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The Yeoh Tiong Lay Centre for Politics, Philosophy and Law is delighted to invite Professor Sophia Moreau (University of Toronto) to lead the closing workshop in the 2022/23 KJuris programme.


'Objectionable Obligations'


Can someone be bound by a moral obligation and yet at the same time have a moral complaint about being so bound? That is, there is something that they ought, all things considered, to do, for moral reasons. And yet, we and they feel that they have a moral complaint about being the one who is bound to do it: it is unfair that they, and not others, should bear the burden of having to do or attend to whatever this obligation requires. This is what I shall call an “objectionable obligation.” Do such obligations exist? Is this idea even coherent? And if it is, what follows from this fact? These are the questions I shall address in this talk. There are powerful currents in contemporary normative ethics that push us to deny that the idea of an objectionable obligation is coherent. It is unclear, for instance, whether moral theories such as consequentialism or contractualism leave any conceptual space for such obligations. But, as I shall try to show, there are many quite commonplace situations in which our intuitive reaction is that someone has both a moral obligation and a moral complaint about it. For instance, systemic discrimination, properly understood, seems to involve not just a collective failure to attend to our non-objectionable obligations to subordinated groups, but, perhaps even more tragically, the imposition on certain subordinated groups of certain objectionable obligations. If this is correct, then it has important implications for normative ethics.

Speaker Bio:

Sophia Moreau, B.Phil (Oxford); Ph.D. (Harvard); J.D. (Toronto) is Professor of Law and Philosophy at the University of Toronto. She is currently visiting University College, Oxford as HLA Hart Distinguished Visiting Fellow. She has been a Visiting Professor of Law at NYU Law School (Fall 2022), a Weinstein Fellow at Berkeley (Spring 2022), and a Chancellor Jackman Research Fellow in the Humanities at the University of Toronto (2021-22). Her books include: Faces of Inequality (Oxford University Press, winner of the Canadian Philosophical Association’s Book Prize for 2022); Philosophical Foundations of Discrimination Law (co-edited with Deborah Hellman) and Law and Morality (co-edited with David Dyzenhaus and Arthur Ripstein). Current research projects include a project in normative ethics on unjust institutions and moral obligations; a project on systemic discrimination; and the Tort Law & Social Equality project ( She is a former law clerk to Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin of the Supreme Court of Canada.


Directed by Professor Lorenzo Zucca and Professor Massimo Renzo, King's Legal Philosophy Colloquium, KJuris, is a forum devoted to discussing works in progress by today's leading legal philosophers and theorists as well as by promising younger talents from around the world. While our focus is philosophical and jurisprudential, we construe these terms broadly and welcome all rigorous methodological approaches to legal theory.

At this event

Massimo Renzo

Professor of Politics, Philosophy & Law

Lorenzo Zucca

Professor of Law & Philosophy

Event details

SW1.17 (Ante Room), The Dickson Poon School of Law, First Floor, Somerset House East Wing, Strand Campus, Kings College London, Strand WC2R 2LS
Strand Campus
Strand, London, WC2R 2LS