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Call for Speakers

on the topic of


for PhilSoc Members’ Away Day, 18th November 2023

at Taunton Castle, Somerset, UK

(See a separate page for venue information.)

The 2023 PhilSoc Away day will be held in Taunton, Somerset on Saturday 18th November on the topic of Justice. The event offers PhilSoc members the opportunity to present and discuss philosophy in a convivial setting, and for socialising and networking during the intervals and two optional dinners on Friday 17th and Saturday 18th November. The meeting will be accessible via Zoom for those not wishing to attend in person.

Justice is a central concept in philosophy, law, religion, politics, and ethics. We generally think of Justice as good and desirable; whereas injustice is considered undesirable: no one would willing choose to be treated unjustly. Yet defining Justice is notoriously difficult.

In Plato’s The Republic, justice is indistinguishable from rightness or virtue as a whole. In our contemporary era, justice has different meanings in different practical contexts. Legal justice is often defined as the upholding of legal laws and the punishment of those who break the laws. The term ‘legal’ was introduced in the seventeenth century by the English philosopher, John Locke, to refer to laws created and enforced (by use, or threat, of violent force) by governments. In religion, justice is usually associated with the idea of an after-life in which the virtuous are rewarded. In politics, justice is often connected to the concepts of ‘fairness’ and ‘equality’; as in the idea of a just society being one in which everyone is treated fairly. In the context of philosophy, justice may be defined as the upholding of moral laws. The term ‘moral’ was introduced in the eighteenth century by the German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, to refer to universal ethical principles which any individual can work out by using reason (such as that it is wrong to: lie; break a promise; cheat; or judge others). Examples of legal laws, which are not moral laws, include laws regulating traffic, business practices and taxes. Legal laws are based on the practical need of those in government to maintain social order; thus legal laws differ in different countries and different eras. Violations of moral laws which are not breaking of legal laws include: lying (not illegal when done to: avoid hurting another’s feelings; protect someone from harm; protect someone’s privacy); cheating (not illegal when done to gain advantage in: games, business transactions, academia); harming others (not illegal when done to punish violators of legal law); judging others (legal law requires judgement of others in terms of whether or not they have violated a legal law).

How the term ‘justice’ is understood and applied affects each and every one of us, because we are all subjects of government laws. So, this is a topic everyone might want to say something about!

Please consider giving a short talk (no more than 30-35 minutes). We are not looking for experts, just good communicators who are willing to present a cogent and passionate philosophical argument. Speakers get admission and lunch free!

You may wish to critique an argument of other philosophers or offer your own theory of justice. Here are some questions you might consider tackling:

  • Is there a core concept which underpins all the uses of Justice?
  • Is Justice a family resemblance idea according to which there may be overlapping similarities between uses of the term but no single common feature?
  • Is it better to suffer injustice than to commit injustice?
  • Does justice require equals to be treated as equals and non-equals to be treated as non-equals?
  • Is the practice of legal coercion (forcing violators of legal laws to undergo judgement) and punishment (intentionally harming others) philosophically justifiable?
  • If justice goes, is there any value in human life?
  • Do principles of justice apply to non-humans?

If you are interested in speaking at our Away Day, please contact me via email (frphilosophy1@gmail.com) to indicate your interest by 31st May 2023. Please include a working title and a brief outline of your talk in about 180-200 words.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Fauzia Rahman-Greasley
Away Day Content Manager