Liu Institute Lecture: Joseph Chan, "The Moral Limits of Violence in Political Resistance"


Location: 2148 Jenkins Nanovic Halls


In this talk, Joseph Chan examines whether violence in political resistance against state injustice is morally permissible. Contemporary analytic political and legal philosophy has seldom discussed the moral permissibility of violence in mass protests. The literature of civil disobedience does not offer much help. The most relevant literature seems to be the ethics of war and the ethics of individual self-defense. In particular, four principles are commonly employed to assess the moral limits of force in wars and individual self-defense – just cause, reasonable prospect of success, necessity, and proportionality. This talk discusses two questions: To what extent can these four principles provide practical moral guidance for people to start and continue to engage in uncivil resistance? Given the highly dynamic and complex nature of resistance movements, what would be the morally right things for protestors to do under uncertainty?


Joseph Chan is a Global Scholar and Visiting Professor in the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University. He has taught at the Department of Politics and Public Administration,The University of Hong Kong for three decades. Since 2021, he has been a Visiting Scholar at the Research Center for Humanities and Social Sciences (RCHSS), Academia Sinica, Taiwan, and will be a Distinguished Research Fellow at the RCHSS from February 2023. His recent research interests span Confucian political philosophy, comparative political theory, and contemporary theories of democracy and liberalism. He is the author of "Confucian Perfectionism: A Political Philosophy for Modern Times" (Princeton, 2014) and co-edited with Melissa Williams and Doh Shin "East Asian Perspectives on Political Legitimacy: Bridging the Empirical-Normative Divide" (Cambridge, 2016). 

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