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The Yeoh Tiong Lay Centre for Politics, Philosophy and Law will welcome Professor Laura Valentini (LMU Munich) to King's in March to deliver the sixth and final workshop in the 2023/24 KJuris programme.


Individual Sovereignty and Institutional Norms


An almost universally accepted dogma within the liberal philosophical tradition is that each person possesses a domain of individual sovereignty—that is, a domain within which each may pursue their ends and goals without hindrance from others. In this domain, others’ actions are within the normative control of the individual. So, for example, whether someone is allowed to touch me or take my property is up to me: I am “sovereign” over these matters. In this talk, I explore two pictures of the existence conditions of individual sovereignty so understood. According to one picture, we possess this sovereignty as a matter of “natural morality,” independently of institutions. According to a different picture, while we are all free and equal as a fundamental moral matter, individual sovereignty is only possible when certain institutional arrangements are in place. I argue that, contrary to first appearances, the second, institutionalist picture is more attractive and exhibits greater critical potential than its “naturalist” counterpart.

Author Bio

Laura Valentini holds the Chair in Philosophy and Political Theory at LMU Munich. Prior to joining LMU in 2021, she held faculty positions at KCL, LSE and UCL, as well as visiting and postdoctoral positions at the Australian National University, the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study, the University of Uppsala, Harvard University, and the University of Frankfurt. In 2015, she was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize in Politics and International Relations and in 2023 she was elected a member of the European Academy. Her work is situated in the fields of contemporary political, legal, and moral philosophy. Particular research interests include: global justice, political obligation, the methodology of political theory, and the relation between moral philosophy and social ontology (e.g., the morality of socially constructed norms, the nature of normative powers). Her most recent book, Morality and Socially Constructed Norms, appeared with OUP in 2023.

At this event

Massimo Renzo

Professor of Politics, Philosophy & Law

Todd  Karhu

Lecturer in Philosophy

Event details

Room SW 1.17, The Dickson Poon School of Law, First Floor, Somerset House East Wing, King's College London, Strand WC2R 2LS
Strand Building
Strand Campus, Strand, London, WC2R 2LS