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Niko Kolodny (UC Berkeley): “Official Corruption”

11 June 2018, 4:00 pm5:30 pm

Abstract: In its broadest use, “corruption” means: regress from a pure, healthy, or virtuous state. However, “corruption” has a narrower use, where it means something like: using an institutional role for personal gain when one shouldn’t.  Paradigms of such “official corruption” are: bribery, nepotism, cronyism, self-dealing, and embezzlement. My question, lately urgent in the US, is when and why such official corruption is wrong. I survey limitations of such answers as: because official corruption disserves the public interest, breaks the law, unjustly enriches, plays favorites, and betrays ill will. Instead, I suggest, the paradigms of official corruption are wrong because they are abuses of office: that is, because the official in question decides how to use the office on the basis of a reason that does not contribute to the office’s functioning well. And that’s wrong because it violates a condition – namely, the exclusion of such reasons – meant to reconcile, to the extent possible, the hierarchy of offices with the equality of men. This account of abuse of office then explains two further things: our objection, which republicans make so much of, to being at the mercy of another’s whims, and our objection to threats that improve our options.

Niko Kolodny is Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley.


11 June 2018
4:00 pm – 5:30 pm
Event Category:


Philosophy, Logic & Scientific Method


Parish Hall, Room LG.03
Sheffield Street
London, WC2A 2HA United Kingdom
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