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International law (IL) and political philosophy represent two rich disciplines for exploring issues of global justice. At their core, each seeks to build a better world based on some universally agreed norms, rules, and practices, backed by effective institutions. International lawyers, even the most positivist of them, have some underlying assumptions about a just world order that predisposes their interpretive methods; legal scholars have incorporated concepts of justice in their work even as their overall pragmatic orientation has limited the nature of their inquiries. Many philospophers, for their part, have engaged with IL to some extent—at a minimum recognizing that legal rules may need to be the vehicles for their own theories of justice, or going a step further to appraise them for their underlying moral content.

Yet, there is still a lot of mutual suspicion between international lawyers, both academic and practicing, and scholars of global justice, and they have engaged in parallel play more than any kind of collaboration. This is most unfortunate for both fields—but for international law, it is particularly unfortunate because many subjects of interest to international lawyers have been dissected and appraised by philosophers, some going back decades or even centuries, some more recent: from secession to permanent sovereignty over natural resources, from the law of war to climate change, from trade and investment, to global health.

Today’s panel aims to consider whether and why international lawyers, both academic and practicing, should care about philosophical theories of justice. We hope it is the continuation of a dialogue that is taking place across these disciplines. To lead us through this, we will have a discussion with four truly interdisciplinary scholars who work on both legal and philosophical questions: James Stewart, Professor of Law at the University of British Columbia Law Faculty; Jiewuh Song, Associate Professor at the Seoul National University’s Department of Political Science and International Relations; Carmen Pavel, Senior Lecturer in International Politics, King’s College London; and David Luban, University Professor and Professor of Law and Philosophy at Georgetown.


Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of The American Society of International Law.