Christopher L. Kutz



 I have been interested for a long time in a basic question at the heart of ethics, law, and politics: what difference does joining up in groups and acting together make to what we ought to do, to with and for each other? My work and thinking is pretty firmly anchored in the tradition of Anglo-American analytic moral, political, and legal philosophy, though with heavy doses of Kant, Rousseau, and Nietzsche. I tend to use this philosophical work in the context of problems drawn from law, especially criminal, constitutional, and international law, and in the context of real politics.

My first book, which was a descendant of my doctoral dissertation in philosophy, was on the subject of “complicity,” or liability (in ethics and law) for bad things that result from acting together. My interests then turned in a rosier direction, towards our positive responsibilities for each other, not just our liabilities. And so I have been writing pieces of a second book, provisionally entitled Democracy at the Margins, which investigates obligations of rescue, social welfare, and political participation, as well as they more general question of how collective self-government, in the form of democracy, can be consistent with freedom, when at the end of the day some of us have to accept the decisions of others. In the past few years, however, I have also been working on what have seemed to me especially urgent normative questions concerning the law of war and the conduct of counter-terrorist policy. I have thus recently published (or have in the pipeline) papers concerning the privileges of non-uniformed combatants, the potential liability of governmental officials advocating violation of domestic and international laws against torture and cruel treatment, as well as claims of necessity and emergency constitutional powers as justifications for such abuses.

Right now I am working on a number of projects, including papers on the consequences for substantive criminal law of recent empirical findings concerning deterrence, the justification of the symmetrical treatment of combatants fighting for both just and unjust causes, and on the concept of “political luck,” or the idea that later success can make justified political acts that seemed unjustified in advance. I have also begun to explore a burgeoning interest in biomedical ethics.

I have a family that includes two young children who keep me busy. Like many of my colleagues, I try to be outside as much as possible, doing various interesting things in beautiful places. Sometimes I even have a chance to read novels

Professor Kutz’s faculty profile, bio, and other information can be found here.

Notice – Latest updates on COVID-19 policies and resources for the UC Berkeley campus community. — View Details