CMSPT Projects

Research projects

Current research at the Centre for Moral, Social and Political Theory includes the following projects:

Benefiting from Injustice  (ARC Discovery Grant)

Christian Barry, Bob Goodin, Gerhard Øverland, Lea Ypi

Do people have duties to address injustices arising from the fact that they are benefiting from them or have benefited from them in the past? This project investigates the quite different ways in which people and groups can be said to benefit from injustice, and the distinct moral reasons that beneficiaries of injustice have to address the harms suffered by the victims of injustice. We also explore the implications of our findings for thinking about key areas of public concern-policies regarding the treatment of former colonies and indigenous populations of colonized territories, international trade, and climate change.

The Responsibilities of the Affluent to Address Global Poverty (ARC Discovery Grant)

Christian Barry, Gerhard Øverland, Thomas Pogge

In this project we will investigate the duties of people in wealthy countries to address global poverty. Two principles are commonly invoked in support of the view that we-the affluent in the developed world-have weighty moral reasons (hereafter referred to as ‘responsibilities’) to address global poverty. The first is based on the idea that because the poor are in severe need and we are in a position to alleviate such need at moderate cost, we have responsibilities to do so-the principle of assistance. The second is based on the idea that because the poor are in severe need and we have contributed or are contributing to their need we have responsibilities to alleviate it-the principle of contribution. The aim of this project is to explore the meaning, moral significance, and some practical implications of these two principles.

Who owns it? Land claims in Latin America (Research Council of Norway Grant)

Christian Barry, Gerhard Øverland, Jemima Garcia-Godos

Conflicts due to unresolved land claims are a pressing political and social issue throughout Latin America. The aim of this project is to investigate the legitimacy of land claims by both indigenous and non-indigenous communities in Latin America, and to explore the means that these communities can adopt to vindicate the justified land claims that they may have. A better understanding of the normative considerations that underlie land claims and the strategies that have been adopted to pursue them in Latin America can help facilitate dialogue between social actors that currently are in conflict over land claims. The primary objectives of this project are to investigate and evaluate the moral legitimacy of land claims by indigenous and non-indigenous communities in Latin America, and to explore the means that these groups can adopt to vindicate those of their claims that are legitimate.

Political Normativity and the Feasibility Requirement (ARC Discovery Grant)

Nic Southwood, Geoff Brennan, David Estlund 

It is commonly assumed that normative theorising about social and political reality must be feasible in outlook, that it must not go beyond what may realistically be achieved. Yet the 'Feasibility Requirement', as we call it, has received little serious scholarly attention. This project will investigate the nature, justification, and implications of the Feasibility Requirement. We shall approach this task in a highly multi-disciplinary way, combining general philosophical and social scientific analysis with detailed consideration of the implications of the Feasibility Requirement for a number of pressing real-world issues, including climate change, multiculturalism, political participation, inequality, historical justice, and war.

Well-Being, Preferences, and Basic Goods (ARC Discovery Early Career Research Award)

Rachael Briggs

The concept of wellbeing plays a foundational role in decision theory, ethics, and public policy. Yet this crucial concept is ill-understood: policymakers, economists, and ethicists hold wildly divergent understandings of the public benefit at which they aim. This project will develop a clear, unified account of wellbeing, which combines the virtues of two common types of views—preference theories and objective list theories. The account will ground wellbeing in actual preferences, while making room for the observation that people sometimes prefer what is bad for them. It will use decision-theoretic tools to shed light on ethical issues.

Justifying War (ARC Discovery Early Career Research Award)

Seth Lazar

Warfare is a practice of unrivalled gravity, and yet we lack an adequate account of the morality of war. Traditional just war theory reached plausible conclusions, through implausible arguments; the current orthodoxy is better defended, but leads to untenable conclusions. I will develop a new just war theory, which matches the new orthodoxy for philosophical rigour, but delivers more defensible conclusions in practice—in particular, vindicating the principles of national defence and noncombatant immunity. In doing so I will radically rethink the conceptual and normative structure of war’s morality, focusing on the fundamentally collective nature of armed conflict, and our duties to protect those with whom we share valuable relationships


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