• 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


Wednesday 3rd of December at 4pm: Dr Catherine Legg (Waikato University).

Title:  Scientific Integrity

This paper asks: i) Is there an ethics of scientific inquiry? ii) If so, how does it relate to general ethics? One might think the answers are simply: i) Yes – for there is a lot of scientific inquiry about, and it is obvious that some scientists perform it more responsibly than others. ii) The ethics of scientific inquiry is merely a special case of general ethics, derivable from its general rules plus accidents of the particular situation of research. However, looking at case studies of scientific misconduct (e.g. Elias Alsabti, who published over 50 entirely plagiarized cancer ‘research’ articles) a delicate question arises. Should identification and correction of these abuses come from a) ethicists or b) scientists? Should budding scientists be required to take a course in ‘research ethics’ as part of their training? But isn’t apprenticeship in a research community in some sense already a moral education? Conversely, isn’t ethics itself a branch of inquiry, in which case ethicists should be forced to take their own courses? To address this tangle some ideas about the relationship between theory and practice in classical pragmatism are raised, and position b) is argued for.

Wednesday 26th of November at 4pm: Dr Lisa Bortolotti (Birmingham/Macquarie).

Title:  Agency and the Meaning of Life

Contemporary philosophers and bioethicists argue that life extension is bad for us. According to the agency objection to life extension, being constrained is a feature of agency that adds to the value and meaning of human life. Given that life extension would remove limits to agency, then it would also deprive life of value and meaning. I shall concede that constrained agency contributes to the value and meaning of human life, but argue that even in a life where death is postponed, or altogether removed, many constraints on the fulfilment of an agent's goals and on decision making would be preserved. Agents with longer lives would have more time at their disposal to achieve their goals, but they would also be presented with new challenges. For instance, according to the boredom objection to life extension, in a much longer or immortal life it may be harder for agents to avoid chronic boredom, to sustain their motivation to act in order to satisfy their life goals, and to identify new life goals when the previous ones have been satisfied. Although objections from agency and boredom are both aimed at showing that a much longer or immortal life would be meaningless, they cannot be used in combination, as one undermines the other.

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Wednesday 19th of November at 4pm: Dr Graeme McLean (CSU/CAPPE).

Title:  The Will to Disbelieve

William James famously discussed the will to believe (in God). This paper offers some philosophical examination of the will to disbelieve (in God).

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Wednesday 12th of November at 4pm: Dr Cordelia Fine (CAPPE/Melbourne).

Title:  Don't I Know You From Somewhere? The Modern Face of Neuroscientific Explanations of Gender Inequality

Neuroscientists are from Mars, gender egalitarians are from Venus? Differences between male and female brains (sometimes real, often contested, occasionally fabricated) have been used for centuries to justify gender inequalities. Contemporary brain imaging studies are now documenting both structural and functional sex differences in the brain, yet the implications, interpretation, and communication of these findings have so far received little attention within neuroethics. I will explore a number of reasons why findings of sex differences in the brain arising from this relatively new technology need to be interpreted cautiously, and discuss examples from both the academic and popular literature.

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Wednesday 5th of November at 4pm: Professor Marilyn Friedman (CAPPE/Washington, St Louis).

Title:  How to Blame People Responsibly

Typical philosophical accounts of blame emphasize the requirements for someone to be blameworthy, that is, a deserving recipient of blame. Those accounts usually cite something like the ability to grasp and apply moral norms and the ability to be motivated to act accordingly. Far less attention is paid to the requirements someone should meet in order to blame others in a responsible manner. This paper proposes an account of responsible blaming. The paper then focuses particularly on blaming that is part of public discourse over internationally divisive issues such as terrorist attacks. The paper ends by listing some factors that impede responsible blaming in those public contexts.

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Wednesday 29th of October at 4pm: Associate Professor Igor Primoratz (CAPPE, University of Melbourne).

Title:  The Bombing of German Cities in World War II: The Moral Issue

The bombing of German cities by the Allies remains one of the most controversial issues of World War II. I look into the main ways in which the bombing campaign might be morally defended: as a way of ensuring a more equitable distribution of suffering and loss brought about by war; by the complicity of the victims; as retaliation or reprisal; as a violation of civilian immunity justified by a “supreme emergency"; as a means justified by the aim it was to achieve. All these attempts at justification fail. The bombing of German cities was an utterly unjustified atrocity. It was a case of state terrorism – perhaps the longest and deadliest campaign of state terrorism in wartime. In terms of the spirit if not the letter of international law at the time, it was a war crime. Viewed historically, it was a crucial stage in a process of ever more comprehensive and systematic victimization of enemy civilians as a supplement to, or even a substitute for, fighting enemy soldiers.

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Wednesday 22nd of October at 4pm: Professor Larry May (CAPPE/Washington, St Louis).

Title:  Habeas Corpus and Global Justice

Global justice is normally discussed as a mater of substantive rights: the criminal justice rights of those who are the victims of mass crimes like genocide or the economic rights of victims of inequality. It is undeniable that these substantive rights are very important and should be protected globally. My earlier work in international justice has concerned substantive rights such as the right not to be the subject of genocide, aggression, war crimes, or crimes against humanity. In my new book, from which this paper is drawn, I explore the value of procedural rights in the debates about global justice.

In this paper I focus on habeas corpus, which was at first merely the right to be brought out of the dungeon and to have the charges against one publicly read. One could be immediately retuned to the dungeon after the reading and no other rights were involved. Yet, Bracton and Blackstone, the great legal theorists of the 13th and 18th centuries, say that habeas corpus was fundamentally important, as have many legal theorists since. Yet, habeas corpus rights are consistent with fairly great iniquity. Nonetheless, there is something very valuable indeed to this right. One needs only to think about Guantanamo in order to see what can happen when this right is systematically abridged – the challenges against detention at Guantanamo were all drawn in habeas corpus terms. I try to explain why this procedural right is of the first importance for global justice.

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Wednesday 15th of October at 4pm: Dr Louise Collins (Indiana University).

Title:  Is close friendship possible online? Is it desirable?

According to anecdotal and social-scientific reports, some valued personal relationships, such as friendship and romance, are today conducted entirely online, using computer mediated communication (CMC) tools, such as e-mail and chat-rooms. Are such relationships merely ersatz simulacra of their offline counterparts, or are they equally real and capable of contributing to human flourishing? Close friendship offers an interesting case for consideration.

Cocking and Kennett (1998) develop a novel account of close friendship, which they dub the “Drawing” model. According to this model, close friendship is characterised by a distinctive process of reciprocal interpretation and shared activity. Through this process, friends also contribute to each other’s self-development. If the Drawing model is correct, then whether close friendship is possible online depends on whether this distinctive process of interpretation and activity is possible online.

Cocking and Matthews (2001) analyse text-only CMC relationships to clarify what is important in the everyday conduct of close friendships. They argue that the reciprocal interpretation central to close friendship on the Drawing model (and others) is not possible in text-only CMC. For, structural features of text-only CMC stymie the interpretive efforts of even the most sincere would-be friends in cyberspace. Contra Cocking and Matthews, I argue that would-be friends can develop fine-grained interpretations of each other, even in text-only CMC contexts.

The Drawing model also emphasises the contribution of shared activities to close friends’ reciprocal self-constitution. Following Cocking and Matthews’ method again, I consider the possibility of sharing activities in text-based CMC. Since would-be close friends can share a range of activities online, it seems that close friendships can be conducted entirely online, even in text-only CMC contexts.

Since I find this conclusion counterintuitive, I return to speculation on the goods (and liabilities) of close friendship, derived from an expanded Drawing model.

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Wednesday 8th of October at 4pm: Dr Michael Smithson (ANU, School of Psychology).

Title:  Ignorance and Uncertainty: Tradeoffs and Dilemmas

Western intellectual culture has several blindspots regarding the unknown. Chief among them is a tendency to regard ignorance and uncertainty as invariably negative and marginal. In actuality, ignorance and uncertainty play "positive" roles in human cognition and emotion, and also underpin several forms of social capital. Therefore, managing uncertainty does not reduce to simply eliminating as much of it as possible. Instead, dealing with uncertainty is a mixed-motive undertaking, invoking important tradeoffs and dilemmas.

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Wednesday 1st of October at 4pm: Professor Justin O'Brien (CAPPE, Charles Sturt University).

Title:  Re-arranging Deck Chairs on the Titanic? The Future of Financial Regulation

Effective and efficient capital markets depend on confidence in the integrity of financial institutions, the regulatory apparatus and, ultimately, trust between market participants and financial intermediaries. The ongoing crisis in global commercial debt markets has exposed glaring deficiencies in operational and strategic risk management systems. Self-evidently, trust like liquidity and solvency is now in very short supply, and confidence has evaporated. While the appropriate pricing of risk is, arguably, a commercial calculation best left to the market, it is necessary for the providers of dubious, if not criminal, products and services to recognise responsibility for a systemic crisis. The seizing of the global securitisation market demonstrates the malign consequences of an emasculated approach to corporate governance and risk management at the level of individual institutions. It also reveals defects in the current regulatory paradigm. Irrespective of whether rules or principles were privileged, control failed within and between four distinct orders of accountability: legal, managerial, political and bureaucratic. The paper evaluates whether the credit crisis has falsified the underpinning premise of financial regulation, and, if so, as argued, the implications for regulatory design.

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Wednesday 24th of September at 4pm: Dr Andy Hamilton (Durham University).

Title:  Liberal Elitism

Elitism today is the residue of the liberal scepticism concerning democratic government. Classical liberals in the early decades of the 19th century had profound forebodings concerning the apparently inevitable advent of democracy. In response, they advocated elitism as a brake on the "tyranny of the majority". While other liberals were concerned with the danger of "democratic despotism", J. S. Mill meant diagnosed a culture of mediocrity engendered by democratic forms of government. Mill at first followed Coleridge and Comte in espousing illiberal elitism, the view that the intellectual and cultural elite should constitute an estate of society - a Church or Caste with formal powers. He subsequently rejected illiberal elitism on the grounds that it did not foster individual autonomy, but still maintained liberal elitism, according to which the intellectual elite must exert influence through recognition of their authority in their sphere. In On Liberty his position is further nuanced, so that it is questionable whether he really was an elitist at all. I advocate a position that constitutes a middle way between elitism and populism. Elitism should be contrasted with populism, and not with (i) egalitarianism, or (ii) individualism in the sense of Mill's Liberty Principle. I conclude by considering the relation between elitism and a meritocratic standpoint which affirms individual autonomy, and by discussing the cultural implications of elitism today.

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Wednesday 17th of September at 4pm: Dr Christian Barry (ANU/CAPPE).

Title:  A new analysis of the distinction between doing and allowing

In ordinary discourse it is common to distinguish between harms to which the conduct of some agent has “contributed” from those to which this agent has merely “allowed to occur” or “failed to prevent”. Some deny that this distinction has any basic moral significance, but this is very much a minority view. Even those who grant that this distinction has a great deal of moral relevance have had a very difficult time providing a clear and convincing analysis of the distinction, and of explaining why it has moral significance.

In this paper (co-authored with Gerhard Øverland of CAPPE/UM), I develop a new analysis of the distinction between contributing to and failing to prevent harm that, we argue, improves significantly upon existing analyses. We argue first that the distinction between contributing to and failing to prevent harm is not a sharp binary as many theorists have supposed, but is instead scalar, admitting of degrees. Second, we show that intuitive judgments about whether some agents’ conduct has contributed to or failed to prevent some harm depend not on the presence or absence of any single factor, but on a diverse range of empirical and normative factors that are related to one another in interesting ways.

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Wednesday 10th of September at 4pm: Dr Brian Rappert (University of Exeter).

Title: Promoting ‘Ethics Talk’ - Lessons from Engagements with Bioscientists about the Dual-use Dilemma

In recent years, the relation between national security and science research has been a topic that has received considerable attention. As part of this, questions are being raised by national scientific academies, international science organizations, and security agencies regarding whether the knowledge and techniques generated through fundamental and applied life science research might facilitate the production of bioweapons. Consideration of the so-called ‘dual use’ potential of life science knowledge and techniques is itself part of growing concern about biosecurity. This has resulted in debate regarding whether controls should be placed on what gets done, how, and whether information is widely circulated. Arguably this sort of discussion challenges many of the traditional presumptions of biologists and others regarding the implications of their research and its proper governance.

This presentation elaborates the methods employed in and findings of some 100 seminars with practicing scientists and students in 12 countries about dual use issues. There have been two aims to these seminars: one, to inform participants about current ‘biosecurity’ debates and second, to generate interactive discussion about the merits of proposed policy responses. My presentation recounts some of the interactions in the seminars with a view to considering the tensions and lessons associated with efforts to promote responsive life science and social research.

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Wednesday 3rd of September at 4pm: Dr John Hadley (CSU/CAPPE).

Title: Animals and self-defense

Is it permissible to forcibly restrain people engaging in animal cruelty? Would using any degree of violence be permissible? If we allow intervention on behalf of animals in cases of gratuitous cruelty are we then on a slippery slope leading to intervention during socially acceptable practices such as food production or biomedical research? In this paper I extend recent self-defense theory to nonhuman animals. The aim is to reconcile species-egalitarianism* with common sense views about violence on behalf of nonhuman animals. In the process I defend the following claims:

  • Violence towards animals raises many important questions that self-defense theory can help to address.
  • There is no fundamental logical obstacle to extending self-defense theory to animals.
  • Extending a right of self-defense to animals is consistent with commonsense views about animal cruelty, the spirit of anti-cruelty statutes and animal welfare legislation, and traditional moral theory about the immorality of gratuitous cruelty to animals.
  • McMahan’s recent ‘foetal self-defense reductio’ shows that extending self-defense theory to animals poses a serious theoretical problem for species-egalitarians of any stripe (deontological, utilitarian, Nozickian hybrid), including McMahan himself.
  • Species-egalitarians can avoid the problem by extending a diminished responsibility-type thesis to persons who harm animals during so-called ‘socially acceptable practices’ such as food production and biomedical research.
  • The ‘diminished responsibility’ thesis reconciles species-egalitarianism with commonsense views about liability to violence on behalf of animals.

* Species-egalitarianism is the view that individuals are entitled to utility-trumping rights (deontological version) or equal consideration of interests (utilitarian version) in virtue of possessing a psychology above a threshold level of complexity, irrespective of species. On this view, species, like race or gender, is as an arbitrary biological property that plays no decisive role in determining an individual’s moral status (Singer, 1975; Regan, 1983; Sapontsis, 1987; Rachels, 1990; Pluhar, 1995; DeGrazia, 1996; Francione, 2000; Rowlands, 2002; McMahan, 2004; Franklin, 2006).

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Wednesday 27th of August at 4pm: Dr Philip Cook (London School of Economics).

Title:  In Defence of Child Citizenship

Brighouse, Swift, and Clayton have argued recently that children are owed educational equality because it is a positional good that affects adult life-chances. These arguments treat schooling as instrumental to education, and have neglected what children are owed qua children as a matter of justice. This paper argues that schooling is intrinsically valuable to children qua children, and that children are owed compulsory non-selective state schooling as a matter of justice. It proceeds in four stages: firstly, it argues that children are owed certain goods as a matter of justice in virtue of their child-citizenship; secondly, that schools are intrinsically valuable to children qua children because they are a domain of the state where child-citizens may relate to other child-citizens as equals, free from inescapable inequalities with adults; thirdly, it argues that justice requires schooling be compulsory, non-selective, and public; and finally, that schooling, unlike education, is not a positional good

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Wednesday 20th of August at 4pm: Dr Stephen Clarke (Oxford University and CAPPE, Charles Sturt University).

Title:  Are Philosophers' Intuitions Reliable?

Philosophers make frequent appeals to intuitions. Many of these appeals are to intuitions as a source of evidence. The credibility of intuitions as a possible source of evidence has come under attack in recent years by some members of the experimental philosophy movement, who have produced evidence that ordinary intuitions about philosophical issues can vary significantly in response to cultural background, educational level, variations in affective states and the order of presentation of thought experiments. All of these are factors that appear to be philosophically irrelevant, so it seems hard to square these findings with the claim that ordinary intuitions are plausible candidates to provide a reliable basis for philosophical claims.

In this paper I examine one influential line of response to the challenge to ordinary intuitions about philosophical issues presented by experimental philosophers. This is the response that Alexander and Weinberg refer to as ‘intuition elitism’. It involves denying that studies of ordinary intuition are relevant to philosophical claims and arguing that the considered intuitions of professional philosophers are the evidential source that philosophers implicitly appeal to (and should appeal to) when they deploy intuitions as an evidential source.

I consider this line of argument from three angles. First, I ask whether it plausibly accounts for our practices when we appeal to intuitions as an evidential source in philosophy. Second, I ask whether this argumentative move genuinely relieves those who employ it from the onus of responding to experimental philosophers’ findings about biases that affect ordinary intuitions. Third, I consider empirical research on the intuitions of other professionals to see if lessons can be learned about the suitability of philosophy as a context for the generation of reliable intuitions and about the reliability of the intuitions of professional philosophers.

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Monday 11th of August at 4pm:  a JOINT CAPPE/SPT Seminar: Professor Chandran Kukathas (London School of Economics).

Title:  The Theory and Practice of Open Borders

Why can't all borders be open? The point of this paper is to address this question, both as a conceptual question and as a theoretical - normative- question. Its concern is the movement of people - not of goods or money - across political boundaries. In the end, it tries to offer a defense of open borders. But any such defense must rest on some account of what open borders means, and how such a thing is possible. Thus the aim of this paper is to offer an account of the theory and practice of open borders.

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Wednesday 6th of August at 4pm: Dr Rob Sparrow (Centre for Human Bioethics,
Monash University).

Title:  Should human beings have sex? Sexual dimorphism and human enhancement

Until recently, we could more or less take it for granted that the human species was made up of men and women and that an individual's sex is fixed by fate at conception. Since the early 1950s, however, when the first sex reassignment operations were performed, individual sex has come to be, to some extent at least, a technological artefact. The existence of sperm sorting technology, and of prenatal determination of foetal sex via ultra sound along with the option of termination, means that we now have the power to choose the sex of our children. An influential contemporary line of thought about medical ethics suggests that we should use medical technology to serve the welfare of individuals and to remove limitations on the opportunities available to them. In this talk I will argue that, if these are our goals, we may do well to move towards a “post sex” humanity. Until we have the technology to produce genuine hermaphrodites, the most efficient way to do this is to use sex selection technology to ensure that only girl children are born. There are significant restrictions on the opportunities available to men, around gestation, childbirth, and breast-feeding, which will be extremely difficult to overcome via social or technological mechanisms for the foreseeable future. Women also have longer life expectancies than men. Girl babies therefore have a significantly more “open” future than boy babies. Resisting the conclusion that we should ensure that all children are born the same sex will require insisting that sexual difference is natural to human beings and that we should not use technology to reshape humanity beyond certain natural limits. The real concern of my presentation, then, is the moral significance of the idea of a normal human body in modern medicine.

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Wednesday 30th of July at 4pm: Professor Christopher Wellman (Washington University and CAPPE)

Title:  What Is Really Wrong with Slavery?

Although R.M. Hare’s landmark essay, “What Is Wrong with Slavery?” discusses slavery at length, it is really about utilitarianism, as Hare is principally concerned to show that utilitarianism should not be dismissed for its inability to rule out the moral permissibility of things like slavery. Similarly, while I discuss slavery in this paper, my chief aim is to argue that even the most sophisticated versions of utilitarianism are unable to adequately capture what is wrong with slavery. That is, even if we grant arguendo that utilitarianism can furnish us with a satisfactory guide for moral action, it fails as a standard because it has no room for relational duties. In other words, utilitarianism must be dismissed for its inability to register the fact that slaves are wronged by slavery.

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Wednesday 23rd of July at 4pm: Dr Daniel Star (CAPPE)

Title: Two Levels of Moral Thinking: A New and More Satisfactory Approach

It seems possible to be a good person who responds well to moral reasons without engaging in philosophical reflection. It also seems to be the case that normative ethicists are engaged in a legitimate and valuable activity when they endeavour to discover universal moral principles concerning right and wrong actions, principles that are likely to be surprising and complex (i.e. not the kind of principles we would think that ordinary people already follow). It seems we must choose between an anti-theoretical stance that reigns normative ethics in, or give up on the thought that our friends can be good people without the aid of philosophy. Neither of these options is attractive. Fortunately, there is an alternative.

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Thursday 17th of July at 2pm: Professor Julian Savulescu (Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, University of Oxford)

Title: The Welfarist Account of Disability

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Wednesday 2nd of July at 4pm: Dr Neil Levy (CAPPE, University of Melbourne)

Title:  Explaining Intuitions about Cognitive Enhancement

Many people have the intuition that cognitive enhancement – the use of mechanistic means to boost aspects of cognition – is objectionable. Yet the arguments often put forward in support of this intuition are typically rather weak. In line with Jonathan Haidt’s social intuitionist model of moral judgment, I suggest that when people are satisfied with weak arguments for their views, the argument does not reflect the real causes of the intuitions they support, and is instead a post facto rationalization of it. I suggest that opposition to cognitive enhancement is caused by the perception that it violates our intuitive (substance) dualism. Since mind is felt (though not necessarily believed) to be a different substance to brain, mechanistic means of boosting cognition arouse unease in us, which causes or is mistaken for a moral judgment that such means are wrong. I suggest methods whereby this suggestion could be tested.

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Friday 20th of June at 4pm: Professor Carol Gould (Center for Global Ethics and Politics, Temple University).

Title:  Envisioning Transnational Democracy: Cross-Border Communities and Regional Human Rights Frameworks

Two sources converge on an image of transnational democracy—one arising from the practice of contemporary activists and solidarity movements, and the second from a theoretical reflection on the requirements of global justice and human rights, along with the acknowledged need for more responsiveness of the institutions of global governance to those affected by their decisions. In this paper, I focus primarily on this second, primarily theoretical, source of thinking about transnational democracy and sketch some of its implications for institutional design. In this account, transnational democracy will be seen to have four elements, which I argue are each normatively required and cohere reasonably well with the other elements in practice. They are: a multiplicity of democratized overlapping cross-border social and economic associations and political communities; regional if not fully global human rights frameworks, which guarantee the economic and social rights required for justice; democratic accountability of the institutions of global governance to distant people importantly affected by their policies (with a specific criterion proposed for “importantly affected”), and new forms of overlapping transnational solidarities.

I go on to briefly address four questions posed by this model: 1) Does the proposal for democratizing cross-border communities and associations necessarily come into conflict with the equality that has traditionally characterized citizenship as membership in a polity? 2) Does this sort of multiplicity of contexts for democracy and the concomitant delimitation of the power of nation-states render it impossible to achieve the sorts of economic redistribution required by justice? 3) Would new regional human rights frameworks necessitate regional government or constitutions, which might in turn entail a consolidation or centralization of power? And 4) how can democratic deliberation and participation be understood to occur across groups that are not only culturally diverse but also have very unequal access to power and control over resources?

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Wednesday 11th of June at 2pm: a JOINT CAPPE/Faculty/RSSS Seminar: Dr Laura Schroeter and Dr Francois Schroeter (University of Melbourne)

Title: A Third Way in Metaethics

What conditions must one meet in order to count as competent with the meaning of a thin evaluative predicate like ‘is the right thing to do’? According to minimalists like Allan Gibbard and Ralph Wedgwood, all that's required for competence is that one use the predicate to express one’s own motivational states. According to analytic descriptivists like Frank Jackson, Philip Pettit and Christopher Peacocke, competence requires speakers to grasp some determinate reference-fixing criterion for an action’s being right. Both approaches face serious difficulties. We suggest that these difficulties derive from a shared background assumption that competence conditions must be explained in terms of a determinate conceptual role. We propose a new way of characterizing competence conditions for evaluative terms: what’s required for competence is participation in a shared epistemic tradition with a term. Our approach, we argue, better explains the nature of evaluative inquiry and the extent of disagreement about evaluative questions.

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Wednesday 4th of June at 4pm: Assistant Professor Iwao Hirose (McGill University and CAPPE, University of Melbourne).

Title:  Disability Discrimination in Health Care Allocation

I will examine the logical structure of the argument against unequal treatment on the basis of disability in health care allocation. I will first examine, and reject, the "two-level common-sense" objection, which best captures our intuition against disability discrimination in health care. Then, I will propose an argument against disability discrimination in health care. Finally, I will address some problems with my proposal.

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Wednesday 28th of May at 4pm: Dr Clive Hamilton (Visiting Fellow, Regulatory Institutions Network, ANU).

Title:  Do We Prefer What We Choose?

In this paper I will argue, following David George, that we possess first and second-order preferences, with the latter representing a deeper order of preference. Modern economics recognises only first-order preferences, and advertising tends to persuade us to act on them alone, which is often contrary to our interests.

On this basis I will argue that, in addition to political liberty and individual liberty, there is a third form of liberty, “inner freedom”, defined by Hayek as the freedom to act according to one’s own considered will, by one’s reason or lasting conviction. I will suggest that self-deception and akrasia (weakness of will) erode inner freedom, and that in consumer society we are becoming less free.

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Monday 19th of May at 2pm: Associate Professor Ian Hunt (Flinders University).

Title:  Why Social Justice Matters

This paper assesses Brian Barry ‘s attempt in Why Social Justice Matters to argue the importance of social justice, and to show what public policies for a modern capitalist society, such as the US or UK, flow from its requirements. Barry deplores the ideological assumptions that have obscured the importance of social justice but he does not address their intellectual roots. I claim that, if philosophers are to argue the importance of social justice for public policy, we must first address the philosophical ideas that have persuaded leaders of public opinion and policy makers in OECD countries to put their emphasis on efficiency, and to dismiss issues of equality or equity on the basis of its supposed efficiency cost. Leaving aside claims about the presumed benefits of perfectly competitive markets, I address Hayek’s nihilistic theory and Nozick’s defence of ‘natural liberty’, and show that both fail to dismiss any question of the fairness of free market capitalist societies other than arising from past wrongdoing.

Though Rawls’s Theory of Justice is forbiddingly complex, it provides a simple criterion of the fairness of the rules by which our societies operate to produce the inequalities Barry deplores. I claim that once we apply this criterion to our institutions, it becomes apparent that the task of achieving justice in accord with Rawls’s criterion requires such substantial change as to be beyond the capacity of changes to public policy. Other contemporary theories of social justice that question the justice of present societies do not clearly identify closer ideally just societies than Rawls’s ideal. I conclude that we have better prospects of achieving an ‘overlapping consensus’ for public policy purposes around a ‘non-ideal’ theory and principles for making unjust societies fairer.

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Wednesday 14th of May at 4pm: Assistant Professor Fritz Allhoff (Western Michigan University, and CAPPE, ANU).

Title:  Rethinking Torture and Ticking Time-Bombs

It is often assumed that torture is permissible in ticking time-bomb (TTB) cases, though the intuitions undergirding this assumption have not been well-studied. Furthermore, even if the intuitions are widely held, it is not clear why. To wit, TTB cases collapses various morally relevant criterion, both consequential and deontological. Obviously the consequences matter, and there are important consequentialist features of the case, such as the multitude of lives that will be saved, the certainty of the outcomes, etc. However, there are also deontological features, such as the terrorist’s guilt and complicity. Intuitions regarding the permissibility of torture in this case, then, do not sufficiently elucidate what moral considerations are driving the intuitions.

This project offers to clarify which morally relevant considerations are psychologically efficacious. This is accomplished by devising four cases in which various of the features are teased apart. One of the cases is the traditional one, so results will be generated as to whether consent to torture is as ubiquitous as is assumed. A second case, though, trades the torture of the guilty terrorist for the torture of his innocent daughter: the hypothesis is that support for torture in this case will fall, which then shows that the (identical) consequences are not all that matter. Finally, an intervention is proposed which trades the certainty (of saving lives) in the traditional case with uncertainty (while keeping expected outcomes identical). If the lowered likelihood is psychologically efficacious, then that further undermines the claim that the intuitions are fully consequentialist in nature.

These surveys have recently been distributed to approximately 1000 students (in the US and Australia), and the analysis will be completely shortly. In addition to studying guilt/innocence and (un)certainty, we also hope to gain analysis vis-à-vis gender and nationality. Implications for the torture debate will be thereafter considered.

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Wednesday 7th of May at 4pm: Dr Michael Selgelid (CAPPE, ANU).

Title:  Ethics, Tuberculosis, and Globalisation

This paper reviews ethically relevant history of tuberculosis and recent developments regarding extensively drug resistant tuberculosis.  It argues that tuberculosis is one of the most important neglected topics in bioethics.  With an emphasis on “extensively” drug resistant tuberculosis, it examines a range of the more challenging ethical issues associated with tuberculosis:  individual obligations to avoid infecting others, coercive social distancing measures, third-party notification, health workers duty to treat contagious patients, and international justice.  In each of these cases, key philosophical questions are highlighted and the need for empirical research/information is demonstrated.

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Wednesday 30th of April at 4pm: Dr Jessica Wolfendale (CAPPE, University of Melbourne).

Title: Torture and Torture Lite

Since the terrorist attacks on September 11 2001, the phrase ‘torture lite’ has appeared in public discourse about torture, used by journalists, military intelligence personnel, and academics to distinguish between two kinds of torture: torture, which is violent, physically mutilating, cruel, and brutal, and torture lite, which refers to interrogation methods (such as extended sleep deprivation, noise bombardment, and forced standing) that are, it is claimed, more restrained and less severe than real torture. In this paper I argue that the distinction between torture and torture lite is attractive to liberal democracies because it bolsters what David Luban has called the “liberal ideology of torture” – the myth that torture can be compatible with the basic commitments of liberal states. However, as I shall demonstrate, torture lite techniques just as cruel and severe as more traditional forms of torture. Furthermore, the language of torture lite and the nature of torture lite techniques encourage a moral psychology in which the violence and cruelty of torture is denied; the victim’s suffering is hidden, minimised, and doubted; and the torturer’s responsibility is diminished. Far from referring to a milder form of torture, torture lite refers to techniques that are likely to encourage the normalisation of torture and the perpetuation of the myth of the liberal ideology of torture.

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Wednesday 23rd of April at 4pm: Dr Luke Russell (University of Sydney).

Title:  Evil, Monsters and Dualism

In his book "The Myth of Evil", Phillip Cole claims that the concept of evil forms part of a dualistic worldview that divides normal people from inhuman, demonic and monstrous wrongdoers. Such monsters are found in fiction, Cole maintains, but not in reality, so evil is of no explanatory use. Cole is right to claim that there are no actual evil monsters or supernatural demons, but he overlooks the fact that several viable conceptions of evil action, motive and character do not commit us to the existence of monsters, literally speaking. But does the concept of evil implies an unrealistically dualistic worldview, with purely evil people on one side and ordinary people on the other? Cole is wrong to think that the use of extreme moral concepts is incompatible with fine-grained moral evaluations across a broad spectrum between the extremes. Moreover, we need to be more careful than Cole is in unpacking the various ways in which evil personhood could be pure or extreme. I will argue that some actual people are extremely bad, that no actual people are thoroughly bad, that it is very likely that some actual people are fixedly bad, but that this does not imply that anyone is innately bad. Even if we accept Cole's arguments that no one is thoroughly or innately bad, it still seems that some actual people are evil, and hence that evil is an explanatorily useful concept.

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Wednesday 16th of April at 4pm: Professor Michael Smith (Princeton).

Title:  Secular vs Religious Approaches to Values and Reasons

Pope Benedict XVI has recently attacked the secular ideas of morality that are popular in Europe on the grounds that they are implausibly relativistic. Only if we provide morality with a religious foundation can we avoid this relativism, or so he insists. Pope Benedict is, however, also a firm believer in the idea that morality has a foundation in reason. But putting the idea that morality has a religious foundation together with a view of morality as grounded in reason we are inevitably led to a secular view of morality, or so I argue. I conclude by listing some of the ways in which religious and secular views of morality may differ, even if they agree that morality as such has a secular foundation.

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Wednesday 2nd of April at 4pm: Dr Daniel Cohen (CAPPE, CSU and ANU).

Title:  Actualism, Possibilism and Newcomb's Problem

Morality often requires agents to perform complex sets of actions. Sometimes, however, performing only part of the set will be morally worse than doing nothing at all. For instance, even when an agent ought to do (x & y), it might be worse for her to do x but not y than for her to perform neither action. This possibility raises a puzzle. Imagine that such an agent knows that she won't actually do y. Given this, should she do x? Possibilists argue that, given that the agent is able to y, she ought nevertheless to do x. Actualists, on the other hand, argue that the agent ought not to x, given that she won't actually y. In this paper I argue that this debate can be modelled as a familiar debate about newcomb's problem. Thus it may be seen that possibilists are committed to evidential decision theory, while actualists are committed to causal decision theory. I close by offering a case where the possibilist solution is far more attractive than the actualist one. Given my analysis, this provides some indirect support for evidential decision theory.

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Wednesday 26th of March at 4pm: Professor Larry S. Temkin (Rutgers University).

Title:  Is Living Longer, Living Better?

Some day, perhaps soon, we may have genetic enhancements enabling us to conquer aging.  Should we do so, if we can?  I believe the topic is both interesting and important, and that it behooves us to think about it.  Doing so may yield important insights about what we do care about, what we should care about, and how we should seek to live our lives, both individually and collectively.

My central question is this:  Is living longer, living better?  My paper does not offer a sustained argument for a single, considered, thesis.  Rather, it offers a number of snippets of often unconnected thoughts relevant to the issues my question raises.  The paper contains eight sections.  Part one is introductory.  Part two briefly comments on some current longevity research.  Part three indicates the attitudes towards death, and science, with which I approach these questions.  Part four discusses some of Leon Kass’s worries about the perils of immortality.  Part five, addresses Bernard Williams’s speculations about the tedium of immortality.  Part six, points to a number of practical and social concerns that might arise in a society whose members lived super long lives.  Part seven, discusses the shape of human life, and suggests that there may be impersonal reasons to prefer an outcome where countless different generations live finite lives, to an outcome where vastly fewer people live forever.  I argue that this may be so even if everyone in the latter outcome would be better off than everyone in the former outcome.  I end by expressing some doubts as to whether American society is living well, and whether, at least for the time being, longevity research should be pursued.

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Wednesday 19th of March at 4pm: Professor Thomas Pogge (Yale and CAPPE, ANU).

Title: Growth and Inequality: Understanding Recent Trends and Political Choices

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Wednesday 12th of March at 4pm: Professor Seumas Miller (CAPPE, ANU and CSU).

Title: Terrorism, War and States of Emergency (Chapter 5 of Terrorism and Counter-terrorism: Ethics and Liberal Democracy, Blackwell, 2008)

This paper addresses a variety of moral issues that arise for a liberal democratic state operating under a state of emergency or engaged in an armed conflict with a non-state actor in a theatre of war. A liberal democracy might justifiably be operating under a state of emergency in because it is confronting a one-off disaster, e.g. the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre, and/or because of a serious, ongoing, internal armed struggle, e.g. the IRA’s campaign of violence in Northern Ireland in the 1970’s.

If a state of emergency is to be morally justifiable it must be comprehensively legally circumscribed, both in relation to the precise powers granted to the government and its security agencies, and in relation to the termination of those powers and their judicial oversight while in use.

A liberal democracy might be engaged in an armed conflict with a non-state actor in a theatre of war because of serious, ongoing, terrorist attacks on the part of an external, non-state actor, e.g. Hezbollah’s rocket attacks on Israeli towns. In theatres of war, terrorists are de facto military combatants (terrorist-combatants). Moreover, since terrorist organisations are, or ought to be unlawful, terrorist-combatants are unlawful combatants. Since the terrorism-as-war framework (as opposed to a terrorism-as-crime framework) applies to theatres of war, it is justifiable to implement (say) a shoot-on-sight policy in relation to known terrorists; moreover, it might be morally justifiable to deploy the practice of targeted killings (assassinations) of individual terrorists.

The terrorism-as-war framework should be applied only under the following general conditions: (1) The terrorism-as-crime framework cannot adequately contain serious and ongoing terrorist attacks; (2) The application of the terrorism-as-war framework is likely to be able adequately to contain the terrorist attacks; (3) The application of the terrorism-as-war framework is proportionate to the terrorist threat; (4) The terrorism-as-war framework is applied only to an extent, e.g. with respect to a specific theatre of war but not necessarily to all areas that have suffered, or might suffer, a terrorist attack, and over a period of time, that is necessary; (5) All things considered, the application of the terrorism-as-war framework will have good consequences security-wise and better overall consequences, e.g. in terms of loss of life, restrictions on freedoms, economic impact, institutional damage, than the competing options.

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Wednesday 5th of March at 4pm: Associate Professor Bengt Brülde (University of Gothenburg).

Title:  The ultimate goals of public health activities

What is population health, and how can it be measured? This question can be divided into two, namely (a) on what individual variables (e.g. health, life expectancy, or QALY) should such a measure be based, and (b) how we should develop an index of population health based on these individual measures. However, the answers to these questions are, to a large extent, dependent on values, and (a) and (b) can hardly be separated from the normative questions how one should try to benefit the relevant individuals, and what kind of distribution of e.g. health that is most desirable. That is, we end up in the question of the ultimate goals of public health (a question that is not quite identical with the question of what population health is, or how it should be measured).
In what dimension or dimensions should public health try to benefit the relevant individuals? Here, I argue that weighted HALE's is the most relevant individual variable. It is worth noting that some distributive considerations are incorporated into this variable, e.g. ideas of how different life years should be weighted.
The question of the distributive goal of public health: What distribution of the relevant individual variable is most desirable in a public health context? On this question, I argue that the priority view and egalitarianism are the two most interesting views.

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Wednesday 20th of February at 4pm: Professor John Kleinig (CAPPE, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and CUNY Graduate Centre).

Title:  What Does Wrongdoing Deserve?

The question may seem dated or its answer obvious. In any case, it has a well-worn response, namely, that wrongdoing deserves punishment. For reasons that I will endeavor to make clear, I want to stay with the question. I hope, however, to finesse the answer in some non standard ways .

There are diverse reasons for thinking that the initial question is dated, though the paper will attempt to address only a few of them. Many of them come together, however by urging us to dispense with the idea that wrongdoing deserves punishment. I will not use the present opportunity to discuss some of the more radical responses to the initial question – such as those that would seek to replace our traditional notion of wrongdoing with supposedly more scientific conceptualizations of human behavior and its control. I will assume that it makes good sense hold onto a notion of moral wrongdoing and that when confronted by it we are justified in asking what kind of response to it is appropriate. What I will explore is whether the language of desert can be given a credible place in our thinking about the appropriateness of a response to wrongdoing and, if so, what that deserved response might be. Does it follow seamlessly from the question of what wrongdoing deserves that punishment is the best or only appropriate answer? I suggest that it does not.

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Wednesday 13th of February at 4pm: Dr Edward Spence (University of Twente and CAPPE, Charles Sturt University).

Title: Meca-Ethics: The Moral Life of Androids

In this paper I shall argue hypothetically and conditionally that insofar as fully autonomous artificial life agents or androids for short are a practical possibility if not now then at least sometime in the future, then they will have a moral status equivalent to that of human beings. I shall argue that if the necessary and sufficient condition for having a moral status is the property or capacity for autonomous purposive agency, then insofar as androids have that property or capacity they should be accorded the same moral status as human beings.

Another issue the paper will explore is trust. Can we trust androids? Specifically, can we trust androids to behave ethically towards us and likewise can we trust ourselves to do the same? Trust is a major problem for Robot-Human Interactions (RHI). For insofar as it is practically possible to create and develop artificial life agents with enhanced intelligence and powers that might exceed that of humans, whom we cannot trust to always behave ethically towards us, we run the serious risk of creating androids that are potentially a threat and a risk to the freedom and wellbeing of human beings even a risk to the survival of the human species.

Can androids trust us and can we trust ourselves not to misuse or abuse androids for our merely self-centered ends, for example, using them as sex-slaves, or armed-combatants in fighting our wars, with or without their willing participation? How can we ensure our own ethical treatment of androids, which if I am right requires us to respect their prima-facie rights to freedom and wellbeing as autonomous purposeful agents and their absolute right to dignity?  The answer, I will argue, is trust. That is, we need to develop and establish a robust trust between humans and androids sufficient for securing our mutual minimal respect for each other thus avoiding or at least minimizing, the risk of ethical misuse, abuse or degradation of each other.

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Wednesday 6th of February at 4pm: Professor Tom Campbell (CAPPE, Charles Sturt University).

Title:  Rights and Recognition

It is common within grass roots political movements to demand ‘rights and recognition’ for neglected or marginal social groups. The intimation is that there is something that connects these two concepts, the one reinforcing and supporting the other in a mutual and symbiotic relationship that provides a rhetorically powerful combination of terms which appeals to aspirations of both empowerment and social status.  This coming together of the language of rights and the language of recognition prompts interesting questions about the empirical, theoretical and normative relationships between these two salient terms.

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Friday 1st of February at 4pm:Professor Samantha Brennan (University of Western Ontario).

Title:  Feminist Ethics and Everyday Inequalities

How should feminist philosophers regard the many and various inequalities that structure the everyday lives of women? Some of these inequalities are trivial and others are not, but regardless of whether they are individually trivial, together they form a framework of unequal treatment that shapes women’s lives.  Of course, gender is not the only variable that affects equality of treatment and outcome. Race, physical ability, class, and sexual orientation are other factors that play a role and when these factors combine, the situation is even more complicated. Also, inequality is not the only morally relevant aspect of women’s oppression and feminist theorists and activists may need to make difficult decisions about which aspects of women’s oppression to focus our efforts. This paper focuses on the inequalities that affect women as women and asks what priority we should give them. Specifically, it examines Claudia Card's view that we ought to give evils  priority  over inequalities.

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Previous Seminars in Canberra

2011 Seminars

2010 Seminars

2009 Seminars

2007 Seminars