This blog post considers the moral case for using force to defend cultural heritage objects in war and armed conflict.
Privatizing Criminal Punishment (In Progress)
The moral debate about private prisons has largely focused on the costs and benefits of privatization. Some critics of private prisons reject this instrumental analysis in favor of the claim that criminal punishment is a core function of the state, which it may not legitimately delegate to private agents. This paper considers the question of whether the state may delegate the task of incarceration to private agents. It defends a domination-based argument against private prisons. I argue that it is impermissible for the state to delegate the administration of incarceration to private agents because, in doing so, it hands offenders over to relations of private domination. This argument rests on a principle that it is impermissible for the state to license private agents to exercise dominating power over others.
Injustice and Crime in Kant's Theory of Law (In Progress)
In this paper, I explore the stance that a Kantian theory of law should take on three related questions. 1. How does injustice in criminal law institutions and enforcement affect the state’s standing to enforce the law against victims of injustice? 2. Do victims of injustice act unreasonably in holding attitudes of contempt towards the law or in refusing to comply with its demands (e.g. by refusing to cooperate with police or comply with curfews)? 3. Do the members of an unjustly treated group lack the civic obligations normally thought to be owed to other members of one’s community (e.g. the obligation to respect property or refrain from violence against others)? For Kant, civic obligations obtain only in a “civil condition.” I argue that a civil condition obtains only if the state secures certain minimum standards of full citizenship. Likewise, the state’s standing to punish wrongdoers depend on its securing minimum standards of full citizenship. It follows from this account that those persons who are treated as second-class citizens do not act unreasonably in holding attitudes of contempt towards the law or in refusing to comply with its demands. They do not owe it to others to respect or comply with the law. Moreover, the state lacks standing to punish them for their offenses. This approach faces a number of serious puzzles. First, do all the persons living in a state that fails to meet the full citizenship standard lack civic obligations or only those who are treated as second-class citizens? Second, are the implications of this account unacceptably strong in implying that second-class citizens lack obligations to refrain not merely from property crimes, but from murder or sexual assault? Third, is the account unjustly indifferent to the victims of crime by disadvantaged offenders? In the paper, I attempt to show that the Kantian account can blunt the force of these objections and produce a plausible account of civic obligation and punishment.
Liability to Defensive Force in Protection of Cultural Heritage (In Progress)
Kant, Public Reason, and the Rights of Authors (In Progress)
Legal moralists hold that the immorality of an action is a sufficient reason for the state to prevent it. Liberals in the tradition of Mill generally reject legal moralism. However, Larry Alexander has recently argued that a class of legal restrictions on freedom endorsed by most liberals must be justified on moralistic grounds. According to Alexander, environmental restrictions designed to preserve nature or beauty are a form of legal moralism. In this paper, I explore two liberal lines of response to Alexander’s argument. The first argues that an aesthetic interest is among our basic legally protectable interests. This argument claims that environmental and other regulations designed to protect beauty and nature are justified in order to prevent setbacks to this aesthetic interest. The second focuses on a democratic conception of the public interest. It holds that democratic communities are entitled, through their institutions, to shape their community and environment. On this view, the community need not appeal to moralism to justify its adoption of environmental regulations, since in adopting such regulations it is simply enacting its collective preferences. On these grounds, I claim that Alexander’s case for the claim that aesthetic regulations can only be justified on moralistic grounds is much weaker than he takes it to be.
A republican conception of social justice specifies how republican freedom should be distributed among members of the political community. The goal of this paper is to assess the plausibility of recently proposed principles of republican social justice. I consider two candidates. The first is an aggregative maximizing principle defended by Philip Pettit in Republicanism. According to the maximizing principle, the republican state ought to aim to maximize expected non-domination. I argue that the maximizing principle must be rejected because it permits under-protecting vulnerable members of society in favor of increasing the freedom of the already powerful. The second is the sufficiency principle of republican social justice recently offered by Pettit in On the People’s Terms. According to the sufficiency principle, the republican state ought to aim to secure a degree of non-domination sufficient to ensure each the equal status of a free person. While the sufficiency principle avoids the most fundamental objection to the maximizing principle, I argue that it is at best an incomplete theory of social justice. First, social justice requires principle(s) for determining the justice of distributions above the sufficiency threshold. Second, republican theory does not determine which principle(s) should govern distributions above the threshold. Republicans must decide whether they will incorporate an independent commitment to equality within their theory of social justice.
Kant’s conception of enlightenment as emergence from immaturity in the use of reason is well known, but his main concern in his famous essay on enlightenment is the relation between enlightenment and the political order. Kant’s account of this relation turns on a rather cryptic idea of the freedom of public reason. Unfortunately, neither his concept of public reason nor his reasons for advocating the freedom of public reason have been well understood. This paper thus has two main goals. First, it argues that Kant conceives of public reasoning as a matter of speaking in one’s own name. Second, it draws on Kant’s republican conception of freedom in order to develop an account of the grounds of the freedom of public reason.
This paper develops a Lockean account of literary property. Seana Shiffrin has argued, on the basis of an egalitarian interpretation of Locke’s theory of property, that the Lockean view does not justify property rights in intellectual works. I argue that Shiffrin fails to take an important strand of Locke’s view into account, namely the view that makers have rights to what they have made. If this aspect of Locke’s view is given its proper place, a plausible Lockean account of property in literary works can be developed. This account of literary property places us in a better position to appreciate both the strengths and weaknesses of the Lockean theory of intellectual property.