• 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 December 11 16:30 pm

Prof. Thomas Campbell (CSU)

Assisted Dying: Promoting Autonomy or Preventing Suffering?


My topic is within the ongoing and contentious debate about ethics and the ending of life. In this debate, ‘assisted dying’ is used to cover both ‘voluntary euthanasia’ (being killed by another at your request) and ‘assisted suicide’ (being helped to kill yourself). Both involve the voluntary choices of intellectually competent persons who seek to die. In most jurisdictions , while suicide is not a criminal act, assisting suicide and voluntary euthanasia are.

The paper seeks to probe the arguments for and against legalising assisted dying. It examines the concept of autonomy as it features in this debate, in particular the extent to which autonomy is subordinate to humanitarian conditions concerning the relief of suffering. It argues that the moral value of ‘intrinsic autonomy’, while sufficient to justify the non-criminalisation of suicide, is insufficient to justify the decriminalisation of assisted dying. However, ‘instrumental autonomy’ may generate a morally legitimate basis for legalising both assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia, under certain conditions. Thus, legalising assisted dying may be morally justified where there are sufficient humanitarian grounds (e.g. the relief of suffering) for the provision of assisted dying. The instrumental autonomy of the person involved requires that it is s/he who determines whether these grounds exist. However, a more objective procedure involving expert opinions, would be required to assess the competence and understanding of the person seeking assistance in dying and his or her freedom from external pressures. Medical participation is required but only for the purpose of overseeing the implementation of the lethal methods employed, rather than such matters as medical diagnosis, except insofar as this is required for managing assisted suicide.

Wednesday December 4 16:30 pm

Dr. Piero Moraro (CSU)

On the moral duty to pay the price for breaking the law


This talk focuses on the moral obligations of civil disobedients, i.e. citizens who deliberately violate the law to communicate their concern about an injustice. Many believe that civil disobedients are morally bound to accept the legal punishment, in spite of the particular nature of their conduct. According to this view, although the breach of law was meant to be a "speech act", the disobedients are not exempt from the legal consequences of their choice. Like with all other law-breakers, the state has the moral right to punish them.

In this talk, I consider some recent arguments in favour of this view, and highlight
that, in one way or another, they overlook a central point: namely, that whatever moral obligation the civil disobedients have, it is an obligation to be held accountable by their own community, not to accept the punishment. Drawing on the notion of moral 'answerability', I argue that there is nothing "civil" in accepting punishment per se, and that in many cases the state has no moral right to punish civil disobedients.


Wednesday November 20 16:30 pm

Dr. Emma Rush (CSU)

The ethical implications of gendered toy marketing


This paper is still very much a work-in-progress. It is essentially my part of a longer co-authored article with Cordelia Fine. Many children’s toys are marketed in highly gendered ways. One common defence such for gendered marketing of toys is that it simply responds to children’s ‘natural’ gendered preferences. Counter to this defence, Cordelia’s part of the paper argues that there is no scientific basis for such ‘natural’ gendered preferences. Of course, philosophically, even if some of children’s gendered toy preferences were ‘natural’ (a factual matter), it is a further (normative) question whether facilitating such gendered preferences would be desirable. However, given the common assumption of ‘natural’ gender preferences in the debate about gendered toy marketing and the weight this assumption carries, it seems important as a starting point to clarify that the science does not support such an assumption. I will provide a brief summary of Cordelia’s part of the paper, and then – in the absence of clear empirical data specific to the effects of gendered toy marketing on children – move on to argue for a range of ways in which gendered toy marketing might be ethically considered to be bad for children. If these arguments are convincing, then an ethical obligation for marketers to reduce or cease gendered toy marketing practices follows.


Wednesday November 14 16:30 pm

Dr. Benjamin Fraser (ANU)

The case for moral abolitionism


In this paper, I present a view – moral abolitionism – and motivate discussion of that view by relating it to several issues in metaethics, normative ethics, and applied ethics. I then survey reasons offered in support of moral abolitionism. I suggest that the case for moral abolitionism made thus far is perhaps plausible but largely speculative. I then bring to bear evidence from recent empirical moral psychology. I focus on role that moralizing – and especially commitment to moral objectivity – plays in disagreement. I end with the suggestion that moralizing itself may be subject to something like a dual-use dilemma.


Wednesday October 30 16:30 pm

Prof. Jeanette Kennett (Macquarie), Dr. Steve Matthews (ACU), and Anke Snoek (Macquarie)

Pleasure and Addiction


What is the role and value of pleasure in addiction? Foddy and Savalescu (2010) have recently claimed that substance use is just pleasure-oriented behaviour. They describe addiction as ‘strong appetites toward pleasure’ (15) and argue that addicts suffer in significant part because of strong social and moral disapproval of lives dominated by pleasure seeking. But such lives, they claim, can be autonomous and rational. The view they offer is thus largely in line with the choice model and opposed to a disease model of addiction.

We will not question the claim that a life devoted to pleasure can be autonomously chosen. It certainly seems possible that some addicts’ lives are autonomous in this way. Nor do we question the claim that the social stigma attached to the use of certain drugs increases the harm suffered by the user. However our interviews with addicts (as philosophers rather than health professionals or peers) reveal a genuinely ambivalent and complex relationship between addiction, value and pleasure. In this paper we consider the implications of what drug users say about pleasure and value over the course of addiction for models of addiction.

Wednesday October 23 16:30 pm

Pablo Jiménez (CAPPE, CSU)

United in Diversity — An Analogical Hermeneutics Contribution to the Social and Political Philosophy of the European Union


This paper discusses how a series of publications(see link below) contributes to the social and political philosophy of EU studies. It summarises those concepts which either are new for this field of study, or are proposed in an innovative or creative way. It also points out to topics of further research. Finally, it summarises my own position regarding the European project and its future. In a century (XXI) in which Europe risks neither self-inflicted destruction (XIX century) nor external annihilation (XX century), but mere irrelevance, the question on how the subcontinent can pull resources, and work together in the midst of their diversity is crucial (both for them and--arguably--for the world too).
Paper available at:

Wednesday October 16 16:30 pm

Dr. Alberto Giubilini (CAPPE, CSU)

The Wisdom Of Reasoned Repugnance. What Battlefield For The Enhancement Debate?


One influential strand of so-called "bioconservatism" explicitly bases opposition to human enhancement on either 1) the alleged “wisdom” of some of our emotions (for instance repugnance), and/or 2) intuitions about human nature and dignity. Many bioliberals see such intuitions/emotions as sources of biases. Because of the lack of agreement about which battlefield is more appropriate (the level of rational arguments or of intuitions/emotions), a genuine debate might never start. Bioliberals and many bioconservatives might thus overlook important insights coming from their opponents.

Recent findings in moral psychology seem to suggest that neither bioconservatives’ suspicion of rational arguments nor bioliberals’ total rejection of intuitions and emotions are well grounded. Most notably, these findings have highlighted a) the important role played by intuitions and emotions in moral judgments (including liberal ones), and b) the interplay of intuitions/emotions with rational reflection. Some studies have suggested that intuitions and emotions can be the result of ethical reflection that has become automatized.

I will argue that these findings can 1) support the typically (bio)conservative idea that there is wisdom – rather than just biases - in some of our intuitions and emotions, and 2) indicate a common battlefield where bioconservatives and bioliberals can constructively argue without (entirely) abandoning their methodological premises. The battlefield is one where bioliberals take into more careful consideration warnings based on intuitions and emotions, and bioconservatives (perhaps reluctantly) test their intuitions against the arguments provided by bioliberals. I will show how both sides can benefit from this move.

Wednesday September 25 16:30 pm

Dr. Ned Dobos (ADFA)

Is Networking Immoral?


“Networking” is taken to be a perfectly innocuous career-advancement strategy, but is it? In this paper I argue that networking, at least where the aim is to increase one’s prospects of prevailing in a formal competitive process for a job, involves an attempt to gain illegitimate advantage. This is true no matter which characterisation of networking we accept. If networking is about building personal relationships, as some of the experts claim, I argue that it is an attempt to cultivate non-merit-based favouritism. To that extent it shares one of the wrong-making features of career bribery. On the other hand if networking is about demonstrating one’s merit in advance of formal selection processes, networking shares one of the wrong-making features of earwigging in legal advocacy. Either way, the networker denies (or tries to deny) his rival job-seekers something to which they are presumptively entitled. Either he denies their right not to be disadvantaged for reasons other than lack of relative merit, or he denies their right not to be disadvantaged by ex parte communications that take place outside of formal selection processes.


Wednesday September 18 16:30 pm

Professor John Kleinig (CSU)

How Loyalty Works


Loyalty is more than a feeling of attachment. It involves a practical disposition to deny oneself for the sake of an associational other with which one identifies. The vice of disloyalty is, essentially, to allow some form of self-assertion to compromise the conditions of such association. Paradigmatically, loyalties are to personalized others and loyalty, conceived of as a virtue, acknowledges the essentially social character of our beings. As particularized commitments, loyalties may therefore stand in some tension with what is designated as moral universalism. There is no simple formula for resolving such tensions, though there is a range of considerations that may enter into judgments about what should be done when they are in conflict. This gives rise to a more general account of the appropriate associational objects of loyalty and the limits to which those loyalties ought to be subject.


Wednesday August 28 16:30 pm

Dr. Daniel Cohen (CSU)

Interpreting Preference Utilitarianism


According to consequentialism, an action is permissible if and only if its outcome is at least as good as any available alternative. Preference utilitarianianism combines consequentialism with a ‘preferentist’ axiology, which says that a world, W1, is at least as good as another, W2, if and only if W1 contains as least as much preference satisfaction as W2. My aim in this paper is to distinguish some different ways in which a world might be said to have as much, or more, preference satisfaction than another, and to ask: in which of these ways might one world plausibly be better than another? I will proceed by comparing various preferentist theories under three main categories. On satisfaction theories, the presence of a satisfied preference in a world makes it better while the presence of a frustrated preference makes it worse, all else equal. Ratio theories say that one world is better than another when the ratio of satisfied to frustrated preferences in the first world is higher than in the second. And, finally, object theories say that a world is better than another when there is more satisfaction of preferences in the first world than in the second. I will defend a world-relativist version of the object view, arguing that it makes the most sense of how preferences function. Finally, I will criticize Peter Singer’s well-known argument that, according to preference utilitarianism, non-persons are ‘replaceable’ in contrast with persons, who are not. I will argue that Singer’s argument depends on an inconsistent combination of two distinct preferentist theories of value.


Wednesday August 14 16:30 pm

Dr. Chika Anyanwu (CSU)

Technogenarians and the Socioeconomic Consequences of Ageing


Australia’s longevity has turned into ageing. Ageing becomes an economic burden when growth in working age generation fails to keep pace with growth in the greying population. On 19 January 2010 the then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd warned of economic disaster from a looming wave of retirees unless Australia embraces a decade of nation building and workforce reforms (Renee Viellaris, 2010). Findings of the third Intergenerational Report, claims that by 2050, there would be only 2.7 people of working age for each person aged 65 years and older, compared with 7.5 people in 1970 and five-to-one currently. According to Treasury estimate (2012), the number of Australians aged 65 and over is expected to increase rapidly, from around 2.5 million in 2002 to 6.2 million in 2042 or from 14 to 25 percent. For the over 85, the growth is even more rapid, it will jump from its current 1.9 per cent (426,500) to about 5 per cent by 2041 (Grant Thornton 2012). In the next 20 years the number of Australians aged over 70 is expected to reach 4 million (Patten 2012).

As a result of the above grim picture, this research opens up some difficult discussion questions: while medical science and technology enable longevity, does such longevity equate to productivity? At what point in the technologically enhanced life cycle does a person reach what can be called stage of productive equilibrium? At what stage can we assume that investments in such assistive technologies have hit the law of diminishing return? Can we measure people’s contributions only by tangible economic activities? What are other social benefits of ageing and how can we measure and leverage them to sustain the future? This research will use current census and economic data to position the argument bearing in mind that to ask the above questions may be painful, but to ignore asking will be more painful in the long term.

Wednesday July 31 16:30 pm

Assoc. Prof. Steven Vanderheiden (University of Colorado, CAPPE)

Global justice and natural resources: three potential appeals


Philosophers have noted the role that disparities in access to natural resources plays in global justice, often calling for more equitable distribution of such resources as required by egalitarian commitments. But in doing so, they have rarely acknowledged the difference between resource stocks and flows, much less explored the implications for justice of this distinction, or considered how different justice frameworks might entail different remedial measures when some are deprived of natural resources to which they are entitled. In this talk, I will explore the stock/flow distinction in natural resources, arguing for its relevance in specifying which kinds of resources might form the basis for remedial redistribution, and do so by weighing three potential justice-based appeals available to those deprived of critical resources: the appeals to historical injustice, to human rights, and to resource equality. I will then argue that it matters which of the three are appealed to by considering the remedy that each implies.


Wednesday July 10 16:30 pm

Dr. Massimo Renzo (University of Warwick)

Human needs, Human rights


The language of human rights has become the main currency in which some of the most important issues of domestic, international and transnational law are discussed. A notion that plays such a pervasive role is in need of justification, and to this task –the task of explaining what human rights are and what justifies their existence–philosophers have turned in recent years. In this paper I provide a basic needs account of human rights, one that ties the justification of human rights to the idea of a “minimally decent human life”. A minimally decent human life is one in which we have the option to fulfil a core group of socially embedded biological and psychological needs, as well as social needs. Human rights protect the conditions for a minimally decent life by providing us with the opportunity to meet such needs. In the first part of the paper I outline the basic needs account of human rights, defending it from a number of objections that can be raised against it. In the second part of the paper I argue that the account has the resources to address the parochialism objection (i.e. the objection according to which human rights are parochial constructions to the extent that they rely on controversial metaphysical and moral assumptions that are not acceptable to non-Western cultures).


Wednesday June 26: 16:30 pm

Paul Griffiths (CAPPE, CSU)

Justice, Neutrality and the Equal Advancement of Interests in a Well-Ordered Society


In a ‘well-ordered society’ citizens accept and know that each other accept the same conception of justice which regulates society. In Political Liberalism, Rawls altered his approach to the ‘well-ordered society’ to allow for a level of disagreement on justice which he accepted as inevitable in free societies. This new approach held that justice requires neutrality on the good at the level of the terms of social cooperation, but, in order to accommodate disagreement on the full range of what justice requires, non-neutral values may be involved in social cooperation at other levels. Objections to Rawls claim that either disagreement on justice applies to the idea of neutrality itself and that his new position is incoherent, or, that there is no clear distinction between the terms and use of social cooperation. I follow Quong in suggesting that the duty to support just institutions provides a foundational level of agreement on the place of justice in social cooperation as distinct from the use of social cooperation to secure the good, which may be the subject of disagreement. This justifies the requirement of neutrality at the terms of cooperation. However, I offer an alternative conception of justice that is more inclusive and wide ranging than Quong’s. Unlike Quong's, this conception makes room for disagreement on justice, as Rawls intended in Political Liberalism, and accepts the use of social cooperation to promote the good as legitimate within certain constraints. These constraints are jointly defined by the principle of equal advancement of interests as a consideration of justice and the requirements of public justice in a well-ordered society. Together, these stipulate that the use of social cooperation to promote the good is not only permitted by justice but may be required by it, so long as it is conducted to be observably advancing the interests of the people in a way so as to treat citizens equally important.


Wednesday June 19: 16:30 pm

Dr. Steve Clark (CAPPE, CSU)

Using Religion to Justify Violence


Much has been written about the relationship between religion and violence, and much of what has been written is aimed at trying to determine whether, how and why religion causes violence. In my forthcoming book The Justification of Religious Violence (Wiley-Blackwell), I pursue a different goal, which is to understand if and how religion can be used to justify violence. Followers of many different religions, who commit violent acts, seek to justify these by appealing to religion. I argue that religious believers are able to incorporate premises, grounded in the metaphysics of religious world views, in arguments for the conclusion that this or that violent act is justified. In the book I examine various different ways in which the metaphysics of religious world views can be used in justifications of violence. In this presentation I concentrate on appeals to the importance of the afterlife to justify violence, focusing specifically on arguments that have been developed in the Christian and Buddhist traditions.


Wednesday June 05: 16:30 pm

Assoc. Professor Fritz Allhoff (CAPPE & Western Michigan University)

The Paradox of Nonlethal Weapons


Not all weapons are designed to kill; some are just meant to cause injury. Yet under the rules of war—a somewhat haphazard collection of ethical and legal directives—we are sometimes allowed to use lethal weapons even when certain nonlethal weapons are disallowed. In short, the lethal weapons are more permissible on the battlefield. As Donald Rumsfeld once complained “in many instances, our forces are allowed to shoot somebody and kill them, but they’re not allowed to use a nonlethal riot-control agent.” This is the paradox of nonlethal weapons, and it has been around for some time. Yet as military technology becomes increasingly capable of halting an enemy without killing him, it is a situation that international law must reconsider. Isn’t less deadly better?

For background, see this article in Slate or this interview on Huffington Post.


Wednesday May 22: 16:30 pm

Dr Gerhard Øverland (CAPPE) & Prof. Bashshar Haydar (University of Beirut)

Benefiting from Injustice and Poverty Alleviation


Sometimes we receive benefits that we have done nothing to deserve. In some of these cases, no one is made worse off by it. In other cases, the benefits come as a consequence of something bad happening to other people. And what happens to them may also be the consequence of other people’s wrongdoing. When it does, we benefit from a wrong or from an injustice.

In this paper, we investigate whether benefiting from an injustice gives one a special moral responsibility to give up some of these benefits in order to help the victims of that injustice. We argue that while little may follow from the mere fact that you benefit from an injustice, there are certain conditions that (together with the fact that one benefits from injustice) ground fairly stringent requirement on part the beneficiary to relinquish a considerable portion of the benefits in question.

We identify three types of situations in which those who benefit from an injustice would be morally required to give up significant part of their benefits in order to compensate the victims of the injustice, even when the beneficiaries do not contribute to the injustice nor posses any property that rightfully belongs to the victims of the injustice. In the first type, the beneficiary happen to be the motivational cause of the injustice. In the second type, the beneficiary gains the benefits in question through a direct or indirect transfer of assets from the perpetrators of the injustice to her. In the third type, the beneficiary benefits from a distortion of a fair competitive procedure for allocating awards. In the last part of the paper, we argue that for the question of poverty alleviation some of these factors are quite often at play, and that, therefore, affluent people have benefiting-based responsibility to address global poverty.

Wednesday May 15: 16:30 pm

Dr Edward Spence (Charles Sturt University)

Media Corruption in a Convergent Digital Media Environment


This paper will provide an applied philosophical model of corruption that will be utilized to first identify and then ethically analyse and evaluate some major types of corruption that arise in the media. Key case studies will provide a practical illustration and contextualisation of those major types of media corruption. In addition to identifying, analysing and ethically evaluating the major types of corruption in the media, the paper will also provide a diagnostic analysis of media corruption in terms of its possible causes and contexts. One cause and context of media corruption to be examined will be in terms of the epistemology and ethics of information. For insofar as information can be defined as a type of knowledge that of necessity must be true then cases of “cash-for-comment” and “media release journalism” practices, for example, may prove to be conducive and constitutive of corruption, if they result in misinformation or disinformation rather than information. The paper aims to show that infomercials, advertorials, product placements within news content, as well as cash-for-comment and media release journalism cases, among others, constitute instances of such corruption. Closely related to the convergence of information and persuasion practices within the media is the conflict of professional roles which can also be conducive to corruption. In the case of media release journalism, for example, where journalists reproduce media releases as news or editorial comment without independent corroboration of content or disclosure as to their source, the roles of journalism and that of public relations give rise to a conflict of interest through a convergence of their inherently conflicting roles that can be conducive to corruption. The paper aims to show that the ‘unholy’ alliance between journalism on the one hand and advertising and public relations on the other is one of the major and pervasive causes of corruption within the media. In the wake of the News of the World hacking scandal, this paper also aims to examine whether new information and communication technologies (ICTs) are proving conducive to media corruption by affording certain media practices that undermine rather than promote the traditional values of journalism of informing the public on matters of public interest. This paper will also investigate how certain new media and convergent media practices, such as blogging, and user-sourced information may also prove to be conducive to the corruption of the dissemination of information to the public. A key example concerns the blog of A Gay Girl in Damascus in 2011 that was not written as originally thought by a 35-year-old woman kidnapped by security forces in Syria, but by Tom MacMaster, a married, 40-year-old American studying at Edinburgh University. Related to that, the paper will finally examine whether information “hoaxes” perpetrated by self-defined activists or hactivists such as in the case of the Whitehaven hoax by Jonathan Moylan, may also constitute media corruption in the digital informational environment.


Dr. Edward Spence is a Senior Lecturer (Philosophy and Ethics) at School of Communication and Creative Industries at Charles Sturt University, Senior Research Fellow at Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics (CAPPE), and Research Fellow at 3TU. Centre for Ethics and Technology, Den Haag, Netherlands.


Wednesday May 8th: 16:30 pm

Shannon Ford (CAPPE, Charles Sturt University)

Military force short-of-war


In this paper, I make the case that jus ad vim is a promising, and potentially necessary, addition to just war theory. First, I examine Michael Walzer’s conception of jus ad vim (i.e. just use of force-short-of-war) where he argues for the extension of jus ad bellum. I argue that Walzer’s jus ad vim is a broad concept that encapsulates a state’s mechanisms for exercising power short-of-war. I focus on his more narrow use of jus ad vim which is the state’s use of lethal force. Next I attend to a series of arguments against jus ad vim, and identify the scope and conditions that a worthwhile account of jus ad vim might take. Then, I argue that jus ad vim provides an appropriate “hybrid” moral framework for judging the ethical decision-making of soldiers outside of war. An important benefit of jus ad vim is that it stops us expanding the definition of war while still providing the necessary ethical framework for examining violent conflict outside that context. I conclude that the notion which Michael Walzer calls jus ad vim has the potential to improve the moral evaluation for using military lethal force in conflicts other than war, particularly those situations of violent conflict short-of-war.


Chief Investigator, Ethics of Cybersecurity Project CENTRE FOR APPLIED PHILOSOPHY AND PUBLIC ETHICS: An ARC Special Research Centre and Adjunct Lecturer, Intelligence and Analysis AUSTRALIAN GRADUATE SCHOOL OF POLICING AND SECURITY Office 1.14, Level 1, 10-12 Brisbane Ave, CANBERRA, ACT 2600


Wednesday May 1st: 16:30 pm

Adam Henschke (CAPPE, Charles Sturt University)

Good Research? Some epistemic, moral and practical questions


Research sits at the centre of life for many academics. Beyond the academy, research forms the basis for many innovations in science, technology and other applications in the world. Typically, there is competition in and around limited research funds, and these competitive granting processes demand a great deal of economic, temporal and cognitive resources. Key assumptions to these competitive processes are that some research is good, and that competitive granting processes are conducive to promoting good research. But what is good research, and why is it desirable? In this paper I put forward a series of questions and propose some tentative answers in and around the idea of ‘good research’ – what is it, how do we know when we have it, should we incentivize it, and if so, how best can we do this?

Wednesday April 24th: 16:30 pm

Dr Peter Balint, University of NSW Canberra

Difference-Sensitive Neutrality



Almost all theories of multiculturalism (and similar differentiated-rights) start by rejecting liberal state neutrality as unable to adequately address issues of diversity. In this paper, I challenge this move and argue that neutrality has been wrongly characterised. Neutrality is an unrealisable, yet still action-guiding political ideal that is not absolute. It only makes sense in relation to a particular range of things (in this case, people's ways of life), and needs to be sensitive to the changing nature of this range. Unlike neutrality as 'benign neglect', this allows it to be sufficiently neutral over time to changing ways of life. Yet difference-sensitivity can be realised by either withdrawing support for all parties or actively assisting them. In the last part of the paper, I argue that state neutrality should involve withdrawing support for favoured ways of life rather than actively recognizing the various ways of life of its citizens.


Peter Balint is a Lecturer in International & Political Studies at UNSW Canberra. His research is primarily focussed on the principles for diversity, including respect, toleration, neutrality, and social cohesion. His latest book is 'Liberal Multiculturalism and The Fair Terms of Integration' (with Sophie Guerard de Latour).

Wednesday April 17th: 16:30 pm

Mr Connal Lee, Flinders University of South Australia


Is the Media Good for our Health? Vulnerability, Newsworthiness and Co-ordinating with the media in an emergency




‘Metaphysical humanism’ in the field of philosophy of technology could be defined as the claim that purely human intentions, actions, goals, and values are sufficient to conceptualize technologies. ‘Metaphysical nonhumanism’, on the other hand, would be the claim that a proper understanding of a given technology could be achieved by giving at least some explanatory weight to the role that nonhuman elements (here, technologies) play in humans’ individual and social lives.
In this paper I focus on the conception of technologies as puzzle-solving physical instruments in order to study the debate between humanism and nonhumanism. I first elaborate on the humanist understanding of technologies and its main features. Then I will point out to the common objections to the humanist understanding of technologies which are posed by nonhumanist thinkers. On the basis of these objections, it becomes clear how human (perception of) (ethical) values can be influenced and conditioned by technologies and how technologies shape the goals that drive humans in their puzzle-solving activities.
Instead of embracing a fully nonhumanist position, however, I analyse the conception of technology as puzzle-solving physical instrument to show four aspects that make this conception a humanist one. These four aspects, I argue, are all linked to humans’ possession of a sophisticated mind. I conclude that the conception of technology as puzzle-solving physical instrument commits us to a fair level of humanism. This is not to say that nonhumanism is totally wrong, but to say that in understanding puzzle-solving physical instruments a middle position needs to be taken, one which is partly humanist and partly nonhumanist.

Wednesday March 20th: 16:30 pm

Prof. Seumas Miller, CAPPE Charles Sturt University


Criminal Investigators and Moral Responsibility



Criminal investigators have multiple moral responsibilities to various parties, e.g. victims, suspects. Some of these responsibilities pertain to the ends or goals of criminal investigation, others to constraints on investigators in their pursuit of their investigative ends. Some of these moral responsibilities are collective, e.g. when investigators are members of a team; some are evidently epistemic, i.e. responsibilities to acquire knowledge. In this presentation I seek to identify the nature of these moral responsibilities and their relationships to one another. I also discuss some of the philosophical problems that they give rise to.


Professor Seumas Miller (Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics (CAPPE), an Australian Research Council Special Research Centre at Charles Sturt University (Canberra) and 3TU Centre for Ethics and Technology at Delft University of Technology in The Hague)

Prof. Miller is the author numerous books and articles including The Moral Foundations of Social Institutions, Police Ethics, (with John Blackler and Andrew Alexandra), and Corruption and Anticorruption (with Peter Roberts and Ed Spence). Investigative Ethics: The Aims And Limits Of The Role Of Police Detective, written with Ian Gordan is forthcoming.


Wednesday March 13th: 16:30 pm

Mr Sadjad Soltanzadeh, CAPPE Charles Sturt University

Humanism vs. nonhumanism in philosophy of technology




‘Metaphysical humanism’ in the field of philosophy of technology could be defined as the claim that purely human intentions, actions, goals, and values are sufficient to conceptualize technologies. ‘Metaphysical nonhumanism’, on the other hand, would be the claim that a proper understanding of a given technology could be achieved by giving at least some explanatory weight to the role that nonhuman elements (here, technologies) play in humans’ individual and social lives.
In this paper I focus on the conception of technologies as puzzle-solving physical instruments in order to study the debate between humanism and nonhumanism. I first elaborate on the humanist understanding of technologies and its main features. Then I will point out to the common objections to the humanist understanding of technologies which are posed by nonhumanist thinkers. On the basis of these objections, it becomes clear how human (perception of) (ethical) values can be influenced and conditioned by technologies and how technologies shape the goals that drive humans in their puzzle-solving activities.
Instead of embracing a fully nonhumanist position, however, I analyse the conception of technology as puzzle-solving physical instrument to show four aspects that make this conception a humanist one. These four aspects, I argue, are all linked to humans’ possession of a sophisticated mind. I conclude that the conception of technology as puzzle-solving physical instrument commits us to a fair level of humanism. This is not to say that nonhumanism is totally wrong, but to say that in understanding puzzle-solving physical instruments a middle position needs to be taken, one which is partly humanist and partly nonhumanist.

Wednesday March 6th: 16:30 pm

Dr Anne Schwenkenbecher, The University of Melbourne


Public goods, joint duties and the wrongness of free-riding



In recent years, there has been a growing philosophical interest in questions of collective moral agency and responsibility. Philosophers have tried to analyse collective action dilemmas from a moral point of view and to show how individuals can have moral duties to contribute to joint endeavours. One issue that is increasingly discussed is the moral wrongness of non-compliance with collective or joint moral duties. There exists an ongoing debate of whether or not individuals act wrongly even if their individual contribution to an outcome (or their individual defection) makes no (*) difference to that outcome. In a similar and yet distinct way, other philosophers have been debating the normative dimensions of the provision of public goods for some time. They have tried to argue how individual failure to contribute to a public good (free-riding) can be unfair and morally wrong even if the supply of the public good is not diminished or jeopardized by the defection. In this paper, I want to draw a parallel between these two debates in order to find out whether moral accounts of free-riding on a public good can help us understand what is wrong with defecting from a collective moral duty. In order to illustrate my argument I will use the mitigation of individual greenhouse gas emissions as an example of a collective moral duty and a stable global climate as an example of a morally desirable public good. Does the public goods “lens” provide us with a clearer account of what is morally wrong about not reducing one’s individual emissions? Does it deliver a more convincing argument for condemning individual polluters?


Dr. Anne Schwenkenbecher is a Research Fellow at The Nossal Institute for Global Health at The University of Melbourne, Australia. Her main research interests are in the morality of groups, the ethics of climate change and the ethics of war and terrorism.

Wednesday February 27th: 16:30 pm

Dr Kristen Rundle, The London School of Economics and Political Science , CSU Canberra video conference room #1.02


Legality in the Contracting-Out State: Cues from the Case of Jimmy Mubenga



The phenomenon of contractually outsourced government power has largely eluded the critical grasp of legal commentators. Though there is clearly concern about the implications of this governmental turn, worries have tended to be pitched in the broad terminology of 'legal failure' or 'rule of law deficits'. While this undoubtedly touches an important nerve, and gestures to something distinctly legal, the generality of the complaint leaves much content to be filled in. The aim of this paper is to begin to give more specific content to these concerns by focusing on the hybridised forms of privately outsourced government power, and still more specifically on how this hybridised architecture shapes the position of the person subject to governmental power so configured. The paper takes as its starting point an especially pathological case: the death of a deportee at the hands of the private security firm contracted by the UK Border Agency to provide immigration detention and removal services. As almost a caricature of the contractualised image of government administration that is now so widespread, the case offers insight into why concerns about legality in the contracting-out state are increasingly voiced, how those concerns might be mapped, and why they take on a special charge in circumstances that implicate high levels of vulnerability. Though undoubtedly limited to only some contexts of outsourcing, the specific focus of the paper on questions of form and subjectivity is aimed to contribute a new perspective to conversations about whether, and how, private legal forms can fulfil the 'public' demands that are increasingly placed upon them by the 'contracting-out state'.


Kristen Rundle is a Lecturer in Law, with interests in legal theory and administrative law. Her research explores a number of themes concerning the relationship between the form of law and human agency; a line of inquiry that spans her work on the jurisprudence of Lon Fuller, law and the Holocaust, and questions of legality and vulnerability in the context of contracted-out government power. Her recent book Forms Liberate: Reclaiming the Jurisprudence of Lon L. Fuller (Hart Publishing, 2012) was awarded Second Prize, Society of Legal Scholars Peter Birks Book Prize 2012. Kristen holds an SJD from the University of Toronto, where she was also a Doctoral Fellow in Ethics at the Centre for Ethics. She also holds an LLM (honours) in public law and legal theory from McGill University, which she undertook as the 2001 Australian Lionel Murphy Postgraduate (Overseas) Scholar, and a combined BA/LLB degree (first class honours) from the University of Sydney.

Wednesday February 27th: 16:30 pm

Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor , CSU Canberra video conference room #1.02

A right to avoid blacks?



You have the right, don't you, to avoid anyone, for any reason? This is not just a right you enjoy against a law that forces you to associate with a person you prefer to avoid. On the contrary, it is also a right you enjoy against social criticism. We might express your right as the following generalised principle:

G. For any person P, and for any person Q, P has the right to avoid Q for any reason at all.

The principle seems reasonable enough, doesn't it? However, from this generalised principle, some people infer a racialised result. For instance, some people think it follows that,

R: If P is racialised-as-white, if Q is racialised-as-black, and if P's reason for avoiding Q is that P has an unfavourable opinion of 'blacks', then P has a right to avoid Q.

The philosopher Michael Levin gives an example of some people who think we can infer the more specific racialised principle from the generalised principle. Levin tells us that 'Libertarians will wonder why a right to avoid blacks needs any defense at all, since it falls under voluntary association [. . .]' (1996: 313). I presume what Levin's 'Libertarians' mean is that 'a right to avoid blacks' is justified by some theory of voluntary dissociation. I shall argue that 'a right to avoid blacks' is not justified (a) by any contemporary theory of voluntary dissociation or (b) by John Stuart Mill's classical theory of voluntary dissociation.

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