One Day Workshop: Moral Particularism in Bioethics June 3, 2015


Moral particularism is the view that moral judgement is not best modelled as the grasp of a finite set of finite principles. Yet in bioethics principled models of ethical judgement (such as the Beauchamp and Childress ‘Four Principles’ model) are dominant. What would be the result of incorporating a particularist understanding of ethical judgement into bioethics? Would this complement the methodological critique of evidence based medicine developed, for example, by Nancy Cartwright? In this one day workshop a team of researchers from across Europe discuss how incorporating the insights of particularism might transform our conception of medical practice and its methodological basis – both evidential and practical.

There is no conference fee and staff and students of any University are welcome to attend – as are healthcare professionals. If you plan to attend please contact the local workshop organiser at

a.thomas [at]

Venue: Tias Nimbus Business School, Room 4

Tilburg University, Tilburg, the Netherlands


09:45–10:45 Alan Thomas [Tilburg University] ‘Particularism and Group Agency’.

10:45–11:00 Coffee

11:00–12:00 Anna Zielinska [University of Paris] ’Where do Your Reasons come from? The Sources of Normativity in Biomedical Research’.

12:00–13:00 Anne Raustol [Diakonhjemmet University College, Oslo] ‘Compassion and Practical Reasoning in the Health Care Professions’.

13:00–14:00 Lunch

14:00–15:00 Ulrik Kihlbom [University of Uppsala] ‘Understanding and evaluation of side-effect in hard treatment decision related to leukaemia’.

15:00–16:00 Emma Bullock [Central European University, Budapest] ‘Virtue Paternalism and Therapeutic Practice’.

16:00–16:15 Coffee

16:15–17:15 Anna Bergqvist (Manchester Metropolitan University)  ‘Particularism and Idiographic Understanding: Re-assessing Value and Perspective in Comprehensive Diagnosis’.

17:15-18:00 Round table – Future Plans for Network Collaboration

Alan Thomas: Colloquium University of Missouri-St Louis May 1, Clark 305, 3:45 p.m.

‘Rawls, Piketty and the New Inequality’

The forty year period 1970-2010 saw two developments in the USA: first, at the level of theory, intense academic interest in the egalitarianism of John Rawls. Second, at the level of practice, fundamental changes in the institutions, policies and norms of US society that have led Gilens and Page [2014] to conclude that it has become an oligarchy de facto if not de jure. A central component in that practical development is the tolerance of extensive inequality and the emergence of not merely the “1 percent”, but the elevation of an “upper decile” of wealthy individuals into a position of economic and political dominance. In spite of pioneering work by Krouse, MacPherson and Arneson, little academic attention has been paid to whether a political economy with roots in Rawls’s work might be the most effective response to these practical and institutional changes. That situation may be about to change given the popular, as well as academic, response to Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century: in this paper I will consider whether a form of economic system described by Cambridge economist James Meade – a common source for both Rawls and Piketty – offers a feasible egalitarian ideal. I will compare and contrast this ideal with three other views: individual capital holding schemes that have played a role in generating the New Inequality and not in averting it; the bundle of “pre-distributive” egalitarian policies recommended by Jacob S. Hacker, and the continuation of the social progressivist tradition in Lane Kenworthy’s proposal for a ‘Social Democratic America’. It will be argued that only a structural change to society’s fundamental wage setting institutions, along the lines recommended by Meade and Rawls and implicit in Piketty, will bring about the necessary structural change to implement the political economy of a just society.

Alan Thomas – Stags, Hares and Knowledge: A Genealogy of the Knowledge System as a ‘Mutual Assurance Game’


Intellectual Humility Workshop

St Louis University Thursday,

April 16, 3:00–4:30

Adorjan Hall Room 142


This paper considers whether the analogy between two “cooperative ventures for mutual advantage” – a market economy and the knowledge system – offers any explanatory insights for social epistemology. It is argued that it does in two ways: analysing the mechanisms of social cooperation and the kinds of goods produced suggests that the knowledge system is correctly modelled as a mutual assurance game. It primarily exhibits economies of scale and produces a “steep” public good, namely, knowledge. This, in turn, has the consequence that the concept that this social practice embeds – knowledge – ought to receive a genealogical explanation. It is argued that this form of explanation is compatible with the concept having no interesting analysis.