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Human Development &
Capability Association

Agency, Well-Being and Justice

CFP: Conference and Workshop on “Ethics for a Broken World”

November 25th – 27th 2016

Keynote: Timothy Mulgan (Auckland, Nz)

Location: University of Munich, Faculty of Philosophy at the Munich Center for Ethics supported and sponsored by the Research Consortium ForChange in the project Capabilities: Opportunities for Change in collaboration with the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy

Submission deadline: April 30, 2016

Download the call as pdf

We invite submissions for a joint conference and interdisciplinary workshop on Timothy Mulgan’s book Ethics for a Broken World: Imagining Philosophy after Catastrophe (McGill 2012).

Tim Mulgan’s book is a highly innovative exploration of our modern concepts in political philosophy. It achieves this aim by looking at our current theories from the viewpoint of a fictional “broken” future, i.e. one in which a climate catastrophe has made life much more difficult for all humankind.

Mulgan’s book applies a method that is quite unique in philosophy. He develops a detailed scenario of the future and scrutinizes political philosophy in this fictional world. Thus, Mulgan builds on a tradition in political philosophy to use scenarios and thought experiments in their arguments, such as Rawls “original position” or the “state of nature” in classic contractualism. Also, Mulgan’s work criticizes the “affluent” philosophy of our time because it does not fit the conditions of a broken world. Even worse, affluent philosophy may be partly to blame for not preventing climate change and disregarding the needs of future people. We take Mulgan’s criticism as a starting point to look for alternatives to traditional Western theories in political philosophy. The capability approach, as it was developed by Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen seems a plausible candidate, which I why we focus on it in the conference. Also we aim to expand Mulgan’s methodology and scenario building to further topics not covered in Mulgan’s book so far, most notably gender issues. We are especially interested in submissions about the following topics:

Capabilities for a broken world

The capability approach claims to evaluate the actual well-being of people and their circumstances of living. How does this thought transfer to the intergenerational context? How useful is the idea of capabilities in world, which is threatened by crisis or where crisis has already happened?

Gender and the broken world                         

Gender justice is often thought to be an important topic in works on sustainability. How relevant are just gender relations in scenarios about the future? What role does gender equality play in a broken world or in other scenarios? Can we achieve (more) sustainability by promoting gender justice?

For this segment we have invited Pamela McCorduck and Nancy Ramsey (both to be confirmed) for a round-table discussion on the Futures of Women This book was written 20 years ago in order to envision the different routes that the movement for gender justice could take. McCorduk and Ramsey lay out four detailed scenarios. Both are experts in scenario building. In this workshop we will discuss the role of scenarios in decision-making for the future and in philosophical ethics.

Workshop on world-building and the broken world

The conference is accompanied by an interdisciplinary workshop in which the participants will meet professionals from media and other creative industries. The aim will be to join forces to flesh out the broken world as it is presented in Mulgan’s book to the point where the world would be suitably concretely defined to serve as the story world of a movie or a novel. We will then turn around to discuss some philosophical questions with respect to this more fully specified world. The question we aim to answer is whether or not the added fictional detail will help us to develop clearer moral intuitions.

Given the experimental character of this event, we will ask of all prospective speakers to bring an open mind, as well as the willingness to do some light creative “homework” as preparation for the event.

The workshop will be facilitated by

Please send an abstract of about 500 words for the conference until April 30th 2016 to

Dr. Rebecca Gutwald: and Dr. Andreas Kapsner:  

The conference and workshop is free of charge. We will not be able to provide funding for travel and accommodation. Contact us for tips where to stay in Munich, or if you have any other questions.



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