Global Justice Explored
What would a just world look like? And what is our role in creating such a world?
These challenging questions are at the heart of “Global Justice in the 21st Century,” a conference to be held April 17 and 18 in the Walker-Ames Room, Kane Hall, on the UW’s Seattle campus. The conference is free and open to the public.
“Everyone has ideas about what other countries get to do and when the U.S. should use its might to stop them,” says Michael Blake, associate professor of philosophy and an organizer of the conference. “Anyone interested in these kinds of debates should enjoy the conference.”
Poke at the topic of global justice and the questions come fast and furious. Should we ignore intolerance abroad while condemning it at home? How do we balance international law with state sovereignty? Should we limit pharmaceuticals to those who can afford them, effectively denying them to most of the world? Can we insist that other countries reduce pollution to benefit the globe? What if we’re polluting more than they are?
“There’s been an enormous shift, both in the general public and in philosophical discussions about these issues,” says Blake. “We used to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ when asked whether the U.S. should use might to stop human rights abuses. Now we’re looking for a more nuanced approach.”
The conference will feature nine speakers, including keynote speaker Thomas Pogge, a philosopher from Yale University known for his rigorous and original arguments demanding a more equitable distribution of the world’s resources. UW faculty from the Department of Philosophy, the School of Law, and the Law, Societies, and Justice program will be among the featured speakers.
Blake says the goal in selecting the speakers was to provide a mix of theorists and practitioners. About half of the speakers are philosophers.
Blake points out that philosophers have always played a role in debates about justice. Two philosophers were involved, for example, in the writing of the United Nations Charter on Human Rights in the late 1940s. “They are able to act as clarifiers of muddy concepts,” he explains. “They can take broad statements and figure out what they mean. The dialogue they start can ultimately have an effect on policy decisions.”
It is not surprising, then, that a Department of Philosophy program—Program on Values in Society—is a major sponsor of the conference. Other sponsors include the Simpson Center for the Humanities, the College of Arts and Sciences; The Graduate School; the Treuman Katz Center for Pediatric Bioethics; the Law, Societies, and Justice program; the Law School; the Department of Political Science; the Center for Global Studies; the Department of Global Health, the Department of Political Science, the Department of Philosophy, Program on the Environment, and the Department of Bioethics and Humanities.
“There’s a critical mass of people working in similar areas related to global justice at the UW,” says Blake. “The hope is that this conference stimulates a wider dialogue but also opens possibilities for collaboration, especially between people who are theoretical and those who are more practical.”
Thomas Pogge’s keynote address will be held Friday, April 17 at 7 pm in 210 Kane Hall. For more information about the Global Justice in the 21st Century conference, visit www.simpsoncenter.org/globaljustice.