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Philosophy and Public Affairs

Philosophy and Public Affairs


Robin Celikates & Beate Roessler


Participants: Beate Roessler, Robin Celikates, Gijs van Donselaar, Yolande Jansen, Karen Vintges, Jelle de Boer, Henri Wijsbek, Dorota Mokrosinska, Thomas Nys, Marc Davidson, Pieter Pekelharing
PhD candidates: Bastiaan Hoorneman, Eva Groen-Reijman, Eva Meijer, Corstin Dieterich
Other participants: approx. 30 additional researchers as well as PhD/RMA students from the UvA and other universities who regularly participate in the biweekly Philosophy and Public Affairs colloquium.

Description of the research programme of the research group

A common characteristic of many contemporary social and political problems is that the extent to which these problems are public affairs, and thus where, by whom and how they have to be dealt with, is uncertain and contested. This is particularly pressing with questions about, for instance, diversity and identity, exclusion and inclusion, biotechnology and the environment (including the standing of animals), and political authority and the challenges to it. In spite of their obvious differences in content, taken together, these problems seem to call for serious reconsideration of political and ethical concepts and theories which for a long time were perceived as unproblematic. At stake are established understandings of autonomy and different forms of normativity in general, but also distinctions as the ones between private and public, fact and value, science and politics, and individual morality and politics. Established institutions and practices dealing with public concerns need to be re-evaluated and have to be subjected to different forms of social critique. These include the sovereignty of the nation state, the autonomous individual as the basic unit in normative theory, the view that democratic politics is an execution of aggregated individual preferences, and the role of expertise in democracy.  In our research group these problems and challenges are investigated along four axes: 1) autonomy, 2) normativity, 3) democracy, and 4) social critique.

Envisaged results

The activities and output of the Philosophy and Public Affairs group, which build on a series of sub-projects along the axes mentioned above, include: organizing a biweekly colloquium with speakers from the UvA as well as other Dutch and international universities; regular workshops; the publication of journal articles and monographs; and the application for external research funding.

Work plan and time schedule

The research group will continue for at least five years, in the form of the biweekly colloquium and regular workshops. Dissertations by current PhD candidates are to be completed at different dates. Articles and Monographs by the senior member within the next 2-3 years.

Societal relevance

The Philosophy and Public Affairs group has a high social and political relevance because of the issues it addresses and the way in which it links the theoretical perspective of ethics and political philosophy with an empirically informed and problem-oriented approach.

This research group is active in the following constellations:

Cultural & Social Critique