FC Talks

Can Game Theory Constrain Normative Prescriptions?

Abstract: Game theory can be a useful means toward certain political philosophical ends because it provides a conceptual and technical apparatus that constrains the inferences we can make about (counterfactual) situations involving strategic interdependence. While its usefulness for conceptual, exploratory, or diagnostic purposes seems well-established (at least, among game theory's defenders), it seems to me an open question whether game theoretic models can be useful for the distinct purpose of disciplining normative prescriptions (e.g., regarding the kinds of institutions required by justice). At a glance, some might think the answer is clearly affirmative: game theoretic models are useful for exploring social causal mechanisms; so game theoretic models can be useful for doing the kind of causal analysis required to determine whether a particular prescription is feasible or effective for addressing extant injustice. This answer presupposes that game theoretic models are useful for making predictions about, e.g., which states of affairs we are likely to realize given the status quo, or the likely effects of implementing certain prescriptions. But suppose we're skeptical that game theoretic models can make these kinds of predictions; what then? I'll sketch a tentative work-around: game theoretic models can be useful for determining whether a prescription is consistent with the underlying diagnosis. That is, game theory can help determine whether the prescription is feasible and effective given the model implied by the theorist's diagnosis of the normative problem to be addressed.

When

12:30 p.m. May 5, 2016

Academic year

2015-2016

Semester

Spring

When

12:30 p.m. April 21, 2016

Academic year

2015-2016

Semester

Spring

Wealth Taxes, Capital Gains Taxation and the Right to Private Property. On the Moral Boundaries of Taxation.

 

Abstract: In many Western countries tax justice currently fuels the public debate. In the aftermath of Piketty’s Capitalism in the 21st Century, tax law has left the lecture room of legal specialists to attract widespread moral and political interest. Recent findings on growing economic inequality incentivized politicians, international organizations and academics to propose tax reforms. To stop the increasing wealth gap two major reform strategies are put forward: (1) wealth taxes that diminish concentration of wealth by means of a levy on the value of one’s fortune; (2) increasing the capital gains taxation by imposing (additional) fiscal duties on the profits one gains from e.g. real estate, stocks, bonds, intangible assets etc.

However, an integrated view on tax justice does not only depend on the redistributive effects of specific measures; but equally needs to asses taxation policies on their consistency with people’s personal rights. Regarding the impact of particular tax measures on personal (economic) rights, current tax debate has remained rather silent. I aim to fill that gap by analyzing whether the abovementioned proposals are acceptable from the viewpoint of a particular classic liberal right. Moreover this paper will scrutinize both the idea of a wealth tax and a capital gains tax from the perspective of the right to private property. This former right will serve as evaluative basis, for which extensive justification will not be given here.

Classically, the right to property has been presented as a bundle of several incidents, e.g. use, management, income, etc. Over the last 30 years, Anglo-Saxon legal literature has stressed the conceptual disintegration of the right to private property, maintaining that the right to private property has no fixed meaning, and the particular incidents which constitute a person’s claims over a good, are those granted by prevailing legislation. This article wishes to challenge this approach, and will argue that the appearance of complex proprietorial entitlements in legislation, does not exclude the conceptualization of an integrated (prior) moral right. My means of a personal analysis, I will show that a particular hierarchy can be envisaged between the respective incidents that construct a traditional moral right to property.

The former framework will be used to elucidate that wealth taxes target the most evident and quintessential aspect within that hierarchy : the right to possession. Since wealth taxes indeed penetrate the very foundation of property, I will show they nullify the right as such. On the other hand, I will exhibit that capital gains taxation respects several essential incidents of the right to private property and only relate to an additional aspect – income. Therefore, capital gains taxation can be qualified as a lesser infringement, and a measure which is sensibly more compatible with the crux of people’s claims over their goods.

When

12:30 p.m. March 10, 2016

Academic year

2015-2016

Semester

Spring

The Political Economy of Liberty and Money

When

12:30 p.m. April 5, 2016

Academic year

2015-2016

Semester

Spring

Where Does the Buck Stop?

 

Abstract: What is wrong with absolute obedience? Imagine someone having done something horrific, which she claims to have been another person's decision, and not her own. We can only blame her if passing the buck in this way is wrong in some way or another. This talk will explore the possibility that she is making a *factual* mistake. Can we be mistaken as to whether we are autonomous? I will argue that ascribing final, buck-stopping authority to yourself is self-fulfilling, and that on this particular question we are each of us infallible. If I'm correct about this, the utility of other and weaker forms of self-fulfilling description requires this central form of self-ascription; Velleman's "epistemic freedom" is a noteworthy instance.

When

12:30 p.m. March 31, 2016

Academic year

2015-2016

Semester

Spring

When

6:31 p.m. March 28, 2016

Academic year

2015-2016

Semester

Spring

Austrian Constructivism (or, What Was Kant's Formula of Humanity, Really?)

 

Abstract: Kant tells us that we are to treat persons always as ends in themselves, and never merely as means. That dictum is both opaque -- this is not a turn of phrase that wears its sense on its literal sleeve -- and obscurely motivated: is there any reason to do as Kant says, or is the demand merely high-minded piousness?

To address those concerns, I will consider an argument advanced by the so-called Austrian economists against socialist central planning. I will show how it can be extended and adapted into an argument whose conclusion matches a widespread reading of Kant's Formula of Humanity, and on which it makes sense as a social strategy. I will wrap up by suggesting an interpretation of the concept of a person, and I will indicate limits to deriving substantive guidelines for action from the Kantian dictum.

When

12:30 p.m. March 24, 2016

Academic year

2015-2016

Semester

Spring

Hume’s Partial Solution to Political Factions

 

Abstract: "As Knud Haakonssen has underscored, Hume was fearful of the rise and persistence of factionalism in Britain, and the political instability this engendered. A considerable swath of Hume’s analysis of political governance and obligation can be understood as pivoting around these fears. The primary divide circa 1750 was not religious but economic, the factions of court and country, Whig and Tory, merchant and aristocrat. Hume believed the burgeoning public debt unleashed by Robert Walpole would only exacerbate the situation. How to remedy these tendencies? Hume upheld the system of mixed monarchy for Britain but also aspired to transform the dispositions and characters of the principal agents themselves. The interests of merchants were not so divergent from the interests of the landed class, Hume maintained, and with time, could become more convergent. The task at hand was to take the rough clay of the nouveau riche and mould them more firmly into an honourable group of people without succumbing to a system of aristocratic title.

As I have argued in a recent article (“Hume’s Honourable Merchant” EJHET, 2014), one can read Hume’s Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals (1751) as, among other things, a vade mecum to forging good character, particularly for readers of the merchant class. Hume hoped that if the merchant could strive for honour in the private sphere, this virtue would spill over into the public sphere and bring mercantile interests more in line with the status quo. It might also lay a more solid foundation for sustaining the commercial order for future generations, since Hume was sceptical that the current institutions could safeguard the accumulated civility that came with modern commerce. My talk will sketch this interpretation, drawing on a number of Hume’s texts, and thus advance all the more the economic underpinnings of his political thought."

When

6:29 p.m. Feb. 16, 2016

Academic year

2015-2016

Semester

Spring

Free Choices Are a Natural Kind

 

Abstract: This paper makes the case that free choices are a natural kind, by applying an attractive view of natural kinds to free choices. On this view, human agents choose freely, most of the time, as long as they exercise a cluster of capacities that are related in the right sorts of ways to each other and to the world. In turn, our concept ‘free choice’ is causally regulated by the world as long as most of us possess and exercise most of these capacities. The view that emerges is a type of compatibilism about free choices and determinism, and it overcomes the central obstacle to the development of a natural-kind view about free choice, i.e., the Martian-control objection. Finally, the view circumvents empirical controversies about what people’s intuitive beliefs about free choices are, as well as dialectical stalemates in philosophical theorizing about free choices, by making the intuitive beliefs associated with the concept irrelevant to its reference.

When

12:30 p.m. Jan. 27, 2016

Academic year

2015-2016

Semester

Spring
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