Project leader: Jonathan Parry
Duration: September 2022 - September 2027
The core goal of the Not in my Name project is to uncover and explain the moral significance of two ubiquitous, yet opaque phenomena. On the one hand, it is common for agents to justify their actions by claiming to act ‘on behalf of’ another. On the other hand, these claims often provoke indignation and rejection on the part of their subject(s).
Despite the central role these phenomena play in our lives, surprisingly little is understood about their moral significance, and the concepts and values that underpin them. What does it mean, exactly, for an agent to act ‘on behalf’ of another person or group? It seems intuitive that successfully acting on behalf of others contributes to the moral justification of one’s actions. But what explains this connection? Under what circumstances do persons and groups have a right to demand that others not act on their behalf? Crucially, why (and to what extent) do such demands impose constraints on the moral justifiability of others’ actions? How do these constraints affect the moral justification of state action and public policy?
Headed by Jonathan Parry as Principal Investigator, working alongside a Postdoctoral and a PhD Researcher, the Not in My Name project aims to produce agenda-setting answers to these questions. It combines rigorous and cutting-edge theoretical work in moral and political philosophy, with detailed applied research in three practical areas: public health policy, the use of armed force, and political protest and dissent. The key objectives are to provide:
- A precise philosophical theory of what it means to act ‘on behalf’ of others, grounded in a novel theory of moral self-sovereignty.
- An account of what successfully acting on behalf of others requires, and why such success enhances the moral justification of actions and policies.
- A framework that explains when, why, and to what extent dissent and refusal are morally significant.
- A strategy for assessing when (if ever) dissent can be sufficient to render actions and polices morally unjustified (and, equally importantly, when it does not).
The project team will include a PhD student and a Postdoctoral Research Officer, who will conduct independent research which falls within the project themes, broadly construed. Suitable topics could include:
- Paternalism in theory and practice
- Political representation
- The ethics of using force to defend others (for example, domestic rebellion or humanitarian intervention)
- Fiduciary roles and duties
- The ethics of punishment and reconciliation (especially victim-centred approaches)
- The ethics of blame and social sanction
- Recent debates surrounding ‘moral standing’ and accountability
- Political obligations and political legitimacy
- The ethics of protest and resistance
- Public health ethics
- Bodily and property rights
- Normative powers (such as consent, promise, and command)
- The scope and limits of consent and refusal
This is just an indicative list and is by no means exhaustive. It is expected that many topics in moral, political and legal philosophy will intersect with project themes. Prospective applicants whose research project does not fit into these categories but potentially falls within project themes are encouraged to get in touch with Dr Jonathan Parry to discuss suitability.
Dr Jonathan Parry is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method. He is interested in a wide range of topics in moral, political and legal philosophy.
Rich Healey is joining the Centre for Philosophy of Natural & Social Science (CPNSS) as a postdoctoral researcher on the project ‘Not in my Name’. He will be working on questions concerning the moral foundations of normative powers and the normative constraints that apply to the powers of consent and promise. Rich earned his PhD from the University of Sheffield in 2016 under the supervision of Daniel Viehoff and Chris Bennett. Subsequently, he has held a mixture of research and teaching positions at institutions including McGill, McMaster, Glasgow, and UCL. His research interests span moral, political, and legal philosophy, with a current focus on the ethics of consent and promising, interpersonal relationships, and animal rights.