Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


IAS Talking Points Seminar: What is the State For? Three Rival Versions of Political Normativity

19 May 2022, 6:00 pm–8:00 pm


With Professor David McCabe (Senior Visiting Research Fellow IAS). Respondent: Dr Antonio Sennis (Associate Professor of Medieval History & Deputy Director, IAS).

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to

All | UCL staff | UCL students | UCL alumni






Institute of Advanced Studies


IAS Common Ground
Ground floor, South Wing, Wilkins Building
United Kingdom

My talk explores three different ways of thinking about how states should resolve important and contested questions involving fundamental political matters. On one approach, such questions should be resolved by appealing to judgments about the good life. On a second, the state should be guided by the goal of securing conditions of justice in a manner that is broadly neutral on the question of the good life and should, as far as possible, leave citizens to work out this question for themselves. A third approach stresses that the fundamental aim of the state is to provide conditions of stable order and that for this reason basic political questions should be resolved without taking stands on either particular conceptions of justice or ideals of the good life. One way to understand these approaches is to see them as reflecting three different models of the proper relation between politics and morality. In my talk I will explore strengths and weaknesses in each of these approaches, and I will defend an account of political normativity that aims to be sympathetic to certain features of the third approach while insisting on the inescapability of grounding political normativity in moral norms that have independent standing.


David McCabe

(Senior Visiting Research Fellow IAS, UCL)


Antonio Sennis

(Associate Professor of Medieval History and Deputy Director, IAS)


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