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11-13 July 2002, Faculty of Law: Cambridge

Co-sponsored by:

  • Faculty of Philosophy, University of Cambridge
  • Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge
  • Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities
  • The British Academy

Keynote speakers

  • Brian Barry, Colombia: "Responsibility and Social Justice"
  • Gerald Postema, North Carolina: "Of Jazz, Jokes and Jurists: Reasoning in the First Person Plural"

Panelists included

  • Paula Casal, Keele: "Law, Morality and Incentives"
  • Antony Duff, Stirling: "Heroism or Frailty: What Criminal Law Should Expect of Us"
  • Richard Holten/Stephen Shute, Edinburgh: "Provocation Puzzles: Loss of Self-Control in the Modern Provocation Defence"
  • Susan Hurely, Warwick: "Imitation and Freedom of Expression"
  • Susan James, Birkbeck: "Passion and Politics"
  • Edward McClennen, LSE: "Rationality, Rights and Prudence"
  • Michael Rosen, Oxford: "Liberalism and Human Nature"
  • Hillel Steiner, Manchester: "Duties to Enforce Rights"
  • David Wiggins, Oxford: "A Neo-Aristotelian Approach to Justice: How Would it go ?"
  • Andrew Williams, Reading: "Justice Constructivism and Human Nature"
  • Jonathan Wolff, UCL: "Addressing Disadvantage and the Human Good"

Conference Moderators

  • Simon Blackburn
  • Raymond Geuss
  • T.R. Harrison
  • Matthew Kramer
  • Onora O'Neill
  • Nigel Simmonds

The conference was a major success.  With nearly 150 people from 17 countries in attendance, the conference was the United Kingdom's largest event relating to legal philosophy for many years.  A number of participants remarked that they had never previously seen so many legal and political philosophers together in one room.  As the keynote lecturer Gerald Postema observed, the conference confirmed Cambridge's status "as a major place of legal philosophy".

The conference examined how views of human nature shape and affect the design of laws and political institutions, and how we can use law and political institutions to transform as well as regulate our nature.  Issues explored include:

  • the nature of human decision-making
  • theories of rationality and their role in the design and operation of political institutions
  • the role of human nature in the formulation and implementation of conceptions of distributive justice
  • human nature and dispute resolution
  • human nature and economic regulation

The conference was designed to appeal to legal and political philosophers generally, as well as to behavioural economists, game theorists, and cognitive psychologists who are working in the areas of human rationality and decision-making and are interested in applications of their disciplines to the design of laws and political institutions or the construction and implementation of practical theories of distributive justice.