My current research centres on two questions. First, what is the relevance of individual choice and social norms for issues of justice? Second, what is the role of empirical research in political philosophy?
1. Taking people as they might be: Individuals, institutions, and society
Should we take people as they are and laws as they might be?
Sometimes justice will not be done solely by having the right laws and well-run institutions. Sometimes the social norms within a society or the accumulated choices of individuals will result in injustice, even when individuals abide by the law and institutions attempt to mitigate the effects of these norms and choices. My research focuses on where such injustices emerge and what we should do about them. In particular, I address the following three related issues:
(i) The scope of justice:
One part of this research examines the way in which minor, subtle, everyday behaviours can create injustice and the implications for the scope of justice. Another part asks when the choices individuals make about their personal lives fall within the domain of justice, especially concerning employment.
An article on this research can be found here, where I argue against G. A. Cohen’s account of how justice should guide employment choices.
(ii) Individual responsibility:
The ideas of choice and responsibility exert a powerful pull in contemporary thinking about distributive justice. At stake in these discussions is who should bear the costs of the choices people make, the individuals themselves or society as a whole. In this area of my research, I investigate the value of particular practices of responsibility and the roles they play in our political lives. I hope to defend both a different approach to responsibility-sensitive egalitarianism to that currently prevalent among luck egalitarians and a novel account of moral responsibility.
You can read a paper defending my form of responsibility sensitive egalitarianism here.
(iii) Social norms:
In this strand of my research, I examine the role that social norms play in creating injustice and in securing justice. Further, I investigate how best to characterise the demands of justice as they fall on individuals.
For an article defending the relevance of social norms, see here.
2. Empirical research and political philosophy
A growing body of literature in philosophy of science examines the relevance of ideas from moral and political philosophy for philosophy of science. I consider whether there is also a relationship between political philosophy and philosophy of science in the other direction: whether philosophy of science has lessons for normative political theorists who seek to incorporate the findings of scientific research into their theories. In particular, I examine the implications of this research for debates over feasibility and for the interaction between normative political theory and social psychology within discussions over citizenship.
I have two papers in progress on these topics. One examines the implicit and often implausible commitments within the philosophy of social science made by those proposing feasibility requirements on justice. The other considers how educating citizens to have the right norms differs from civic education as usual.
An example of what I think empirically informed political philosophy might look like can be found here, in my article on social norms.