Children and Political Philosophy: Ethics, Justice and the Liberal State

Convenors: Johannes Drerup, Gunter Graf, Christoph Schickhardt, Gottfried Schweiger

 Background:

This workshop aims to further the political philosophical discussion about children. Basic questions concern the moral and legal status of children in liberal societies. The particular status of children and childhood in theories of social ethics and concepts of justice is still widely neglected. In most cases justice is based on and designed for rational, “fully developed” adults, childhood is mainly viewed as a flawed preparatory stage and children as agents-to-be and the guiding principles as well as the used currencies of justice are not child-sensitive. There are increasing efforts to deal with these questions but more is needed to answer what justice for children can and should mean and how this could also influence the design of institutions and policies. An important issue concerns the complex and contentious relationship between children, their families and the state. Other related questions regard children´s rights, the justification of paternalism and perfectionism towards children and different conceptions of children´s autonomy and citizenship.

Possible topics:

  •  Why is justice for children special and how does it differ from justice for adults?
  •  How have different theories of justice dealt with children and what place do children have in today’s discussions about justice?
  • What are the goods, capabilities or resources that matter particular children?
  • How can justice for children be realized and implemented in concrete policies and what obstacles have to be overcome?
  • How can the concepts of justice and injustice be used to understand disadvantage, poverty and other forms of social harm that children face in today’s world?
  • What is the role of the family, the state or the society in order to protect justice for children?
  • What are the specific legal and moral obligations parents and the state owe children? To what extent are parents justified in passing on comprehensive world views to their children?  To what extent may and must the state intervene in families and parental education in order to promote children’s interests and opportunities? How should governmental, parental and children´s rights and interests be balanced in cases of conflict?
  • What is the relation between justice for children and child well-being and well-becoming?
  • Do children have rights? What kind of rights do children have and how are they connected?
  • Which specific traits and relations constitute children´s special vulnerability?
  • How can different forms of paternalism towards children be justified? What is the role of perfectionist rationales in controversies about the well-being and autonomy of children?
  • How should we conceptualize autonomy as an educational concept and aim? How can education for autonomy be justified in pluralistic societies?
  • How does the liberal tradition (e.g. Locke, Humboldt, Mill, Rawls) deal with conflicts between parental liberties and state-controlled education?

Format:

Papers are welcome from graduate students and both early career as well as senior researchers, that address any of these and related issues. Please send you proposal (350-500 words) until May 31, 2014 to johannes.drerup@uni-muenster.de

Full papers (about 6000 words) are due two weeks before the workshop to be circulated among all participants. The publication of the papers in an edited collection is envisaged.