• 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 November 21st: 16:30 pm  Emma Larking (ARC Laureate Postdoctoral Fellow ANU, Adjunct Research Fellow at CAPPE, CSU), CSU Canberra video conference room #1.02

Title: How cosmopolitan is Kant’s cosmopolitan legacy?


Immanuel Kant is widely regarded as having inaugurated, in the modern era, a new strand of liberal cosmopolitan thought. I will examine what Seyla Benhabib describes as Kant’s ‘cosmopolitan legacy’, arguing that it has much to tell us about the problematic status of human rights both in contemporary international law and within the liberal democratic state.


Wednesday November 14th: 16:30 pm  Alberto Giubilini (Monash University), CSU Canberra video conference room #1.02

Title: Euthanasia: what is the genuine problem?


The current impasse in the old debate about the morality of euthanasia is mainly due to the fact that, although almost everything has been said about either sides of the controversy, the actual source of conflict has not been properly identified.

    I will first analyse the two different issues involved in the debate, and which are sometimes confusingly mixed up, namely: a) what is euthanasia?, and b) why is euthanasia morally problematic? The difficulty in answering a) is that there is no general agreement among those engaged in debates as to the definition of “euthanasia”. The main difficulty with b) is that some practices such as terminal sedation or withdrawal of disproportionate treatments are sometimes considered morally permissible by those who do not consider euthanasia morally permissible, but the reason for this moral distinction is not clear.
    Considering documents by physicians, philosophers and the Roman Catholic Church, I will show that a) ‘euthanasia’ is defined by the intention to bring about a patient’s death, rather than by its being an active killing, and b) the distinction between what is intentional and what is not does not represent the morally problematic reason against euthanasia.
    Therefore, although the debate on euthanasia so far has mainly focussed on the distinctions “active/passive” and “intentional/unintentional”, I argue that neither constitutes the genuine source of the controversies. I will clarify what such source of controversies exactly is. The clarification will allow me to outline the minimal requirement for a reasonable moral argument against euthanasia.


Wednesday November 7th: 16:30 pm  Anna Julie Rasmussen (Aarhus University), CSU Canberra video conference room #1.02

Title: Ethical Considerations of Carbon Nanotubes


The field of nanotechnology and nanoscience is growing rapidly in many areas of research from electronics to biomedicine to material science. Carbon nanotubes are receiving a lot of attention in the research due to their unique properties and many possible applications. This new material is a good example of how nanotechnology provides us with new opportunities, but at the same time leaves us a lot of unknowns to deal with. Since nanotechnology is also a new and still developing field of study, it provides an ideal opportunity to integrate ethical discussions into the scientific development. Such collaboration across traditional disciplines will help develop the science and technology in the most sustainable way possible. In this talk I will try to give a brief overview of what nanoscience is, especially focusing on carbon nanotubes and their characteristics and applications in biomedicine. I will then discuss two different approaches to nanoethics and argue for a combination of the two using the case of carbon nanotube in biomedicine as an example. Through my discussions I will argue for collaboration across disciplinary boundaries as the central and most important thing when assessing ethical issues in nanotechnology.



Wednesday October 31st: 16:30 pm  Dr. Piero Moraro (CSU), CSU Canberra video conference room #1.02

Title: Restricted Suffrage as Self-Defence


In this talk, I will consider an argument recently defended by Jason Brennan, in favour of restricting suffrage based on voters’ competence. According to his view, incompetent citizens could justifiably be prevented from voting, since their incompetence exposes others to the risk of bad governance: citizens, he argues, have a duty not to vote badly. While I criticise Brennan’s argument, I agree with one of his premises, namely that voting may expose others to some form of harm. However, I will argue that, rather than on competence, we should focus on commitment: citizens who do not care about politics might justifiably be prevented from voting. With reference to McMahan’s notion of ‘culpable threat’, I claim the exclusion of uncommitted voters might be warranted by the principle of self-defence. This approach avoids Brennan’s problematic defence of ‘epistocracy’, and acknowledges citizens’ right to do wrong, that is, to cast a ‘committed’ vote for the bad candidate. I will then conclude by suggesting that the common understanding of the right to vote as a liberty-right is misleading.


Wednesday October 17th: 16:30 pm  Prof. Igor Primoratz (CAPPE / CSU), CSU Canberra video conference room #1.02




One might seek to justify some act or campaign of terrorism in two ways. One could argue that although the direct victims are civilians or ordinary citizens, they are not innocent of the wrongs the terrorists are fighting against. Alternatively, one could grant that the victims are innocent and argue that attacks on them are nevertheless justified, either by the good consequences, on balance, of such attacks, or by some other considerations. In this paper, I look into the first line of argument. I argue that attempts at moral justification of terrorism in terms of complicity of its direct victims in the wrongs terrorists fight against do not succeed. Some are based on a highly problematic understanding of collective responsibility. Others operate with a conception of collective responsibility that may be plausible, but cannot properly be applied to the issue of the morality of terrorism. If terrorism is to be morally justified, the justification will have to concede innocence of its direct victims, and provide some moral considerations showing that they may nevertheless be killed or maimed.


Wednesday October 10th: 16:30 pm  Jonathan Pickering (ANU), CSU Canberra video conference room #1.02

Title: Robbing Pakistan to pay Palau? Justifying the realignment or expansion of aid to fund emerging needs.



Resolving emerging global challenges effectively will often require substantial assistance for developing countries, as for example in the areas of climate change, infectious diseases, financial crises and food insecurity. When new funding priorities arise, governments of wealthy countries must decide whether to realign funding within their existing aid budget, expand the overall aid budget, or leverage other funding sources such as private investment. Since development needs fluctuate over time, and an overall increase in aid is only likely to obtain political support in exceptional circumstances, clearer guidance is required on when it is morally permissible to reallocate aid in order to fund emerging priorities. I investigate this question using a case study of funding to address climate change in developing countries. Developing countries have expressed strong concerns that aid funding for climate change is being diverted from existing development priorities such as health and education.

I outline a range of factors that could influence the permissibility of reallocation, including: whether new funding primarily benefits developing countries or represents a global public good; whether the new priority falls within the scope of pre-existing aid targets; the relative severity and urgency of need among beneficiaries of new and existing funding; and the stringency of moral responsibilities for funding the new priority, including those to remedy or prevent harm. I argue that these factors, while allowing considerable scope for reallocation to address new priorities, support the view that climate finance commitments should be met primarily through a mix of additional aid and other sources rather than reallocating existing aid.


Wednesday October 3rd: 16:30 pm  Dr. Piero Moraro (CSU), CSU Canberra video conference room #1.02

Title: Restricted Suffrage as Self-Defence



In this talk, I will consider an argument recently defended by Jason Brennan, in favour of restricting suffrage based on voters’ competence. According to his view, incompetent citizens could justifiably be prevented from voting, since their incompetence exposes others to the risk of bad governance: citizens, he argues, have a duty not to vote badly. While I criticise Brennan’s argument, I agree with one of his premises, namely that voting may expose others to some form of harm. However, I will argue that, rather than on competence, we should focus on commitment: citizens who do not care about politics might justifiably be prevented from voting. With reference to McMahan’s notion of ‘culpable threat’, I claim the exclusion of uncommitted voters might be warranted by the principle of self-defence. This approach avoids Brennan’s problematic defence of ‘epistocracy’, and acknowledges citizens’ right to do wrong, that is, to cast a ‘committed’ vote for the bad candidate. I will then conclude by suggesting that the common understanding of the right to vote as a liberty-right is misleading.


Wednesday September 26th: 16:30 pm  Prof. Thomas Campbell (CAPPE/CSU), CSU Canberra video conference room #1.02


Title: How about a Global Humanity Levy?


Various types of global taxation have been proposed, some of them in relation to addressing the issue of global poverty.  One such suggestion is a Global Humanity Levy (GHL), which is the name I give to a globally imposed levy on extreme wealth and income of individuals and corporations which is earmarked for globally organised  expenditure on eliminating world-wide extreme poverty. Idealistic as this may be from the point of view of political feasibility, it has several advantages, including  its moral transparency in that the justification of the GHL is grounded in the undeniable affirmation of the moral  grounding for the relief of suffering for its own sake (the principle of humanity) rather than tendentious affirmations of  culpability and unjust enrichment which populate justice-based  justifications. It also addresses the problem of endemic tax avoidance by the globally wealthy and the limits placed on international aid by states when this is in competition with domestic needs including welfare provisions. The main philosophical contention relates to the relative moral stringency of justice and humanity, and the questionable arguments put forward to present justice rather than humanity as the overriding moral imperative in the domain of politics.


Wednesday September 20th: 16:30 pm  Asst. Prof. Andrew JB Crowther (CSU), CSU Canberra video conference room #1.02

Title: Moral Treatment in Psychiatry



The talk offers an historical perspective on and a brief exploration of the treatment philosophy that underpinned the building of large numbers of lunatic asylums in the nineteenth century.

    The influence of Locke and Hobbes on the thinking of the eminent mad-doctors of the day is introduced and illustrated, and the consequences of a gradual dawning of awareness of the futility of moral treatment as a viable option in the care of the mentally ill is discussed.


Wednesday September 12th: 16:30 pm  Rosa Terlazzo (ANU), CSU Canberra video conference room #1.02

Title: In Defence of the Concept of Adaptive Preferences



The concept of adaptive preferences is a contentious one in social and political philosophy. Nevertheless, virtually no clear accounts of the concept have been given, and it is therefore difficult to judge whether the criticisms levelled against the concept are applicable. In the first half of the paper, I identify two strains of common criticisms: first, that use of the concept will disrespect persons by justifying paternalistic intervention that will prevent them from acting on their conceptions of the good; second, that using the concept will disrespect persons by treating some conceptions of the good as incompatible with human flourishing. In the second half of the paper, I argue that an autonomy-based account of adaptive preferences need not fall prey to these objections if the account of autonomy has two crucial features: it must be a selective account of autonomy, and it must be an indirect substantive account of autonomy. By “selective”, I mean that autonomy must be taken to be a feature of individual preferences rather than whole persons. By “indirect substantive” I mean that determining the autonomy of a preference will require employing some substantive content without allowing that content to play a ruling-out function.


Wednesday September 5th: 16:30 pm  Dr. Suzy Killmister (Massey University) CSU Canberra video conference room #1.02

Title: The Agency Approach to Human Rights: Reconciling Philosophy and Practice



James Griffin’s agency approach is one of the more promising developments in the theory of human rights to emerge in recent years.  Nonetheless, in this paper I will argue that it is subject to a fatal flaw. Despite declaring the key desiderata of a human rights theory to be the ability to specify the scope and content of legitimate human rights claims, the agency approach fails to do so.  This is due to the lack of any adequate mechanism within the theory to distinguish relevant from irrelevant threats to agency.  I will explore two options for plugging this gap: one which exploits the naturalistic bent of Griffin’s theory, and one which turns to a political solution.  While neither is free from objection, I will argue that the latter approach is the more promising.


Wednesday August 22nd: 16:30 pm  Dr. Amandine Catala (London School of Economics) CSU Canberra video conference room #1.02

Title: Territorial Justification and Rectificatory Justice



The question of territorial justification asks what makes a territorial claim legitimate. This question arises most urgently in territorial disputes where more ancient and more recent occupants each contend they have a valid claim to the same territory. The question has typically been framed as a conflict between two mutually exclusive principles: the restitution principle, whereby the land should be given back to the more ancient occupants; and the prescription principle, whereby the land rightfully belongs to the more recent occupants. This false dilemma problematically implies that in cases where restitution is no longer feasible, the land rightfully belongs to the more recent occupants, no matter how unjust their initial appropriation of the land. I argue for a third principle, one of rectificatory justice, which recognizes both the rare feasibility of restitution and the significant rectificatory duties that more recent occupants nonetheless have toward more ancient occupants. inter-related parts that together form a sustained argument for the design of wisdom- in-technology for the advancement of collective wellbeing in contemporary society.


Tuesday August 14th: 12:30 pm  Professor Thomas Pogge (Yale/ANU) Lennox Room, Level 1, JG Crawford Building 132, Lennox Crossing, ANU

Title: Measuring Poverty and Gender Disparity: A Joint Approach to Measuring Progress


Existing international poverty metrics, including the World Bank’s International Poverty Line and the United Nations Development Programme’s Multidimensional Poverty Index, suffer from several flaws, including that they are incapable of revealing gender disparity, are insensitive to deprivations in a range of important dimensions, and are morally arbitrary or unjustified.The project of constructing a new measure of deprivation is an important one, but must be undertaken in consultation with those who are most acquainted with poverty and hardship.

Over the last two years, across 18 sites in six countries (Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Fiji, the Philippines, and Indonesia), poor men and women have been engaged in participatory research to develop a new measure of deprivation. This lecture will briefly review the results of this participatory research and explicate a proposal for a new measure of deprivation based on these findings.

Thomas Pogge is Leitner Professor of Philosophy and International Affairs at Yale University, and Professor in Philosophy at ANU. He has published widely on Kant, Rawls, and global justice. His recent books include World Poverty and Human Rights: Cosmopolitan Responsibilities and Reforms, and Politics as Usual: What Lies Behind the Pro-Poor Rhetoric. Professor Pogge will be joined by Scott Wisor, Research Fellow at the Department of Philosophy.

The paper comprises six inter-related parts that together form a sustained argument for the design of wisdom- in-technology for the advancement of collective wellbeing in contemporary society.


Wednesday August 8th: 4:30pm  Dr. Edward Howlett Spence (CAPPE/Charles Sturt University)

Title: Wisdom and Well-being in a Technological Age



In this presentation I will explore the conceptual relationship between wisdom and well-being and its normative importance for a contemporary society increasingly defined by multiple activities associated with technology. To that end, I will present a theoretical model based on the conceptual association of wisdom and well-being for the purpose of demonstrating how that model is useful for normatively evaluating technological activities in contemporary society in relation to their impact on well-being.

The paper comprises six inter-related parts that together form a sustained argument for the design of wisdom- in-technology for the advancement of collective wellbeing in contemporary society.


Wednesday July 18th: 4:30pm  Prof. Steven Vanderheiden (University of Colorado, CAPPE)

Title: Demands for justice upon stilts? Wielding human rights against climate change


To what extent can the analytical and political resources of human rights be usefully applied to the ethical problems surrounding climate change?  What (if anything) is added to ethical prohibitions against climate-related harm by claiming that climate change violated human rights against various manifestations of harm, individual or collective?  Can human rights approaches better capture the links between culpable human actions and harm to others, relative to those of climate ethics?  Are they better at diagnosing the links between individual acts and bad collective outcomes than are climate justice approaches?  Overall, what might be gained from applying human rights analyses to the imperatives surrounding climate change, compared with analyses based in either distributive justice or individual ethics, and what problems afflict such a project?  In this talk, I shall consider both the potential benefits and shortcomings of claiming human rights against climate change. 



Wednesday July 18th: 4:30pm  Dr. Scott Wisor (ANU)

Title: Measuring Poverty and Gender Disparity:  A Joint Approach to a New Measure


This presentation will review progress on two phases of participatory fieldwork across 18 sites in six countries (Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Fiji, the Philippines, and Indonesia). The project aims to develop a new, genuinely gender-sensitive measure of poverty that is responsive to the stated views and preferences of poor men and women.  The presentation will explore the proposed new measure, which captures information on both monetary and non-monetary dimensions, allows for incremental, multidimensional, individual level assessment, and improves upon several shortcomings in existing measures 


Wednesday July 11th: 4:30pm  Dr. Stephen Clarke (Charles Sturt University)

Title: A Religious Conception of Evil


Many religious people use the term ‘evil’ to describe or explain actions and worldly events by appeal to a metaphysics involving the supernatural. A person performed a particular action because they were possessed by Satan; an apparent coincidence was no such thing but was the result of an intervention in the world by a demon, etc. It might be thought that because different religions postulate different supernatural ontologies, there would be a diversity of religious conceptions of evil. However, recent research in the cognitive science of religion suggests that there are very strong similarities in the conceptual commitments made by apparently very distinct religions. On the basis of such research I identify a shared religious conception of evil. This turns out to have much in common with the treatment of evil that falls out of Durkheim’s classic analysis of the sacred.


Tuesday June 12th: Prof Paul Thompson (MSU), 5:00 p.m, 'The Boardroom', George Browning Building, ACC&C, CSU Barton Campus, 15 Blackall Street, Barton.

Title: The Fundamental Problem of Food Ethics


Starting out with Singer and Sen on food security, I argue that despite revisions, Singer's approach remains insensitive to the tension between producers (many of whom are quite poor, on a global basis) and consumers. I argue that development ethics (e.g Thomas Pogge, Henry Shue) doesn't help either, because while these views establish the rights of people as poor, they deny them any particular moral status as farmers. The paper then devolves back into a very brief sketch of some of the ideas to suggest how we might think of farmers as having a moral identity worthy of special consideration

Wednesday June 13th: Dr. Patrick Lin (CalPoly), 4:30 p.m., 'The Boardroom', George Browning Building, ACC&C, CSU Barton Campus, 15 Blackall Street, Barton.

Title: Robot Ethics


Wednesday May 23rd: Alejandra Mancilla (ANU)

Title: A Cosmopolitan Right of Necessity


Given the grim statistics of extreme poverty coupled with the increasing social and economic inequalities in the world today, a growing number of moral and political philosophers have posed the question of what moral duties arise there from. Justice cosmopolitans, on one hand, contend that the problem can be solved mostly through the re-design of certain coercive global rules and institutions that harm the poor in an avoidable and foreseeable way. On the other hand, assistance cosmopolitans claim that, regardless of their causal connection to the plight of the poor, the well-off have the duty to assist them and thus minimize the total amount of human suffering. By centring their analysis on the side of the contributors or aiders, both sides overlook the question of what a person in need may do for herself in order to get out of her plight.


Here, I focus on that question and claim that –given certain necessary and jointly sufficient conditions– an agent has a right to take and use someone else’s resources to satisfy her need. This right is cosmopolitan (everyone holds it in principle against everyone else), but is nonetheless special (it arises only under certain particular circumstances). To conclude, I offer some thoughts on the normative and practical implications of accepting such a right.


Wednesday May 9th: Steve McKinlay (Wellington Institute of Technology)

Title: Informational Realism and Ethics


Recently an informational ontology has been proposed by Oxford's Luciano Floridi.  His general thesis is that we can interpret reality at a most fundamental level informationally.  "A view of the world as the totality of informational objects dynamically interacting with each other" (2008).  Informational realism is important as it also plays a fundamental role in his onto-centric Information Ethics.  I suggest however there are some conceptual errors in Floridi's work.  Firstly he draws upon object oriented (OO) terminology and theory to illustrate the nature of the informational entity, however OO objects can only ever be interpreted as referents and a referent can never be a primitive entity.  Further, Informational entities are generally only described in terms of structure, information also has a causal nature and for a systematic metaphysics this part of the debate needs to be addressed.  Finally I look at the implications these issues have for Floridi's information ethics.


Wednesday May 2nd: Heather Alexander (UNHCR) and Jonathan Simon (ANU)

Title: Lacking a Nationality and Unable to Return Home: Displaced Inhabitants of Submerged States will have Refugee Status


Climate change threatens the very existence of small island states. If these island states are unable to acquire or build new territory, they may be submerged under the sea, in which case their inhabitants will be forced to flee and seek asylum elsewhere. But the usual interpretation of refugee law construes persecution as a necessary condition for refugee status, and most scholars agree that climate change is not a persecuting agent. Most scholars therefore presume that displaced islanders will be ineligible for refugee status. We claim, to the contrary, that displaced islanders will be eligible for refugee status even though climate change is not persecution. We defend this claim in two stages. First, we argue that the usual interpretation of refugee law, according to which persecution is necessary for refugee status, is incorrect. We review the antecedents and drafting documents of the 1951 Refugee Convention, and we conclude that, in both letter and intent, the! Convention leaves room for refugees who are not persecuted. Second, we argue that displaced islanders fit in this category of non-persecuted refugee. The former inhabitants of fully submerged island states will lack a nationality and be unable to return to their country of former habitual residence. This means that they count as refugees under article 1(A)2 of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.


Wednesday April 18th: Dr. Ned Dobos (University of NSW at the Australian Defence Force Academy), Level 5 of the Regus Building, 7 London Circuit. Room 569, 4:30 pm-6:30 pm.

Title: The Requirement of Double-Intention


In both the laws and the ethics of armed conflict the protection of innocent civilians is assigned priority. The core tenet here is the principle of “civilian immunity”, which prohibits deliberately attacking civilians in war. But not trying to harm civilians is not enough; a combatant must also try not to harm civilians. A good combatant aims only at legitimate military targets, but he/she also strives to minimise civilian casualties even if this means taking on additional risk to him/herself. This is the so-called requirement of “double intention” (RDI). Unfortunately the RDI is unhelpfully vague. To what lengths must a combatant go in order to be considered compliant with the RDI? How far must he/she reduce danger to civilians? What counts as a morally acceptable trade-off between military and civilian risk? Michael Walzer recognises that there is no one-size-fits-all answer. It varies from case to case, depending on “the nature of the target, the urgency of the moment, the available technology, and so on”. In this paper I explore some of the other factors that might influence the stringency of the RDI.


Wednesday April 11th: Dr. Luara Ferracioli (Dept of Politics and International Relations, Oxford University), Level 5 of the Regus Building, 7 London Circuit. Room 569, 4:30 pm-6:30 pm.

Title: The Appeal and Danger of a New Refugee Convention


Within the normative literature on refugee studies, there is broad consensus that the 1951 Refugee Convention is inadequate in its specification of who counts as a refugee, and its assignment of responsibility to states. At the same time, however, there is substantial agreement among legal scholars that the negotiation of a new Convention would lead states to extricate themselves from previously assumed responsibilities, rather than sign on to a set of more desirable legal norms. In this paper, I argue that states should ultimately negotiate a new Convention, but that first they must alleviate the institutional and motivational constraints that make progress currently unattainable.


Wednesday March 28th:Sadjad Sultanzadeh (CAPPE, Charles Sturt University), Level 5 of the Regus Building, 7 London Circuit. Room 569, 4:30 pm-6:30 pm.

Title: Understanding Technologies: a Functionalist, Anthropocentric View.


In this talk, I shall provide a better understanding of physical instruments (technologies) from a functionalist, anthropocentric view. I shall first argue that it is metaphysically essential to approach technologies on the basis of the relations they make with humans and not "in isolation". Keeping human-technology relations at the centre of studying technologies, I will then try to develop a functionalist account of technologies that a) helps us differentiate between technologies and ordinary objects, b) shows that technologies are inherently subject to evaluative and comparative judgements, and c) that being a technology is a matter of degree, and that d) this degree is determined not by the material properties of the technology, rather by the function expected of it to fulfil. Finally, I will clarify three points that could make this (or any other) approach to technologies an anthropocentric one.


Wednesday March 21st: Dr. Ben Fraser (ANU), Level 5 of the Regus Building, 7 London Circuit. Room 569, 4:30 pm-6:30 pm.

Title: The Reluctant Mercenary: vulnerability and "the whores of war".


Mercenaries are targets of moral condemnation far more often than they are subjects of moral concern. One attempt at morally condemning mercenaries proceeds by analogy with prostitutes; mercenaries are "the whores of war." This analogy is unconvincing as a way of condemning mercenaries. However, careful comparison of mercenarism and prostitution suggests that, like some prostitutes, some mercenaries may be vulnerable individuals. If apt, this comparison imposes a consistency requirement: if one thinks certain prostitutes are appropriate subjects of moral concern in light of their vulnerability, then one must think that mercenaries who are likewise vulnerable are also appropriate subjects of moral concern. In this paper I elucidate the relevant, morally significant sense of "vulnerability", and present evidence suggesting that at least some mercenaries are vulnerable in this sense.


Tuesday, 13th March: Thomas Pogge, (CAPPE, Yale), The Chapel, Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture, 15 Blackall Street, Barton Doors at 4:30, Talk begins 5:15 - 6:30pm

Title: A Joint Approach to Measuring Poverty and Gender Disparity]

The importance of reducing poverty and gender disparity is widely accepted. But how is their evolution over time to be tracked? Leaving these indexing tasks to officials in governments and international agencies was not a good idea: such officials are not well equipped to ponder the important moral issues involved and have substantial career incentives to come up with rosy pictures. Highly influential, existing indexes are also deeply flawed: distorting our moral judgments and misguiding resource allocations by governments, international agencies, and NGOs. Based on a clear understanding of these flaws, our research team is working toward improved measures whose construction involves substantial discussions with poor people at 18 sites in six countries. This work is not yet complete, but there are some preliminary findings that will influence the next stages of the research as well as the kinds of indexes likely to emerge.

The Project: Measuring Poverty and Gender Disparity This research project seeks to provide an answer to the question: what is a just and justifiable measure of poverty that is truly gender sensitive and capable of revealing gender disparities? An interdisciplinary team of academics has partnered with leading NGOs to investigate this question by combining the expertise and insights of poor men and women with leading figures from a variety of disciplines. Click Here For Project Website


    Wednesday 22nd February: Nick Evans, (CAPPE ANU), Level 5 of the Regus Building, 7 London Circuit. Canberra

    Title: Great Expectations: Revisiting the Censorship of Science

    The dual-use dilemma---which arises when scientific research, materials or technologies can be used to both benefit and harm humanity---has recently received popular attention with the decision advocated by the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) to partly censor two controversial studies on H5N1 Avian Influenza.  In this paper, I will detail these events, and then use the reasons given by the NSABB and other actors in this contemporary example of dual-use to offer insight into the continuing ethical debate over the tension between scientific freedom and security concerns.  
        I identify that the most appealing---and in the debate about the Avian Influenza studies mentioned above---claim for scientific freedom over censorship (or any other invasive regulation of science) is based on the (moral) good that science (and scientific progress) promotes in society.  However, this claim, in its most defensible form, requires significant qualification.  Moreover, in the context of global public health, realising basic science's value is contingent on a number of other factors that we might be concerned do not arise in practice. Thus, claims that seek to defend dual-use research against regulation rely on a number of (mostly unstated) assumptions that render claims about the benefit of dual-use research just as potential and contingent as (according to detractors) the threat of the use of dual-use research by aspiring bioterrorists.



Wednesday 15th February: Tom Campbell (CSU), Level 5 of the Regus Building, 7 London Circuit.

Title: The Moral Foundations of the Political Approach to Human Rights

Sceptical responses to the increasing variety of human rights claims have given rise to a less moral and more ‘political’ approach to the philosophy of human rights. The political approach focuses on the practice of human rights, mainly from an international perspective, and rejects ‘traditional’ theories which seek to conceptualise human rights without reference to their current global roles. Drawing on the work of Charles Beitz, Joseph Raz and Laura Valentini, and using as an example the anti-poverty rights associated with global justice, the paper endorses the proposal to focus the roles of human rights and the mechanisms which feature in their institutionalisations, and acknowledges the plurality of moral values relevant to their justification. However, it commends modifying the political approach to render it more critical of current human rights practice and less critical of the attempted justification of human rights in terms of the fundamental moral values characteristic of human rights discourse. Thus, assessing the case for adopting freedom from poverty as a human right requires awareness of the mechanisms likely to be adopted for the operationalising such a right but also calls for consideration of the values which feature in its moral justification.