Talk: A Normative Theory of Social Institutions, by Seumas Miller (22 Feb 2011)

Philosophy Seminar Series: 22 February 2011, 2-3:45pm, Philosophy Resource Room; Speaker: Seumas Miller, Professor of Philosophy, Charles Sturt University and Australian National University; Moderator: Dr. Tang Weng Hong

Abstract: In this paper I present a teleological normative account of social institutions. On this type of account the definition of a social institution will typically include a description of the human good or social benefit that it purports to produce. For example, universities purport to produce knowledge and understanding, language enables the communication of truths, marriages facilitate the raising and moral development of children, economic systems ought to produce material well-being, and so on. Such goods or benefits are collective in character.

The notion of a collective good in the context of this teleological normative account of social institutions is not that of a public good familiar in economics. Rather a collective good can be understood as a good (Miller 2010: Chapter 2): (1) produced, maintained and/or renewed by means of the joint activity of members of organisations (e.g. schools, hospitals, governments, business firms) i.e. by institutional role occupants; (2) made available to the whole community (e.g. food, security, banking services); and (3)one which ought to be produced (or maintained or renewed) and made available to the whole community because they are desirable (as opposed to merely desired) and such that the members of the community have an (institutional) joint moral right to them (Miller 2010: Chapter 2).

millerAbout the speaker: Seumas Miller is Professor of Philosophy at Charles Sturt University and the Australian National University, and Director of the ANU division of the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics (an Australian Research Council Special Research Centre). He is the author of Social Action (Cambridge University Press, 2001), Terrorism and Counter-terrorism (Blackwell 2009), and Moral Foundations of Social Institutions (Cambridge University Press, 2010).
More information on the Philosophy Seminar Series can be found here. A list of past talks in the series can be found here.

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