Alan Thomas: Colloquium, University of California at San Diego, March 9, 2-4, H&SS 7077 John Muir College

9780674430006Rawls, 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, ‘A Life of Virtue or a Life of Principle?’, Manchester Metropolitan University, June 19, 2014

 Particularism in Bioethics, Professional Ethics and Medicine

19 June Workshop Schedule

9.00 – 9.30 Welcome and Registration

9.30 – 10.45 Ulrik Kilhbom (Uppsala): ‘Doing Particularized Bioethics and the Shape of Context’

10.45 – 11.00 Tea and Coffee

11.00 – 12.00 Steve Edwards (Swansea): ‘Moral Realism in Health Care’

12.00 – 13.00 Per Nortvedt (Oslo, UiO): ‘Particularism, Principlism and Professional Evil Doing’

13.00 – 14.00 Lunch

14.00 – 15.15 Alan Thomas (Tilburg): ‘A Life of Virtue or a Life of Principle?’

15.15 – 16.00 Anne Raustol (Oslo, Diakonhjemmet): ‘Partiality and Impartiality in Nursing’

16.00 – 16.15 Tea and Coffee

16.15 – 17.00 Benedict Smith (Durham): ‘Particularism and Persons’

17.00 – 17.45 Anna Bergqvist (MMU): ‘Particularism and Person Centred Medicine’

17.45 – 18.30 Roundtable Discussion, featuring invited contributions from Dr Michael Loughlin (MMU Cheshire) and Dr Emma Bullock (KCL) among others.

18.30 Workshop Close

19.30 Formal Dinner


Alan Thomas ‘Epistemic Justice, Steadiness of Mind and Self-Deception’, Oxford April 2nd 2014 11:55 – 12:45

‘Epistemic Justice, Steadiness of Mind and Self-Deception’

Ethics of Cognition Project

Workshop: the Ethics of Self-Deception

Ryle Room, Faculty of Philosophy, Radcliffe Observatory Quarter


This paper develops a general characterisation of epistemic wrongs as forms of derogation before characterising specifically epistemic injustices as putative disqualifications of an interlocutor from the status of knower. The account is related to Williams’s discussion of the generic epistemic virtues of Sincerity, Accuracy and the role of the third person in “steadying the mind”. There is a constitutive connection between sociality and the individual epistemic vice of self-deception.  The connection between this account and Williams’s liberal political psychology is, in turn, explained via the republican ideal of freedom as non-domination.

April 30, 2014, 16:30 – 18:00 David Brink (San Diego) ‘Eudaimonism and Cosmopolitan Concern’


Professor of Philosophy, University of San Diego,

Director, Institute for Law and Philosophy University of San Diego School of Law

Location: Dante Building Room 5


This talk explores the adequacy of Sidgwick’s contrast between the egocentrism of ancient ethics and the impartiality of modern ethics by evaluating the resources of eudaimonists, especially Aristotle and the Stoics, to defend a cosmopolitan conception of the common good.  The adequacy of various eudaimonist defenses of the common good may depend on our conception of the common good.  Adapting Broad’s comparison of egoism, utilitarianism, and self-referential altruism, we might distinguish between the scope and weight of ethical concern.  We might then distinguish ethical conceptions that are parochial with respect to both scope and weight, conceptions that are cosmopolitan with respect to both scope and weight, and mixed conceptions that combine universal scope and variable weight.  Aristotle’s eudaimonist justification of the common good appears doubly parochial.  By contrast, the Stoics offer a eudaimonist defense of the common good that is purely cosmopolitan.  But the Stoics have trouble providing a eudaimonist defense of a cosmopolitan conception of the common good.  However, Aristotelian eudaimonism has resources to justify a mixed cosmopolitan conception of the common good that combines universal scope and variable weight.  If Broad’s reservations about Sidgwick’s utilitarianism are correct, mixed cosmopolitanism may be cosmopolitanism enough.

April 9, 16:30 – 18:00 Christine Tiefensee (Bamberg) ‘A Dilemma for Metaethical Inferentialists’



It has recently been suggested that metaethical debate must be fundamentally re-framed. Instead of carving out metaethical differences in representational terms, appealing to notions such as truth, belief and representation, Matthew Chrisman in particular has argued that metaethics should be given an inferentialist footing. In this talk, I will cast doubt on Chrisman’s proposal by confronting metaethical inferentialists with the following dilemma: Either, they stay true to inferentialism but cannot save the metaethical differences. Or they succeed in putting metaethical demarcation lines back into place, but now end up merely rehashing orthodox metaethical debates, rather than providing a novel approach to metaethics. I will conclude by considering what we can learn from this dilemma about the dialectic behind the development of inferentialist metaethics.

Wednesday, March 26th 2014, 16:30 – 18:00 Tom Bates, University of Leiden

‘Mixed versus Moderate Traits: On the Evaluative Status of Empirically Sound Character’

Location: CZ 118



In a recent pair of books Christian Miller has argued for an empirically robust theory of moral character, which he calls the ‘Mixed Traits’ view. These traits are mixed in the sense that they have a mixed evaluative valence, a rather novel idea which does not clearly match with a pre-theoretical view of character. In this paper I will argue that the challenge of squaring psychological findings about personality and behaviour with pre-theoretical ideas about moral character does not require such a radical account. The challenge of situationism can be met if we give consideration to the role of moderate character traits. I will show why moderate traits can meet the empirical challenge, and why this model is preferable to the mixed traits account. 


The Moral and Political Legacy of Bernard Williams – Oxford University 21st-22nd April, 2014




University of Oxford Faculty of Philosophy,

Lecture Room

Radcliffe Humanities

Radcliffe Observatory Quarter

Woodstock Road

Oxford OX2 6GG



 Lorenzo Greco

EC Marie Curie Fellow in Philosophy, University of Oxford

Junior Research Fellow in Philosophy, Mansfield College, Oxford

Early Career Fellow, The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities

Registration is free. If you plan to attend, and for any further questions please email

lorenzo.greco [at]


The conference is funded by The Mind Association, with the collaboration of The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities


21st April

2:30 p. m. – 3:30 p. m. Miranda Fricker: “The Humanistic Discipline”

3:30 p. m. – 4:30 p. m. Timothy Chappell: “Recognising Reasons”

4:30 p. m. – 5:00 p. m. Break

5:00 p. m. – 6:30 p. m. Nakul Krishna: “Alternatives to Moral Theory”

Elianna Fetterolf: “Remorse beyond the Morality System”

Adrian Moore: “Replies to Nakul Krishna and Elianna Fetterolf

22nd April

9:30 a. m. – 10:45 a. m. Simon Blackburn: “Bernard Williams, Adam Smith, and the Peculiar Piacular”

10:45 a. m. – 11:15 a. m. Break

11:15 a. m. – 12:15 a. m. Roger Crisp: “D’où Venons Nous … Que Sommes Nous … Où Allons Nous? Williams on Moral Luck”

2:00 p. m. – 3:00 p. m. Alan Thomas: “Williams’s Political Psychology: Between Moralism and Realism?”

3:00 p. m. – 4:00 p. m. Edward Harcourt: “The Morality System and ‘The Idea of Equality’”

4:00 p. m. – 4: 30 p. m. Break

4:30 p. m. – 5:30 p. m. Paul Russell: “Hume, Williams, and ‘the Morality System’”

Conference ends

Tuesday March 11 2014, 16:30 – 18:00 Enzo Rossi, Amsterdam


‘Libertarianism and Capitalism: A Reality Check’

Enzo Rossi

Department of Politics

University of Amsterdam

Location Dante Building Room 10.

October 30 Bruno Verbeek (Leiden) ‘You Did Not Build that Road: Reciprocity, Benefits, Opportunities and Taxing the Extremely Rich’

16:30 – 18:00

Dante Building Room 7 (DZ7)


Recently, many states in the Western world, confronted with a fall in revenues and rising debts on the one hand and growing economic inequality on the other, have taken a critical look at the tax rates for the extremely rich. In various places, policies have been proposed to the effect that the 1% of the highest income earners should pay (much) more in taxes than they currently do.

A typical argumentative strategy that is used to argue for increases in the marginal tax burden for the extremely rich is to argue that the extreme rich amassed their wealth by taking advantage of economic opportunities that they did not create themselves. Other members of society created those opportunities and reciprocity therefore demands that the extremely rich ‘pay’ for these opportunities they enjoyed.

In this paper I argue, first, that arguments like these fail: they do not justify a marginally higher tax burden on the extremely rich. Secondly, I argue that this type of argument appeals to a principle according to which taxation is the price a citizen pays for the enjoyment of the benefits the state provides. Third, I will show that such a principle not only undercuts the argument, but also that it mandates a flat tax rate if not a lump-sum tax.

In the final part of the paper, I briefly discuss an argument for taxing the extremely rich that does not appeal to a benefit principle. This argument proceeds from the idea that justice demands that taxation is levied according to the ability to pay. Social-democrats and left liberals who are concerned about the extremely high incomes on the top end of the income distribution are better advised to adopt such a strategy.

November 13 Hadassa A. Noorda (UvA) ‘Preventive Deprivations of Liberty: Asset Freezes and Travel Bans’


Dante Building Room 7 (DZ7)

Time 16:30 – 1800


This paper examines preventive constraints on suspected terrorists that can lead to restrictions on liberty similar to imprisonment and disrespect the target’s autonomy. In particular, it focuses on two examples: travel bans and asset freezes. It seeks to develop a framework for setting appropriate substantive and procedural limits on their future use. Preventive constraints do not generate legal protections as constraints in response to conduct do. In addition, these constraints are often seen as a permissible alternative to imprisonment. Still, preventive de facto detentions imperil the free and autonomous life of the targeted person.

This paper accepts the peacetime paradigm and the preventive frame in which these constraints are used, but it argues for enhanced safeguards. With the recognition that preventive constraints can infringe on one’s ability to lead a free and autonomous life, this paper argues that some of these constraints require similar protections as their counterparts that put persons under lock and key.