Monday, 4 July 2022

My Adult education courses for 2022-3

My courses for the next academic year are now available to book. 

Click here for the latest version of the list of courses I am teaching. 

However, I thought I would list them here. I will list them by format. 

Online Courses 

Political Philosophy: An Introduction (flexible online)
Flexible course with 24/7 discussion forums. Runs every term.
I am almost always the tutor on this course. 

Public Policy Economics (Online)
Flexible course with 24/7 discussion forums. Runs every term.
Mostly taught by other tutors, but sometimes I am the tutor.

Justice for Future Generations: Environment, Population and Climate
Thursdays 4-5pm.
22 Sep - 1 Dec 2022

Political Economy of Taxation
Mondays 3:30-4:30pm.
16 Jan - Mon 27 Mar 2023

International Ethics and Global Justice
Mondays 4-5pm
17 Apr 2023 - Mon 10 Jul 2023

In recent years I have also taught online courses over the Summer as well - look out for these in the new year.

Weekly Classes (10 weeks) in Oxford

The Ethics of Capitalism
Wednesdays 7:30-9:30pm
28 Sep - 30 Nov 2022

The Ethics of Life and Death: From Assisted Dying to Just Wars
Wednesdays 4:30-6:30pm.
25 Jan - 29 Mar 2023

Does Justice Apply Beyond the Border? Trade, Aid and Migration
Thursdays 7:00-9:00pm
27 Apr - 29 Jun 2023

Day Schools 

The Limits of Free Speech: Offence, Hate Speech and No Platforming
Saturday 25 Feb 2023

In Oxford and online (hybrid event)

Summer Schools (Oxford)

Ethics of Capitalism -TBC

Ethics of Immigration - TBC 

I hope you will be able to join me on one or more of the above, and that you will tell anyone you know who might be interested! 

Saturday, 14 May 2022

Book Review: Elizabeth Cripps - What climate justice means and why we should care


Book cover - Cripps what climate justice means and why we should care
This week I got hold of a few books I've had my eye on for a while. 

Although I've got an infeasibly huge pile of research and teaching reading to do I thought I would take a little look at one of them - What Climate Justice Means And Why We Should Care by Elizabeth Cripps. 

I ended up reading the whole thing over two consecutive afternoons. 

This really demonstrates one of the great things about this book - the writing. Cripps is a former journalist and it is written in an extremely clear and engaging way. She introduces real-life cases and examples wherever possible to illustrate the impacts of climate change. 

The book is extremely accessible for a book on morality and justice.

The Moral imperative
This accessibility  is important because it is the impact that climate change will have - is currently having - on vulnerable individuals and groups around the world that makes it such a pressing moral issue. The climate tragedies will occur on a small - human - scale. People's lives will be ruined by droughts, floods, storms and so on that would not have occurred were it not for climate change. These tragedies are completely out of sight when we drive our cars or heat our homes or buy our products. 

Indeed, the issue of scale is one of the big problems with climate justice. Climate change is caused by cumulative emissions consisting of (usually) small amounts of emissions from billions of people - it is a macro problem. However, the impacts will be felt by vulnerable individuals in the future. Cripps reminds us to think about those individual stories.

Our own attempts to do something about it can seem tiny and insignificant, but we all have a moral duty to make those attempts. Cripps sets out the arguments here with admirable clarity. She also does the great service of listing and responding to some of the common counter-arguments. These really do not give us any moral excuses. 

Our own duties
What are our duties as individuals when it comes to climate change? Cripps' previous book was on the topic and so she covers this very well in the final chapter. 

Part of it is considering our own lifestyles and whether we can take reasonable steps to reduce our greenhouse contributions (think cows, planes, cars and draughty houses). 

However, since the issue is really a global one that no individual can resolve we also have the duty to act politically as well. This means supporting parties that take climate change seriously and will act on it. However, it is a flexible duty - it depends on our own position in society and our own skills. We can't all be Greta Thunberg but we can all make our small difference. This could be by changing our pension investments, challenge climate falsehoods when we hear them expressed, installing solar panels and heat pumps when we get an opportunity. 

Cripps sets out six highlights from the book at the end, and seeks to inspire us all to take the steps needed. 

Too emotional?
The book was very accurate when it comes to the issues and arguments. I had a slight concern that it tipped into the bombastic with a couple of comments that climate inaction or denialists 'might just kill us all.' 

Critics (wrongly) accuse climate activists of being irrational and overly-emotional. (The likes of Greta Thunberg can't win can they - too nerdy/robotic/scientific when presenting the science/facts and too emotional when demanding necessary actions). So there is a concern that this kind of language plays into the hand of the critic. 

On the other hand, Cripps does use the word 'might'! 

While it seems unlikely that climate change will end humanity, there might be some extreme scenarios where it triggers something like a nuclear war or mass extinction or something that ends civilization. Perhaps a few humans might survive even that but it would in fact pretty much be the death of all of us. 

I don't think that this will happen and Cripps' argument generally rests on the point that vulnerable people will die because wealthy people refused to take reasonable steps to limit their emissions (and in some unforgivable cases even spread misinformation designed to block such action). 

I didn't read every word of the book - I've taught this topic several times myself and so I'm familiar with a lot of the arguments. I felt I could skim over the summaries of those arguments. I didn't take the book to be aiming to give novel arguments for philosophers. Rather, it is aiming to explain to those unfamiliar with those arguments why we have a moral duty to act. Why a failure to act is unjust and therefore wrong. This is the latest test for humanity and we aren't quite covering ourselves in glory. 

In general, I like to think that this book would be suitable for someone who does not pay too much attention to the issue of climate change and thinks that there is no need for them to consider it. They are the people who need to get the message and Cripps has put her considerable research and writing skills to their best possible purpose by presenting that message in clear form. 

Friday, 25 March 2022

Blogpost on Home-working surveillance by employers

Just noting here that I wrote something for the VMware EMEA Blog, "Home-working surveillance: Utopian or dystopian?."

I present the possibilities and potential pitfalls of the move to home-working, as part of a project that VMWare have organized on the topic. 

Friday, 28 January 2022

John Rawls free online materials

I have organized a Day School event on the 12 February 2022 to (belatedly) mark the centenary of the birth of John Rawls (1921-2002). 

Rawls was a liberal egalitarian political philosopher whose writings spanned the 1950s to the early 2000s. Rawls' works aren't available for free as far as I'm aware (at least not legally). These are:

  • A Theory of Justice. (1971. The 1999 revised edition incorporates revisions made in the mid-70s).
  • Political Liberalism. (1993)
  • The Law of Peoples: with "The Idea of Public Reason Revisited." (1999) 
  • Justice as Fairness: A Restatement. (2002) (An updated restatement of his earlier work on justice)
  • I thought it would be useful to provide some links to good quality audio/audio-visual materials explaining and discussion Rawls' work. 

    Online videos:

    Then and Now "Introduction to Rawls: A Theory of Justice" (2020)

    Michael Sandel’s Justice Course Lecture 14: A Deal Is A Deal (2009) (You Tube direct link). Lecture 15: What’s A Fair Start? – Harvard Justice (2009) (You Tube link)

    "Glenn Loury & Josh Cohen - John Rawls at 100The Glenn Show (2021)

    "John Rawls, Global Justice and Health EquityThomas Pogge (2021, particularly
    minutes 4:30-16:30)

    Moral Foundations of Politics Course "Lecture 16. The Rawlsian Social Contract" Yale University (2011) 

    Bryan Magee Interview with Ronald Dworkin “Rawls vs Nozick” (1978)


    Philosophy Bites episode: Jo Wolff on Rawls (Also copied into a You Tube video)

    Talking Politics: History of ideasRawls on Justice” (2020)

    (Most political philosophy podcasts will have an episode on Rawls’ theory of justice)

    Charles Larmore Lecture "The Permanent Achievement of ‘A Theory of Justice’" University of Virginia Law School Podcast (2021)

    Some of the videos above will be available via your podcast app, and some of the podcasts below may have been turned into (static image) You Tube videos as well, so the line between the two is somewhat blurred. 

    Have I missed any good ones?

    If you have any further suggestions do add these below!

    Wednesday, 5 January 2022

    Equality of Opportunity and Discrimination Materials

    This coming term I will be teaching a new course for the general public on some overlapping issues relating to justice that I thought would work well together. 

    The online course Equality of Opportunity and the Ethics of Discrimination covers some lingering issues of controversy about how society should respond to unequal opportunity. There is even disagreement about what 'equality of opportunity' actually means, and whether it is really an important goal. 

    You can read more about the course on the webpage

    However, I thought I would share some useful background materials for those who might want to explore further, either in advance of taking the course or if you miss the course and want to investigate the topic. 

    Online lectures

    A good place to start with political philosophy is Michael Sandel’s Justice Course. Several lectures are directly relevant to this course topic, such as:

    Lecture 14: A Deal Is A Deal  (You Tube direct link) and  Lecture 15: What’s A Fair Start? – Harvard Justice (You Tube link).

    Tommie Shelby "Justice and Race" Blavatnik School of Government (2020)

    Charles W. Mills "Theorizing Racial Justice" Tanner Lecture on Human Values (2020), or a video of his talk "Racial Equality" UCT (2014)

    More advanced are Tim Scanlon's Uehiro Lectures, Oxford (2013). The third is “When Does Equality Matter? (lecture 3 – equality of opportunity)” but lectures one and two are useful and relevant as well.

    Janet Radcliffe Richards' Uehiro Lectures, Oxford (2012) are also relevant. Again, the third is particularly relevant, but references arguments introduced in the previous two

    When Does Equality Matter? (lecture 3 – equality of opportunity)” but lectures one and two are useful and relevant as well.

    Scanlon builds on the work of his teacher John Rawls, and there are lots of lectures and podcasts about the work of Rawls, such as this Bryan Magee Interview with Ronald Dworkin “Rawls vs Nozick” (1978).

    For podcasts, there is the 


    The BBC Reith Lecture series by Kwame Anthony Appiah (2016) is worth a listen. 

    Discrimination is ExpensiveThe Pie (2021)

    Policy Matters “Discrimination in the labour market and what policymakers can do about itUniversity of Bath (2021)

    Interview with Tarun Khaitan "Indirect Discrimination" Philosophy 247 

    "Episode 9 - Understanding indirect discrimination" Mills & Reeve - Employment law Podcast (2017)

    The Libertarian Podcast “Anti-Discrimination Laws Vs. Freedom of AssociationHoover Institution (2021)

    Course books

    The course does not have a single textbook, and those on the course will be provided with selected readings from several sources.

    However, if you wanted to purchase a book for use alongside the course then you could go for one of the following, depending which of the three related topics you are particularly interested in:

    • Equality of opportunity, in which case you could buy Andrew Mason’s book “Levelling the playing field”
    • Discrimination, in which case you could buy Deborah Hellman’s “When is discrimination wrong?”
    • Affirmative action, in which case you could get either Cahn’s “The Affirmative Action Debate” or Cohen and Sterba’s “Affirmative Action and Racial Preferences: A Debate (Point/Counterpoint)” or Elizabeth Anderson's "The Imperative of Integration" (2011)

    The course does not focus on the issue of meritocracy, but it is certainly a relevant approach, and one that has been much discussed in recent times. 

    Sandel, mentioned above, has recently published a book The Tyranny of Merit and. 
    A few other recent books are available free to download:

    Happy reading, watching and listening and I hope to see you on the course!

    Friday, 20 August 2021

    Tax technology opportunities

    Are new tax technologies something to fear or an opportunity to do things differently?

    One of the contentions in my book Rethinking Taxation (2014), repeated in several blog posts around the time, was that IT advances could change taxation in the same way that it changed other aspects of our lives.

    We are now starting to see these developments happening. Real time taxation has been introduced in the UK and an article in today’s Financial Times explains how HMRC is increasingly making use of big data.

    This can make tax easier for taxpayers and make it easier for HMRC to crack down on fraud. 

    New taxation, new economy

    My argument has always been that this opens up the possibility of making the whole economic system much fairer. 

    We can calculate everyone’s tax-rate in a more personalized manner without the bureaucratic challenges this would have made this impossible in the past. 

    Technology will make it possible to apply a much more thorough tax base, taking much better account of the gains that each person gets from society. 

    Put together, these reforms would tax the economically fortunate much more and provide direct support to the less fortunate, skewing the benefits economy back towards working people. 

    This can be achieved without the discouragement to work that some people accuse tax-and-redistribute programmes of. 

    You can find out more about my proposals for a different way of working out who should get what in society by reading my book Rethinking Taxation, reading some blogs I wrote around the time, or watching some videos I made.

    Should we be concerned about the developments?

    Legitimate concerns remain about the digital divide and an overpowering state. My view is that these IT developments are going to continue anyway, so we have to hold the state to account and make sure that technology is used to make things better for the citizens.

    My proposals should help in this regard by building direct distribution to individuals into the system, not leaving resources directly under the control of politicians or bureaucrats.

    We should be concerned, but this just means we have to uphold our duties as citizens to keep ourselves informed and to hold our government(s) to account. We have to demand that the system supports those who aren’t digital natives, that the state does not adopt arbitrary powers, and that the system is making society fairer not less fair.

    Taxation for the future

    Governments might not be as innovative with technology as the private sector, but we voters can demand that they use the technology available in ways that improve our lives and society.

    New taxation technology creates the opportunity to have a fairer economy, if only we demand it.

    Monday, 9 August 2021

    My courses for 2021-2

     I haven't had much time for blogging lately, but I feel I should make the effort to list the courses I will be offering to any adults who wish to take one this coming academic year. 

    I will be involved in many times more courses than usual, though some of them I'm just chairing. As always, you can see the list of upcoming courses here, though for some reason the Political philosophy: An introduction online course isn't yet linked with my name though I will be teaching it again. 

    This list is organized by start date but does not indicate my role. I will also be chairing some of the lectures and day schools so these appear on the list above. 

    I will therefore list the courses I am actually teaching below in a more systematic manner. The main split is between those in Oxford and those which are online (in many cases there will be an online and an Oxford version of the same course topic):

    Courses in Oxford


    10 week course - Thursday Evenings, Ewert House


    10 week course - Tuesday Evenings, Ewert House 

    Day School - Saturday 12 February 2022

    Day School - Saturday 30 April 2022


    10 week course - Monday Evenings, Ewert House

    Summer Schools

    Title TBC
    1 week course 

    Online Courses


    10 week course. Live meetings: Wednesdays 4pm-5pm (UK time) 22 Sep - 01 Dec 2021 

    I'm offering one of the 8 Lectures for this Series on climate change, with live discussion sessions as well.

    10 week course 


    10 week course - Live meetings 4pm (UK time) Thursday afternoons 

    Day School - Saturday 12 February 2022


    10 week course - Live meetings 2pm (UK time) Tuesday afternoons 

    Tell your friends!