• CSU
  • University of Melbourne

This research centre ceased operation on 31 December 2016. This website is archived. There will be no further updates to this site.


Economics and Innovation

The program focuses on central ethical issues arising in the economic sphere. These include the justice of national and global economic arrangements, such as taxation, fiscal, labour and property law, and financial and trading regimes. Specific areas include markets in education and the economics of climate change. The program also examines corporate responsibilities in the spheres of finance, profitability, sustainability and human rights, and distributive justice. It aims to make a major contribution to the ethical understanding of innovation and technology. Program members realize that technical, scientific, legal and social science expertise is vital, and work with practitioners in the relevant professions.


Research in this program examines a range of issues that arise from the nature and value of the natural, and also the artificial environment, and our relationship with them. These include issues of justice and responsibility in relation to possession of, access to, and exploitation of land, water, and other (renewable and non-renewable) natural resources, ethical issues in climate change mitigation and adaptation, including those involving geo-engineering, and the human role in the anthropocene. 


This program addresses issues in bioethics, healthcare ethics, and public health ethics. This includes conceptual work on the ethics of procreation, the ethics of providing medical treatment to vulnerable groups such as children, dual use issues in the biological sciences, and the distinction between medical treatment and human enhancement. It also includes work on practical ethical issues arising in healthcare, including moral and regulatory challenges of experimental therapies, difficulties facing medical research ethics committees, and the problem of determining when conscientious objections are legitimate in healthcare.


This program addresses a variety of conceptual and practical ethical issues that are generated for the most part by the phenomena of war, humanitarian intervention, terrorism, crime and corruption. These include the nature and application of Just War Theory, morality and self-defense, principles of criminal liability, justification for police use of force, ethics of counter-terrorism tactics, anti-corruption systems and ethical issues in cyber-security.


2015 Annual Report [.pdf]

CAPPE Events

Seminar 28th September

Norvo Lo - La Trobe University

This paper discusses social attitudes towards feeding neighbourhood wild birds. It connects different and often opposing attitudes on the issue to three schools of philosophy regarding animals and nature. These include animal liberation ethics, wilderness preservation ethics,and anthropocentrism. 

Contact CAPPE for more information.


Professor Seumas Miller

Institutional Corruption and The Capital Markets  More

Fixing the Fix - Benchmark Reform and the Future of Financial Regulation  More

Designing-in-Ethics: A Compulsary Retirement Savings System  More

Dr Stephen Clarke

On Religious Violence, ABC Western Plains 'Mornings', radio interview  More

Past media events



Canberra Seminars


Friday 14th of December at 4pm: Dr Paula Casal (University of Reading).

Title:  Rawls, Cohen, Mill and the Egalitarian Trilemma

Like J. S. Mill, G. A. Cohen has criticised the justice of incentive payments. Cohen’s critique, which focuses on the work of John Rawls, has encountered two core Rawlsian objections. The Liberty Objection holds that if we allow occupational freedom – which we must do – unequal incentive payments are the best, perhaps the only, way of attracting individuals to deploy their scarce talents in a socially efficient manner. Thus, freedom, efficiency and equality cannot be jointly preserved. Faced with this trilemma, Rawlsians sacrifice equality. Their Basic Structure Objection restricts the possibility of rescuing equality further still. It claims that whilst it is mandatory to employ a wide range of public institutions to eliminate various social and economic inequalities detrimental to the least advantaged, it is impermissible to regulate all aspects of our personal lives to eliminate such inequalities.
Cohen, by contrast, not only thinks that equality can and should be rescued. He believes the trilemma can be solved, and has offered a very plausible reply to each Rawlsian objection. Unfortunately, each reply denies what the other one affirms. This leads Cohen to a strategic contradiction. Rawlsians, however, do not fare any better. Their two pronged self-defence also leads them –or so I argue– into a strategic contradiction of their own. Thus, Cohen’s efforts to solve the trilemma, and the Rawlsian attempts to stop him, leave both parties trapped into their respective dilemmas. Fortunately, there is one possible way out of this impasse, and it is one they can both take. It involves following Mill towards a new position, which can be supported both on Cohenian and on Rawlsians grounds.


Wednesday 12th of December at 3pm: Assoc Prof Aidan Hollis (University of Calgary).

Title:  Pharmaceutical Innovation without Monopoly

The pharmaceutical industry needs some help. Drug firms invest where they can make a return instead of where the needs are greatest, so the diseases which mainly afflict the poor are of little interest. The business model which is most profitable involves huge expenditures on competitive marketing, well above that which is spent on research. When a useful new drug is developed, firms can only recoup their investment by charging very high prices, which means that many potential consumers are excluded from purchasing the drug. I discuss some alternative mechanisms that have been proposed, focusing particularly on an optional reward mechanism which would involve direct payments based on the actual therapeutic impact of a drug.

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Friday 7th of December at 2pm: Dr Karen Jones (University of Melbourne).

A Joint CAPPE/RSSS/Faculty of Philosophy Seminar

Title: From Trust to Trustworthiness

Despite much recent work, there is no sign yet of convergence in philosophical accounts of trust. In this paper I argue that philosophers’ comparative silence on trustworthiness is part of the explanation for our failure of convergence on trust. If we think of trust and trustworthiness as paired concepts that are to be investigated in tandem, with each setting constraints on the correct understanding of the other, then we can find the additional constraints we need to help resolve some outstanding disagreements in the philosophy of trust, including most especially disagreement over the motivational structure trust imputes to the one-trusted. We find the extra constraints by first examining the point of having these paired concepts. Once we approach the problem of understanding the pair from the trustworthiness end, their normative role comes more clearly into view. Trustworthiness and trust are not reducible to reliability and reliance because they identify, in order to promote, a distinctive way that our cognitive sophistication make it possible for us to respond to the fact of interpersonal dependency. I argue that this role is best served by an account of trustworthiness as competence together with direct responsiveness to the fact that the other is counting on you. So understood, “trustworthiness” names something less than a virtue, but it nonetheless identifies a source of motivation that it is of vital interest to finite social beings, such as ourselves, who have everything to gain – or to lose – from engaging in relationships of dependency.

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Wednesday 5th of December at 11am: Professor Latif Samian (Director of the Center for General Studies at the University Kebangsaan, Malaysia).

Title: Negotiating ethnic relations and professional ethics - the Malaysian experience

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Friday30th of November at 4pm: Professor Paul Griffiths (University of Sydney).

Title: Is there a Problem with Public Understanding of Genetics? (Paul Griffiths, Joan Leach and Polly Ambermoon)

Recent literature on science communication and the public understanding of science has rejected a 'deficit model' in which the aim of science communication is to bring the views of the public into line with those of scientific experts. Instead, it is argued, the aim should be to empower a disparate range of publics to construct representations of science that effectively serve their own needs. In the history and philosophy of biology, however, the shortcomings of prevalent ideas about genetics and genomics remain the focus of considerable concern. We argue that these concerns should not be tarred with the same brush as the 'deficit model'. They do not result from 'privileging' the representations of scientific experts, but rather from questioning the adequacy of current representations of genes, genomes and gene action by all groups, expert and non-expert alike. It is argued that these two literatures complement one another, that the rejection of the 'deficit model' should not lead to complacency about the adequacy of the understanding of genetics, and that the aims of science communication can legitimately include amelioration as well as empowerment.

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Friday 23rd of November at 4pm: Professor Larry May (Washington University, St Louis and CAPPE).

Title: ‘Instigation, Incitement, and Complicity in the Rwandan Genocide’

If genocide is seen on the model of the Holocaust, responsibility should be primarily assigned to those who directly instigated by planning the genocide. But it appears that in Rwanda there was no central plan to destroy Tutsis. I will argue that those who incited the genocide were more plausibly punished severely than those who indirectly instigated the crime or those who were merely complicit.
It may appear that in genocides like that in Rwanda, the small fish who carry out the violence are aptly named the principals, since there are no true principals who plan the genocide. But while it does indeed make sense to prosecute small fish, those who incited them are more like the principals than are those who carry out the violence, since incitement like planning sets the stage for the violence.
Throughout, I will provide conceptual analyses of instigation, incitement, and complicity, as well as normative arguments for thinking that in some cases, like the Rwandan genocide, those who incited should be considered principally culpable. This paper is drawn from several draft chapters of my book, tentatively titled “Genocide, Social Groups, and Criminal Trials” which is itself the fourth volume of my long-term project on the normative foundations of international criminal law.

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Friday 16th of November at 4pm: Dr Gerhard Øverland (CAPPE, University of Melbourne).

Title: ‘Contribution and Culpability Divided’

In this talk I try to shed light on the moral difference between doing and allowing harm by looking at a variant that is frequently invoked in the discussion of defensive force, namely the one between innocent contributors and bystanders. I put forward an asymmetrical fair share procedure for solving conflicts between innocent contributors and their victims, according to which a contributor has a duty to shoulder a fair share of the harm in question. I then propose that contribution and moral culpability should be divided, and that the implications of these factors operate independently of each other. Together these two proposals add up to a particular view on the moral difference between doing and allowing. Implications of allowing are restricted to implications of culpability, as there is no contribution, while implications of doing may consist of the combined implications of contribution and culpability.
This first proposal only claims that there is a difference regarding the duty to shoulder cost. I go on to discuss whether moral culpability for doing and allowing is similar when consequences, probabilities, and cost to the agent in having to forbear to act are similar. I indicate one reason for thinking that it is not by invoking the notion of “distance failure”. That is, the distance between the actual cost contributors and bystanders fail to take on and the maximum cost they would have duty to shoulder in the first place.
Much of what I say in the talk will be tentative, as I try to investigate how much of a difference between doing and allowing that can be established by the simple observation that there is a difference between the duty to shoulder cost by innocent contributors and bystanders.

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Friday 9th of November at 4pm: Dr David Rodin (University of Oxford).

Title: ‘Explaining the Absolute Prohibition of Torture’

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Friday 2nd of November at 4pm: Laura Valentini (University College London).

Title: ‘Global Justice and Kant’s Doctrine of Right’

Since the publication of Rawls’s A Theory of Justice, the philosophy of Immanuel Kant has enjoyed increasing popularity in liberal political theory, and debates on international justice are no exception. While cosmopolitans often defend principles of global justice by appeal to the universal scope of Kant’s moral law, social liberals draw on Kant’s Perpetual Peace to support their minimalist take on international distributive obligations. These theorists rightly consider Kant’s philosophy as a promising source of ideas for addressing issues of global justice. However, unlike (many of) them, I believe that the most interesting insights Kant has to offer to international political theory do not belong to his accounts of personal and of international morality, but to his views on domestic justice. Following this suggestion, in this paper I (1) outline a general approach to justice based on Kant’s Doctrine of Right, and (2) consider its implications for questions of global justice. I argue that the picture of global justice we obtain following this Kantian approach falls somewhere in between cosmopolitan and social liberalism: while the approach supports the idea that the concept of justice is global in scope, it does not warrant the stronger claim that liberals’ domestic conceptions of justice should apply globally.

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Friday the 26th of October at 4pm: Professor Marilyn Friedman (Washington University, St Louis and CAPPE, ANU).

Title: Female Terrorists: What Difference Does Gender Make?

This paper begins with some preliminary comments on the definition and possible justification of terrorism. Then it moves on to consider terrorist acts committed by women, including suicide terrorist bombings. The question explored here is whether terrorist acts committed by women take on any special meanings or morally relevant aspects that are lacking in terrorist acts committed by men.

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Friday the 19th of October at 4pm: Professor John Broome (University of Oxford).

Title: Measuring the burden of disease

For many important practical purposes we need to measure how much harm is done by particular diseases, and by disease in general. For one thing, this will help us decide where to concentrate our efforts to control disease. But measuring the 'burden of disease' raises a number of difficult philosophical questions. I shall talk about some of them. My main message will be that we cannot and should not concentrate on measuring just the ill-health that is caused by disease (as the World Health Organization tries to do). We have to include all the other sorts of harm that disease does to people.

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Friday the 12th of October at 4pm: Dr Simon Keller (CAPPE, University of Melbourne).

Title: ‘Welfare as Success’

The philosophical debate about the nature of welfare is not in good shape. All the standard theories– mental state theories, desire theories and objective list theories – are subject to devastating objections, and philosophers have had little success in finding attractive alternatives. In the first half of this paper, I identify reasons why the debate has reached this stalemate. I suggest that some of the trouble is due to the presence of two goals, that turn out to conflict deeply: first, the goal of analysing the ordinary concept of welfare (to the extent that there is such a thing), and second, the goal of finding something that can play a certain demanding theoretical role. And, I suggest that trouble arises from the existence of two strong but conflicting intuitions: the intuition that individuals must somehow be the source of the standards for their own welfare, and the intuition that individuals can be thoroughly mistaken about what is good for them.
In the second half of the paper, I try to sketch a way forward. The apparently conflicting subjectivist and objectivist intuitions are also seen, I argue, in the case of norms of belief, and the way to pay justice to both sides on that issue is to recognize that beliefs are constitutively such as to aim at the truth. We could get around the dilemma for theories of welfare, I suggest, if we could ground welfare in similar attitudes: subjective attitudes that generate objective standards for their own success and failure. I look at various ways in which this strategy might be explored, and suggest that it yields about as good a theory of welfare as we could – in light of the material in the first part of the paper – expect.

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Previous Seminars in Canberra

2011 Seminars

2010 Seminars

2009 Seminars

2008 Seminars