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am an academic philosopher at the Kennedy
School of Government at Harvard
University. I've been here since 2002, after teaching for two
years in the Department of
Philosophy at Yale University.
I received my PhD from Princeton
University, having also studied at the University
of Bielefeld (where I got a Master's Degree in Mathematics),
the University of
Pittsburgh, and the Hebrew
University of Jerusalem (where I wrote my master's thesis in
mathematics under the supervision of Robert Aumann). My thesis
advisors in Princeton were Richard Jeffrey (who died in 2002, see here
for a memorial page) and Paul Benacerraf (see here
for a picture of Paul and me at his retirement in 2007). My
dissertation was concerned with some questions about group decision
making, some of it best characterized as decision theory (including
some mathematical parts), and some of it best characterized as
political philosophy. I have since worked mostly on political
philosophy, first on a range of questions including equality and
responsibility, equality of opportunity, racial profiling,
majoritarian voting, etc., but for a few years I have focused
primarily on questions of global justice, including topics such as
obligations towards the poor, how the global order might harm the
poor, fairness in trade, human rights, immigration, and the
justifiability of the state.
I have just published a book called On Global Justice (whose working title over the many years that it has taken to complete this book has been The Grounds of Justice: An Inquiry about the State in Global Perspective. (See
here and here.) My goal there is to offer a foundational theory of global justice that takes an approach "in between" the classical dichotomy according to which principles of justice either apply only within the state, or else apply globally, either because they apply to the global political and economic order, or else because they apply to all human beings in virtue of being human. Instead, I develop a view I call pluralist internationalism, according to which there are different grounds of justice that individuals may or may not share, such that those who share such a ground are people to whom the distribution of certain goods must be justifiable. Principles of justice then are those principles that fulfill that role, and they will vary with the specific grounds. While this is an unorthodox approach to thinking about justice, what is most distinctly novel about all this is that among these grounds of justice as I see them is shared ownership of the earth. That is, I am trying to revitalize a standpoint that was central to 17th century political philosophy but has since never received as much attention. Topics that one can fruitfully address through that approach include issues of immigration, the foundations of human rights, as well as obligations to future generations in the context of climate change.
In addition, I have also published a second book, called Global Political Philosophy, in Palgrave’s Philosophy Today series. (See
here.) There are plenty of good introductions to political philosophy, and one may wonder why I would bother writing another one. But unlike other introductions, this one does not start at the domestic level and then
address global questions in a chapter or two towards the end. The goal of this book is to offer an introduction to political philosophy by way of starting with questions that arise at the global level. I start with human rights and universalism vs. relativism, then discuss whether there ought to be states and explore different theories of global distributive justice, and then add a chapter each on environmental justice, immigration and fairness in trade.
the Kennedy School, I am faculty associate of the Center
for Ethics as well as the Carr
Center for Human Rights Policy, and I am also directing the McCloy
Fellowship Program that the Kennedy School runs jointly with the
National Academic Foundation. I am also a faculty associate at
the Weatherhead Center for
International Affairs. In addition to my work in political
philosophy, I have serious research interest in post-Kantian, and
mostly 19th century, German philosophy, in particular Nietzsche.