Category Archives: Uncategorized

Nicola Perugini – The Apparatus of Distinction and the Ethics of Violence: On the Construction of Liminal Subjects and Spaces

PTRG seminar series: 14 Dec 2016

Photo: Moyan Brenn

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

PTRG Programme Term II 2017

PTRG Programme Term II 2017


18 January, 3 pm, CMB 2.15

Chiming Zhong (PIR), On the Methodology of Rights Theory


25 January, 3 pm, CMB 2.15

Cian O’Driscoll (Glasgow), Victory in the Just War Tradition


1 February, 3 pm, CMB 2.15

Masa Mrovlje (PIR), Judging Violent Resistances


8 February, 3 pm, CMB 2.15

Anca Gheaus (Pompeu Fabra), The Best Available Parent


15 February, 3 pm, CMB 2.15

Kerri Woods (Leeds), TBA


1 March, 3 pm, CMB 2.15

Chandran Kukathas (LSE), TBA


8 March, 3 pm, CMB 2.15

Hugh McDonnell (PIR), TBA


15 March, 3 pm, CMB 2.15

Thomas Fossen (Leiden), Legitimacy, Judgment, and Utopia 


22 March, 3 pm, CMB 2.15

Lorna Finlayson (Essex), False Consciousness and the Politics of Austerity


29 March, 3 pm, CMB 2.15

Joe Carens (Toronto), TBA


5 April, 3 pm, CMB 2.15

Matthew Festenstein (York), TBA


26 April, 3 pm, CMB 2.15

Raúl Madrid, (Pontifical Catholic University, Chile), Is academic freedom a relative notion? 


3 May, 3 pm, CMB 2.15

Matthew Chrisman (Philosophy), The Speech Act of Protest


10 May, 3 pm, CMB 2.15

Tim Hayward (PIR), TBA


17 May,3 pm, CMB 2.15

Cormac Mac Amhlaigh, (Law), (Suprastate) Constitutionalism as Ideal Theory


22 May, time and location TBC

Amy Allen (Penn State), Joint lecture PTRG and GENDERPOL


24 May, 3 pm, CMB 2.15

Cat Wayland (PIR), TBA


31 May, 3 pm, CMB 2.15

Philip Cook (PIR), TBA


7th of June, 3 pm, CMB 2.15

Jill Poeggel, TBA


14 June, 3 pm, CMB 2.15

Monica Brito Vieira (York), TBA 


21st of June, 3 pm, CMB 2.15

Kieran Oberman (PIR) TBA


5th of July, 3 pm, CMB 2.15

Alia Al-Saji (McGill University) Glued to the Image: A phenomenology of racialization through works of art (Joint event PTRG, Philosophy, Centre for Cultural Relations)


Ethics Forum: Should universities restrict civil disobedience and student activism?

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

Christina Dineen – Needs and the Demands of Justice

This is a write-up of the weekly meeting of the Political Theory Research Group, 19th October

jakarta_slumhome_2A Jakarta Slum (Credit Jonathon McIntosh (CC BY 2.0))

Christina presented a draft of the final chapter of her PhD, ‘Need and the Demands of Justice’. What is need, and what kind of moral obligations does it place on us? Christina argues that agents with the ability to meliorate the existentially urgent needs of humans have a duty to help, up to the threshold of sacrificing things of significant cost to themselves. Even agents without that ability, however, have a duty to respond to the existentially urgent needs of others, such that they acknowledge the gravity of their plight. This chapter focuses upon the concrete nature and extent of those duties. In order for agents to effectively discharge their duties in the face of an immensely complicated picture of global suffering, Christina argues that agents have a duty of coordination. This permits the organisation of a division of labour according to a strategic plan that identifies high priority areas. In many ways, this is a vision with an affinity to the research and organisation of ‘effective altruism’, scaled-up to the level of global institutional coordination. Christina emphasises that responsive actions should be attentive to context, focus on net impact, and undergo iterative learning. She also defends a pro tanto duty of enforceability in which states are licensed to enforce a system of coordinated, global harm-reduction.

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Gisli Vogler – Margaret Archer, Hannah Arendt, and the Humanising Project of Reflective Judgement in Late Modernity

This is a write-up of the meeting of the Political Theory Research Group, 5th October 2016

Hannah Arendt Photo: Saibo

Hannah Arendt
Photo: Saibo

For many, the modern predicament is defined by our epistemological inability to formulate absolutist ethical criteria, and our practical inability to bring about a political consensus in their absence. In this paper, Vogler contends that a suitably reflexive form of judgement, augmented in the social world that all humans share with one another, provides one compelling escape route. In making this argument, he calls for the improbable meeting of two disparate figures: Hannah Arendt and Margaret Archer. For Arendt, the traditions which once anchored judgement have fragmented, leaving a gaping lacuna into which the dehumanising tendencies of the first half of the twentieth century stepped. In this situation, our ‘common sense’ – the way in which judgement transcends individuals to find intersubjective validity, forming a shared universe through which politics can be negotiated – has to be resuscitated without succumbing to either thoughtlessness (Eichmann) or absolutism (Plato). The solution, Arendt argues, is to cultivate a reflexive way of thinking. First, through a disinterested perspective which enables us to consider issues independent of our immediate needs. Second, through enlarging our mentality, so that we are able to ‘go visiting’ and imagine the perspectives of others.

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Arash Abizadeh – Hobbes’s Theory of the Good: Felicity by Anticipatory Pleasure

Political Theory Research Group seminar series: 15 Jun 2016

PTRG with Arash Abizadeh 15Jun16


Ancient Greek ethicists assumed that human beings have a single overarching supreme good, which is eudaimonia, or ‘happiness’, and that this is the final end of every human action.  On the Epicurean view, eudaimonia, or in Latin felicitas, or in English ‘felicity’, consists in the state of being free from pain and a life of pleasure.

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Elizabeth Ashford – Hunger’s Unwitting Executioners

Political Theory Research Group seminar series: 11 May 2016

Photo: United Nations

Photo: United Nations

In “Hunger’s Unwitting Executioners”, Elizabeth Ashford argues that the persistence of severe poverty should be understood as a structural human rights violation, and that defending this thesis does not require defending the more contentious claims of theorists such as Thomas Pogge. On her analysis, the persistence of severe poverty is a predictable, avoidable, and unjustifiable infliction of severe harm, caused by ongoing patterns of behaviour at a global level. Crucially, she does not target responsibility exclusively on existing coercive social institutions, but rather identifies a ‘shared duty to prevent structural human rights violations’ that is held by individuals born in affluent countries, wherein each is partially responsible for its fulfilment. This duty can be discharged by taking action for structural reform. Continue reading

Markus Fraundorfer – Democratising global governance

Political Theory Research Group seminar series: 4 May 2016

PTRG seminar 4May16

Will we have a global parliament or another way to address the global challenges that we are faced with today, such as climate change, social inequalities and wars? What will the future of the global governance system look like? These questions are very challenging to tackle, but Markus Fraundorfer’s fascinating paper ‘Democratising global governance’ aims to answer them. Continue reading