Graduate Students Ira Lindsay and Robin Zheng have been awarded Rackham Predoctoral Fellowships for 2014-15. Rackham Predoctoral Fellowships are extremely competitive and prestigious. The Fellowship supports outstanding doctoral students who have achieved candidacy and are actively working on dissertation research and writing. It provides awardees with a stipend for three terms of support, candidacy tuition, registration fees and health and dental coverage. Ira and Robin will be honored at reception held at Rackham in April. Please join us in congratulating this great achievement.

Ira Lindsay: AOS: Political Philosophy, Philosophy of Law

Dissertation Title: A Humean Theory of Property Rights
Dissertation Abstract:
I defend a Humean account of property rights against its neo-Lockean and Rawlsian rivals. The importance of property rights for social cooperation gives them normative authority even when they do not conform to ideal principles of distributive justice or ‘natural right’. I develop a conceptual architecture of property rights to explain the relationship between property’s legal form and economic substance. This analysis undermines the neo-Lockean position that all redistributive taxation infringes on property rights. In contrast to Rawlsian theories, Humean principles of tax fairness justify giving normative weight to pre-tax distributions of property. Humean theory provides an attractive middle ground between libertarianism and strong forms of egalitarianism. A thorny question in property theory is whether decisions made by property owners under previous laws should be exempt from subsequent regulations. This analysis provides arguments for such exemptions that are not captured by standard ‘law and economics’ approaches to private law.

Robin Zheng: AOS: Ethics, Moral Psychology, Feminist, Social and Political Philosophy

Dissertation Title: Uncovering Bias and Understanding Accountability: A Justice-Oriented Approach to Moral Responsibility for Implicit Associations
Dissertation Abstract:
I address the problem of implicit bias by re-examining the nature of moral responsibility itself. I argue that we should carefully distinguish between two different concepts of moral responsibility: attributability and accountability. I contend that we should hold people accountable by requiring them to make amends for harmful effects of implicit bias, but we need not attribute any bad intentions or character to them in doing so. I then argue for an expansion of moral responsibility to include not just particular actions but also patterns of action, and not just individual actions but the collective actions which form the social conditions that generate implicit biases. This, I claim, allows us to develop responses to implicit bias that are both normatively and pragmatically appropriate: in other words, that are morally justifiable but also effective in actually bringing about positive changes in individual behaviors and social structure.