We are delighted to have invited Professor Henry Shue from Oxford University as the presenter for PTRG yesterday. In the presented paper, Professor Shue critically reflects upon his earlier argument: that it is important to make a distinction between ‘subsistence emissions’ and ‘luxury emissions’, and that this distinction should be incorporated into climate policy intended to achieve mitigation. ‘Subsistence emissions’ are emissions necessary for securing the basic right to subsistence, whereas ‘luxury emissions’ are those that exceed a minimally adequate level of emission. According to Professor Shue, it is morally unacceptable to ask the poor to sacrifice subsistence emissions so that the affluent can maintain their luxury emissions. Continue reading →
Today’s Political Theory Research Group seminar brought Dr. Matthew Chrisman’s paper The Speech Act of Protest. The paper aims at examining the conditions under which protests, as a speech act, are felicitous by deploying the speech-act theory. The paper argues that there are three constitutive norms of the speech act of protest: first, the act must aim to express disapproval of something; second, it must aim to demand some change in response to this disapproval; third, it must do both of these things by appealing to some presumed shared conception of what is fair. Because of these conditions, a protest which indicates insincerity or hypocrisy. The paper ends with comparing the liberal and republican accounts of civil disobedience, but Chrisman argues that the speech act theory developed above is a more general and neutral alternative to both liberal and republican accounts. Continue reading →
The economic premises of the Western liberal democracies are unsustainable in the light of social justice and ecology. This indicates the ‘necessity’ of conceiving of an alternative to the existing global economic institutions. The global financial system, too, needs to be reorganised and reoriented. But how? Answering this question may indicate the ‘possibility’ of conceiving of alternative constitutional arrangements concerning global finance. Continue reading →
Statue of Hume on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh (Photo: Yukinori Iwaki)
This week’s PTRG session discussed ‘The Tory Consequences of Whig Foundations’ by Chandran Kukathas. In this paper, Chandran defends David Hume’s critique of social contract theory and demonstrates the broader implications this has for certain strands of liberalism today. He begins with a historical account of the emergence of the modern nation state before discussing attempts at its justification by social contract theorists. What unites the disparate theories provided by thinkers such as Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Immanuel Kant is the idea that the legitimacy of the state comes from its embodying the abstract, collective will of the citizens who comprise it. Chandran contrasts this with the approach taken by Hume who rejects the idea of such a will and bases the endurance of the state on its ability to satisfy particular interests. This latter perspective is beneficial in outlining a more realist account of politics which acknowledges the sectional nature of society as a contest between competing interests. In attempting to justify the state in terms of the collective will of the governed, social contract theory can serve to obscure the particular interests which underpin the governance and institutions of the state. Continue reading →
This week the PTRG welcomed Anca Gheaus from Universitat Pompeu Fabra. In her paper, ‘The Best Available Parent’, Anca argues against the widely-held assumption that children’s biological parents have an automatic moral right to
exercise exclusive parental control over their children. Her argument rests on the liberal assumption that it is only justifiable to exert control over another individual when that individual has given their consent or, if consent cannot be given, when it is in the controlled individual’s best interests. Given that children fall into the latter category it is necessary that any controlling action is conducted in their best interests, which entails giving parental control to the best available parents.
On the 13th of January 2017, doctoral students from Edinburgh and St Andrews Universities met in Edinburgh University’s School of Social and Political Science for the day-long collaborative PhD Political Theory Workshop. We covered a wide range of issues in political theory including genealogy, intellectual history, gender and moral agency, methodology of political theory, global justice and responsibility, caring cosmopolitanism and narratives, issues in liberalism, and rights theory. Continue reading →
The last Political Theory Research Group seminar of 2016 brings Nicola Perugini and Neve Gordon’s interesting paper The Apparatus of Distinction and the Ethics of Violence into discussion. At the very beginning of the paper, the authors quote that “Enemy Leaders look like everyone else. Enemy combatants look like everyone else” and it is this new reality of modern wars that challenges the notion that we are able to make distinctions between combatant and non-combatant, and military and civilian sites. In this paper, they argue that, due to the introduction of the new technology, a status of liminal subjects and spaces is created to legitimize the violence in war. Continue reading →
On 18 November 2016, the Just World Institute (with the support of Edinburgh University’s Social Responsibility and Sustainability) organised an Ethics Forum with the title ‘Should universities restrict civil disobedience and student activism?’.
Read our report below.
Universities are often a central place for student activism. In recent years, the University of Edinburgh has seen occupations, campaigns, and actions that have put students in confrontation with University management. Across the UK, there have been cases of students being arrested, prosecuted, and suspended for disobedience and activism on their campuses. How tolerant should universities be towards student activism and disobedience? What role does protest serve in higher education institutions? Continue reading →