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Fabienne Peter - Research

My research projects are in four main areas of philosophy: normative moral and political philosophy, metanormative moral and political philosophy, social epistemology, and the philosophy of economics.

I. Normative Moral and Political Philosophy

The focus of my research in this area is on political legitimacy, democracy, and justice.

I have written extensively on democratic legitimacy. I am interested in the question of what, if anything, justifies democratic decision-making and demoratic decisions and in the relationship between political legitimacy and justice. I have published a book on Democratic Legitimacy and I am the author of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on “Political Legitimacy”.

Another topic I have worked on is the relationship between human rights and political legitimacy. My main emphasis has been on the human right to political participation and on the question of whether there should be a human right to democracy.

I have also written on public health ethics, focusing on the relationship between social justice and health inequalities. I have co-edited Public Health, Ethics, and Equity with Sudhir Anand and Amartya Sen.

II. Metanormative Moral and Political Philosophy

My more recent work in metaethics and on metanormative questions in political philosophy grew out of my longstanding research interest in John Rawls' theory of political legitimacy and the role of public justification and public reason in this theory.

My current research focuses on how epistemic limitations – limitations in relation to what we know and/or justifiably believe – affect the justification of actions and decisions in moral and political contexts.

One starting-point for this research are moral, political and/or factual disagreements and their implications for epistemic and practical justification: under what conditions do disagreements about how we ought to act, or about which political decisions are justified, undermine the justification of those actions or decisions? A recent paper on public reason addresses this question. As part of the political epistemology branch of this project, I have also written on the epistemic basis of political liberalism and on epistemic constraints on democratic justification.

A further related research project in this area is on practical reasons. One question I am exploring is how normative uncertainty affects our reasons for action. Another question concerns the relationship between normative facts and normative practical reasons.

III. Social Epistemology

I have a longstanding interest in social epistemology, including feminist social epistemology.

My recent work on social epistemology focuses primarily on the epistemology of peer disagreements. In a recent paper on this topic, I have argued that peer disagreements give rise to second-personal epistemic reasons.

A topic I am currently exploring is the role of epistemic self-trust and trust in others in relation to the disagreements we might have with others. I am also investigating this topic in the context of moral disagreements.

IV. Philosophy of Economics

Some items on my publication list reflect my past life in an Economics Department – they are on a range of topics in the philosophy of economics. I have written on coercion in economic transactions, for example. With Hans Bernhard Schmid, I have co-edited a book on the rationality of committing to cooperating with others.

List of Publications