Adam Etinson

Ph.D. (2011) Oxford University

Postes occupés

2011-2012 Stagiaire postdoctoral-e,

Participations aux événements du CRÉ

27 janvier 2012 Conférences du GRIPP: Adam Etinson


The main focus of my philosophical work is on the challenges that cultural diversity presents to the universalist agenda of human rights. This is best exemplified by the subject of my doctoral thesis, entitled “Human Rights and the Problem of Ethnocentrism,” which I completed in August of 2011 at Oxford University, under the supervision of Professors Jeremy Waldron, John Tasioulas, and Roger Crisp. In my thesis, I treat ethnocentrism as a ubiquitous tendency, since it is patent that we all favour (at least to some extent) the moral beliefs and practices that we have been exposed to via the process of socialization. But I also treat ethnocentrism as a dangerous epistemological hazard, one that threatens to undermine the soundness of our moral reasoning about the content and requirements of human rights, among other moral norms. As part of an attempt to address this hazard, my thesis highlights two limited respects in which ethnocentrism can be avoided in moral argument.

Along with my work on the problem of ethnocentrism, I have interests in various core topics in the philosophy of human rights. For instance, in forthcoming work I argue, pace some theorists, for the usefulness and coherence of abstract and unclaimable human rights. In other recent research, including a draft article co-written with S. Matthew Liao (NYU), I have been critical of the contemporary polemic between political and orthodox theories of the nature and grounds of human rights. And in a recent review article, I have pointed out some of the dangers of elevating human rights to the status of a utopian ideal. My work in these areas has been published in several peer-reviewed journals, including Utilitas (revise and resubmit), Human Rights Quarterly, and Res Publica. Moreover, with the encouragement of Peter Momtchiloff at Oxford University Press, I am currently assembling an edited volume provisionally entitled, Human Rights: Moral or Political? The volume will focus on the debates, issues, and tensions generated by the dual status of human rights as both moral rights, on the one hand, and politically and legally-practiced rights, on the other.

A third focus of my research is on the theoretical foundations of liberalism. This is a topic that I have explored through both teaching and research. For instance, as a Course Lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at McGill University, I have developed and taught two different courses on the subject of liberal theories of toleration (one in the Winter of 2009 and the other in the Winter of 2012). I have also written on the topic of Rawls’ theory of political liberalism and public reason. In particular, in a recent draft article I have argued against political liberalism’s exclusion of truth as a standard of judgment in moral and political argument.