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Nikolas Kirby: 'The Ethics of Distrust'

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University of Surrey School of Law

Frank Whittle Building (AB)

Fifth Floor

Guildford

GU2 7XH

United Kingdom

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It is my pleasure to invite you to a Hart Seminar featuring Dr. Nikolas Kirby. This is an optional pre-read seminar, and the reading will be circulated to registered attendees one week prior to the event.

Abstract: Fulfilling moral obligations often entails becoming or remaining vulnerable to others who might then harm us, in breach of their own obligations not to do so. For example, we are required not to lie, but others may harm us when armed with the truth we impart. I might be required to fulfill my part of a contract, but others may then renege, taking advantage of my first move. Such vulnerability as a consequence of fulfilling obligations is a very general phenomenon. And, for the most part, we are not concerned by it. We usually assume that the other agent(s) will fulfill their own obligations. However, what if, instead, we rationally distrust the other agent? Are we still so obliged? Or does such distrust, at least sometimes, condition our obligations, leading them to be suspended or modified until we are less vulnerable, or have gained greater confidence in the other actor? The ethics of risk literature discusses the wrong and injustice of risk imposition, but not whether we are unilaterally allowed to do anything in response. This paper fills that gap.

Nikolas Kirby is Research Fellow in Philosophy and Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford. He currently holds a three-year Early Career Research Fellowship awarded by the Leverhulme Trust and is Director of the Building Integrity Programme. He was educated at the University of Sydney (BA (Hons), LLB (Hons)) and the University of Oxford (BPhil, DPhil), as a Rhodes Scholar. He has worked in law, academia and politics in Australia and is a co-founder of the Good Lad Initiative, a social enterprise that engages boys and men in discussions about masculinity, sexism and lad culture.

Dr. Kirby's seminar is part of our Hart Seminar Series, which features a diverse group of leading scholars working at the intersection of law and philosophy. Hart Publishing contributes generous support to make the seminar series possible.

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University of Surrey School of Law

Frank Whittle Building (AB)

Fifth Floor

Guildford

GU2 7XH

United Kingdom

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