A one-day in-person symposium in St. Andrews on themes from the recently-published, Contractarianism, Role Obligations, and Political Morality, by Ben Sachs.
Contractarianism is well suited as a political morality…or so this book argues, before going on to explore the implications of deploying contractarianism in this way. Its starting point is the natural thought that the state owes things to its people: physical security, public health and sanitation services, and a functioning judiciary, for example. But we need a theory—a political morality—that can explain why this is so and identify who the state’s ‘people’ are. The book argues that what it means for the state to have obligations is for the state’s office-holders (e.g., its legislators, judges, and bureaucrats) to have role obligations. These role obligations derive from the purpose of the state, which is grounded in the intentions of those who partake in the sustaining of the state. By way of extracting implications from this new version of contractarianism, the book argues first that at least an extremely weak version of political liberalism follows from it. And this small dose of political liberalism yields a very strong version of legal liberalism (the view that the goodness/badness of an act doesn’t figure in to the question of how the law, including the criminal law, ought to deal with that act). Second, the book argues that there is an important sense in which it’s false that sentient animals as such are among the state’s people, and that the arguments for extending citizenship to this fail. Finally, from there the book argues for a moderate position on the proper legal status of such animals.
Attendance is free, thanks to gratefully acknowledged support from the Scots Philosophical Association. Although registration is not required, it would be helpful if you’d register by sending an email to Ben Sachs (firstname.lastname@example.org). Those who register might get a free meal or two, budget allowing!
Call for Speakers
One early-career, UK-based scholar with an expertise in contractarianism will be selected to give a talk critiquing Chapters 2-3 of the book (the chapters in which a new version of contractarianism is developed). If you would like to be this person, please complete the application form here. (Applications accepted until 30 June.) The selected scholar will get a free copy of the book, have their travel and accommodation expenses paid and will receive equal billing with the speakers listed above. Applications especially welcome from females and from members of groups that are historically underrepresented in philosophy.
The symposium venue is disability accessible and funds are available to pay for childcare for those who need it in order to attend. If you have any questions about the symposium, please contact Ben Sachs (email@example.com).