Previous Practical Philosophy Working Group


Practical Philosophy Group – Annual Workshop 2020

Due to coronavirus restrictions, this event will be held online.

Time and place: Nov. 19, 2020 10:45 AM–4:00 PM, Online

The workshop is open to all. If you are interested in attending on Zoom, please send an e-mail to before Friday November 12th.


  • 09.30-10.00 Coffee and welcome
  • 10.00-10.45 Feroz M. Shah "Is there s Kantian duty to promote public schools?"
  • 11.00-11.45 Antoinette Scherz "How Much Justice Does Legitimacy Require? Evaluating the CJEU's Service in Normative Terms"
  • 11.45-12.15 Coffee break
  • 12.15-13.00 Colin Rowe "Keeping it simple: the importance og avoiding voting system complexity"
  • 13.00-14.00 Lunch
  • 14.00-14.45 Johan A. Trovik "A right to break the law? On the political function and moral grounds of civil disobedience"
  • 15.00-15.45 Aksel Sterri "Should we save life years or lives? The relevance og hope"
  • 18.00 Dinner


  • Colin Rowe, Ph.D. Candidate (Philosophy, KU Leuven)
  • Antoinette Scherz, Postdoctoral Fellow (PluriCourts, UiO)
  • Aksel B. Sterri, Doctoral Research Fellow (Philosophy, UiO)
  • Johan Andreas Trovik, Ph.D. Candidate (Department of Politics, Princeton University)

Practical Philosophy Webinar: Lars Christie

Lars Christie (Innland Norway University of Applied Sciences)

"In defense of mistaken killers"

Time and place: Nov. 10, 2020 12:15 PM–1:00 PM, Online: Zoom

Sometimes people kill others through innocent mistakes. Consider a person who unknowingly catches a deadly virus and passes it to another, causing the death of that person. Or a competent fire truck driver who veers off the road due to an oil spill, killing a pedestrian. Consider finally a police officer or a soldier who kills an apparent attacker they are justified in believing are about to kill an innocent person.

Is there a moral difference between innocent killers like these? Several authors have attempted to draw a distinction between the unknowingly infectious person and the fire driver on the one hand, and the police and soldier who engage in mistaken other-defense on the other. According to this view, there is a moral symmetry between innocent killers of the first sort and their victims, while a moral asymmetry (to the victim’s advantage) holds between those who kill others in mistaken other-defence and their victims

In my paper, I dispute this distinction. I argue that both types of innocent killings belong to a category of Unavoidable Mistakes. I compare the harm inflicted through Unavoidable Mistakes with collateral harm. It is widely considered that foreseeably harming innocents as part of a military attack is permissible, if it is necessary and proportionate to the moral value of the military attack.  I argue that we ought to think about Unavoidable Mistakes in the same manner. Insofar as such mistakes form an unavoidable part of a type of action that is overall morally justified (driving of fire-trucks, engaging in self-defence), we ought to evaluate such mistakes the same way as we evaluate collateral harm.  

If my view is right, there is a moral symmetry between just soldiers and those unjust soldiers who are innocent in believing that they are fighting for a just cause. The upshot of this is that wars are harder to justify than what international law and the majority of current just war theorists would have us believe.

Zoom: The links to the zoom meetings will be sent to all those in the mailing list. If you wish to get the information weekly, please send an email to Oda Davanger (

Practical Philosophy Webinar: Espen Dyrnes Stabell

"Conceptual Engineering and Applied Ethics"

Time and place: Nov. 3, 2020 12:15 PM–1:00 PM, Online: Zoom


Conceptual engineering involves improving concepts for social or epistemic purposes. Should applied ethicists engage in conceptual engineering? Three possibilities are explored: that applied ethics (AE) should never involve conceptual engineering (CE); that AE should always involve CE; and that AE should sometimes, or under certain circumstances, involve CE. It is argued that there is reason for AE to engage in CE when concepts are ‘defective’ in the sense of being counterproductive with regard to social aims – such as welfare promotion and social justice – or ethically relevant epistemic aims, such as achieving a better understanding of a socially or morally relevant phenomenon. However, even if concepts can be defective in this way, it might be very difficult to identify and ameliorate defective concepts in the context of applied ethics. I suggest a strategy that can be employed in at least some core cases of applied ethics.

Zoom: The links to the zoom meetings will be sent to all those in the mailing list. If you wish to get the information weekly, please send an email to Oda Davanger (

Espen Dyrnes Stabell , NTNU.

Practical Philosophy Webinar: Johan Olsthoorn

Johan Olsthoorn, KU Leuven.

"Rights, Standing, and Liability in the Ethics of War"

Time and place: Oct. 27, 2020 12:15 PM–1:00 PM, Online: Zoom

Abstract: Waging a war of national self-defence against unjust foreign aggression, some revisionist just war theorists have argued, can be morally impermissible. Proportionality requirements and duties of care owed to nationals can render it morally mandatory for political communities to surrender national territory to unjust aggressors. This paper assumes the soundness of this contested view in order to spell out the normative conditions of victims and attackers should the former nonetheless, and wrongly, resort to defensive war. (As was the case, perhaps, in the 1939 Finnish-Soviet war.) I canvass their respective normative conditions using the distinction between directed and nondirected liberty-rights (Sreenivasan 2010). Directed liberty-rights express the absence upon the right-holder of directed duties as against some other party. Deontological liberty-rights, by contrast, are non-directed all-things-considered moral permissions. When faced with conditional political aggression, I suggest, political communities may be morally obliged to abstain from exercising their directed liberty-right to wage defensive war against unjust aggressors. Yet if they contravene this requirement, and impermissibly inflict (narrowly proportionate) defensive harm upon unjust enemy combatants, then the latter are neither wronged by this, nor have standing to complain. The proposed analysis has some theoretical significance: it suggests that rival conceptions of moral liability are suited for different purposes. On internalist and comparativist conceptions, liability informs statements of what agents can justifiably do (to others). On externalist and non-comparativist conceptions, by contrast, liability can capture the distinctive standing wrongdoers occupy vis-à-vis their victims. The two functions may come apart. The language of directed and nondirected liberty-rights, I suggest in conclusion, helps integrate a second-personal dimension into the ethics of war.

Zoom: The links to the zoom meetings will be sent to all those in the mailing list. If you wish to get the information weekly, please send an email to Oda Davanger (

Johan Olsthoorn, Assistant professor in political theory, University of Amsterdam; Senior postdoctoral research fellow at KU Leuven, Institute of Philosophy.

Practical Philosophy Webinar: Hallvard Sandven

Title: ‘Domination and border control: a restatement’

Time and place: Oct. 13, 2020 12:15 PM–1:00 PM, Online: Zoom


Despite the surge of interest in republicanism and its associated theory of freedom as non-domination, on the one hand, and in migration and border control, on the other, there have been relatively few attempts to combine the two in contemporary political theory. One explanation for this lack of engagement is that the ideal of non-domination can seem indeterminate when applied to the institution of border control and, by extension, that republican political theory can seem ill-equipped to theorise the regulation of international movement. This paper will explain the source of this problem of indeterminacy and argue that it arises on a particular conception of how border controls function. It will then show that, once we appreciate how many states currently seek to regulate migration, non-domination can ground a normative framework for migration with significant explanatory power and critical capacity.

Zoom: The links to the zoom meetings will be sent to all those in the mailing list. If you wish to get the information weekly, please send an email to Oda Davanger (

Hallvard Sandven, Ph.D. Candidate, Oxford University.

Practical Philosophy Webinar: Alejandra Mancilla

Title: "From sovereignty to trusteeship: Antarctica’s model for global natural resource governance"

Time and place: Sep. 22, 2020 12:15 PM–1:00 PM, Online: Zoom


Recent scientific studies suggest that the destabilization of the earth’s climate and biodiversity loss are not separate, but interdependent phenomena. In this context, some have proposed the creation of a “global safety net” of spaces that should be preserved to reverse biodiversity loss, prevent more CO2 emissions from land conversion, and allow natural carbon removal. In this article, I claim that one way to achieve this is to freeze state sovereignty over land and natural resources in these areas and replace it with state trusteeship. I propose to follow a model that has already been implemented over a whole continent with a fair degree of success: in 1959, the Antarctic Treaty froze the sovereign claims of seven countries over Antarctica, but these countries (plus 48 others today) have been remarkably successful in preserving the continent for peace, science and the protection of the environment. After addressing a series of objections, I present what a Global Environmental Protocol could look like.

Zoom: The links to the zoom meetings will be sent to all those in the mailing list. If you wish to get the information weekly, please send an email to Oda Davanger (

Practical Philosophy Webinar: Espen Dyrnes Stabell

"Why environmental philosophers should be ‘buck-passers’ about value"

Time and place: May 12, 2020 12:15 PM–1:00 PM, Online

Value theory is central to environmental ethics, which studies the value and moral status of the environment and its non-human contents. A variety of values have been proposed and discussed in environmental ethics, and there has been extensive debate over the value of different parts of nature. However, there has been less discussion about how to understand the concept of value and its relation to reasons and normativity.

This paper defends a buck-passing account of value, which holds that for an entity or state of affairs in nature to be intrinsically (non-instrumentally) valuable is for it to have properties (other than that of being valuable) that provide reasons to promote or have a pro-attitude towards it. It is argued that in spite of some difficulties with the account, environmental philosophers should prefer it to ‘common-sense’ views treating values themselves as reason-providing properties of (things or states of affairs in) nature. The paper concludes by discussing some implications the buck-passing account may have for research in environmental ethics.

Practical Philosophy Seminar: Kerstin Reibold

Kerstin Reibold (Arctic University of Norway), "Climate Change and Indigenous Rights"

Time and place: Apr. 28, 2020 1:15 PM–2:00 PM, Online


Indigenous peoples are one of the most vulnerable groups worldwide. Climate change threatens to impose even greater harm on them in the future. Many indigenous lands will become unusable and the ecological systems that they have relied on will shift or be destroyed. In other cases, indigenous land will become even more valuable because of its carbon sequestration capacity, its biodiversity, and its other natural resources. This increase in value will heighten the pressure on indigenous land and resource rights. In my talk, I will think about these challenges within two frameworks: global welfare egalitarianism and indigenous treaty ecologies. I will ask whether these two approaches to land and resource rights are compatible, where there are frictions, and which solutions they can offer for the question of indigenous rights under conditions of climate change.

Webinar: Practical Philosophy Seminar: Maria Seim

"The standing to forgive and conditional forgiveness"

Time and place: Apr. 21, 2020 12:15 PM–1:00 PM, Webinar in Zoom


The philosophical literature on the standing to forgive is divided. Some argue that only victims have the standing to forgive (Murphy and Hampton 1988, Walker 2013), while others argue that third parties also have the standing to forgive (Pettigrove 2009, MacLachlan 2008, Chaplin 2019). This paper argues for the victim’s unique standing to forgive by way of a specific account of the nature of forgiveness. When accounting for forgiveness we are met with the ‘paradox of forgiveness’. In solving the paradox, we end up with an account of forgiveness that denies the possibility of third party forgiveness.

Maria Seim, Doctoral Research Fellow in Practical Philosophy, University of Oslo.

Practical Philosophy Seminar: Joona Räsänen

"Should acknowledgements in published work include gratitude for reviewers who reviewed for journals that rejected the work?"

Time and place: Mar. 10, 2020 12:15 PM–1:00 PM, Georg Morgenstiernes hus, room 452


It is a common practice for authors of scientific work to thank anonymous reviewers of a journal that publish their work. Allegedly, scholars thank the reviewers because their comments improved the quality of the paper and thanking them is a proper way to show gratitude to them. Yet, often a paper is rejected from multiple journals before finding a journal that accepts it. However, authors do not thank reviewers of journals that end up rejecting their work even though comments from those reviewers often improve the quality of the work. We contacted prominent scholars in bioethics and philosophy of medicine and asked whether thanking journal reviewers of journals that rejected the work would be a welcome trend. Receiving responds from 107 scholars, we discuss the suggested proposal in light of both philosophical argument and the results of this questionnaire study. We argue that when an author’s work is published, the author should thank the reviewers whose comments improved the quality of the paper regardless whether the comments came from reviewers who reviewed for journals that rejected or accepted the work. That is because scholars should show gratitude to those who deserve it and those whose comments improved the quality of the paper deserves gratitude. We also consider objections against this practice raised by scholars in the questionnaire and show why we think they are not entirely persuasive.

Joona Räsänen is PhD Research Fellow in Philosophy at the University of Oslo.

Practical Philosophy Seminar: Kim Angell

Kim Angell, "Freedom and Democratic Inclusion: Two Versions of the All-Subjected to Coercion Principle"

Time and place: Mar. 3, 2020 12:15 PM–2:00 PM, Georg Morgenstiernes hus, room 452


This paper analyses a prominent principle in the debate on democratic inclusion, the all-subjected to coercion principle (ASC). According to ASC, a person has a right to inclusion in a polity’s decisions if and only if those decisions (will) coerce her.

My paper has two aims. First, based upon the well-known distinction between liberal and republican freedom, I identify two different versions of ASC, and map the degree of commitment to those versions in the current debate. Second, I argue that proponents of ASC have good reason to favor its liberal version. Doing so will enable them generally to withhold the franchise from people whom they typically (but not invariably) aim to exclude: those permanently located outside the polity’s territory and those who are transient visitors in it.

Kim Angell, Centre for Philosophy and Public Policy, Department of Culture and Learning, Aalborg University.

Practical Philosophy Seminar: Sebastian Watzl

"Meditation and the Ethics of Distraction"

Time and place: Feb. 11, 2020 12:15 PM–1:00 PM, Georg Morgenstiernes hus, room 452


Meditation and Mindfulness practices are advertised and implemented on a large scale (estimated to be worth more than 1 Billion USD in the US alone). Those practices are promoted as tool to help us cope with practical problems that are the result of our age of distraction: from reducing stress, and anxiety, to increasing compassion, and dealing substance abuse or weight gain. I argue that this focus on how to change us (and our children) is misguided. Rather, we should focus on changing them: being distracted is not in itself bad. What is morally problematic is that someone else is distracting us from what is in fact important for us and gains de facto control over our mind. Our age of distraction is an age of distractors: powerful individuals and companies that engage in mental manipulation and threaten our autonomy. The massive commodification of attention is morally problematic, and our moral focus should be on how to change and regulate the attention market.

Sebastian Watzl is Associate Professor in Philosophy at the University of Oslo.

Workshop: "Land rights in a changing climate"

Time and place: Jan. 30, 2020 9:00 AM–Jan. 31, 2020 4:00 PM, Room 452, GM Hus


  • 09.00-09.30 Coffee and welcome
  • 09.30-11.00 Clare Heyward /UiT) and Dominic Lenzi (Mercator Research Institute on Global Commond and Climate Change), "Global sinks and local carbon rights: Improveing arguments for special claims"
  • 11.00-11.15 Coffee break
  • 11.15-12.45 Alejandra Mancilla (UiO), "Occupancy Rights: Dunamic As Well As Located"
  • 12.45-13.45 Lunch
  • 13.45-16.00 Writing session
  • 18.00 Dinner


  • 09.00-09.30 Coffee and welcome
  • 09.30-10.30 Megan Blomfiels (University og Sheffield), "Land as a global commins?"
  • 10.30-10.45 Coffee break
  • 10.45-11.45 Kerstin Reibold (UiT), "Indigenous land rights under climate change"
  • 11.45-12.00 Break
  • 12.00-13.00 Matthew Coffay (UiB), "Sustainability in Norwegian agriculture: The normative model og sustainable development and sustainability transition studies"
  • 13.00-14.00 Lunch
  • 14.00-16.00 Writing session

Practical Philosophy Seminar: Christopher Bertram

"Restricted mobility and climate emergency"

Time and place: Jan. 21, 2020 12:15 PM–2:00 PM, Georg Morgenstiernes hus, room 452


Some climate activists and political philosophers have suggested that migration to wealthy countries may need to be restricted in order to reduce carbon emissions. Such arguments are the flip side of some pro-migration arguments from economists. Starting from a methodological framework that rules governing human mobility have to be justifiable to everyone, I argues that restrictions that push the costs of climate mitigation of those who are already sufferering from its consequences are unjustified, but that intensifies the obligation of the already-wealthy to pursue rapid decarbonization.

Christopher Bertram is Professor of Social and Political Philosophy at the University of Bristol.


  • 12.15-14 Seminar on "Restricted mobility and climate emergency"
  • 14-15 Lunch
  • 15-17 Meeting with students


Practical Philosophy Group - Annual Workshop

Time and place: Nov. 21, 2019 9:00 AM–Nov. 22, 2019 4:00 PM, Georg Morgenstiernes hus, room 452

Practical Philosophy Seminar. Anna Smajdor: "Drag and blackface: equally objectionable?"

Time and place: Nov. 12, 2019 12:15 PM–1:00 PM, Room 452, GM Hus

The BBC recently reported on Justin Trudeau’s apology for having used ‘blackface’[1] at an Arabian nights themed party in 2001.[2] Also covered on that day on BBC News, was an article celebrating the artist RuPaul’s drag act.[3] This is not the first time a public figure has expressed contrition about ‘blacking up’. Some years ago the British comedian and actor Lenny Henry wrote about his shame and regret for having participated in a ‘black and white minstrels’ show.[4] Henry himself has also appeared in drag[5] but has never to my knowledge expressed any kind of sorrow or regret over this. Yet at a superficial glance, drag and blackface share some similarities. In both, the characteristics of a specific biologically-defined group are mimicked for the purposes of entertainment. So why is it that the two phenomena are treated so differently?

Rebecca Tuvel’s widely publicised paper ‘In defense of transracialism’, argues that 'considerations that support transgenderism seem to apply equally to transracialism'.[6] If this is the case it might seem to strengthen the idea that drag is at least potentially as objectionable as blackface. Tuvel discusses the idea that it is offensive to 'don' black identity, suggesting that it could be viewed as 'insulting or otherwise harmful' to do so. She mentions the 'horrid history of white people pretending to be black.' According to Tuvel ‘There are myriad insulting and harmful ways one could assume a black identity’. It seems that one could make many of the same points about the ‘donning’ of female identity in drag performances.

But Tuvel’s paper, of course, sparked a wave of outrage and controversy. Transgenderism is far more widely accepted as a ‘real’ phenomenon than ‘transracialism’.[7] What is true of gender is not necessarily true of race, and vice versa. Could this distinction contribute to, or justify, the different ways in which we respond to drag and blackface? In my analysis, I will consider whether the gulf between the social acceptability of drag and blackface respectively, could be reasonably ascribed to a simple failure of blackface to correlate with a ‘real’ phenomenon of transracialism in the way that drag could be correlated with transgenderism.

I will suggest that though superficially plausible, this explanation does not ultimately convince. Therefore, we should be prepared to regard drag acts as being similar enough to blackface acts to warrant similar responses, whether these responses are outrage and offense, or amusement and hilarity.


[1] I take ‘blackface’ to be the use of makeup to darken one’s features, possibly in conjunction with other measures to mimic ‘black’ characteristics.

[6] Tuvel R. In defense of transracialism. Hypatia. 2017 May;32(2):263-78.

[7] Botts TF. In Black and White: A Hermeneutic Argument against. Res Philosophica. 2018 Apr 3;95(2):303-29.

Practical Philosophy Seminar: Does the state have duty to protect the unborn life?

Time and place: Nov. 5, 2019 12:15 PM–1:00 PM, Room 452, Georg Morgenstiernes Hus

At the seminar, questions connected to what, if any, responsibilities the Child protection service (barnevernet) should have for the unborn life will be discussed. In Norway, the Child protection service's responsibilites are limited to the protection of the born child. Among the questions are: If the Child protection service should be ascribed a right or even a duty to intervene against a pregnant women: what should be the conditions for the duty to be trigged? What (if any) kind of lifestyle/health problems/drug use and more should trigger a right or duty to involve (report a worry) the Child protection service (“melde bekymring”)? Who should have the right or duty to involve the Child protection service? To what extent is an intervention from the Child protection service against the pregnant women an attack on her privacy and autonomy?

These and other questions will be discussed in a report that is to be delivered to The Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs in 2020. The task of the group working on the report, is to discuss the questions form ethical, legal and medical perspectives. 

Practical Philosophy Seminar: Joona Räsänen

"Epigenetic harm"

Time and place: Oct. 29, 2019 12:15 PM–1:00 PM, Room 452, GM Hus

Developments in the emerging field of epigenetics have shown that lifestyle habits such as eating unhealthy food can have an impact on future generations’ health. In this paper, I focus on the ethics of intergenerational aspects of epigenetics and argue that parents impose harm upon their future children by consuming unhealthy food and therefore they wrong their future children.

Practical Philosophy Seminar: Christel Fricke

Time and place: Oct. 22, 2019 12:15 PM–1:00 PM, Room 452, GM Hus

Practical Philosophy Seminar: Attila Tanyi (Arctic University of Norway)

Time and place: Oct. 15, 2019 12:15 PM–1:00 PM, Room 467, Georg Morgenstiernes Hus

Practical Philosophy Seminar: Yelena Yermakova, TBA

Time and place: Oct. 8, 2019 12:15 PM–1:00 PM, Room 452, Georg Morgenstiernes Hus

Workshop "On interspecies relations: Moral Status, Rights and Conflicts"

Time and place: Sep. 26, 2019 9:30 AM–10:30 AM, Room 652, GM Hus


  • Ursula Müster (University of Oslo): "Animatin the Forest in a South Indian naturalcultural conflict zone"
  • Anna Wienhues (University of Zurich): "Political Non-ranking Biocentrism: Grounding a Framework of Ecological Justice"
  • Juan Pablo Manalich (Universidad de Chile): "Animalhood, Subjectivity, and Rights"
  • Alejandra Mancilla (University of Oslo): "Fluid Territory: A Preliminary Exploration"


Organized by Alfonso Donoso (Universidad Católica de Chile) and Alejandra Mancilla (UiO).

Sponsored by Conicyt and Practical Philosophy Group.

Practical Philosophy Seminar: Alejandra Mancilla, "Fluid territory: A preliminary exploration"

Time and place: Sep. 24, 2019 12:15 PM–1:00 PM, Room 452, GM Hus

Practical Philosophy Seminar: Chris Armstrong (University of Southampton)

"Dealing with dictators"

Time and place: Sep. 17, 2019 12:15 PM–1:00 PM, Room 452, GM Hus


"Dictatorship is a moral outrage. How should outsiders - including those committed to liberal democratic principles - respond to it? A number of philosophers have argued that we have a duty to cease trading with dictatorships. I will distinguish instrumental and non-instrumental arguments for breaking off trade with dictatorships. But in each case I will show that the case for breaking off trade is harder to make than we might suppose. In fact, I will suggest, our best moral response to the horror of dictatorship might turn out to be to trade more, rather than less, with countries blighted by it."

Practical Philosophy Seminar: Alice Pinheiro-Walla (University of Bayreuth)

Kant and the Climate Crisis: A Territorial Rights Approach

Time and place: May 28, 2019 12:15 PM–1:00 PM, Room 452, GM Hus

Kant’s ethical theory is attractive for justifying duties to curb the effects of climate change. The very idea of a categorical imperative test evokes the idea of sustainable maxims of action. However, I argue that applying Kant’s ethical theory to climate change has limitations, since it cannot adequately account for the external enforcement required by climate change policies. In contrast, Kant’s legal philosophy can account for global collective and enforceable duties to mitigate and address the effects of climate change.

I argue that that the territorial rights of states give rise to specific duties of right towards those affected by climate change globally. Because they preclude the global mobility required for climate change adaptation, the global community of states has a duty to provide a satisfactory alternative arrangement. This would involve not only a duty to mitigate climate change, but also a duty to provide assistance to those affected by climate change to adapt to the new global conditions.

I conclude with the suggestion that securing the territorial rights of indigenous peoples and local groups who interact with their land with deep environmental knowledge, genuine emotional attachment and in a sustainable way would be a possible way to do something significant towards environmental preservation in face of international political inaction and provide a model for long term change in the way we understand and interact with land.

Practical Philosophy Seminar - Antoinette Scherz: Reasons to Comply for States: How Can International Institutions Bind States?

Time and place: May 21, 2019 12:15 PM–1:00 PM, Room 452, GM Hus

The tension between the authority of states and the authority of international institutions is a persistent feature of international relations, which legitimacy assessments of international institutions must address. Such exclusionary content-independent reasons for states to comply and not to interfere. Yet what are such reasons for states? What kind of reasons can ground authority? And are the reasons that apply do states different from those for individuals?

The paper addresses these questions by proposing an autonomy-based conception of legitimacy. It argues that self-regarding reasons cannot ground political authority with the respective demand for compliance, because the protection of autonomy needs to be valued higher. Therefore, only other-regarding reasons can ground authority. The paper argues further that reasons for states are based on reasons that apply to individuals. This highly restricts the domain of self-regarding reasons, which cannot be subject to the authority of international institutions. Finally, it discusses whether there is a difference in reasons for democratic and non-democratic states.

Practical Philosophy Seminar: Einar Duenger Bøhn, "The Moral Turing Test"

Time and place: May 14, 2019 12:15 PM–1:00 PM, Room 452, GM Hus

Practical Philosophy Seminar: Clare Heyward, "Intent, Nature and the Moral Significance of Climate Change Geoengineering"

Time and place: May 7, 2019 12:15 PM–1:00 PM, Room 452, GM Hus

Without certain technological innovations, including some technologies frequently regarded as examples of “geoengineering” remaining under the 2°C threshold of “dangerous climate change” is all but impossible. As such, there is increasing interest in the development of certain geoengineering technologies, but also awareness that the development of such technologies is a source of potential moral concern.   One such concern is whether a geoengineering technology is a step too far in “interfering in nature”.  Indeed, some early definitions of “geoengineering” included the idea that a geoengineering intervention was by definition “unnatural” (Schelling 1996).  By contrast, the first piece on the ethics of geoengineering technologies argued that such technologies were permissible insofar as they are exercised in ways that do not transgress the idea of “learning to live with nature” (Jamieson 1996).  A preference for technologies perceived as being more “natural” than others has been expressed in focus group research (NERC 2010), which is arguably an example of the perennial appeal of “the natural” as a rhetorical resource (Rayner and Heyward 2013).

These moral concerns are usually expressed in terms of moral permissibility: that intentional large-scale interventions in natural systems is generally impermissible and that any given geoengineering technology is an example of such an intervention.  However, proponents of such views are sometimes charged with maintaining an implausible divide between humankind and nature, or face a counterargument that due to current circumstances, such interventions are permissible, regardless of whether they are examples of living in accordance with nature (e.g. Preston 2015).              

However, following Thomas Scanlon (2008), questions of permissibility do not exhaust the category of moral questions.  There are also questions of significance, which concern relationships.  Questions of permissibility may interact with questions of significance. In this paper, I use Scanlon’s distinction to explain why many scientists who research into certain geoengineering technologies profess a certain “reluctance” or “ambivalence” about doing so.  More generally, these attitudes are behind concerns about the oncoming of the “Anthropocene”.   

Clare Heyward is professor of philosophy at the University of Tromsø, and has published extensively on the ethics of climate change and climate justice. She is the co-editor of Climate Justice in a Non-ideal World (OUP 2016).

Practical Philosophy Seminar- Maria Seim: "Angry blame and moral protest"

Time and place: Apr. 23, 2019 12:15 PM–1:00 PM, Room 452, GM Hus


Blame is the social practice through which we hold each other morally responsible. When we blame we attribute responsibility for a morally bad action or attitude to a moral agent. This paper identifies blame with the moral emotion anger in an attempt to explain what blame most fundamentally is. Anger is, however, a somewhat controversial emotion. Anger has been portrayed as unpredictable and unreliable, and it has been argued that anger does not listen to reason; it ruins relationships and damages its host as well as its target. In short, we would be better of if we could rid ourselves of angry emotions altogether. This paper defends anger against its critics. By presenting and defending a paradigm based explanation of blame as angry moral protest, and identifying the goal of angry moral protest as acknowledgment and re-establishment of moral status for the victim, the importance of anger in our moral lives is revealed.    

Contemporary attempts at defining blame usually take one of three methodological approaches: concept analysis, functional theory, or a paradigm based explanation. In this paper I argue that there is no reason to differentiate between paradigm based explanations and functional theories of blame. In merging the two approaches we can argue that anger is the paradigmatic emotional response associated with blame, and that the function of angry blame is moral protest.

I identify three typical objections to this account of blame. The first is a methodological worry. The reason to chose a functional account over concept analysis is that all accounts based on concept analysis have proven vulnerable to counter examples that show how the criteria for the account can come apart from the criteria for what we commonly think of as blame. Whatever necessary condition one puts forward for blame, there seems to be a counter example of blame that does not meet this condition. If the functional account is a better method, it must be proven to be more resilient towards such counter examples.

Second, it is hard to see how there is room for private blame in an account that identifies protest as the paradigm example. Protest seems necessarily to be communicated, so how do we account for private blame on this account?

The third challenge is to show why protest is the function of blame. In psychology anger has been associated with the action tendency of wanting to take revenge or inflict pain on the wrongdoer. If blame is so closely connected to anger, it could thus be argued that a more likely function of blame is revenge.

In addition, we have the overarching question of how to vindicate a practice that has anger at its core. As mentioned, anger is morally problematic emotion, and if blame is fundamentally connected to anger, this might be a reason to stop blaming altogether, or at least to set the standards which need to be met in order for blame to be appropriate and fitting very high.

In answering to the first and second challenge, I argue that the combination of a functional account and a paradigm based account can accommodate a wider variety of attitudes and behaviors than an account that posit necessary and sufficient condition. As long as the attitude or behavior has a residue of the function the paradigm example of angry communicated blame, it can be counted as part of our blaming practice.

In answering to the second challenge I argue similarly that protest can be private, but that the paradigm example of blame is communicated, angry protest.

In answering to the third and fourth challenge I argue that wanting acknowledgment of the wrongdoing and re-establishment of moral worth is a more likely action tendency for anger, and use this analysis to counter the most common skeptical arguments against anger.

Seeing the function of blame as protest means that when we blame we protest against the wrong done towards us. When performing a morally wrong action the wrongdoer is expressing their disregard, and implicitly claiming that the victim can be treated this way, and does not deserve being treated better. Blame is the protest of this claim. When we blame we are in effect saying that what the morally wrong action is communicating is not true: We cannot be treated this way, and we deserve to be treated better. What the protest is aiming for is for the wrongdoer to acknowledge the nature of the wrong done; recant the meaning of the wrong, and thereby re-establish the moral worth of the victim.

Feminist philosophy has a long history of praising anger as a moral emotion necessary in the protest against marginalization. In the last part of the paper I draw on this philosophy to strengthen the view that blame, understood as angry protest, is an important practice that deserves vindication.

Practical Philosophy Seminar: Aksel Sterri, "Reward kidney donors"

Time and place: Apr. 9, 2019 12:15 PM–1:00 PM, Room 452, GM Hus

The current system for procuring kidneys from living donors is badly flawed. The problem is that we to a large degree treat living kidney donations as a dyadic relationship between the donor and the recipient. Besides failing to provide kidneys to those who need it, we fail to live up to widely shared ideals of fairness and equality.

In this paper, I will argue that kidney transplants are better understood as a triadic relationship, where the state plays a crucial mediating role between donors and recipients. In fact, it is the collective, not the individual, that are responsible for providing a new kidney to those that need it. If we adopt this view, we can move beyond the market-gift-dichotomy that often permeates the debate over organ transplants.

I will argue that we should generously reward people that volunteer to donate kidneys as this is a fairer way of distributing the burdens involved in providing people in need with a kidney and will express the collective’s gratitude to the donor. A sufficiently generous reward framed in a moral language of duties and rights, will also be more likely to meet the demand for kidneys. It will thus enable the collective to fulfill its responsibilities, while protecting the status of both donors and recipients.

Drawing on recent work in economics and sociology, I will argue that rather than crowding out altruistically motivated donors, it could crowd in altruistically motivated kidney vendors and have positive expressivist effects. The reward model can also deal with claims that paying people to give up kidneys wrongly commodifies kidneys and that it comes with a disadvantage to the poor.

Practical Philosophy Seminar: Lars Christie, "The role of comparative and non-comparative justice in defensive harming"

Time and place: Apr. 2, 2019 12:15 PM–1:00 PM, Room 452, GM Hus

he role of comparative and non-comparative justice in defensive harming


Most people agree that there is a proportionality constraint on the amount of defensive harm one may impose to avert a threat of unjust harm. But how is the proportionality constraint justified?

Consider the following cases:

Negligent driver:

A driver who texts while driving is about to veer off the road threatening to paralyze a pedestrian. The pedestrian has a grenade and her only defensive option is to blow up the car, killing the negligent driver.

Negligent bicyclist:

A bicyclist who is listening to music is about to negligently hit a pedestrian, threatening to break pedestrian’s leg. The pedestrian has a grenade and her only defensive option is to throw it, killing up the bicyclist.

Does the pedestrian violate the proportionality constraint if she throws the grenade to avert the threat? Many believe that the answer is no in the first case and yes in the second. Yet providing a unified theoretical justification for these views is tricky.

If defensive harming is justified on grounds of non-comparative retributive justice, then we can justify the positive verdict in the second case by pointing out that lethal harm is disproportionate to the culpability of the negligent bicyclist. However, the retributivist approach is not able to justify the negative verdict in the first case. After all, even hard-hearted retributivist would not go as far as claiming that the culpability of the negligent driver is sufficient to make him deserve to be killed.

The opposing view that defensive harming is justified by principles of comparative distributive justice is often cashed out in roughly luck egalitarian terms. According to this view, a person who voluntarily imposes a foreseeable risk of unjust harm, may permissibly be made to carry the entire cost of averting this risk if it eventuates.  This approach is able to provide conclusion that the pedestrian may throw the grenade in the first case, but cannot explain why she cannot do so in the second.

In sum, the non-comparative approach indicate proportionality constraint that is too stringent, whereas the comparative approach seems to lack a proportionality constraint altogether.

In my talk I suggest a hybrid justification of defensive harming which invokes both comparative and non-comparative justifications. I explore the implications of this view for proportionality and necessity constraints on defensive harming.

Practical Philosophy Seminar: Jahel Queralt Lange, "The Ballot and the Wallet: Self-Respect and the Fair Value of Political Liberties"

Time and place: Mar. 26, 2019 12:15 PM–1:00 PM, Room 452, GM Hus

(co-authored with Iñigo Gonzalez Ricoy)

Economic inequalities often translate into disparities in political influence, rendering political liberties less valuable to nonaffluent citizens than to wealthier ones. Concerned with this, Rawls advocated that a guarantee of the fair value of political liberties be included in the first principle of justice as fairness, with significant regulatory and distributive implications. He nonetheless supplied little examination of the content and grounding of this guarantee, which we here offer. After examining three uncompelling arguments in its favor, we complete a more promising yet less explored argument, which builds on the value of self-respect. We first inspect the specific duties that securing self-respect commands. We then look into how the allocation of political liberties and their value bears, expressively and due to the power imbalances it entails, on how citizens perceive each other and on the reciprocal discharging of these duties.

Practical Philosophy Seminar: Jesse Tomalty (University of Bergen)

The Scope Problem for Human Rights

Time and place: Mar. 19, 2019 12:15 PM–1:00 PM, Room 452, GM Hus

The idea of universal human rights faces a problem of scope. This becomes apparent in trying to answer the seemingly simple question of who bears these rights. The seemingly obvious answer is: all and only humans. This answer implies that all and only humans share certain rights-grounding features. The trouble is that there aren’t any such features. Any rights-grounding features possessed only by humans are not shared by all humans; and any rights-grounding features shared by all humans are also possessed by members of other species. The lack of rights-grounding features shared by all and only humans entails a lack of justification for extending human rights to all humans while at once limiting their scope to only humans.

There are two ways in which the scope problem might be solved. The first is to give up on the universality of human rights, and accept that they are only held by a subset of the species. I call this the restricted scope solution. The second is to extend the scope of human rights beyond our species. I call this the expanded scope solution. Both of these solutions encounter further problems, but I argue that the expanded scope solution is preferable. I conclude with some reflections on what this solution implies for current human rights discourse and practice.

About Jesse Tomalty

Jesse Tomalty is Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Bergen. Her PhD is from the University of St Andrews, and she has held positions at the University of Frankfurt, the University of Oxford, and the University of Stirling. Her main research interests are in contemporary ethics and political philosophy. Jesse has published papers on a variety of interrelated topics including the human right to subsistence, the nature of duties of assistance towards the global poor, and the relationship between moral and legal human rights. She is currently working on papers on social rights, the right to work, and the scope of human rights.

Practical Philosophy Seminar: Yelena Yermakova

Time and place: Mar. 12, 2019 12:15 PM–1:00 PM, Room 452, GM Hus

Title: "Mineral Regime in Antarctica: Territorial Status Revisited"

If you would like to read the paper in advance, please contact

Practical Philosophy Seminar: Anna Smajdor

Time and place: Mar. 5, 2019 12:15 PM–1:00 PM, Room 452, GM Hus

Practical Philosophy Seminar: Alejandra Mancilla, "Superseding white colonialism"

Time and place: Feb. 26, 2019 12:15 PM–1:00 PM, Room 452, GM Hus

Abstract: Between 1908 and 1940 a handful of colonial and wishing-to-be colonial powers claimed whole wedges of the Antarctic continent (or reserved their right to make a claim). These nine countries continued to exercise their influence over Antarctic matters after the Antarctic Treaty was signed, in 1959, and they still do so today, joined by some latecomers. In this article, I call “white colonialism” the practice of taking over vast expanses of uninhabited, “white” space, and examine three levels at which it is morally wrong in the specific case of Antarctica. I then offer some reasons why it should be superseded, address some objections, and point to some implications of the view.

If you would like to read the paper in advance, please contact our administrator, Grethe Netland.

Practical Philosophy Seminar: Mathias Slåttholm Sagdahl, "Melancholy as Responding to Reasons"

Time and place: Feb. 5, 2019 12:15 PM–1:00 PM, Room 452, GM Hus

If you would like to read the paper in advance, please contact Grethe Netland

Practical Philosophy Seminar: Jakob Elster, "Autonomy in political philosophy"

Time and place: Feb. 12, 2019 12:15 PM–1:00 PM, Room 452, GM Hus

Abstract: The concept of autonomy is arguably one of the key concepts of political philosophy. This paper seeks to provide an overview of the different roles autonomy plays within political philosophy and of possible conflicts and tensions between these roles. I will first try to describe the concept of autonomy, as this is often understood in both moral and political philosophy. I argue that autonomy has two main aspects: first autonomy involves developing one’s own understanding of what kind of life one wants to live and what one wants to do and acting, at least with some success, based on that understanding. Next, autonomy involves having a set of normative powers, including both the power to impose laws upon oneself and immunities from others. Building in this understanding of the twin aspects of autonomy, I describe and discuss different functions the concept of autonomy has in political philosophy, notably: i) autonomy as a goal; ii) autonomy as a constraint; and iii) autonomy as a foundation.


Practical Philosophy group  Annual Workshop 2018

Time and place: Oct. 11, 2018 8:45 AM–Oct. 12, 2018 3:45 PM, GM 652 University of Oslo

Thursday, October 11

  • 0845 – 0900    Coffee and Welcome
  • 0900 – 0945    Martin Vestergren: “Why instrumentalizing dependency is wrongful domination".
  • 0945 – 1030     Hallvard Sandven: “Subjection, domination, and legitimacy in border regimes”
  • 1030 – 1045    Break
  • 1045 – 1130    Alejandra Mancilla: “A Normative Framework for Territorial Claims in Antarctica”
  • 1130 – 1215    Yelena Yermakova: “Mineral Regime in Antarctica: Disaggregating Sovereignty”
  • 1215 – 1300     Lunch
  • 1300 – 1345     Johan Wibye: “One path to fulfilment or many - A sorting mechanism for positive and negative rights”
  • 1345 – 1430    Carlos Joly: “Are money matters moral matters? A moral take on US and EC fiduciary duty regulation”
  • 1430 – 1445     Break
  • 1445 – 1530     Søren Wenstøp: “The moral psychology of corruption in orgnaizations”
  • 1530 – 1615     Aksel Sterri: “The Ethics of Emergencies”

Friday, October 12

  • 0945 – 1000    Coffee
  • 1000 – 1045    Espen Dyrnes Stabell: “Hard Environmental Choices: Comparability, Justification, and the Argument from Moral Identity”.
  • 1045 – 1130    Maria Seim: “Standing to blame and meddling”
  • 1130 – 1215    Lunch
  • 1215 – 1400    Key Note:Peter Railton: TBA
  • 1400 – 1415    Break
  • 1415 – 1500    Einar Duenger Bøhn: “AlphaMoral”
  • 1500 – 1545    Jeroen Rijnders: “"Moral Agency, Automaticity, and Character: A Tripartite Model"
Published June 28, 2022 12:41 PM - Last modified June 28, 2022 12:41 PM