2017 Abstracts Stage 2

Can agents be considered accountable for their actions when following the orders of an authoritative figure?

This project discusses the impact of authority on moral responsibility, and whether the autonomy and free will of an agent is required in order to enforce responsibility and punishment.

While Nietzsche sceptically denounced the genealogy of morality as an institution which instils guilt and punishment, he relented to admit that despite its insufferable origins, morality is nevertheless invaluable in understanding cultures and ideologies. The doctrines of John Martin Fischer conversely maintained the position that an agent must necessarily be morally responsible for the actions they committed, even under circumstances wherein the agent may feel as though their judgement was clouded by the coercive force of an authoritative figure, which made it seem as though the actions were not the agent’s own.

Nevertheless, it has been recognised in case studies spanning over the last 100 years, such as The Nuremberg Trials of 1945-46, the 1963 Milgram Behavioural Study of Obedience and the 1971 Zimbardo Stanford Prison Experiment, that there is always an alternative possibility to the course of action taken by an agent, and that the action is always necessarily an agent’s own. In such case studies which discuss the impact of authority, other questions have been raised as to whether passivity in these examples is the true evil, or whether there lies within mankind an innate capacity for evil and sinister acts which inflict harm upon his fellow man.

2017 Abstracts Stage 2

Fight the Power: An Interrogation of Sovereign Authority

The objective of this project is to investigate the validity of the Grand Jury process in the United States of America, which selects a group of citizens at random to become involved in legal proceedings and make judgements if the suspected criminal should go to court.

The discussion therefore investigates whether it can be justified to give power to individuals in society or if power should remain with the government, or sovereign authority.

The philosophers studied in the process of the dissertation are Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Michel Foucault and Giorgio Agamben.

2013 Abstracts Stage 2

To What Extent Should a Teacher Be a Figure of Authority?

What is the purpose of education?
How can we define the role of a teacher?
By what method can a teacher fulfil the requirements of education?

Philosophical theories have provided answers for these questions over time but to what extent can we implement them in the reality of our time, taking into account the needs of our society?

I wanted to assess the problems and possibilities of theories, specifically looking at Rousseau, Hobbes and Steiner. These are however mere ideologies which create problems when the reality of government policies and education are taken into account.

“What I hope we will see is our exams are once again trusted across the globe and our children are among the best in the world.” (Michael Gove, Education Secretary).

“My answer is: abolish authority. Let the child be himself. Don’t push him around. Don’t teach him. Don’t lecture him. Don’t elevate him. Don’t force him to do anything” (A. S. Neil)

2013 Abstracts Stage 3

“I’m Gonna Make Him an Offer He Can’t Refuse … ” A discussion concerning the definition of political legitimacy and its features, comparing the Sicilian Mafia with Sicily’s central governments of the 1860’s and 1920’s

Can the notion of political legitimacy be effectively applied to the Sicilian Mafia? What defines a legitimate authority? Can the Mafia be seen as legitimate if the state is not? These concerns will be discussed within the parameters of two central points in Sicilian history; the Unification of Italy during the 1860’s and the Italian Fascist regime of the 1920’s, allowing for a comparison between the Sicilian Mafia organisation and Sicily’s governments.

MARX; is the state merely an illusion, disguising our real interests? I must have self-mastery in order to be free and rational; is the Mafia therefore legitimate?
RAWLS; There must be a publicly recognised universal and fair distribution of justice in a well-ordered, liberal society; does the Sicilian state achieve this?
The thought of HOBBES and ROUSSEAU regarding the definitions of ‘authority’ and ‘political legitimacy’ will be used as framework to the discussion.

Historical interpretations and genealogies; including Pantaleone’s The Mafia and Politics , Dickie’s Cosa Nostra: A History of the Sicilian Mafia , and Duggan’s Fascism and the Mafia . Coppola’s The Godfather films were used for inspiration.

2013 Abstracts Stage 3

President Kagame What makes a legitimate Leader?

State of Nature/ Rwandan genocide

One’s right to obey a power does not legitimise power

State of Peace with Sovereign Kagame

Kagame’s possible move to Democracy to legitimise his power

2012 Abstracts Stage 3

A 21st Century Conception of the State

Just war criterion is often too strict and struggles to justify any war. World War II; arguably the most justified and necessary war in all of history would struggle to be justified using a modern doctrine of just war. In the 21st Century the most problematic requirement of a just war is that only a legitimate political authority can wage a war. My point is best illustrated by a comparison between the September 11th attacks in 2001 and the bombing of Pearl Harbour in 1941. I will discuss the attacks and demonstrate the problems that the distinction between the two highlights major flaws in the idea of legitimate political authority. I will then be able to discuss what can constitutes a legitimate political authority if a nation-state is no longer the reasonable definition. I will discuss Rawls’ political theory of an international overlapping consensus in his work The Law of Peoples allowing for a global conception of justice. My overall task is to define what should constitute a 21st Century legitimate political authority.