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Allen E. Buchanan, James B. Duke Distinguished Professor Emeritus    editAllen E. Buchanan

This semester (Fall 2016) I’m teaching two courses at Duke: Human Rights in Theory and Practice and Social and Political Thought (an introduction to some of the main issues in social and political philosophy).

Russell Powell and I have just completed a solid draft of a book ms., The Evolution of Moral Progress.  It builds on several published or about to be published articles on the topic of moral progress, including “Evolutionary Explanations of Morality and Their Limitations” and “Toward a Naturalistic Theory of Moral Progress” (both of which have appeared in Ethics), “Proper De-Moralization as Emancipation and the Persistence of Invalid Moral Norms” (forthcoming in Social Philosophy & Policy), “The Reflexive Epistemology of Human Rights” (forthcoming in a volume on social epistemology, edited by Miranda Fricker), and “Evolution and Moral Enhancement” (in Enhancing Ourselves, edited by Stephen Clarke and Julian Savulescu).

Powell and I are also working on a book on evolution and ideology, as a sequel to The Evolution of Moral Progress.

As usual, I am spending the Fall in Durham, NC and the winter and spring in Tucson, Arizona, where I will concentrate on research and on my ongoing humanitarian work as a member of Samaritans of Tucson. I go on Samaritan patrols on the border trails at least once a week, backpacking in water, medical supplies, and food to help people struggling through the Sonoran desert. It’s nice to be able to do something about human rights rather than just writing about them.

Office Location: 203A West Duke Building, Durham, NC 27708
Office Phone: +1 919 383 0449
Fax:  +1 919-660-3060
Email Address: send me a message

Ph.D., University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 1975
B.A., Columbia University, 1970
B.A., Magna cum laude, Columbia Uiversity, 1970

Political Philosophy

Research Interests:
RESEARCH AND TEACHING I’m teaching my usual two course load this Fall. One is a basic course on human rights, focusing on controversies about the nature of human rights, the justifications for claims about the existence of human rights, the reasons for and against having an international legal human rights system, and the legitimacy (or otherwise) of efforts to promote compliance with human rights norms. The other course is on Social Moral Epistemology, which is the systematic comparative evaluation of alternative institutions and social practices so far as they influence the sorts of beliefs that are typically important for moral judgment, moral reasoning, and moral sentiments. I'm currently working in three main areas: Social Moral Epistemology, Philosophy of International Law, and, most recently, a project with Russell Powell on a naturalized theory of moral progress. My current work in progress includes a paper on institutional legitimacy that further develops the Metacoordination View of the practical function of legitimacy assessments set out in my recent book, THE HEART OF HUMAN RIGHT, and a paper called "Toward a Naturalized Theory of Moral Progress", co-authored with Russell Powell and currently under review. (2) "Why International Legal Human Rights?", forthcoming 2015 in FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS, edited by Matthew Liao and Massimo Renzo; (3) "Human Rights and Moral Progress," in HUMAN RIGHTS: THE HARD QUESTIONS, edited by Cindy Holder and David Reidy, 2013; and (4) "Social Moral Epistemology and Education," forthcoming in a volume on the Philosophy of Education resulting from a Spencer Foundation conference, edited by Harry Brighouse. 1) is a critical survey of current work by philosophers on human rights and argues that they have a seriously inadequate conception of what a philosophical theory of human rights should do. (2) addresses an embarrassingly neglected question: Even if there are moral human rights, why should we have a system of international legal human rights? (3) develops a theory of moral progress and shows how the modern conception of human rights incorporates progress in thinking about justice. My most recent book, THE HEART OF HUMAN RIGHTS (Oxford University Press) will be published in late September of 2013. I now have three academic positions. I am at Duke in the fall semester every year, as Professor of Philosophy and Professor of Law. Then I spend most of the spring semester every year in a research position at the University of Arizona Freedom Center as Visiting Professor. Then I spend May and June of every year in London at the King’s College Law School (the Dickson Poon School of Law) in a research position as Professor of the Philosophy of International Law.

Areas of Interest:
Political Philosophy, 
Philosophy of International Law,
Social Moral Epistemology

Recent Publications   (More Publications)
  • Buchanan, A; Powell, R. "Evolving Measures of Moral Success." Human Success: Evolutionary Origins and Ethical Implications. January, 2023: 270-294. [doi]
  • Barrett, J; Buchanan, A. "Social Experimentation in an Unjust World." Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy: Volume 9. January, 2023: 127-152. [doi]  [abs]
  • Buchanan, A. "When Knowing What Is Just and Being Committed to Achieving it Is Not Enough." Journal of Applied Philosophy 38.5 (November, 2021): 725-735. [doi]  [abs]
  • Emanuel, EJ; Buchanan, A; Chan, SY; Fabre, C; Halliday, D; Heath, J; Herzog, L; Leland, RJ; McCoy, MS; Norheim, OF; Saenz, C; Schaefer, GO; Tan, K-C; Wellman, CH; Wolff, J; Persad, G. "What are the obligations of pharmaceutical companies in a global health emergency?." Lancet (London, England) 398.10304 (September, 2021): 1015-1020. [doi]

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