Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Public Ethics & Policy

Public policy is often the subject-matter of pervasive and deep moral disagreement. Moral disagreement, understood as the difference and opposition between principled moral arguments, can and does occur between policy professionals, different political parties and individuals or groups that compose the larger lay public.

Andrei Poama

The central aim of this research axis is to provide an academic platform for exploring the theoretical dimensions of these disagreements and for thinking seriously about their political and institutional implications. We are interested in questions as varied as the justification of citizenship tests, the participation of lay citizens in the public policy decision-making, criminal justice ethics, corporate and governmental responsibility, the ethics of nudging policies, the question of dirty hands in politics and administration and so on. The distinctive dimension of the Public Ethics & Policy  axis lies in its approach to ethical questions that pertain to public policy. Building on the approach initiated by Dennis Thompson and the school of political ethics, this research axis aims to focus on mid-level ethical theorizing of policy practices as opposed to foundational debates about the nature of morality and normativity.

The Public Ethics & Policy research axis consists in the following activities:

  • A series of regular Public Ethics Talks where some of the prominent or promising political theorists, moral philosophers and philosophers of law will present their work in progress on topical ethical questions in the domain of public policy and administration;
  • The editing of the Routledge Handbook of Ethics and Public Policy and the maintenance of an active research network of political theorists, moral philosophers and philosophers of law interested in contemporary public policy questions. The Handbook will be published in 2018. It brings together more than 50 senior and junior scholars in a total of 45 chapters that focus on specific public policy areas;
  • Research internships, especially on policy practices and decisions that concern questions of fairness and justice in the allocation of scarce resources, the dirty hands problem, corporate and state responsibility or on the problem of ethical reasoning and ethical methods in public policy ethics.

For questions regarding the project, please contact dr. Andrei Poama

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