Conference on Justice, Care and the Family

by Ingrid Robeyns on February 10, 2009

We’ve been discussing here at CT many, many times issues related to justice, care and the family, so I thought some of you may want to know that I’m organising a conference on that theme with some truly world-class scholars in this area. Information below the fold. There is a strictly limited number of seats, so if you’re interested, then immediate registration is highly recommended.

June 26-27, 2009
Erasmus University Rotterdam (The Netherlands)
Faculty of Philosophy

The number of places is strictly limited – please register early.

Confirmed speakers:
Joel Anderson (Utrecht University)
Samantha Brennan (University of Western Ontario)
Harry Brighouse (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Daniel Engster (University of Texas at San Antonio)
Anca Gheaus (University College Dublin)
Eva Kittay Feder (SUNY-Stony Brooke)
Pauline Kleingeld (Leiden University)
Ingrid Robeyns (Erasmus University Rotterdam)
Adam Swift (Oxford University)
Joan Tronto (CUNY-Hunter College)
Daniel Weinstock (University of Montréal)

Conference description:
This conference aims to reconsider and deepen theoretical work within political and moral philosophy on questions of care and justice in and between families. The speakers explore and/or reconsider some of the following questions: What is the nature of justice and care within families? To what extent are there conflicts between care and justice within families, and between families? When and how do such conflicts arise, and are they inevitable? Are conflicts of interest between different family members inevitable, and if not, how they can be avoided? What do family members owe to each other, especially with respect to care?
Are there normative issues about these relationships that go beyond duty? Which questions have been relatively neglected when thinking about justice and care in and between families? What are the gender, race/ethnicity and class dimensions to these issues? How does a proper appreciation and understanding of disability make a difference to these questions? Do these issues differ for different types of families, and how can we prevent our theories from leading to misleading generalisations? Which policies or other forms of social change are normatively recommendable to deal with some of the related moral problems?

Time and Venue:
The conference will be held at the Erasmus University Rotterdam (Netherlands), Campus Woudestein.
The conference will take place on Friday 26 June (10 am – 5.30 pm) and Saturday 27 June (9.30 am – 5pm).

The number of places is strictly limited and will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

Full Registration fee (including refreshments and lunches on both days): Euro 100.
Reduced registration fee for students (including refreshments and lunches on both days): Euro 50.
Optional conference dinner on Friday: Euro 35.

How to register:
Please send an e-mail to with your name, title/position, institutional affiliation, address, telephone number, e-mail address, the type of fee that is applicable and whether or not you want to join the conference dinner. Please let us know if you have any special requirements such as dietary constraints or special needs.

After registration you will receive information regarding payment, accommodation, and other practical issues.

Contact: Queries can be sent to Ingrid Robeyns at

This conference is financially supported by the NWO VIDI programme ‘Social Justice and the New Welfare State.’



Peter 02.10.09 at 2:17 pm

One minor correction … the university affiliation for Eva Kittay Feder should be SUNY (State University of New York) Stony Brook, not CUNY (City University of New York) Stony Brook. The two university systems are completely separate.


HH 02.10.09 at 4:05 pm

An interesting presupposition of this conference program appears to be that views on the functions of the family should become homogeneous. Implicit in the approach is that scholarly consideration of the issues should lead to a convergence of understanding that would, presumably, steer us toward common social policies to improve the conditions of families. (“What do family members owe to each other???”)

Yet the family is as much a laboratory for evolutionary experimentation as any other basic human biological structure. There is no omega point for the evolution of the family, nor is there any obvious direction for amelioration or optimization. The family will remain a ragged distribution of behavioral variety until it is subsumed under the next great wave of human social organization.

The contemporary social sciences seem to have mastered the creation of artificial building bricks of thematic material that have no practical relationship to observable phenomena. Scholars spend vast amounts of time arranging these bricks into intricate and ingenious structures that appear to be largely irrelevant to the material concerns of the people of the world. This is a notable intellectual achievement, but not a very worthy one.


Henry 02.10.09 at 6:20 pm

Ah, but in the University of the Future, that I, Magneto, am creating with Sheer Indomitable Willpower Alone, all intellectual barriers will be _pounded into smithereens_ by the angry breakers of the Next Great Wave of Social Organization. Those who are not with me, _are against me_, and will be treated accordingly.


Ingrid Robeyns 02.10.09 at 6:45 pm

Peter: Thanks. I’ve corrected this mistake.


HH 02.10.09 at 7:10 pm

The mythical University of the Future is a ridiculous nostrum to esteemed academics who measure their worth in jet fuel and whose economic security is protected by the stout walls of impregnable endowments. It would take a worldwide economic crisis, severe energy depletion, and a radical reordering of educational priorities to make the slightest alteration in the business as usual of the academic world. How likely is that?


Michael Bérubé 02.10.09 at 7:25 pm

I am intrigued by your University of the Future and wish to subscribe to your newsletter.


HH 02.10.09 at 7:41 pm

Dear Professor Berube,

I have contacted your university library and I regret to inform you that the format of our newsletter is incompatible with the sophisticated pneumatic tube system used to circulate publications on your campus. We will notify you when our newsletter meets the technical requirements of your institution.

On a separate subject, would you consider speaking at our planning conference in Tierra Del Fuego this Summer? The conference theme is “University of the Future: Myth or Monster?” Our organization would, of course, cover your travel expenses and provide a small honorarium of USD $50,000. Copies of our newsletter will be available at the conference.



salient 02.10.09 at 10:13 pm

Our organization would, of course, cover your travel expenses

Including the return trip? After all, traveling into the future’s the cheap direction.


HH 02.10.09 at 11:13 pm

Including the return trip?

There is no return trip after the future is seen, because there is no un-biting of the Edenic apple. Fortunately, the university scholars are well-prepared for this journey. They have been carefully selected, not only for their extraordinary powers of learning, reasoning, and explication, but also for their intellectual courage.


salient 02.10.09 at 11:34 pm

all intellectual barriers will be pounded into smithereens by the angry breakers of the Next Great Wave of Social Organization.

Rubbish! There isn’t that much concentrated magnetism in the world to generate a social field that strong!


HH 02.11.09 at 1:34 am

a social field that strong

The underpinnings of a physics of knowledge are coming into view. The Internet is the medium, and the packets of knowledge that traverse it are the fundamental particles. The shaping, storing, and transformation of knowledge are the field effects created by, and enabling, emergent online social phenomena. Next will come the fundamental laws and theories, and finally we will enjoy the fruits of engineering.

Teilhard de Chardin anticipated this emergent social superstructure half a century ago. (He called it the Noosphere.) It is amusing to witness the increasingly powerful transformative manifestations of knowledge physics while receiving assurances from conventional authorities that nothing of consequence has changed.


Righteous Bubba 02.11.09 at 1:56 am

Was that Bérubé?


Michael Bérubé 02.11.09 at 1:27 pm

Yes, it was. And I will be happy to speak at this conference. I will waive my usual honorarium if the University of the Future conference dinner features a plate of shrimp.


HH 02.11.09 at 2:08 pm

Dear Professor Bérubé,

We are delighted that you will be joining our conference program. We hope that you will be interested in participating in our panel on “Bye-bye charisma: the fate of the academic rock star in the global faculty.” Another possibility is the session on “The excellence threat: preserving mediocrity in worldwide academic competition.” We are sure that your unusual combination of scholarly interests will enrich the experience of the conference participants and provide new perspectives on incongruity in future university curricula.

Please note that Tierra Del Fuego temperatures in July average around zero degrees celsius, so we advise an appropriate choice of beach wear. (Be sure not to miss the lichen spotting tour that will be conducted during the final weekend of the conference.) Regarding food and dietary preferences, please rest assured that no expense will be spared in meeting the requirements of our honored guests, the visionary vanguard of the University of the Future.


Michael Bérubé 02.11.09 at 5:43 pm

HH, did you do a lot of acid back in the hippie days? Watch the clip, my pompous interlocutor. You’re Miller, the guy on the left, talking about time travel in South America. It’s funny because it’s true!

And Ingrid, the conference looks great. Kudos for organizing it! And please say hello to Eva from me. . . .


HH 02.11.09 at 6:00 pm

Dear Professor Bérubé,

We apologize for what you consider the excessive formality of our communications, but we are at pains to respect your prominence in the community of adventurous, protean, cross-domain, out-of-the-box, public intellectuals. When you arrive at the conference, I assure you that we will engage you in more “down-to-Earth” informal colloquies. In addition, we are aware of all Internet traditions, so we can communicate with you online in future in any semiotic modality that you find preferable.

It is a rare and refreshing privilege to encounter an academic man for all seasons, a plain-spoken man of the people whose passion does not impair his scholarly precision, and whose pragmatic careerism does not cloud his visionary perspective. We welcome such outstanding thinkers to the growing community working to build the University of the Future, and we eagerly await your participation in our conference.


salient 02.13.09 at 4:19 am

Next will come the fundamental laws and theories

Ah yes, the vaunted Time-Content Positioning/Interpolation Principle. And the ancillaries, such as the HyperTime Transmutation Proposition, which like modern set theory has been interpreted as practically axiomatic by those who have unwittingly come to depend upon it.


praisegod barebones 02.13.09 at 12:22 pm

Entertaining though some of the last exchanges have been, as someone who is actually (well, all right, potentially) interested in the content of Ingrid’s conference, I’m wondering why HH still has a full complement of vowels.

(In fairness, one of the questions raised at 2 seems like an interesting one, but not, as far as I can see, one that is in any way foreclosed by the conference blurb)

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