2023 Abstracts Stage 2

Exploring the opposing philosophies of Robert Nozick and John Rawls in the context of modern British politics

This essay delves into the fundamentally opposing philosophies of Robert Nozick and John Rawls, two profoundly influential political thinkers whos works have shaped contemporary political thought. By examing both Nozick’s libertarian perspective and Rawls’s liberal egalitarian position the essay aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of their opposing beliefs regarding justice and the role of the state in society. Furthermore, this essay contextualises the works of each philosopher through highlighting the ways in which Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair’s political ideologies reflect the works of Nozick and Rawls, respectively. Through comparing the ideologies of these politicians to the works of Nozick and Rawls the essay explore the practical implications of these contrasting viewpoints and their impacts on society, welfare, and public policies. Overall, this essay aims to provide a deeper appreciation of the complex relationship between philosophy and politcs.

2022 Abstracts Stage 3

Celebrity Power in a movie saturated culture with respect to objectification of women in society

This project focuses on Celebrity power with respect to the sexual objectification of women in the fraternity of Bollywood. Using the likes of John Rawls, Rae Langton, Martha Nussbaum and Catherine Mackinnon, the project goes into an in depth analysis of the kinds of objectification women are subjected to both within movies as well as in the culture that surrounds the social institution of the Hindi film industry. The project finds many problematic instances of the portrayal of women as tools and commodities, victim to oppression with the power majorly in the hands of Men when it comes to male vs female gender dynamics in society. Langton and Nussbaum demonstrate various forms of objectification and assert that the problem is severely ingrained in culture. MacKinnon shows that the issue is with regards to Power where the state perceives women through the viewpoint of Men and discusses the idea of the projection of ones own desires onto women. Lastly, the project uses Rawls theory of Justice, more specifically, his theory of fair and equal opportunity and applies it to the concept of celebrity power and gender dynamics in Bollywood. The findings show that Bollywood has for centuries been a breeding ground for sexism and misogyny, which its movies have normalised greatly over the decades and contributes majorly (though not solely) to South Asian culture being highly plagued with the degradation and oppression of women.

2022 Abstracts Stage 2

WHERE SHOULD WE STOP OBEYING THE LAW? The Colston Statue and the Limits of Obedience: Revisiting John Locke and John Rawls on Civil Disobedience

This project examines where one should draw the line between obeying and disobeying the law, specifically focusing on the Colston statue controversy in Bristol, UK. It investigates the role of civil disobedience in the removal of the statue. The legitimacy of the actions taken by the Colston Four are considered, who were charged with criminal damage and brought to trial for their role in the statue’s removal. The perspectives of political philosophers John Locke and John Rawls on civil disobedience are utilised, with a view towards how their theories might relate to the Colston statue case.
It also considers the legal framework governing civil disobedience in the UK, examining the Colston Four’s legal defence and the judge’s ruling that they could not rely on a human rights defence. It questions whether the current legal system adequately protects individuals’ rights to civil disobedience and whether greater protections should exist. Ultimately, I argue that the Colston Four’s actions were justified as a form of civil disobedience aimed at rectifying a historical wrong and that the law should allow for greater latitude in cases of civil disobedience where the individual’s actions are aimed at challenging injustice and promoting equality.

2022 Abstracts Stage 3


Modern liberal democracies are often assumed to operate in accordance with an unobjectionable neutrality with respect to the various worldviews of their citizens. By examining the work of Locke and Rawls, I demonstrate that even the most sophisticated conceptions of society and secularity rely on value-judgements that are asserted by the state on behalf of its citizens. The aspirational target of value-neutrality held by the liberal democracy is thus shown to be unattainable.

2022 Abstracts Stage 2


State interaction is a variable that each governing authority has to examine and judge in relation to individual welfare. After examining a variety of political philosophers and their beliefs on state interaction, I propose this thesis. While there is an argument for minimal state interaction, the most optimal way to promote individual welfare is through the level of state interaction that John Rawls proposes in A Theory of Justice. More state interaction than this is detrimental to individual welfare as it infringes on individual rights, and less state interaction than this has the potential to create vast inequalities within communities.

2021 Abstracts Stage 3

Can John Rawls’s theory of justice provide a fair way for the UK to deliberate how the COVID-19 financial support packages should have been distributed in a country that has become overcentralised?

The projects aim is to address the issue of fairness found in the negotiation process between the central government and Greater Manchester local governments. This issue of fairness stemmed from the overcentralised nature of the national government structure. John Rawls’s theory of justice will be used to rethink a fair deliberative position.
The territory of this project is the North-South divide which has been created from the regional inequalities which co-exist in England. Overcentralisation has meant these inequalities are not being addressed and this has created a feeling of unfairness among the North.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the issues found in the territory. The chosen object for this project demonstrates this as it explores the negotiations between Greater Manchester local governments and central government over COVID-19 financial support. Greater Manchester had minimal influence in these negotiations and believed this to be an unfair deliberation process and outcome.
So this project will address the issue of fairness with John Rawls theory of justice. It will provide a way to rethink the deliberative position to ensure a fair negotiation process and fair social circumstances under which an agreement can be made.

2021 Abstracts Stage 3

Identity Politics within Multicultural Nations: Imposing Group Rights in Liberal Governments

This dissertation examines John Rawls’s procedural liberalist position with a specific regard to the possible imposition of group-differentiated rights. In light of Will Kymlicka’s communitarian defence of liberalism, I invoke the argument that there are sufficient grounds to implement self-governing rights particularly to the native population in Canada. Considering Canada was the first country in the world to legally recognise multiculturalism as a governmental policy, I use the ongoing debates between the democratic state and the indigenous population in Canada to comprehend the argument for protective group rights. I also incorporate the work of Charles Taylor to determine the importance of the modern identity with specific regard to the dependency one holds to their community.

2021 Abstracts Stage 2

Shaking the Third Rail: Reforming Taxation

For my project I’m going to be exploring the concept of taxation with reference to the philosophies of John Rawls and Robert Nozick.

– I’ll analyse Rawls and Nozick’s conceptions of justice and how these apply within a state.

– I’ll apply Rawl’s principles of justice to the current tax system to argue that reform is necessary.

– Further I will attempt to dismantle Nozick’s conception of justice and taxation to show it does not go far enough.

– I’ll consider the specific reforms to income and inheritance tax that can be made to move the UK closer to a Rawlsian just state.

– The current taxation system in the UK will be central to my argument, but reference will be made to the tax system post WW2.

2021 Abstracts Stage 3

There must be limits to tolerance to avoid the subjectivism and ‘anything goes’ nature of postmodernism. Discuss

Territory: Society
Object: Religious commitment/belief
Concepts: Liberalism, Pluralism, Tolerance

Today, society is more liberal than ever; everyone has an entitled opinion. Is subjectivity the inevitable result of the postmodern? This question will be answered with a focus on religious commitment, as we know it can lead to conflict. Religion has a different order of commitment than other statements; it is part of your identity. This work considers where the line should be drawn when it comes to clashing views, as we have to find ways to live harmoniously.

I consider the Charlie Hebdo shooting, what went wrong and how people reacted. John Rawls’ ‘Political Liberalism’ will follow, explaining that toleration is necessary for a stable society. Focussing on his overlapping consensus between reasonable individuals. However, it is not universal as not everyone will except putting liberalism at the centre. Gianni Vattimo’s ‘weak thought’ (il pensiero debole) wants a weaker metaphysical understanding. For him, to think correctly is to be tolerant from the beginning.
Nevertheless, it is difficult to know where the boundaries lie. Relativism still proves to be a problem with Vattimo’s argument. Both philosophers have strong ideas, yet neither approach provides a fault-proof solution to the issues that arise in this current pluralistic era.

2021 Abstracts Stage 3

“The impact that oppression has on the sense of community within the working classes in Tyneside”

This research project sets out to investigate a basis for the possible link between oppression and the sense of community within a working-class society, mainly in Tyneside. Community relations will be observed more specifically within events including the Meadow Well riots, the UK miners’ strike and the aftermath of the closing of shipyards under the power of Margaret Thatcher. Philosophical concepts discussed will be focussed through the political lens of philosophy, with Marx and Rawls. Marx’s work on class oppression and Rawls’ ‘Theory of Justice’ will be explored in relation to the working-class communities in Tyneside. As well as this, identity-focused philosophers, including Taylor, Bauman and Nietzsche are to be discussed and compared with each other, and the object in question.

2021 Abstracts Stage 3

Living in a Contemporary Modern World as a Second-Generation Immigrant: A Philosophical Account on the Nature of the Self, With Reference to Liberalism, Communitarianism and Fluid Identities.

The intention of this project is to shed light on the experiences of a second-generation immigrant. It questions terminology like ‘the self’, and uses empirical research to explain the subconscious experiences which contributed to the confusion and frustration of constantly feeling displaced. In search of answers to resolve this, this project turns to philosophy.

Main texts referred to:
John Rawls and Liberalism: A Theory of Justice.
Michael Sandel and Communitarianism: Liberalism and the Limits of Justice.
Zygmunt Bauman and Fluid Identities: Identity: Conversations With Benedetto Vecchi.

“If you recall that only a few decades ago ‘identity’ was nowhere near the centre of our thoughts, remaining but an object of philosophical meditation. Today, though, ‘identity’ is the loudest talk in the town’” 16-17. Zygmunt Bauman, Identity.

This project questions whether the ‘self’ should be seen as completely autonomous, or whether ‘identity’ is formed by interpersonal relationships and one’s environment. Or, are these theories outdated? Is a more current and less restrictive theory required?

2021 Abstracts Stage 3

A Fair Trial of Rawls. The sixth Article of the Human Rights Act of 1998 outlines the right to a fair trial in the United Kingdom. To what extent does Rawlsian theory justify the fairness of the trial process?

A fair trial of Rawls.
The right to a fair trial is a human right held by those living in the UK. Rawlsian theory lays claim to the fairness of the criminal trial and insists upon the ability of such a procedure to produce fair outcomes. This is frank account of the reality of criminal trials in the UK, the procedures in place and the extent to which Rawls is able to justify his claims. Individual liberty, amongst other things, appears to be in jeopardy. Will Rawls produce a suitable enough defence to clear his name of all shortcomings?

2017 Abstracts Stage 3

The Right to Privacy: A philosophical investigation in to the notion of a right to privacy in contemporary society; looking at the ways in which this right is upheld/struck down

“To be left alone is the most precious thing one can ask of the modern world”

Anthony Burgess

We live in a society today in which privacy concerns seem to be cropping up more and more frequently. This essay basis its’ notion of a right to privacy on Warren and Brandeis’s article for the Harvard Law Review titled The Right to Privacy, and investigates the ways in which the culture today strikes down this right.

My essay focuses on the primary ways in which the notion of privacy has been struck down in the post 9/11 society that we live in. In doing this, I was able to use the philosophy of Martin Heidegger and John Rawls, among many other philosophers, to formulate a response to this abolition of privacy in the society we live in. Their philosophies provide us with a thoughtful response to the factors affecting our right to privacy, and henceforth allows for a thorough investigation into the notion of privacy from a perspective not entirely common.

‘Perhaps the most striking thing about the right to privacy is that nobody seems to have any very clear idea what it is.’
– Judith Jarvis Thomson

2013 Abstracts Stage 3

Fairness and Proportionality in U.S. Law: HSBC Money Laundering Scandal

This project aims to explore issues of fairness and proportionality in U.S. law through an examination of the outcome of the HSBC money laundering scandal. Federal investigators found that the bank had been laundering money for years.

U.S. Senator Carl Levin : “Due to poor AML (Anti-Money Laundering) controls, HBUS exposed the United States to Mexican drug money, suspicious traveller’s cheques, bearer share corporations, and rogue jurisdictions.”

The bank admitted to having laundered hundreds of millions of dollars for drugs traffickers and having circumvented procedure to permit transactions with sanctioned countries including Syria, Iran and North Korea.

Yet the Department of Justice did not criminally indict the bank for fear of the failure of this key financial institution and potential detriment to the global economy. Instead it was given a $1.9bn fine; the equivalent of four weeks’ earnings for HSBC.

Rawls – A Theory of Justice
Rawls’s Theory of Justice will be used to analyse whether the Department of Justice have upheld their moral duty as a legal institution in deciding to grant the bank amnesty for its crimes on the condition of it paying a fine. His concept of justice as fairness is invaluable in my own assessment that in the light of this case, all citizens are apparently not treated as equals before the law.

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.

2012 Abstracts Stage 3

Can the Exclusion of Women from Becoming Priests in the Roman Catholic Church be Justified?

Key points to consider:
– What are the reasons why the Roman Catholic Church prevents women from joining the priesthood? 
– Why do other Christian Churches allow and encourage women to enter their priesthood? 
– Can the exclusion of women be considered in any way just? 
– Is it fair that the Roman Catholic Church do not treat the role of men and women as equal? 
– Is this justifiable according to John Rawls and his theory of justice?

Why don’t the Roman Catholic Church ordain female Priests?
Reasons include: 
– Church Traditions. 
– Religious Beliefs and Teachings. 
– The role and duty of women is different, but equal to men. 
– The main reason for this is due to their belief that Jesus was a male and those who become priests are carry out the work of Jesus. 
– Also the 12 apostles chosen by Jesus were all male and therefore priests should all be male. 
– This is a deep rooted teaching within the Roman Catholic Church which has yet to be changed or even considered for alteration.

Why do the Church of England allow women to become Priests?
 Equality in the Church.
 Fairness in the religious teachings.
 Trust in the individual’s faith rather than the gender.
 A belief that the Bible contains the core of all Christian faith and thought.
 They belief that the gender of the individual does not matter as long as they have the faith it takes to become a member of their priesthood.
 A firm commitment to the ministry of all of God’s people both lay and ordained together.

John Rawls.
– Leading figure in moral and political philosophy. 
– Published his Theory of Justice in 1971. 
– Rawls aimed to outline what is justice. 
– From his theory we can understand which actions are justifiable and which are not.

2011 Abstracts Stage 3

Violence Vindicated: Can Violence as a Means of Protest Be Justified?

The recent surge in protest activity both nationally and internationally and the inclusion of violent means within these protests opens up a debate as to whether a violent protest can ever be justified. The aim of my project is to explore the possibility of a justification of violence; my context is therefore that of ethics, politics and law. Through the method of axiological critique, I intend to consider the value of violence and whether it is applicable in a protest situation. As protest is generally a part of the political realm it is a political justification of violence that I aim to find. The main philosophical theories that are engaged with in the project are theories which closely explore the notions of protest and violence and are therefore extremely relevant. They are:

– The Just War Theory 
– John Rawls’ Theory of Civil Disobedience 
– Sartre’s discussion of violence 
– Foucault’s discussion of resistance

With regards to the Just War theory, I aim to establish whether the principles which already justify violence in war can justify violence in a protest. An exploration of John Rawls’ Civil Disobedience argues the case for non-violent means of protest. In contrast, Sartre’s discussion of violence considers the necessity of violence as a form of protest. Exploring violent protest in relation to Foucault means considering his views on resistance and power.

Ultimately, I hope to reach a credible conclusion as to whether violence can be proven to be a justified means of protest using the support of political philosophical theories.

2009 Abstracts Stage 3

Public versus Private: ‘the Abolition of Man’

The project will focus on the dis-unified status of truth, fractured worldviews and the public versus private debate; all of which are working against any conception of a holistic worldview. During the process of Secularisation of the West, a sharp divide has emerged between the private and the public sphere, determining the boundary lines of those things in the private sphere limiting them to the private life and allowing those in the public sphere to have full reign. This revolution started in academia and its growth has been so subtle yet thorough that it is now a core belief, not just of the academic world, but deeply engrained into the mind of every Western citizen…

1. John Rawls’ Justice as Fairness: Political not Metaphysical “…open mindedness, not conviction is the mark of a good liberal citizen.” The modern liberal’s faith in the primacy of reason and commitment to neutrality means that, direct appeals to religious belief in the public square are impermissible since they do not accord with Rawls’ public reason.

2. Fact versus Value Assumption: reliable knowledge comes only from the realm of scientific facts, which are objective, rational, value-free and neutral. Then there’s realm of values which may be personally meaningful or part of our cultural tradition, but they have no intellectual content.

3. Truth: The Gatekeeper Religion no longer has a seat at the table of public discourse. “The most powerful gatekeeper is not a group of people, but in the realm of ideas: It is the dominant definition of truth;” What is today’s definition of truth? Truth is split into two separate and contradictory categories.

4. Secularism: A Neutral State? “[It is] quixotic, in any event, to attempt to construct an airtight barrier between religiously grounded moral discourse…and [secular] discourse in public political argument” Does liberalism provide a neutral framework? Is the secular state neutral? Or does it too carry underlying philosophical assumptions?

5. Historical Roots Tracing back where this thinking began; Plato’s twofold view of the world; Augustine’s ‘Two Cities’ and the Church Fathers; St Aquinas’ nature-grace tension; the rediscovery of Aristotle, then the effects of the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation, the Enlightenment and finally the rise of Darwinism.

6. Necessary Illusions, Convenient Falsehoods What are the effects on the modern self? “A human being is simultaneously a machine and a sentient free agent, depending on the purposes of the discussion.” The self is forced to affirm ideals like freedom despite it not ‘fitting’ in their worldview. Can a unified and holistic status of truth be recovered?

2009 Abstracts Stage 3

Whodunnit? An Investigation into Autonomy and the Subject within the British Justice System

My project is an investigation into responsibility. In modern times more and more people are getting reduced prison sentences due to diminished responsibility. This inspired me to look into the autonomy of the Subject. This investigation charts its way through the history of the subject, starting with the wholly autonomous subject as proposed in John Rawls theory of justice, justice as fairness. This theory relies on respect for others, freedom and equality and most importantly an autonomous self. The first person to challenge this idea concerning the self was Sigmund Freud when he proposes that the mind was in fact split in three parts, the id, ego and the super‐ego, which all have different effects on our actions and choices. With this theory in mind I look into scientific evidence to back up Freud and show how illness such as schizophrenia and narcissistic personality disorder affect the mind and the Subject. Finally I look at the theories of Keith Ansell Pearson in his book Viroid Life in which he questions the autonomy of the Subject altogether. He produces a theory of the cyborg and the hybrid self and proposes that the rapid rise in technology has created a more deterministic reality and halted the autonomy of man.