The Einstein Ethics Group was established in April 2016, in connection with the appointment of R. Jay Wallace as Visiting Fellow of the Berlin Einstein Foundation. The Group was originally established for a period of two years, through the end of 2018; it has recently been extended, through the end of 2020. During the Wintersemester of 2016-17 and the Sommersemester of 2017, Jay Wallace was in continuous residence in Berlin, on sabbatical leave from his home institution (the University of California, Berkeley). He will make regular return visits to Berlin for the duration of his Einstein Visiting Fellowship, and be in residence continuously in the summers of 2018, 2019, and 2020. The other members of the Group are based in Berlin.
The Group's members are interested in all areas of moral and political philosophy and the theory of practical reason. They met every other week during the academic year 2016-2017 in Colloquium sessions at which recent work in these general areas was discussed; these meetings were also open to other advanced students and Berlin-based scholars with interests in practical philosophy. The Colloquium will resume regular meetings when Wallace is in residence in Berlin in the summer months of 2018.
In addition, the Group has planned a series of workshops and conferences in Berlin, organized around the theme of relational normativity, during the past two years. The leading question here is the extent to which the moral realm can be understood as a domain of directed obligations that are connected constitutively to the claims of other individuals. We have explored the model of directed duty in application to other normative domains (such as that of private law), and consider the extent to which these domains do and do not resemble interpersonal morality. We also considered the implications of the relational interpretation for specific issues within morality. These include the distinctive features of moral accountability as an interpersonal practice; the nature of moral obligation; and the strengths and limits of contractualism as an account of what we owe to each other.
Additional workshops and events are in preparation. Among other things, we hope to explore the nature of promissory obligation, taking this to be a particularly prominent and interesting special case of moral duties that are owed specifically to another party. (For more information about our past and future workshops and conferences, see the Events section of this website.)