Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!!!

Wishing readers a very happy and productive new year --- see you in 2012!!!

The Queen's New Years Honours

No philosophers receive honours in a list notable for the large number of academics honoured. Special congratulations to Newcastle's Deputy Vice Chancellor, Ella Ritchie, who has been awarded an OBE -- well done!

UPDATE: The BBC has the story here.

The Nasty Party is Back

Polly Toynbee warns of what we can expect in 2012 from the Conservative-led coalition. Details here.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The APA-Eastern

Sadly missing the American Philosophical Association - Eastern Division meeting this year. What is the latest?

The biggest event of 2011

I was asked by Research Fortnightly for my view on the big event or story in higher education for 2011. My answer is here and states:

"The big policy event of the year was the unprecedented mass opposition to the inclusion of the “Big Society” in the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s delivery plan. This plan spells out the AHRC’s strategic research funding priorities and it clearly states that the AHRC will “contribute” to the government’s “Big Society” agenda. More than 4,000 academics and 30 learned societies signed petitions and published joint statements declaring almost universal condemnation. This led to en masse resignations from the AHRC’s Peer Review College. The campaign continues for the removal of the “Big Society” from the AHRC Delivery Plan."

Thursday, December 29, 2011

New books

New books received in December include:

Tony Blair, A Journey. London: Arrow Books, 2010.

Paul Cairney, Understanding Public Policy: Theories and Issues. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

Alastair Campbell, The Blair Years: Extracts from the Alastair Campbell Diairies. London: Arrow Books, 2007.

Matt Cavanagh, Against Equality of Opportunity. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Jonah Lehrer, How We Decide. Boston: Mariner, 2009.

Chris Mullin, A Very British Coup. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1982.

Chris Mullin, A Vier from the Foothills: The Diaries of Chris Mullin. London: Profile Books, 2009.

Chris Mullin, A Walk-On Part: Diaries 1994-1999. London: Profile Books, 2011.

William Poundstone, Priceless: The Hidden Psychology of Value. Oxford: Oneworld, 2010.

Steven R. Smith, Equality and Diversity: Value Incommensurability and the Politics of Recognition. Bristol: The Policy Press, 2011.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

More soon....

Watch this space....

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas...

Wishing readers a very Happy Christmas. Expect much more over the holidays soon....

Blame the private sector for the Eurozone crisis

Private sector debts --- and not public sector debts --- are to blame. Data and analysis found here.

Good news for government, bad news for students

The political ping pong that is education enters a new stage. Ofqual has called for a new exam paper in the wake of recent allegations and tougher scrutiny on exam marking. The good news for the government is that if student performance drops then blame can be placed at the feet of previous Labour governments. The bad news for students is that, if the allegations have any merit, many students have been steered toward some topics rather than others to improve their exam performance and now the exam may be changed.

It will be interesting to see if Michael Gove moves forward with fundamental changes to the exam system, such as ensuring that one body produces one test for all students (rather than multiple exam boards producing different tests used to evaluate all students on a common measure). Let us hope so.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Hanukkah!

Wishing readers a very Happy Hanukkah and New Year!

"Us and Them", or more evidence in declining standards in government

The British government has been in talks with unions trying to find agreement on a new pension deal. Most accounts predict the deal will lead to public sector workers contributing much more and working longer for a much smaller pension. In representing the government's position in talks, Liberal Democrat Danny Alexander is reported to have offered this gem in his statement to Parliament:

"[. . .] : "The negotiations ... are now concluded. This is the government's final position. Us and the unions agree that this is the best position that we can reach through negotiations. [. . .]"

"Us and the unions"? While it was clear the Liberal Democrats were set to lost much support from their student base after recommending to Parliament that university fees become trebled in price, there's no need to reach these depths. What next? "We ain't gonna negotiate. Innit"?

The Leiden Rankings for Universities

. . . can be found here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tories cannot be trusted on the economy

A major issue in the 2010 general election campaign concerned the British economy. Was Labour handling the crisis well or could others handle it much better? We now have an answer.

The Conservative-led coalition with the Liberal Democrats put full blame onto Labour for Britain's economic problems. They argued that Labour had borrowed too much and that international factors were not to blame for the UK's economic predicament.

We are now 18+ months later and what do we see? We see the coalition government borrowing more money than under Labour. (Don't take my word for it: this is confirmed by The Daily Mail here.) We have seen unemployment, especially amongst youth, soar to levels not seen since before Tony Blair became Labour's Prime Minister. Additionally, we also face rising crime rates and future uncertainty. On the whole, the current government's economic plans are proving a failure with no credible plan for job creation on the table.

Ironically, the single biggest reason that the government claims has made recovery difficult is, erm, the international financial crisis. This is exactly what Labour had argued under Gordon Brown (and precisely what Osborne denied was a relevant excuse). Oh, how things change when you take office.

It's time to rid ourselves of the myth that the Tories can be trusted on the economy. The economy tanked under their leadership pre-Blair and the economy has become worse, not better, since the Tories took over from Labour. Britain needs a Labour government to put the country back on the road to recovery and financial health.

UPDATE: Further evidence that the Tory-led government cannot be trusted on the economy is found in the deeply worrying situation regarding reported billions in unpaid taxes. The figure may be as high as £25 billion and further details may be found here.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Kim Jong-il has died

Details are here. Perhaps new reason for greater concern about the future of North Korea. However eccentric, Kim Jong-il has been leader for a long time and his antics had become predictable, however unwelcome. The secession is now under way to (presumably) one of his sons. This could begin an important moment in North Korea's history and an opportunity for positive change with greater global engagement. The world watched and waits.

Petition to UK government on higher education

There is a petition circulating that calls on the UK government to abandon its current plans and consider an alternative to how higher education may be funded. The petition can be found here. I note that you must be a British citizen (although you need not reside in Britain) to sign.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thom Brooks on "After Fukushima Daiichi: New Global Institutions for Improved Nuclear Power Policy"

This essay is forthcoming in Ethics, Policy & Environment and the draft can be found here. The abstract:

"This comment argues for the importance of global institutions to regulate nuclear power. Nuclear power presents challenges across national borders irrespective of whether plants are maintained safely. There are international agreements in place on the disposal of nuclear waste, an issue of great concern in terms of environmental and health effects for any nuclear power policy. However, there remains a pressing need for an international agreement to ensure the safe maintenance of nuclear facilities. Safe nuclear power beyond waste disposal should receive more attention. Nuclear power policy is often a matter of purely state interest with national governments alone responsible for regulating the safe maintenance of nuclear facilities. It ought not be left to national governments alone to regulate the safe administration of nuclear power given the many threats to environmental safety and public health. This comment argues that global institutions may best address this problem. The comment concludes with recommendations on how nuclear power policy might be regulated."

Comments are most welcome.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Editor's Cut: The Future of Philosophy by Journal Editors


The Editor’s Cut

Friday 13 Jan 2012, G22/26, Senate House, 9.45 (for 10.15) - 18.30

The Editor’s Cut – A view of philosophical research from journal editors

This international workshop brings together philosophers and publishers to survey and discuss recent trends and promising lines of philosophical research, aided by the current perspective of today’s editors.

9.45 Registration and Coffee

Morning Session: Chaired by Barry C. Smith (Institute of Philosophy)

10.15 Welcome and Introduction to the workshop

10.30 Thomas Baldwin (Mind)

11.00 Akeel Bilgrami (Journal of Philosophy)

11.30 Coffee break

12.00 Matti Eklund (Philosophical Review)

12.30 Luciano Floridi (Philosophy & Technology)

1.00 - 2.00 Lunch (own arrangements)

Afternoon Session: Chaired by Armen T. Marsoobian (Metaphilosophy)

14.00 Steven French (BJPS) & Michela Massimi (BJPS)

14.30 Vincent F Hendricks (Synthese)

15.00 Tim Mulgan (Philosophical Quarterly)

15.30 Robert Stern (European Journal of Philosophy)

16.00 Tea break

16.30 Panel discussion:

Chaired by Luciano Floridi (Philosophy & Technology)

David Bourget (

Thom Brooks (Association of Philosophy Journal Editors and Journal of Moral Philosophy)

Liam Cooper (Wiley-Blackwell)

Hilary Gaskin (Philosophy editor, CUP)

Peter Momtchiloff (Philosophy editor, OUP)

5.30 Wine reception

6.30 Close

Co-organised by Armen Marsoobian (Metaphilosophy), Luciano Floridi (UNESCO Chair in Information and Computer Ethics) and Barry C Smith (Institute of Philosophy). With the generous support of Metaphilosophy and Wiley-Blackwell.

Registration essential. Please visit:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The AHRC rewrites history

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) has published online its "year in review" noting the most significant events in 2011.

A closer look reveals that -- perhaps unsurprisingly -- the "year in review" makes no mention of the single biggest story concerning the AHRC in recent years. The story is "Observergate": the Observer ran a story this past spring that alleged (a) the AHRC delivery plan includes several references to the "Big Society" and (b) the government put pressure on the AHRC to include the "Big Society". Both the AHRC and government swiftly denied that any pressure was put on the AHRC. Instead, their common position was that the AHRC had freely chosen to include the "Big Society" in its delivery plan without political pressure.

This made a potentially bad situation far worse in the eyes of many. The reason is simple. The AHRC's delivery plan presents its five year plan for strategic research funding priorities. The plan makes repeated mention of the "Big Society": this was a Conservative Party campaign slogan. For example, the AHRC delivery plan states clearly that it will "contribute" to the "Big Society" agenda of the government.

There was an unprecedented show of solidarity in opposition to the AHRC's delivery plan. More than 4,000 academics from the UK and abroad signed petitions calling on the AHRC to remove all mention of the "Big Society" without delay. Over 30 learned societies from across the arts and humanities published a letter in the Observer and Times Higher declaring that the "Big Society" should be removed from the delivery plan. This was then followed by the resignation of 50 senior members of the AHRC Peer Review College (including Fellows of the British Academy and at least one RAE 2008 Panel Chair) when the AHRC continued to refuse to remove the "Big Society" from its delivery plan. A few days later the AHRC CEO became the Chair of Research Councils UK (RCUK).

The connections between the AHRC delivery plan and "Big Society" are unambiguous. The plan states:

 * “Connected Communities will enable the AHRC to contribute to the government’s initiatives on localism and the ‘Big Society’” (sect. 2.4.4).

* “We will focus on issues such as the ‘Big Society’” (sect. 2.10.1).

* “The contribution of AHRC plans to the ‘Big Society’ agenda are described in Section 2” (sect. 3.10).

* “In line with the Government’s ‘Big Society’ agenda . . . the AHRC will continue to support the integrated programme of RCUK Public Engagement’ (sect. 3.12).
Perhaps it is unsurprising that the biggest AHRC-related news story of the year (and of the last few years at least) would fail to be included in the AHRC's own list of 2011 in review. This appears to be one further attempt to wish this story away and greet the unprecedented opposition with silence.
I hope that journos following this story will draw attention to this revision of history. The AHRC should never have included the "Big Society" in its delivery plan. The AHRC says that there was no political pressure put upon them to include the "Big Society" and ministers confirm this is true. There should then be no problem at all for the AHRC to agree with ministers that the delivery plan should be amended.
It is not too late for a change. It is time the AHRC corrected this without further delay.

The Big Society is in Big Trouble

The Conservative Party used "the Big Society" as a central campaign theme. The idea is vague, but broadly that we should each ask much less from the state and more from each other. Civil society, not the state, should rise to the challenge of taking a more active part in policy and community relations. Oh, and we'll need a vibrant civil society to provide for free those public goods provided by the state because the state will be slashed. (Hence, many critics have understood the Big Society to be a euphemism for cuts in public spending.) (Note: don't get me started on the AHRC and Big Society.)

Never before has a governing party had so much trouble with its central idea. Everyone knew what the "Third Way" was under Labour. But not even the Tories seem to understand what the "Big Society" is in theory or, indeed, in practice. We have now seen about four so-called "Big Society tzars" come and go. Today, we learn further that many in the party still -- 18 months into government -- do not see how the "Big Society" might become implemented in practice. A central problem is its being too "vague" (or so we are told by party members).

All the more reason to question the decision by the Arts and Humanities Research Council to include several references to the "Big Society" in its five year delivery plan spelling out its strategic research funding priorities. The AHRC delivery plan is explicit: the plan will "contribute" to the "Big Society". It is curiosity that the AHRC would make this part of its delivery plan for strategic research funding priorities when the government can't find a tzar to lead on the idea and party members still don't see how it might work in practice.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Coalition cracks - too much to repair?

Some will say - at last! - deep cracks are forming in the coalition government. The issue was not the decision to raise VAT or slash public sector workers or treble student fees. No, the issue was Europe. Traditionally, Europe has been the issue that most divides the Conservatives and there are divisions to be found between many pro-European ministers, principally Ken Clarke, and Eurosceptic backbenchers. The fireworks on display over the Prime Minister's recent "veto" were not - perhaps surprisingly - on display between Tory MPs, but fired by Eurosceptic Tories at their Liberal Democrat coalition "partners". No wonder Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, (in an "unprecedented" move) missed the session: it's bad enough facing angry voters and angry opposition benches, but also most of the party with whom your party is in coalition? It's almost too much.

While many will point to the principled stance of Liberal Democrats (finally?) reasserting themselves in the coalition, there is perhaps another explanation for the sudden unease: one new poll has put UKIP ahead of the Liberal Democrats. If true, then perhaps a strong incentive for Lib Dems to speak out now -- instead of before on Trident, VAT, university fees, etc. -- is not mere survival after the next general election, but the possibility -- however faint -- that the Lib Dems may no longer the main alternative to Labour and the Conservatives. Lib Dems were always going to have difficulty differentiating themselves in future elections given their position in the coalition and UKIP may be benefitting.

Of course, it's all too early to tell. But, if you're a Liberal Democrat, it may not be too early to begin to panic.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Labour Party - Join Today

Readers may know that I am an active member of the Labour Party. British parties are unlike American parties for many reasons: one reason is that British parties must accept members, but a second reason is that British party members need not be British (and so my appeal is extended to both British and non-British citizens alike).

The Labour Party's membership website can be found here. While there is a small membership fee, there are many rewards. These include participation in the party's current policy deliberations and many (annual and regional) conferences. Members also have a vote -- and it does not matter if you are non-British.

The Tory-led coalition government has done enough damage to the country during its brief time in office. We are witnessing growing unemployment and higher crime rates alongside a reduced presence in Europe and the trebling of university student fees.

The Labour Party acts as the key opposition and now is more important than ever before to help grow our political movement to help safeguard Britain's interests nationally and abroad. Join today!

Doom, part 387,913, 201

There are many benefits to living abroad, but also many frustrations. One constant problem is the failure of US businesses and government departments to recognize that people living outside the United States cannot ring "800" numbers (and connect with the US or Canada).

I have lost count of how many times I have had to explain this. Many countries have "toll free" phone numbers that use the prefix "800": the US and Canada are not alone. These phone calls are free, but they are only free - and permitted - by people living in said countries. For example, a company with a "800" number in the UK cannot be contacted on this number from outside the UK. Likewise, a company in the US with an "800" number cannot be contacted on this number from outside North America. This makes sense: why think international calls would be free?

The Department of Education should receive some credit for trying to become more aware of this problem, but they have fallen for a simple error. Student loan holders using the MyEdAccount.Com website are offered  an "Overseas/International" number to contact them: 011-315-738-6634. If it is not already obvious, the prefix "011" is what Americans would dial if making a non-North American phone call. The problem is that you do not dial 011 when making international phone calls from any other country in the world.

Whoever dreamt this up knows enough to note that an American must dial "011" first when making an international call from the United States. That's the good part. However, you would dial "011" followed by the "country code" (the US country code is 1; the UK country code is 44) and telephone number. So I would have been perhaps more impressed if MyEdAccount.Com said the number began "011-1" because at least then they would acknowledge that overseas/international callers (a) must dial an access code (b) followed by the country code (even though the numbers are false). I suspect that the "correct" number to dial for all persons living outside North America is instead 001 315 738 6634.

The point of the story is you would expect business, loan providers, etc to have at least some international customers/users. There is then an interest - from a self-interested, business-perspective - in getting their contact information correct. Moreover, you would probably especially expect such (modest?) standards from body working with the Department of Education. Let's hope this is corrected soon.

Great news for coffee lovers

. . . as a new study suggests that coffee helps prevent depression.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Are we getting more selfish?

This is a recent article published in The Journal (Newcastle) by Tom Mullen on the latest British Social Attitudes Survey, and it includes an interview with me.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Robert Talisse on "Faith in Democracy"

Fantastic lecture that can be seen here.

Are examiners telling teachers exam questions in advance of tests?

This is one of the questions that the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, is investigating now. For the latest, see here.

UPDATE: And there is much more (and more worrying news) here. The right result is a major shake-up of how examinations are conducted in the country. The problem is that shake-ups often cost money so expect disappointment and vested interests instead of good policy judgement and the public good to triumph.

Interview with Mary Midgley

. . . can be found here (in The Journal (Newcastle)).

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Thom Brooks, "Global Justice and Politics"

This essay can be downloaded here and it is forthcoming in Fred D'Agostino and Jerry Gaus (eds), Routledge Companion to Social and Political Philosophy. The abstract:

"The history of political philosophy has been largely focused on the problem of justice within borders. Contemporary political philosophers have only begun more recently to draw greater attention to problems of global justice rather than to domestic justice alone: they are concerned about identifying a just international distributive justice. The most important issue has been how best to address severe poverty. Are there duties to provide support for those in severe poverty and, if so, who has these duties? What support may be justified? These are the most pressing and challenging questions confronting political philosophers today.

This chapter examines three different approaches to how global justice and politics might address the problem of severe poverty. The first approach argues that we have positive duties to assist those in need. They argue that we have a duty to assist where there are others in need irrespective of whether or not we contributed to their situation. A second approach claims that we have negative duties to those in need that arise because we have contributed to their severe poverty. Finally, a third approach argues that our responsibilities to those in need are not a matter of choosing between our positive or negative duties, but that these duties should be understood within a wider context of our remedial responsibilities. Our focus should be on identifying who has a responsibility to remedy suffering elsewhere and this requires a wider perspective to cover all cases. Each approach is considered in turn in a sympathetic analysis where the focus is on presenting each in its best light and allowing readers to judge for themselves which is most worth defending."

Philosophical Gourmet Report for 2011

. . . can be found here!

British Social Values Survey - the latest results

. . . can be found here -- fascinating reading.

Head teachers need not be teachers any more?

The government has now announced that headteachers need not possess any qualifications to teach any more. Their argument is that the government prizes autonomy over regulation.

However, it will surely be odd for the "head teacher" to be unable to teach given this potential lack of qualification. (It is also a matter for debate whether any hiring committee would choose to support candidates for such posts lacking such a central qualification.)

So why do it? It's yet another move towards the privatisation of education (and not merely higher education) in the United Kingdom by the coalition government. If teaching qualifications were no longer necessary, then the potential pool of applicants expands widely. It will become possible for those in business with no experience in the classroom to become the head teacher of local schools.

Individual lifestyles to blame for 40% of cancer cases

The BBC story can be found here. An excerpt:

"[. . .] Nearly half of cancers diagnosed in the UK each year - over 130,000 in total - are caused by avoidable life choices including smoking, drinking and eating the wrong things, a review reveals. Tobacco is the biggest culprit, causing 23% of cases in men and 15.6% in women, says the Cancer Research UK report. Next comes a lack of fresh fruit and vegetables in men's diets, while for women it is being overweight. The report is published in the British Journal of Cancer.
Its authors claim it is the most comprehensive analysis to date on the subject. Lead author Prof Max Parkin said: "Many people believe cancer is down to fate or 'in the genes' and that it is the luck of the draw whether they get it. Looking at all the evidence, it's clear that around 40% of all cancers are caused by things we mostly have the power to change." [. . .]

"The Research Bust"

. . . from The Chronicle of Higher Education here.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Thom Brooks, "Global Justice and International Affairs"

I am delighted to see the publication of my new Global Justice and International Affairs in the new Studies in Moral Philosophy book series. The contents:


Thom Brooks, "Introduction"


Joseph H. Carens, "The Integration of Immigrants"

Nicolaus Tideman, "Secession as a Human Right"


Michael Green, "Social Justice, Voluntarism, and Liberal Nationalism"

Burke A. Hendrix, "Authenticity and Cultural Rights"

Patti Tamara Lenard, "Motivating Cosmopolitanism? A Skeptical View"

Igor Primoratz, "Patriotism and Morality: Mapping the Terrain"


Gillian Brock, "The Difference Principle, Equality of Opportunity, and Cosmopolitan Justice"

Lisa L. Fuller, "Poverty Relief, Global Institutions, and the Problem of Compliance"

Tim Hayward, "Thomas Pogge's Global Resources Dividend: A Critique and an Alternative"

Gerhard Overland, "Poverty and the Moral Significance of Contribution"

Jonathan Seglow, "Associative Duties and Global Justice"


David Lefkowitz, "Partiality and Weighing Harm to Non-Combatants"

Gerhard Overland, "Conditional Threats"

Eric Reitan, "Defining Terrorism for Public Policy Purposes: The Group-Target Distinction"

Friday, December 02, 2011

Clarksongate: freedom of speech or political correctness?

I was interviewed this morning by BBC Radio York on the subject of Jeremy Clarkson's recent comments on Wednesday's strikes. The interview can be found here (from 16 mins).

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Brilliant brief essays on inequality

. . . can be found here at The Boston Review. Highly recommended!

Jeremy Clarkson calls for the execution of public sector workers on strike

No, really:

Clarkson: "I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families. I mean how dare they go on strike when they have these gilt-edged pensions that are going to be guaranteed, while the rest of us have to work for a living."

The irony is that Clarkson is a highly paid television presenter working for the publicly-funded BBC and, well, may likely have a much better pension than most in the country.

The BBC has issued a swift apology and the story has (unsurprisingly) made headlines today. I expect there will be more on this story soon.

The BBC apology can be found here. Clarkson has not yet apologized for his comments. On Clarkson's likely pay package, see here.

UPDATE: One of the trade unions involved in yesterday's strike, Unison, has called on the BBC to sack Clarkson and Unison is considering possible legal action. Details are here.

UPDATE 2: Clarkson has apologized at last.

UPDATE 3: My interview on "Clarksongate" with BBC Radio York can be found here (from 16 mins).

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Liberal Democrats and higher education: more bad news?

Liberal Democrats, led by Nick Clegg, claimed "no more broken promises" during their 2010 general election campaign. They argued that the problem with politics was that politicians said one thing on the campaign trail, but did something very different once in office. The lesson: be careful what you wish for.

Many critics argued that the Lib Dem ideal of no fees was nonsense: it was a campaign promise the party could never make good on if in government because it was not affordable. Liberal Democrats were playing the politics of perpetual opposition, biting at the heels of others to win votes without any genuine prospects of ever having to make good on any promise they offered.

This changes in 2010 where the Liberal Democrats entered into a coalition government with the Conservative Party. The coalition agreement between them committed neither side to oppose fees (nor much higher fees). The result is well known: fees for UK students will treble from about £3,000 per year to £9,000 for most courses at most universities. So much then for "no more broken promises"...

Today, there is news that a Liberal Democrat-friendly think tank, CentreForum, is recommending that the party complete the Thatcher-led overhaul of higher education. It argues that better value for money is found in the private, not public, sector. If the government wants better equipped (and resourced) labs, etc., then there is a clear answer: open higher education to more (and not less) privatisation. Research Fortnightly has the story here.

This is yet further evidence that the Liberal Democrats have abandoned many of their supporters amongst students and higher education professionals. It is also further evidence that we're watching a march to the right as Lib Dem policies, values, and strategies more closely align with the Tories. Bad news for the country generally, but very bad news for many Liberal Democrat supporters.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Conference: On Fabre's Cosmopolitan War

17 May, 2012 Arthur Lewis Building
University of Manchester

The Manchester Centre for Political Theory (MANCEPT) is delighted to host a conference on Professor Cécile Fabre’s forthcoming book, Cosmopolitan War (Oxford University Press). The book provides a series of incisive and challenging arguments regarding cosmopolitan principles for just war. Fabre argues for unconventional views regarding wars of national self-defence, humanitarian interventions, subsistence wars, civil wars, mercenaries, the use of human shields in wartime, and other important issues in the ethics of war and warfare.

The participants are:

Cécile Fabre (University of Oxford)
David Rodin (University of Oxford)
Daniel Statman (University of Haifa)
Anna Stilz (Princeton University)
Victor Tadros (University of Warwick)

Registration for the conference is now open and places are limited so please book early. For details regarding registration please visit us at:

Monday, November 28, 2011

Michael Gove: the grinch who stole your pension?

The BBC reports the following concern Michael Gove (Con), the Education Secretary:

"[. . .] In a speech at think tank Policy Exchange, Mr Gove warned that 90% of England's schools would be closed by striking teachers and appealed for them to think again. He said union militants wanted families to be inconvenienced.

But the PCS union said the public supported the strikes. It said: "A BBC poll released today shows overwhelming support for the strike and overwhelmingly people feel that Gove's government is mishandling the economy. Gove's speech smacks more of desperation than opinion and will fall on deaf ears." The strike over pension changes in the public sector could involve up to two million people.

Mr Gove said of union leaders: "They want mothers to give up a day's work, or pay for expensive childcare, because schools will be closed. They want teachers and other public sector workers to lose a day's pay in the run-up to Christmas. [. . .]"

So there we have it. Michael Gove believes that union leaders are wrong because they ask mothers, teachers, and "other public sector workers" to "lose a day's pay".

However, Gove wants mothers, teachers, and public sector workers to lose their current pensions in favour of a much less generous deal: people will pay and work much more...and receive much less. The figures dwarf one day's pay on all counts.

If Gove is so concerned about one day's pay for hard working families, then perhaps he should spare a thought for the pensions for these same families. (Hint: one is worth much more than the other, B > A.) The public gets it - and more than 60% support the strike. The only person who doesn't get it is Gove.

Michael Gove. Or the grinch who stole your pension in the run up to Christmas?

The public supports the strike

Over 60% of the public supports industrial action set for this Wednesday across the UK. Will it make a difference in the government's position on public sector pensions? We will wait and see.

Journal of Moral Philosophy 8(4) (2011)

Special Issue on Just War Theory

Stephen R. Shalom, "Killing in War and Moral Equality"

Saba Bazargan, "The Permissibility of Aiding and Abetting Unjust Wars"

Helen Frowe, "Self-Defence and the Principle of Non-Combatant Immunity"

Gerhard Overland, "Dividing Harm"


Daniel M. Hausman and Matt Sensat Waldren, "Egalitarianism Reconsidered"

Edmund Wall, "The Real Direction of Dancy's Moral Particularlism"


Brandon Warmke, "Is Forgiveness the Deliberate Refusal to Punish?"

Review Article

Lorraine Besser-Jones, "Drawn to the Good? Brewer on Dialectical Activity"

Book Reviews

R. Zachary Manis on M. Jamie Ferreira, Kierkegaard

Ignasi Llobera on Nancy Snow, Virtue as Social Intelligence: An Empirically Grounded Theory

Jennifer Szende on Charles R. Beitz, The Idea of Human Rights

Jon Garthoff on Alex Voorhoeve, Conversations on Ethics

Anabella Zagura on Bennett W. Helm, Love, Friendship & the Self: Intimacy, Identification & the Social Nature of Persons

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Talks? What talks?

The government has claimed that it is still in negotiations with the unions in an effort to avoid major strikes across the UK this Wednesday. However, it has now been revealed that government leaders haven't met with union leaders since beginning of the month. You can fool some people some time . . .

Saturday, November 26, 2011

There is "no pot of gold" for teachers, but there are free Bibles for schools and an extra £1 billion "found"

The Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has said that teachers should not go on strike for two reasons:

1. Talks are still continuing. It is irresponsible to strike while negotiations are still ongoing.
2. There is "no pot of gold" and so no better deal on offer.

(In other words, we're still talking, but have nothing more to give so please don't strike.)

Schools may not get a better financial deal for teacher pensions, but Gove has decided to send each teacher -- not a better pension deal, but rather -- a new King James version of the Bible including a brief preface written by Gove to be funded by tax payers instead. The government -- now claiming there is "no pot of gold" -- did find an extra £1 billion to spend earlier this week (although we still await any details of how this was found or how it will be paid for).

This is what I will call "spray paint politics" (feel free to use it):

1. It is the politics of splattering the public with as many policy ideas as come to mind without genuine concern about consistency or coherence.

2. It is the politics of veneer: the wood may be the same, but perhaps a new shiny polish might make people believe something else. If money is so tight, then why produce new Bibles to be sent to all schools? If money is so tight, then how to explain the just found extra £1 billion (and is there more)?

Thom Brooks - "Capabilities"

. . . is now here on SSRN - and free to download. The essay is forthcoming in the International Encyclopedia of Ethics. An abstract:

Capabilities concern freedom and human dignity. A capability marks out an ability to do or be. If I possess a capability, then I have the ability to do an action (obtain food, speak freely, etc.) or to become a certain kind of person (self-directing, etc.). A capability is different from actual functioning because I may not choose to perform these actions or become these kinds of people. This approach offers a distinctive view about justice. Part of its focus is on freedom which takes the form of securing opportunities for persons to freely choose to satisfy capabilities. Another focus pertains to human dignity in that securing opportunities for capability satisfaction is thought to also best secure human dignity.

Thom Brooks - "Citizenship"

. . . is available on SSRN here (free to download) and forthcoming in the International Encyclopedia of Ethics. An abstract:

A citizen is a member of a political community, who normally enjoys the rights and often assumes the duties of citizenship. The problem is identifying what, if anything, is required to be a citizen. This entry will explain the ways in which citizenship has been understood and the normative questions arising from considering the moral and political relevance of different features for membership. There will also be attention given to leading debates on citizenship including whether the idea of citizenship has much currency.

Friday, November 25, 2011

MAs in Political Philosophy at the University of York

The Department of Politics at the University of York is now accepting applications to its long-established MA programmes in Political Philosophy and Political Philosophy (The Idea of Toleration). We typically welcome 20+ postgraduate students each year to read for these two interlinked programmes.

Our postgraduate students come from all over the world, as well as from a variety of institutions in the U.K. The size of our MA programme means that we always have a lively community of graduate students in political philosophy, with events such as the biweekly Morrell Political Theory Workshop providing a focus for staff and students working in the area.

We are a distinctively pluralistic department, which means that students on our MA degrees in Political Philosophy and Political Philosophy (The Idea of Toleration) have the opportunity to pursue a broad range of interests, from the history of early modern political thought, to contemporary liberal egalitarianism and philosophy of law, international political theory, recent European political thought, and democratic theory.

Students accepted to study for the MA in Political Philosophy (The Idea of Toleration) are eligible to apply for one of up to eight studentships generously funded by the C and JB Morrell Trust, which cover fees at the Home/EU rate, plus a £2000 contribution to living expenses.

Each year the Geoffrey Heselton Prize (worth £500) is awarded to the best dissertation written by a student on either of the programmes. There is a further prize for the student who produces the best work over the whole degree.

Previous graduates include many who have gone on to successful careers in academia, as well as high flyers in the world of business, the civil service, the media, NGOs, and a range of other careers.

Further details about these programmes, including profiles of previous students and information on the research interests of staff, is available here.

Studies in Global Justice and Human Rights book series

My new Studies in Global Justice and Human Rights book series with Edinburgh University Press is ready to launch with three forthcoming volumes and new website here (or Prospective authors are encouraged to contact me about their proposals.

A government with no money left miraculously finds an extra £1 billion

Details here. The British government has not yet confirmed how this extra £1 billion will be financed. This is the politics of bad timing: while meant to generate positive news headlines, there are national strikes taking place on Wednesday in reaction to the government's insistence that public sector pensions must be slashed because there's no money left. Some will argue that, if the government could so quickly find £1 billion announced today, this is evidence that public finances are not nearly as bad as the government claims and pension reform should not proceed in its current form.

New books in November

New books received this month include the following:

Richard, Avramenko, Courage: The Politics of Life and Limb. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2011.

David William Bates, States of War: Enlightenment Origins of the Political. New York: Columbia University Press, 2012.

Thom Brooks (ed.), Ethics and Moral Philosophy. Boston and Leiden: Brill, 2011.

Stephen Darwall, The Second-Person Standpoint: Morality, Respect and Accountability. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006.

Ann Florini (ed.), The Right to Know: Transparency for an Open World. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.

Archon Fung, Mary Graham, and David Weil, Full Disclosure: The Perils and Promise of Transparency. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Gina Gustavsson, Treacherous Liberties: Isaiah Berlin's Theory of Positive and Negative Freedom in Contemporary Political Culture. Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2011.

Tim Jackson, Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet. London: Earthscan, 2009.

E. F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered. London: Vintage, [1973] 2011.

Friday humor

Thursday, November 24, 2011

"This [insert] is irresponsible and wrong"

Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, has said these words inserting "strike" (as in "This strike is irresponsible and wrong"). Why? Because closed schools will lead to more parents taking the day off work and more people taking time off work will lead to less -- and I quote -- "output". So the problem with strikes at schools is effect on immediate economic figures (or so it seems) that have been a major problem for the government: the growing evidence is that their austerity measures have been a failure, and perhaps may lead to longterm economic damage. (If only their main worry about closed schools was related to education.)

At the same time, unions have argued that the government's pension reforms are "irresponsible and wrong". The government says that major costs will be incurred by tax payers as the government will have to bring in new staff resources to keep services open during the strike.

Of course, if the government is really worried about costs, then a clear solution is available: rethink their plans for public sector pension reforms. It is wrong to try to force through economic policies with long-term impact to address a short-term problem. The country seems ready to come to a halt next Wednesday. But will the voice of the people trump the government's embrace of an impractical and out-dated ideology? We will soo find out.

Net migration to the UK reaches record high

. . . under a Tory government despite their pledge to reduce immigration from the hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands. Details here. One helpful way forward is to acknowledge the near impossibility of reaching their campaign target on immigration...and why this is no bad thing.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing everyone a very Happy Turkey Day! If only it were easier to find pumpkin pie in the UK.....

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

St Andrews Conservative Association members burn effigy of Barack Obama

The BBC has the story here.

Many thanks to Uppsala

My many thanks to Jörgen Ödalen and the University of Uppsala's Department of Government for hosting my recent visit. I had a wonderful and highly productive time!

Monday, November 21, 2011

CFP: Yale/UConn Graduate Philosophy Conference 2012

Yale/UConn Graduate Philosophy Conference 2012
April 27th-28th, Yale University

Keynote Speakers:
Robert Stalnaker (MIT)
Stephen Darwall (Yale)

Call for Papers

We invite graduate students to submit papers in any area of philosophy, including the history of philosophy, to the Yale/UConn Graduate Philosophy Conference 2012. The conference will be held on April 27th-28th at Yale University.

Papers should be no longer than 4,000 words, and should be suitable for a 30 minute presentation. They should be prepared for blind review and formatted as either .doc or .pdf files. A separate cover letter should contain author details (name, institutional affiliation, contact details), the paper title, a word count, and a brief abstract (no more than 300 words).

The submission deadline is February 1. Notification of decisions will be sent by March 1. Please send questions and submissions to  You can download our CFP here.

The Organizing Committee:
Alex Worsnip (Yale)
Jeremy Wyatt (UConn)
Jessie Munton (Yale)
Jonathan Phillips (Yale)

CFP: Princeton Graduate Conference in Political Theory

Graduate Conference in Political Theory

Princeton University

April 6-7, 2012

Call for Papers (deadline January 16, 2012)

The Committee for the Graduate Conference in Political Theory at Princeton University welcomes papers concerning any topic in political theory, political philosophy, or the history of political thought. Papers should be submitted via the conference website by January 16, 2012. Approximately eight papers will be accepted.

The Graduate Conference in Political Theory at Princeton University will be held from April 6-7, 2012. This year, we are excited to include Professor Elisabeth Ellis, Texas A&M University, as keynote speaker and conference participant.

The conference offers graduate students from across institutions a unique opportunity to present and critique new work. Each session, led by a discussant from Princeton, will focus exclusively on one paper and will feature an extensive question and answer period with Princeton faculty and graduate students. Papers will be pre-circulated among conference participants.

Submission Information:
· Due date January 16, 2012
· Submissions must be made in PDF format via the conference website:
· Papers should be no more than 7500 words.
· Format for blind review; include title but exclude all personal and institutional information.
· Submissions by email or postal mail will not be accepted.

Papers will be refereed on a blind basis by political theory graduate students in the Department of Politics at Princeton. Acceptance notices will be sent in February.

Assistance for invited participants' transportation, lodging and meal expenses is available from the committee, which acknowledges the generous support of University Center for Human Values and the Department of Politics at Princeton University.

Questions and comments can be directed to:

For more information, please visit the conference website at

If a picture says a thousand words....

Sunday, November 20, 2011

American exceptionalism

So do you think state violence against non-violent resistance was a thing of the past?

Read this - with video - about the recent police action at the University of California, Davis. I would expect much more to come in the aftermath. I will keep readers posted.

UPDATE: For those wondering if this gone "international," the answer is clearly "yes": see here for the BBC.

UPDATE 2: So anyone surprised that Tea Party protests met with no batons or pepper-spray, but that Wall Street Occupiers and sympathizers are met with violence?

Do say: "The more things change, the more they stay the same."

Don't say: "Culture war, part II."

Bernard Williams, Republicanism, and the Liberalism of Fear

. . . is the title of my recent essay in the new journal Theoretical and Applied Ethics (in a special issue on the moral philosophy of Bernard Williams).

The paper can be downloaded here -- and it is free to download. Plus, there is a reply by Robert Talisse in the same issue and a piece by Jonathan Dancy.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Which way?

Signs found on building wall in Uppsala, Sweden (outside the Cathedral) . . .

Rethinking Remedial Responsibilities

Abstract. How should we determine which nations have a responsibility to remedy suffering elsewhere? The problem is pressing because, following David Miller, ‘[it] is morally intolerable if (remediable) suffering and deprivation are allowed to continue . . . where they exist we are morally bound to hold somebody (some person or collective agent) responsible for relieving them’. Miller offers a connection theory of remedial responsibilities in response to this problem, a theory he has been developing over the last decade. This theory is meant to serve as a guide on how we can best determine which nations are remedially responsible for alleviating suffering and deprivation elsewhere. Miller’s theory entails our following a procedure in order to determine remedial responsibility for nations. The problem is that there is an important flaw in this procedure, a flaw that previous critiques have overlooked. This essay will explain this flaw and how Miller’s theory might be reformulated into a two-tiered procedure that would take better account of this problem.

Direct link is here.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Paul Benneworth on Dutch lessons for the UK's impact agenda

. . . found in the Times Higher here. Brilliant analysis and highly recommended.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thanks to Groningen

My sincere thanks to colleagues in the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Groningen for hosting my visit over the past few days. I received excellent feedback and enjoyed rich discussions of new papers on the subjects of ethics and climate change, as well as on the capabilities approach and political liberalism. A terrific group of philosophers in a wonderful city.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Will of the Markets, Not the People

The BBC reports today that there are NO politicians named in Italy's cabinet: it is a government of "technocrats" (details found here). The reason? The need to give "the markets" greater "confidence" that Italy will tackle its debt problems. Many argue that bankers got us into a mess. Now we shall see if they can get Italy out of it.

University of Oslo - new posts available

I have had the great pleasure of visiting the University of Oslo (and its Centre for the Study of Mind in Nature) on several occasions over the past few years. It is an excellent university with a terrific group of philosophers and political theorists in one of my favourite cities. I cannot recommend highly enough the currently advertised posts at Oslo:


Application Deadline: 10 January, 2012

More information at:

4 posts of Doctoral Research Fellowships (SKO 1017) are vacant at the Centre for the Study of Mind in Nature (CSMN) at the University of Oslo (UiO). The research activities at CSMN are organized in three branches: Linguistic Agency, Moral Agency and Rational Agency. CSMN is looking for ph.d. fellows to work within the research profile of the centre. More information about CSMN is available at .

Succesful candidates must participate in the Faculty of Humanities' researcher education program (cf. regulations and supplementary provisions for the faculty’s researcher education) and must also engage in the designated research activities on a 100 percent basis.

The person who is appointed will be enrolled in the Faculty’s organised researcher training. The academic study will terminate in a doctoral thesis which will be defended at the Faculty, leading to a PhD-degree.

The candidates will be expected to have their residence and work place in Oslo, to participate in the various workshops and conferences organized by CSMN, and to be active members of the CSMN team in Oslo.

There is an agreement between the University of St. Andrews and the University of Oslo for a “joint ph.d. degree” (double BADGED), and successful candidates can apply for this.

The posts are available for a period of three years starting 1st of August 2012, or as soon as possible thereafter. (Currently, ph.d. fellows who successfully submit their thesis within the three years period, are granted an additional fellowship year with some teaching duties).

• A Master degree in Philosophy or in a discipline related to CSMN's work (at the date of employment), and a project for doctoral dissertation in a specific area of CSMN's research.
• Good English language skills are required.

Qualifications and Personal Skills
• In assessing the applications, special emphasis will be placed on the quality of the project description and on the academic and personal ability on the part of the candidates to complete the dissertation within the given time frame.
• The candidate must demonstrate good cooperative skills, and the ability to successfully join in academic partnerships across disciplines.

We offer
salary level 48 - 52 (NOK 391 300 - 418 300, = c. USD 68 000 to 72 500 on current exchange rate, depending on level of expertise)• academically stimulating working environment
• attractive welfare arrangements

Applicants must submit the following attachments with the electronic application, preferably in pdf format:
• letter of application describing qualifications (maximum 2 pages)
• project description, including a detailed progress plan for the project (maximum 1000 words)
• Writing example (maximum 4000 words)
• Curriculum Vitae including grades and a list of publications
• names and contact details of two references (name, relation to candidate, e-mail and telephone)

Please note that all documents should be in English.

Educational certificates, master theses and the like are not to be submitted with the application, but applicants may be asked to submit such information or works later.

The short-listed candidates will be called for an interview at the University of Oslo or we will arrange for an interview on Skype.

The University of Oslo aims to achieve a balanced gender composition in the workforce and to recruit people with ethnic minority backgrounds.

For more details, contact info and link to electronic application system, go to:

Application Deadline: 10 January, 2012
More information at:

3-5 posts of Post-Doctoral Research Fellowships (SKO 1352) are vacant at the Centre for the Study of Mind in Nature (CSMN) at the University of Oslo (UiO).

The research activities at CSMN are organized in three branches: Linguistic Agency, Moral Agency and Rational Agency. CSMN is looking for post-doctoral fellows to work within the research profile of the centre. More information about CSMN is available at .

The candidates will be expected to have their residence and work place in Oslo, to participate in the various workshops and conferences organized by CSMN, and to be active members of the CSMN team in Oslo.

The posts are available for a period of three years starting 1st of August 2012, or as soon as possible thereafter. There is a 10% duty component devoted to teaching. Funding for an additional Post-Doctoral fellowship for a two years duration may be available.

The main purpose of post-doctoral research fellowships is to qualify researchers for work in higher academic positions within their disciplines.


- A Ph.d. in philosophy or another relevant background (dissertation should be successfully defended by the start of contract).
- Good English language skills are required.

Qualifications and Personal skills

We are looking for strongly motivated, competent and internationally oriented candidates, with high academic qualifications in the relevant area of research. In assessing the applications, special emphasis will be placed on the quality of the project description, the candidates’ international experience and network, and on the assumed academic and personal ability on the part of the candidates to complete the project within the given time frame. Personal suitability and co-operation skills will receive special attention in the selection process.

We offer

- salary level 57 - 64 (NOK 455 900 - 518 800, = c. USD 79 500 to 90 000, depending on level of expertise)- a challenging and stimulating working environment
- attractive welfare arrangements


Applicants must submit the following attachments with the electronic application, preferably in pdf format:

- letter of application with an expression of interest and specification of the branch(es) of CSMN to which the project applies
- project description (maximum 1 500 words) (the project description must clarify how the applicant will approach the post-doctoral project theme theoretically and methodically, and render evidence that the project will be completed within the given time frame)
- Writing example (around 7000 words)
- Curriculum Vitae including list of publications
- two letters of reference should be sent separately to Gyda Dobloug,
University of Oslo, HF, Postboks 1020 Blindern, 0315 OSLO, Norway, within the closing day for applications.

Please note that all documents should be in English.

Short-listed applicants will be invited for an interview at the University of Oslo.

The University of Oslo aims to achieve a balanced gender composition in the workforce and to recruit people with ethnic minority backgrounds.

For more details, contact info and link to electronic application system, go to:

Ban smoking in cars

. . . is the latest recommendation from the British Medical Association (more details here). The proposal is justified on similar grounds to the ban on smoking in public (e.g., the potential harm to the health of other non-smokers). On the one hand, toxins related to smoking may be many times higher than a smoke-filled bar. On the other hand, there appears little consideration of the question of whether non-smoking passengers might consent to others smoking.

Whatever the general merits of the proposal, I suspect this recommendation will receive attention but not become law.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Travel news

A brief note to say that I expect to blog less than normal over the next week. My schedule is fairly hectic: Newcastle to Amsterdam to Groningen to Utrecht to Leiden to Amsterdam to Stockholm to Uppsala to Stockholm to Duesseldorf to Newcastle (and then rest) for what will be a busy tour with philosophy talks and meetings. I will post where I can (and not least to thank the generous hospitality of my hosts) with new papers to follow.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Another amazing resource on philosophy events found here.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thom Brooks - "Mention of the Big Society is a Big Worry"

. . . first published in The Journal (Newcastle) in June. Full link here. An excerpt:

"[. . .] News spread fast in academic circles. I launched a campaign to have the Big Society removed from the AHRC delivery plan with immediate effect. The campaign has been supported by 4,000 academics including Fellows of the British Academy The British Academy is the United Kingdom's national academy for the humanities and the social sciences. It was established by Royal Charter in 1902, and is a fellowship of more than 800 scholars. The Academy is self-governing and independent. and Royal Society. It has received further support from over 30 learned societies and the University and College Union. Even the Universities Minister, the Rt Hon David Willetts, recently spoke of the "hazard" of including political campaign slogans in delivery plans.

The story has received national and international support as well as media coverage. Still the AHRC has refused to make any concessions to the widespread cross-disciplinary support for change that transcends political divisions. This issue is highly important and it is a position of principle, not politics: political campaign slogans have no place in determining strategic research funding priorities. This is as true for the arts and humanities as it is for any other area of research.

I remain hopeful that continued public support for this principle will lead to the AHRC making the right decision and removing the Big Society from its delivery plan without further delay. [. . .]"

The Purple Book arrives in Newcastle

British readers may know about the "Red Toryism" of Phillip Blond, the "Blue Labour" of Maurice Glasman, but there is also The Purple Book, a collection of essays on the future of New Labour post-Brown, an initiative of Progress. Authors include Danny Alexander MP, Liam Byrne MP, Jenny Chapman MP, (Lord) Peter Mandelson, Rachel Reeves MP, Tristram Hunt MP, and many others.

Progress has led a book tour and open debate on the policy recommendations in The Purple Book. Tonight the tour comes to Newcastle upon Tyne and I'm looking forward to it. Speakers include Jenny Chapman MP, Julie Elliott MP, Cllr Patrick Diamond, and Cllr Michael Johnson.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

House of Commons Committee believes UK higher education reforms should be delayed

Details here. Doubtful whether BIS will amend its proposals in response.

Why America needs its Department of Education

Perhaps Rick Perry would remember his central policies much better if he took education more seriously...

Ralph Wedgwood on the Doctrine of Double Effect

. . .  can be found here in Ratio (subscribers-only). An excerpt:

"This essay defends a version of the Doctrine of Double Effect (DDE) – the doctrine that there is normally a stronger reason against an act that has a bad state of affairs as one of its intended effects than against an otherwise similar act that has that bad state of affairs as an unintended effect. First, a precise account of this version of the DDE is given. Secondly, some suggestions are made about why we should believe the DDE, and about why it is true. Finally, a solution is developed to the so-called ‘closeness problem’ that any version of the DDE must face."

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The Politicisation of Higher Education - Question Time

"The Politicisation of Higher Education" -- The House of Commons, Westminster
5 December 2011 -- 1-5pm

What’s the future for the finest collection of universities in the world? How did we get to a stage where so many of them are now unsure of even their short-term future? Is higher education in England and Wales heading for meltdown? Or is there a more positive alternative to the government’s policies? There will be two 90 minute ‘Question Time’ sessions:

Session 1 -- ‘The Changing Nature of Higher Education’
Session 2 -- ‘Is There Really No Alternative?’

Our specially invited panellists, including leading politicians, journalists and academics, will speak briefly before questions from the floor. The event is hosted by the Media and Politics Group, a Political Studies Association-funded group.

Speakers include:

Adrian Bailey MP
Laurie Penny, New Statesman
Thom Brooks, Newcastle University
Natalie Fenton, HE White Paper Critic; Open Democracy
Des Freedman, Manifesto For Resistance
Maeve McKeown, UCL occupation student
Richard Scullion, author: Marketisation of Higher Education
John Holmwood, Campaign for Public University

Attendance is free but registration is needed. Please register at

The Top 20 departments in political philosophy`

. . .  with a great result for Arizona. The list can be found on the Leiter Reports.

Group 1 (1): rounded mean of 4.5 (median, mode)

University of Arizona (4.5, 4.5)

Group 2 (2-9): rounded mean of 4.0 (median, mode)

Brown University (4, 4)
Duke University (4, 4)
Harvard University (4.25, 5)
New York University (4.5, 4.5)
Oxford University (4, 5)
Princeton University (4, 4)
Stanford University (4, 4)
Yale University (4, 4)

Group 3 (10-20): rounded mean of 3.5 (median, mode)

Australian National University (3.5, 4)
Queen’s University (Canada) (3.5, 4)
Rutgers University, New Brunswick (3.5, 3.75)
University College London (3.5, 3.5)
University of California, San Diego (4, 4)
University of Chicago (3.5, 3.5)
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (4, 4)
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (4, 4)
University of Pennsylvania (3.5, 3.5)
University of Toronto (3.5, 4)
University of Virginia (4, 4)

Evaluators: Marcia Baron, Christopher Bertram, Cristina Bicchieri, Brian Bix, Chris Bobonich, James Bohman, Samantha Brennan, David Brink, Allen Buchanan, Roger Crisp, John Deigh, Julia Driver, Gerald Dworkin, William Edmundson, David Enoch, David Estlund, Gordon Finlayson, Marilyn Friedman, John, Gardner, Gerald Gaus, Michael Giudice, Leslie J. Green, Brad Hooker, Shelly Kagan, Matthew Kramer, Jefferson McMahan, Lionel McPherson, Christopher Morris, Alastair Norcross, Calvin Normore, Brian O'Connor, Mathias Risse, Michael Rosen, G. Sayre-McCord, David Schmidtz, Stefan Sciaraffa, Tommie Shelby, John Simmons, Wayne Sumner, Robert Talisse, John Tasioulas, Larry Temkin, Peter Vallentyne, Wil Waluchow, Georgia Warnke, Paul Weithman, Jonathan Wolff

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Ideas on the 3rd Floor: Punishment - Should we lock ‘em up?

The general announcement is:

Tuesday 29 November 2011, 5.30pm - 7pm
IPPR North offices, 3rd Floor
20 Collingwood Street
Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 1JF

Thom Brooks will explore questions such as: how do we decide what should be crimes? How do we decide when someone is responsible for a crime? What should we do with criminals? Rick Muir will respond to Thom's argument and will explore how ‘justice reinvestment’ could more effectively rehabilitate offenders.

This event is part of the Ideas on the 3rd Floor programme, which is a series of in-house events on a wide range of topics within politics, culture and society designed to bring the freshest ideas and the most interesting thinkers to Newcastle for intelligent debate of some of today’s most pressing social challenges.

To book a place at this event, please email

Monday, November 07, 2011

More concerns raised on UK higher education policy

Details here. Further evidence that reforms for next year were rushed too quickly. It is striking that not only are future reforms not part of either coalition partner's election manifesto, but that these reforms are also counter to the Browne Report on higher education.

The big worry is that the new reforms represent a fundamental change in how higher education will be funded in future. This potentially permanent change is premised on the need to make short term cuts -- and it is an open question whether short term pressures should lead to permanent reforms like these.

Association for Political Thought (UK & Ireland) elections

The Association for Political Thought (UK & Ireland) has three (of six) elected positions open with Thom Brooks (Secretary), Duncan Kelly, and Aletta Norval stepping down. Remaining members include:

* Richard Bellamy (Chair)
* Elizabeth Frazer (Treasurer)
* Jeremy Jennings, plus ex officio members:

* a representative of the Ireland Association for Political Thought (currently Iseult Honohan)
* the convenor of the Oxford Conference (Iain Hampshire-Monk)
* a representative of the Manchester Political Theory Workshops (now run by MANCEPT).

We can also co-opt up to two members, and the Committee wish to co-opt Aletta Norval, who provides support for the e mail list via Essex and also represents the growing number of graduate political theory conferences, of which Essex is perhaps the longest running. We are also proposing to amend the constitution to allow us to also have as ex-officio members Tim Hayward as the convenor of PTEL and the convenor of the PSA Political thought Standing Group (currently Evangelia Sembou).

Please send all nominations - proposed and seconded by at least two members of BI APT - to the outgoing Secretary Thom Brooks , who will be acting as returning officer. The elections, if necessary, as well as the proposals for an amendment to the Constitution, will take place at the Oxford Political Thought Conference 4-4.30 Friday 6 January. Members of the Association unable to attend will be able to vote electronically. We will notify members of suitable arrangements should they be necessary.

Nominations should be sent to me by 21st December.

Henry Richardson on the recent literature on John Rawls's philosophy

. . . can be found in a wonderful review article here in the Journal of Ethics (subscribers-only). An abstract:

"This review essay on three recent books on John Rawls’s theory of justice, by Catherine Audard, Samuel Freeman, and Thomas Pogge, describes the great boon they offer serious students of Rawls. They form a united front in firmly and definitively rebuffing Robert Nozick’s libertarian critique, Michael Sandel’s communitarian critique, and more generally critiques of “neutralist liberalism,” as well as in affirming the basic unity of Rawls’s position. At a deeper level, however, they diverge, and in ways that, this essay suggests, go astray on subtle questions of interpretation: Freeman overemphasizes reciprocity, Pogge miscasts Rawls as a consequentialist, and Audard exaggerates the Kantian aspect of Rawls’s core, continuing commitment to “doctrinal autonomy.”"

Friday, November 04, 2011

Thom Brooks (ed.), Ethics and Moral Philosophy

I have just received my copy of the following:

Thom Brooks (ed.), Ethics and Moral Philosophy. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2011. The publisher's website is here and it's now on and (go on and ask a journal to review it for a free copy...). The table of contents:


Section I: Practical Reason

1. Chrisoula Andreou, "Standards, Advice, and Practical Reasoning"
2. John Broome, "Does Rationality Consist in Responding Correctly to Reasons?"
3. Alison Hills, "Practical Reason, Value and Action"
4. Onora O'Neill, "Normativity and Practical Judgement"

Section II: Particularism

5. Roger Crisp, "Ethics Without Reasons?"
6. Jonathan Dancy, "Defending the Right"

Section III: Moral Realism

7. Russ Shafer-Landau, "Moral and Theological Realism: The Explanatory Argument"
8. Michael Ridge, "Anti-Reductivism and Supervenience"

Section IV: Virtue Ethics

9. Eric Hutton, "Han Feizi's Criticism of Confucianism and Its Implications for Virtue Ethics"
10. Maria W. Merritt, "Aristotelian Virtue and the Interpersonal Aspect of Ethical Character"
11. Jonathan Webber, "Virtue, Character and Situation"

Section V: Ethics and Moral Philosophy

12. Timothy Hall, "Doing Harm, Allowing Harm, and Denying Resources"
13. S. Matthew Liao, "Time-Relative Interests and Abortion"
14. S. Matthew Liao, "The Basis of Human Moral Status"
15. Martin Peterson, "The Mixed Solution to the Number Problem"
16. William Sin, "Trivial Sacrifices, Great Demands"
17. Alison Stone, "Essentialism and Anti-Essentialism in Feminist Philosophy"
18. Jens Timmermann, "Good but Not Required? -- Assessing the Demands of Kantian Ethics"



This is the first volume in the new Studies in Moral Philosophy book series.

Rethinking the balance between research and teaching

. . . is the topic of today's discussion later today via The Guardian. I will be on the panel and looking forward to the debate.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

The moral philosophy conference of the year award

. . . goes to the following:

The NYU Center for Bioethics, Duke Kenan Institute for Ethics, Yale Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics, and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies present a two-part conference on the Moral Brain.

Date: Friday, March 30th – Sunday, April 1st, 2012

Location: New York University, WSQ Campus, Room TBA

RSVP Required:

Part I: “The Significance of Neuroscience for Morality: Lessons from a Decade of Research”Organized by the NYU Center for Bioethics in collaboration with the Duke Kenan Institute for Ethics

It has been a decade since the first brain imaging studies of moral judgments by Joshua Greene, Jorge Moll and their colleagues were reported. During this time, there have been rich philosophical and scientific discussions regarding a) whether brain imaging data can tell us anything about moral judgments, and b) what they do tell us if they can tell us something about moral judgments. In this workshop, we aim to bring leading philosophers, neuroscientists, and psychologists in this area together to examine these issues and to explore the future directions of this research.

Opening Remarks:
Thomas Carew, Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Science, New York University

James Blair, Chief of the Unit on Affective Cognitive Neuroscience at NIMH
Paul Bloom, Professor of Psychology, Yale University
Molly Crockett, Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellow, Laboratory of Social & Nueral Systems Research, Department of Economics, University of Zurich
Tamar Gendler, Professor of Philosophy, Yale University
Joshua Greene, John & Ruth Hazel Associate Professor of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Harvard University
Jonathan Haidt, Professor in the Social Psychology, University of Virginia
Guy Kahane, Deputy Director & Research Fellow, Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Oxford
S. Matthew Liao, Associate Director & Associate Professor, Center for Bioethics; Affiliated Professor of Philosophy, New York University
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Chauncey Stillman Professor in Practical Ethics, Department of Philosophy & Kenan Institute for Ethics, Duke University
James Woodward, Distinguished Professor of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh
Liane Young, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Boston College

Part II: "Can Moral Behavior be Improved or Enhanced?"
Organized by the Yale Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics and the Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies. Hosted by the NYU Center for Bioethics.
Should the research on moral psychology be interpreted as suggesting new approaches for improving, or perhaps enhancing, moral intuitions, attitudes, judgments, and behavior or for reforming social institutions? Can we create more effective educational tools for improving moral development? For the last century psychiatry has attempted to medicalize moral failings - lack of self-control, addiction, anger, impatience, fear. But what of engineering ourselves to higher states of virtue? If the enhancement of morality is possible, which virtues or cognitive capabilities will it be safe to enhance and how? What might be the unanticipated side effects of attempts to enhance moral behavior?

Paul Bloom, Professor of Psychology, Yale University
William Casebeer, Intelligence Officer & Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Airforce, Former Associate Professor of Philosophy at U.S. Air Force Academy
Molly Crockett, Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellow, Laboratory of Social & Nueral Systems Research, Department of Economics, University of Zurich
James Giordano, Director of the Center for Neurotechnology Studies & Vice President for Academic Programs at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies
Joshua Greene, John & Ruth Hazel Associate Professor of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology, Harvard University
James Hughes, Executive Director, Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies; Director, Institutional Research & Planning, Trinity College
Fabrice Jotterand, Assistant Professor, Clinical Sciences & Psychiatry, Southwestern Medical Center, University of Texas
William Kabasenche, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Washington State University
Joshua Knobe, Associate Professor, Program in Cognitive Science & Department of Philosophy, Yale University
Andrea Kuszewski, Affiliate Scholar of the IEET; Researcher, METODO Social Sciences Institute
S. Matthew Liao, Associate Director & Associate Professor, Center for Bioethics; Affiliated Professor of Philosophy, New York University
Maxwell Mehlman, Professor of Bioethics & Law, Case Western Reserve University
Geoffrey Miller, Associate Professor of Psychology, University of New Mexico
Anna Pacholczyk
Ingmar Persson, Professor of Practical Philosophy, University of Gothenburg; Research Fellow, Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, University of Oxford
Erik Parens, Senior Research Scholar, The Hasting Center
Martine Rothblatt, charter member of IEET Board of Trustees
Jonathan Shook
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Chauncey Stillman Professor in Practical Ethics, Department of Philosophy & Kenan Institute for Ethics, Duke University
Wendell Wallach, Scholar & Lecturer, Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics, Yale University

For more information:
Contact the NYU Center for Bioethics at or visit
Please check back at a later date for more details.