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Spring 2014

Monday, March 17

imageJohn Mikhail

Georgetown Law

“Unreasonable Risk: A Formal Analysis and Critical History of Common Law Negligence”


Silverman Hall, Room 144, Faculty Lounge


 Wednesday, April 30


David Lieberman

Berkeley Law

“Bentham’s Jurisprudence and Democratic Theory: An Alternative to Hart’s Approach”


Silverman Hall, Room 144, Faculty Lounge


Spring 2013

Monday, April 15

imageKimberly Ferzan, Rutgers University

“The Bluff”

4:30 pm
Silverman Hall, Room 144, Faculty Lounge

Individuals have normative powers by which they can change their rights and duties.  They incur new obligations by promising. They allow boundary crossings by consenting.  They relinquish property rights through abandonment.  And there is a “paradigmatic” way that such alterations occur.  Abandonment, for example, may be as simple as thinking “I no longer want this to be my property.”

In addition, although normative powers are often thought to shift our rights and duties with others, sometimes what they do is relinquish rights and duties through forfeiture.  Sometimes a voluntary choice yields an involuntary consequence.  A culpable aggressor’s decision to harm an innocent victim forfeits his right against the victim’s use of defensive force. 

So, what happens when an actor “fakes it?”  What if the culpable aggressor’s gun is not loaded and he knows it?  If he is simply bluffing, has he still forfeited his rights?

This paper argues that individuals can and do alter their rights and duties through insincere acts, and discusses the conditions under which this is so.  It pays particular attention to self-defense, but also gestures towards applications in other domains, such as consent, abandonment, and promising.




Fall 2012

Monday, October 1

imageJules ColemanNew York University

Liability and Assignability

4:30 pm
Silverman Hall, Room 144, Faculty Lounge


Monday, November 12

imageJohn Simmons, University of Virginia

Territorial Rights: Justificatory Strategies

4:30 pm
Silverman Hall, Room 144, Faculty Lounge


Monday, December 3*

imageBrian Leiter, University of Chicago Law School

The Methodology of Legal Philosophy

*3:00 pm, please note the talk is not at the usual time slot
Silverman Hall, Room 144, Faculty Lounge


Spring 2012

Thursday, January 12

Ernest Weinrib, Cecil A. Wright Chair, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto
4:30 pm
Silverman Hall, Room 144, Faculty Lounge
Title: Unjust Enrichment
View Paper (PDF)

Thursday, February 16

David Luban, University Professor and Professor of Law and Philosophy, Georgetown Law
4:30-6:15 pm
Silverman Hall, Room 144, Faculty Lounge
View Paper (PDF)

Monday, February 27

Ann Cudd, Associate Dean for the Humanities, Professor of Philosophy, University of Kansas
12:00 pm
Silverman Hall, Room 144, Faculty Lounge
Title: Adaptations to Oppression: Preference and Resistance
View Paper (PDF)

Monday, April 2

Antony Duff, University of Minnesota Law School; professor emeritus, Department of Philosophy, University of Stirling, Stirling, Scotland
4:30-6:15 pm
Silverman Hall, Room 144, Faculty Lounge
Title: Towards a Modest Legal Moralism
View Paper (PDF)


Fall 2011

Monday, October 3

Stephen Darwall, Andrew Downey Orrick Professor of Philosophy Yale University; John Dewey Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, University of Michigan
4:30-6:15 pm
Silverman Hall, Room 144, Faculty Lounge
View Paper (PDF)

Monday, November 14

John F. K. Oberdiek, Rutgers School of Law - Camden
12:00–1:30 pm
Silverman Hall, Room 144, Faculty Lounge
Title: The Moral Significance of Risking
View Paper (PDF)

Tuesday, December 6 (revised date)

Micah J. Schwartzman, University of Virginia School of Law
12:00-1:15 pm
Silverman Hall, Room 144, Faculty Lounge
Legal Studies Workshop

Wednesday, December 14 (revised date)

Ekow Yankah, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
12:00 pm
Title: Legal Hypocrisy
View Paper (PDF)


Spring 2011

Friday, January 14

Susan Wolf, Edna J. Koury Professor of Philosophy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
4-6 pm, Faculty Lounge
Title: Blame, Italian Style
View Paper (PDF)

Monday, March 14

Thomas Christiano
4:30-6:30 pm, Faculty lounge.
Title: State Consent and the Legitimacy of International Institutions
View Paper (PDF)

Thursday, April 14

4:30-6 pm, Gittis 213, Kushner Classroom
Reception to Follow
Title: Counter-Terror: The Model, the Reality

Featuring Dell Dailey, former Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism, U.S. Department of State and Director, Center for Special Operations, U.S. Special Operations Command

Moderator: Claire Finkelstein
Commentator: Deborah Pearlstein, Visiting Faculty Fellow, University of Pennsylvania Law School

In recent years, we have come to appreciate that the United States faces real and profound terrorist threats from both domestic and international terrorists. But what happens when military and civilian leaders become aware of an imminent threat? What national and international tools are available to the U.S. government to identify and prevent a terrorist act from taking place? How do American laws and policies intersect with international law when a terror threat hits the radar in real time? Please join Ambassador Dell Dailey for a wide-ranging discussion that will look at cutting edge issues facing America’s counter-terrorism operations today. Ambassador Dailey will present the current counter terror model, discuss new or existing organizations to assist countering terror, and provide an updated assessment of Al Qaeda. A question and answer period will follow. This presentation is jointly sponsored by the Penn Law Office of International Programs, the Institute for Law and Philosophy and the Penn Law National Security Society. It is free and open to the public.

Monday, April 18

Alon Harel (Profile 1 | Profile 2), Professor of Law, Boston University School of Law
4:30 PM - 6:15 PM, Silverman Hall, Room 144 (Faculty Lounge)
Title: Dignity and Privatization: The Dignity-based Case against Outsourcing Violence

This Article develops a non-instrumental dignity-based argument against privatization of violence. We focus in particular on the privatization of prison and on the use of mercenaries. This Article maintains that some governmental decisions simply cannot be executed by private entities. While private individuals may act in compliance with the state’s orders, such compliance cannot count as an execution of the order of the state. We also argue that compliance which does not count as an execution of the state’s order is impermissible for dignity-based reasons. Part I distinguishes between two types of fidelity to the public good: fidelity of reason and fidelity of deference. Fidelity of reason is based on an independent judgment of the decision-maker concerning what the public good requires; fidelity of deference is based on subjecting oneself to the judgments of the state concerning the public good. Part II establishes (on dignity-based grounds) that the execution of state’s decisions concerning violence ought to be based exclusively on fidelity of deference; and, as private individuals are incapable of acting on the basis of fidelity of deference, it follows that private individuals are incapable of executing the state’s decisions with respect to violence. Part III establishes that, in contrast to private individuals, public officials can act on the basis of fidelity of deference. It follows therefore that the execution of state’s decisions concerning violence cannot be outsourced to private individuals.
View Paper (PDF)


Fall 2010

Monday, October 18

Jens Ohlin, Assistant Professor of Law, Cornell Law School
12:00 pm, Silverman Hall, Room 144 (Faculty Lounge)
Title: Joint Intentions to Commit International Crimes

The following article is an attempt to provide a coherent theory that international tribunals may use to ground the imposition of vicarious liability for collective crimes. Currently, the case law and the literature is focused on a debate between the Joint Criminal Enterprise (JCE) doctrine applied by the ICTY and the co-perpetration doctrine applied by the ICC, which defines co-perpetrators as those who have joint control over the collective crime. The latter doctrine, influenced by German criminal law theory, has recently won many converts, both in The Hague and in the Academy, because it allegedly avoids many of the pitfalls and excesses associated with the JCE doctrine, including vicarious liability for actions that fall outside the scope of the criminal plan, the most expansive version of the JCE doctrine (JCE III). The following Article subjects the control theory, the new darling of the professoriate, to renewed scrutiny and questions whether “control” is the most important criteria for collective crimes. This Article defends the claim that the most essential aspect to ground vicarious liability for members of a criminal gang is the mens rea of its individual members. These individuals share with each other what the philosopher Michael Bratman calls a “joint intention” - in this case a joint intention that the group commit a collective crime; through a series of hypothetical examples, I argue that this fact ought to be the most central aspect of the doctrine. The original version of JCE doctrine did little to analyze these joint intentions, though it implicitly relied on them, and the co-perpetration theory has sought to sidestep them entirely by emphasizing “control” instead. But this is an overreaction. The proper course is to return mens rea to the center of the debate and develop a nuanced account of joint intentions that avoids the excesses of the JCE doctrine. Instead of replacing JCE with the control theory of perpetration, international courts should reform JCE by eliminating JCE III because it fails to comply with the underlying theory supporting the doctrine.
View Paper (PDF)

Monday, November 22

Roy Sorensen, Department of Philosophy, Washington University in St. Louis
4:30 pm, Faculty Lounge
Title: How Vagueness Make Judges Lie

Most commentators on vagueness accept the Verdict Exclusion Principle: applying a predicate to one of its borderline cases yields an unknowable proposition. If three million dollars was a borderline case of ‘excessive bail’ for Michael Jackson in 2004, then no one can know that a three million dollar bail was excessive and no one can know that it was not. Since you should assert only what you know, you can only shrug your shoulders. Adjudicators lack this agnostic option. Their professional obligation to be decisive conflicts with the Verdict Exclusion Principle.

The second way vagueness makes judges lie is through the underspecificity of their knowledge. To prevent oppression, disjunctive indictments are forbidden. Knowing that the defendant is guilty of either A or B is not good enough. If neither alternative can be proved individually, then the defendant prevails. This standard of proof, reminiscent of intuitionism in mathematics, violates an attractive moral principle ‘Known criminals ought to be punished for their crimes’. Consequently, a judge is under pressure to make assertions that are more specific than the propositions he believes. So are others involved in the process: witnesses, police, experts, and prosecutors.

All of these dutiful liars have my sympathy. My thesis is that their justice-hungry lies are part of a systemic moral dilemma created by the inevitable penetration of vagueness into law. The ingenuity with which legal scholars and vagueness theorists have sought to escape the dilemma is a testament to its poignancy. Perhaps we can ameliorate some of the difficulty with reforms that make a better trade-off between competing desiderata for a legal system. But there is no improvement that stops vagueness from systematically motivating judicial lies.
View Paper (PDF)

Monday, December 6

Dr. Lorenzo Zucca, King’s College London
4:30 pm, Faculty Lounge
Title: Tolerance or Toleration: Religious Conflicts in Europe

Religious conflicts are perilously widespread in Europe and call for a clear and firm response. The European Master Narrative has always presented Toleration as the moral value to resort to in order to cope with these conflicts. In this paper, I want to resist that Master Narrative and do so by distinguishing between tolerance and toleration as competing attitudes towards religious diversity. I stipulate a definition of tolerance as a non-moralizing attitude, understood as the human disposition to put up with diversity. Tolerance thus defined is the basis for an alternative approach to cope with religious conflicts. Such an approach is less dependent on controversial normative assumptions and more responsive to empirical data, including psychological insights as to the human ability to deal with difference.
View Paper (PDF)



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