· · · · ·

Summer school 2019 – Political Authority

Abbaye de Reigny, 89270 Vermenton (www.abbayedereigny.com)
10:00 - 17:00


Susanne Burri (London School of Economics), Margaret Moore (Queen's University), Scott Hershovitz (University of Michigan), David Miller (University of Oxford), Francis Cheneval (University of Zurich)


Conceptualizing political authority and elucidating its justification is the core task of political philosophy. The concept of authority itself is polysemic. As a practically understood concept authority denotes the right or the ability to demand obedience of subjects. In its epistemic understanding, authority means the ability to instruct and guide the actions of others by reference to superior knowledge. It is not clear how these two meanings can be subsumed under the same concept. It is not clear how political authority refers to these two meanings and how political authority should adequately combine practical and epistemic authority, if at all. Furthermore, it is not clear if political authority should be exclusively conceived as authority of command and control and not also as authority that includes elements of care and education. How can a political authority so conceived escape the critique of paternalism? There is a longstanding tradition of philosophical anarchism, which holds that authority is incompatible with autonomy. Furthermore, it is not at all that clear what normative significance the exercise of authority might possibly have for those who are subject to it. On the other hand, political and legal philosophers generally agree that the notion of authority is central to our self-conception as members of a community of cooperation or of a political community and legal order. But even under these assumptions it is still questionable what the scope of political authority should be, what rights to rule over a given territory, over its people and resources a political authority should have and how its relations to individuals outside of its territorial realm should be structured, for instance if they wish to migrate to its territory or commit acts outside the territory that affect the community.

In this summer school we will try to work our way through these questions by exploring how the concept of political authority relates to us individually and as members of a common body politic. Subsequently, we will investigate the notion of democratic authority and deal with specific questions regarding territorial rights, secession, rights over resources and the right to regulate migration. The main learning goal of the summer school is to familiarize participants with the concept of authority and to better understand the role of authority in politics, especially democratic politics.

The morning sessions will consist of courses taught by professors. The afternoon sessions include presentations of PhD student-papers followed by discussion and group work animated by postdoctoral students from the Chair of Political Philosophy of the University of Zurich.


Send a cover letter (1 page), a short CV and, if you wish to present a paper, an abstract (max. 1 page) no later than 15th March 2019 to phd@philos.uzh.ch. Selected candidates will need to send in their paper by 15th June 2019.


No participation fee is charged. Students from UZH will need to pay for their travel costs. Room and board are covered. External students will need to pay for travel costs plus room and board, to be paid at the beginning of the summer school for the full week. Room plus full meal-plan is 686 EUR; room plus semi-meal plan (no lunch): 562 EUR. There is a budget for some financial aid, offered upon request for selected students who present papers.