nature of public justification. (.....) If we embrace Gaus and Vallier’s view of the structure of public reason, this would have significant consequences for the moral constraints that apply to citizens and public officials. Religious arguments in politics could become a central part of public reasoning, something that would surely change the (somewhat inaccurate) perception of political or justificatory liberalism as being hostile to the introduction of religious reasons into the political domain. I am unpersuaded, however, that the alternative view regarding public reason’s structure offered by Gaus and Vallier is in fact sound, and so I doubt religious considerations can in fact play the kind of role in public justification Gaus, Vallier and others imagine they can." [See an early version of one of Gaus & Vallier's papers on public reason here.]

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Essays on Sen/Nussbaum's capability approach

Measuring Justice
Primary Goods and Capabilities

Edited by Harry Brighouse & Ingrid Robeyns

(Cambridge University Press, 2010)

272 pages


This book brings together a team of leading theorists to address the question ‘What is the right measure of justice?’ Some contributors, following Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum, argue that we should focus on capabilities, or what people are able to do and to be. Others, following John Rawls, argue for focussing on social primary goods, the goods which society produces and which people can use. Still others see both views as incomplete and complementary to one another. Their essays evaluate the two approaches in the light of particular issues of social justice – education, health policy, disability, children, gender justice – and the volume concludes with an essay by Amartya Sen, who originated the capabilities approach.


1. Social Primary Goods and Capabilities as Metrics of Justice - Ingrid Robeyns & Harry Brighouse

Part I. Theory
2. A Critique on the Capability Approach - Thomas Pogge
3. Equal Opportunity, Unequal Capability - Erin Kelly
4. Justifying the Capabilities Approach to Justice - Elizabeth Anderson
5. Two Cheers for Capabilities - Richard Arneson [paper]

Part II. Applications
6. Capabilities, Opportunity, and Health - Norman Daniel [paper]
7. What Metric for Justice for Disabled People? - Lorella Terzi
8. Primary Goods, Capabilities, and Children - Colin MacLeod
9. Education for Primary Goods or for Capabilities? - Harry Brighouse & Elaine Unterhalter
10. Gender and the Metric of Justice - Ingrid Robeyns

Part III. Concluding Essay
11. The Place of Capability in a Theory of Justice - Amartya Sen

See a preview of the book here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Memorial event to G. A. Cohen

On February 3, 2010, a memorial event to G. A. Cohen (1941-2009) at University College London:


Professor Jonathan Wolff (UCL) - "Cohen on Marx"
Professor Michael Otsuka (UCL) - "Cohen on Nozick"
Professor Ronald Dworkin (UCL/NYU) - "Cohen on Dworkin"
Dr Saladin Meckled-Garcia (UCL) - "Cohen on Rawls"

Chair: Dr George Letsas (UCL).

See Jonathan Wolff's article on G. A. Cohen in The Philosopher's Magazine.

Monday, January 25, 2010

BBC interviews Ronald Dworkin

Owen Bennett Jones interviews professor Ronald Dworkin
(New York University)

- Listen here
(28 minutes)

In the interview, Ronald Dworkin brings his liberal principles to bear on issues ranging from gay marriage to whether George W. Bush should be prosecuted for his role in the war on terror. And he shares his theory that collecting reptiles can get you into Harvard University.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Review essay of G.A. Cohen's "Rescuing Justice and Equality"

Forthcoming in Social Theory and Practice, a review essay of G.A.Cohen's "Rescuing Justice and Equality" (Harvard University Press, 2008):

"Justice Beyond Equality"

by Jonathan Quong.


"It is, I think, Cohen’s deepest, and most important contribution to political philosophy, and it should be required reading for everyone working in our field. It is certainly the most insightful and powerful critique of Rawlsian political philosophy ever written. That said, I don’t agree with Cohen about either the content or the concept of justice. Unlike Cohen, I don’t think the content of distributive justice is reducible to a particular luck egalitarian conception of equality: I think distributive justice includes many other considerations such as freedom, reciprocity, and certain deontic injunctions against treating persons in particular ways. Because I disagree with Cohen about the content of justice, I also think he’s mistaken regarding how we should reason about justice, and so I think Rawlsian constructivism is much more plausible than he does."

Jonathan Quong is Lecturer in Political Philosophy at University of Manchester.

See my previous posts on G. A. Cohen:
- Critical Essays on G. A. Cohen
- G.A. Cohen: The socialist’s guide to camping
- G.A. Cohen (1941-2009)
- Podcasts from G.A. Cohen conference January 2009.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Klaus Günther on Habermas's discourse theory of constitutional democracy

In a paper to be published in an essay collection on Jürgen Habermas's legal theory, professor Klaus Günther defends Habermas's discourse-theoretical concept of the constitutional democracy:

"Law, the State and Discourse Theory" (pdf)

The paper has been published in a French version in "Raison Publique" no. 6, April 2007.

Klaus Günther is Professor of Theory of Law and Criminal Law at Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Honneth on Hegel's Theory of Justice

From Axel Honneth's forthcoming book "The Pathologies of Individual Freedom: Hegel's Social Theory" (Princeton University Press, May 2010), a chapter on

Hegel's Philosophy of Right as a Theory of Justice [pdf]


"Although many contemporary philosophers have embraced Hegelian philosophy to a surprising degree - which may even help to bridge the gulf between the Analytic and Continental traditions - Hegel’s Elements of the Philosophy of Right has so far failed to exert the slightest influence on the current debates in political philosophy. Rather, in recent years - after the abrupt end of the Marxist phase and its reduction of modern right to a mere superstructure - philosophers returned on a broad front to the rationalist paradigm of the Kantian tradition, which essentially dominates the debate from Rawls to Habermas; and however hard these two authors in particular try to embed their Kantian concepts of justice in a realistic, almost social-scientific approach, the theoretical model of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right plays no decisive part in their thought. Nor has the situation changed much in response to the countermovement in political philosophy that came into being through the somewhat artificial grouping of theoreticians as diverse as Charles Taylor, Michael Walzer, or Alasdair MacIntyre under the heading of “communitarianism.” (.....)

"As I do not believe that either Hegel’s concept of the state or his ontological concept of spirit can in any way be rehabilitated today, I must be satisfied with the indirect reactualization of the Philosophy of Right. (.....) the goal of this “indirect” procedure is to demonstrate the current relevance of The Philosophy of Right by proving that it can be understood as a draft of a normative theory of those spheres of reciprocal recognition that must be preserved intact because they constitute the moral identity of modern societies".

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Interview with Michael Sandel in The Philosophers' Magazine

In the new issue of The Philosophers' Magazine, Julian Baggini interviews professor Michael Sandel (Harvard University):

"The Thick of It"


"I admire and agree with John Rawls’s arguments for equality or for a greater measure of equality than prevails in most of our societies; and I agree very much with the egalitarian spirit of the difference principle.”

"Today, markets have begun to reach into spheres of life traditionally governed by non-market norms: health, education, security and a great many others. In so far as there is something morally troubling about that development, one could say, well, if markets govern all sorts of spheres, including reproduction, family life, health, education and so on, people who lack money will be at a disadvantage and may be coerced by economic necessity and that is a reason to worry about markets run amuck, about rampant commodification."

"But there is another objection to markets reaching in to certain spheres of life, which is the crowding out of non-market norms that may be valuable. For example, if we pay children, as some school districts now do, a certain amount of money for each book they read, the goal is worthy – to get them to read more – but the effect is to crowd out non-market values like cultivating the love of learning, the love of reading."

"(.....) We can only address that kind of question if we ask, are those norms part of an important human good or social good? We can only ask that question about commodification if we are prepared to bring in admittedly contested conceptions of the good, and not simply concern ourselves with whether the background conditions of society are fair.”

See my previous posts on Michael Sandel here, here and here.

Free issue of "Social Philosophy and Policy" on Ownership & Justice

All articles in the latest issue of the journal "Social Philosophy and Policy" (vol. 27 no. 1, January 2010) are available online (free) here:

John Kekes

Edward Feser

Eric Mack

David Schmidtz

Jan Narveson

Daniel C. Russell

Richard J. Arneson

Thomas Christiano

George Sher

Gerald Gaus

James R. Otteson

See also the free issue from 2005 on Locke, Nozick and Libertarians here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Jane Mansbridge on Deliberative Democracy

In the latest issue of "Journal of Political Philosophy" (vol. 18 no. 1, 2010, pp. 64-100) professor Jane Mansbridge (Harvard University) and a "dream team" of co-authors have written an important contribution to the theory of deliberative democracy:

"The Place of Self-Interest and the Role of Power in Deliberative Democracy"

by Jane Mansbridge, James Bohman, Simone Chambers, David Estlund, Andreas Føllesdal, Archon Fung, Cristina Lafont, Bernard Manin, and José luis Martí.

Excerpt from the conclusion:

"Deliberative democratic theory continues to “come of age.” In this contribution to its development, we assume that deliberation should clarify conflict as well as help participants to discover and forge common interests. Although we want to stress the importance of seeking a genuinely common good, we argue that deliberation can and should in certain conditions include both self-interest and the negotiation of conflicting interests. Convergence, incompletely theorized agreements, integrative negotiation, and fully cooperative negotiations are compatible with deliberative ideals. They are forms of deliberative negotiation. Voting and the negotiation of cooperative antagonists are not themselves deliberative acts but, when they are justified through deliberative procedures and preceded in practice by such procedures, can be accepted by deliberative theorists as legitimate components of democracy complementary to and in some cases integrated with deliberation."

See also Jane Mansbridge's paper on "Deliberative and Non-deliberative Negotiations" (April 2009) here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Podcast from Oxford Roundtable with Amartya Sen, November 2009

Roundtable on "Economics and The Idea of Justice" at the Oxford Department of International Development (ODID), University of Oxford.

A panel of policy makers, academics and senior MPs took advantage of professor Amartya Sen’s visit to the University of Oxford on November 19, 2009, to discuss with the Nobel prize winner how economics should change in light of his new book "The Idea of Justice" (Harvard University Press, 2009).

Here is a podcast of the second roundtable discussion:

"Weaknesses of the Current System" [audio] [video]
(57 minutes)

Introduction by Professor Ngaire Woods,
Director, Global Economic Governance Programme, University College

Presentations by:
- John Broome, White’s Professor of Moral Philosophy, Oxford
- Stefan Dercon, Professor of Development Economics (ODID)
- James Purnell, MP and Director, Open Left (Demos)

Comments by Professor Amartya Sen, Lamont University Professor, Harvard

For links to podcasts of the other panel discussions see the website of the University of Oxford here.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Interview with Axel Honneth

In "Frankfurter Rundschau" January 11, 2010, Arno Widmann interviews professor Axel Honneth:

"Ohne Liebe fehlt uns eine Dimension".

Axel Honneth is professor of social philosophy at Goethe University and director of the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt am Main.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

At LSE: "The Habermas-Rawls Dispute Reconsidered"

Upcoming event:
"The Habermas-Rawls Dispute Reconsidered"
Thursday March 11, 12.30 – 2.00pm
London School of Economics, London

Catherine Audard and James Gordon Finlayson will discuss the political theories and ideas of Habermas and Rawls, arguably the two most influential political theorists of the 20th Century. They will discuss their famous exchange in 1995, and its legacy, and various other substantive and methodological issues that arise from a comparison of their work. They will also examine the relevance of their respective ideas for the politics of today.

Catherine Audard is Visiting Fellow, Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method, LSE and Chair of the Forum for European Philosophy. Audard is the author of "John Rawls" (Acumen, 2007).

James Gordon Finlayson is Senior Lecturer, Department of Philosophy, University of Sussex and Director of the Centre for Social and Political Thought, University of Sussex. Finlayson has written "Habermas. A Very Short Introduction" (Oxford University Press, 2005). See chapter one here.

The discussion between Jürgen Habermas and John Rawls:

1. Jürgen Habermas - "Reconciliation Through the Public Use of Reason: Remarks on John Rawls's Political Liberalism", The Journal of Philosophy, vol. 92, no. 3 (March, 1995), pp. 109-131. Reprinted in Jürgen Habermas's "The Inclusion of the Other. Studies in Political Theory" (MIT Press, 1998)

2. John Rawls - "Reply to Habermas", The Journal of Philosophy, vol. 92, no. 3 (March, 1995), pp. 132-180. Reprinted in the paperback edition of John Rawls's "Political Liberalism" (Columbia University Press, 1996).

3. Jürgen Habermas - ""Reasonable" versus "True", or the Morality of Worldviews", in Habermas's "The Inclusion of the Other. Studies in Political Theory" (MIT Press, 1998), pp. 75-101.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Podcasts from Rorty Conference in London

On November 6, 2009, there was a one-day conference in London on Richard Rorty’s magnum opus "Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature" (Princeton University Press, 1980).

Audio files of the lectures by the four key speakers are now available on the website of the Backdoor Broadcasting Company:

Bjørn Ramberg (University of Oslo)
"For the Sake of His Own Generation: Rorty on Destruction and Edification"

Robert Brandom (University of Pittsburgh)
"Global Anti-Representationalism?"

Albrecht Wellmer (Freie Universität, Berlin)
"Rereading Rorty"

Michael Williams (Johns Hopkins University)
"Philosophy as Epistemology"

You can listen to audio files of the responses and the discussion here.

Read Michael Williams's introduction to the 30th-anniversary edition of "Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature" here. And Bjørn Ramberg's article on Rorty in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy here.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Habermas lecture on human dignity and human rights

On November 16, 2009, Jürgen Habermas spoke at the UNESCO conference "Philosophy in the Dialogue of Cultures" in Moscow.

Habernas's lecture is now available online:

"The Internal Relationship Between Human Dignity and Human Rights" (Video)
[40 minutes]

According to the conference programme, Habermas should have talked about "Religion, Law and Politics – On Political Justice in a Multicultural World Society" but this was changed and instead he gave a lecture on human dignity and human rights - the same lecture as he gave at Stony Brook University on September 30, 2009. Unfortunalety, the Russian conference website still uses the originally planned lecture title for its link to video of Habermas's lecture.

See also the discussion between Habermas and professor Abdusalam Guseynov and professor Nelly Motroshilova
here (in German) [42 minutes].