Welcome to my webpage. I am a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Political Science Department, Independent College Programs, and the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship at Haverford College, which is one of the four members of the Quaker Consortium, and also a member of the Tri-College Consortium. Before joining Haverford in 2014, I taught in the Program in Ethics, Politics & Economics at Yale and held a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in the Institute for Philosophical Research at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). I specialize in political philosophy and have research and teaching interests in legal philosophy, applied ethics, normative ethics, constitutional theory, social theory, and political economy. I am a founding member and regular participant in the Tri-College Political Theory Workshop.

My research examines the structure of injustices in global, comparative, and historical perspective; and the relationships among moral principles and political and economic theories. Some of it is published in European Journal of Political TheoryThe Philosophical Forum, Public Affairs QuarterlyEthics & the Environment, and Nexos. I am revising a completed book manuscript, entitled Unfreedom for All: How Global Injustices Harm You. You can read the Introduction and various chapters by clicking here.

My teaching seeks to foster the skills and outlook promoted by the inter-disciplinary movement some call “Ethics, Politics, and Economics” ("EPE"). That movement tries to meld the strengths of moral philosophy, political theory, and normative economics. It draws upon moral philosophy for its conceptual precision, its fine discriminations of the relative weights of clashing values, and its rigorous evaluation of chains of reasoning. It draws upon political theory for its examination of the relations among the principles of political morality; its sensitivity to how authority, institutions, group loyalties, and power can shape us in ways we often do not appreciate; and its commitment to interpreting and guiding politics in terms of systematic theories of political and social life, theories that speak both to what we ought do and to what we do do. Finally, it draws upon normative economics for its insights into the values of efficiency, of satisfying people’s preferences, and of counting the costs and benefits of rival options; as well as its insistence that there is always a strong chance that people will be motivated primarily by self-interest, in ways that could have bad effects if that motive is not properly channeled. From these strengths and themes, EPE tries to foster an outlook and a skill set that allows its practitioners to arrive at well-reasoned, realistic judgments about which actions or institutions or outcomes or projects are morally better or less bad, given the facts about political and economic forces; facts into which political and economic theory offer a good deal of insight.   

For student comments on my teaching, see here. Students whom I have advised and written letters for have won full-time jobs, admissions, and scholarship grants from Capital One Strategy Group, Columbia Law School, Columbia SIPA (MIA), Cornell Law School, Duke Law School, Georgetown Law School, Georgetown Walsh School (MA Security Studies), Harvard Business School, Harvard Kennedy School, LUISS Guido Carli University Politics (Ph.D.), Michigan Law School, National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, Princeton Economics (Ph.D.), Redstone Strategy Group, Stanford Economics (Ph.D.),  Summer Research Training Program for Mellon-Mays Fellows at the University of Chicago, Swirl, U. C. Berkeley Economics (Ph.D.), UCLA Law School, and University of Chicago Law School, among others. 

I took the PhD in political philosophy from Johns Hopkins University in 2008. My dissertation, directed by Richard Flathman and Sean Greenberg, was titled "The Structure of Political Theories: Why Normative Theories of Politics and Economics Depend on Ethics." I entered the PhD program at Johns Hopkins in September 2003. 

You can contact me at: tjdonahu AT gmail DOT com or tjdonahue AT haverford DOT edu. A PDF of my CV is here.
I am often asked what political philosophy is. One way to answer that is to list some examples of the questions political philosophers characteristically ask, and of the concepts and arguments they characteristically use and examine. Below is such a list.

Giotto, Injustice
(Wikimedia Commons; click to enlarge)

Why Government?

Studio of Sebastian Vrancx, A Landscape with Travellers Ambushed Outside a Small Town (early 17th C)

(Wikimedia Commons; click to enlarge) 

Why Government?

Boardman Robinson, The Deserter (1916)

(Wikimedia Commons)

What Is Common to Both The Politics of Statesmen...

Thabo Mbeki, Nelson Mandela, and F. W. de Klerk

Photo by Alexander Joe, AFP/Getty Images, via L. A. Times (fair use)


...And The Politics of the Streets?

Ilya Repin, 17 October 1905
 (Wikimedia Commons) 

When Is Popular Government Desirable?

 An Open Cabildo (Town Meeting) during Argentine Independence

(Pedro Subercaseaux, The Open Cabildo of 22 May 1810; 1910; Wikimedia Commons)

 What Counts as Despotic Government by the Few?

Generalissimo Francisco Franco of Spain (center) meets Benito Mussolini of Italy (right)

What Special Values Are Achieved by Representative Government? What Are the Proper Scope and Limits of Such Government?

Representatives of the French Third Estate Take the Tennis Court Oath, 20 June 1789

(after Jacques-Louis David, 1791; Wikimedia Commons) 

What Counts as Despotic Government by the Many?

Lynching of an African-American man, Waco, Texas, 1916

(Wikimedia Commons)

When Is Revolution Justified?

The Sons of Liberty Pulling Down the Statue of King George III, July 9 1776

(by Johannes Adam Simon Oertel, ca. 1859; Wikimedia Commons)

 What Is the Source of Legal Authority?

The United States Supreme Court, October 2009 Term

(Wikimedia Commons; click to enlarge)

 What are the Scope and Limits of Political Authority?

Bnito Juarez of Mexico

(Wikimedia Commons; click to enlarge)

What Justifies Political and Legal Authority?

Maryland Transit Police

(Wikimedia Commons)

 What Should be the Relation between Political and Moral Authority?

Lyndon Baines Johnson and Martin Luther King, Jr.

(Wikimedia Commons)

When Should We Resist Authority?

They are Anonymous. They are legion. 

(From Dazed Digital's history of the Anonymous Mask; fair use) 

 When Are We Obligated to Obey Government?

 Baron Low, Everyone should do his bit: Enlist Now, Parliamentary Recruiting Committee poster No 121 (fair use)

When Is Civil Disobedience Justified?

Protesters Breaking the Traffic Laws, New York City, 2004

(Wikimedia Commons)

 Is Legitimacy What Keeps Government from Being...

When is government legitimate? Like organized crime, government coerces
relies on coercive extraction of revenues. So what distinguishes it
from organized crime?
(Creator unknown; fair use)

How Should--and Shouldn't--Majorities Treat Minority Groups? Why?

Marian Anderson singing an impromptu concert on the steps of the

Lincoln Memorial Building after the Daughters of the American Revolution

refused to let her sing to a racially integrated concert hall, 1939

(Flickr; fair use)

What Special Values Does Aristocracy Achieve? Which Values Does It Characteristically Fail to Achieve?

Wilhelm Gause, Court Ball at the Hofburg (1900) 

(Wikimedia Commons; click to enlarge)

When Are The Haves Justified in Having What They Have?

James Tissot, La Partie carree (1870)

(Wikimedia Commons)


When Are the Have-Nots Justified in Demanding More? What more may they demand? Of whom?

Hubert von Herkomer, On Strike (1891)

(Wikimedia Commons; click to enlarge)

What Counts as Oppression? What to do about it?

Emil Flohri, Stop Your Cruel Oppression of the Jews (1904)

(Wikimedia Commons; click to enlarge) 

When Should We Lay Down Arms and Settle? Which settlements should be kept, and which may be broken?

What Is the Relationship between Churches and States? What Should It Be?

Alberto Beltran, Separacion de la Iglesia con el Estado (1975)
What General and Special Duties Do We Have?

Deber (Duty) (Statue in La Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires; own photo)

Is Society Fundamentally a Collection of Associations?
Denijs van Alsloot, Ommegang in Brussels, 31 May 1615 (1616; Wikimedia Commons; click to enlarge))

 Is Society Fundamentally a Collection of Ethnic or Kin Groups?

Gathering of (Representatives of) Scottish Clans, Northwestern United States, 2005
(Wikimedia Commons)

Is Society Fundamentally a Collection of Individuals?

 Detail of the Frontispiece to Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan: Or, the Manner, Forme and

Power of a Common wealth, Ecclesiastical and Civill (1651; fair use)

Full image here

 What Special Values Does a Society Seek to Achieve By Devoting Itself to Rapid Economic Growth? Under What Conditions Should We Pursue Such Growth?

(Elgin County Archives; Flickr; fair use)

What Should Be the Goal of Economic and Social Development? National Power and Prosperity, or Freedom for All the Citizens?

(Wikimedia Commons; click to enlarge)

(Flickr; fair use)

 What Special Values Do Gender Norms Seek to Realize? What Attitude Should We Take toward Those Values?

Cross-dressing performance of Irving Berlin's "This Is the Army, Mr. Jones," New York, 1942

(Wikimedia Commons)

 How Conservatives See Themselves: Conservers of The Valuable Social Arrangements We Now Have

(Wikimedia Commons)

Political Responsibility 

Political Responsibility

 Aftermath of the Fire Bombing of Dresden Ordered by Churchill, 1945

(Wikimedia Commons)

What Special Values Does Authoritarian Rule Seek to Achieve?

(GraffitiWatcher; fair use)

What Special Values Does Totalitarianism--Total Rule of All Activities in Society--

Seek to Achieve?

Magnus Zeller, The Total State (1938)

(Weimar Art blog; fair use)

What Special Values Are Achieved by Having Monarchs as Heads of State?

 King George Tupou V of Tonga and the Governor-General of New Zealand, 2011

(Office of Governor-General of New Zealand; fair use)

What Special Values Are Achieved by Having a Commoner as Head of State?

Terry McAuliffe, Governor of Virginia, 2014

(Patrick Semansky, AP/ Standard-Times; fair use) 

 Post-war Military Occupation as Bearer of Peace and Justice

(US Army Recruiting Poster collection, from the CECOM Historical Office archive, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD; fair use )

Post-war Military Occupation as the New Authority in Town

 (M.P. Pfc. Louis Leindecker of the American Division of Pittsburgh,
directing traffic in Hachioj, Japan with the aid of Japanese police.
(September 15, 1945); army.mil; fair use )

 What Special Values Do Societies Seek to Achieve by Instituting the Form of Collective Executive Power We Call Cabinet Government?

The Cabinet of Japan, 2014

(Philippine Star; click to enlarge; fair use)

What Special Values Do Societies Seek to Achieve by Instituting the Form of One-Person Executive Power We Call Presidency?

 President Barack Obama and Advisors in the Oval Office, 2009

(Wikimedia Commons; click to enlarge)

 When Do We Owe Allegiance to the Republic?

U. S. Schoolchildren Pledging Allegiance to the Flag and the Republic with the now-discontinued Bellamy Salute, 1941

(Wikimedia Commons)

 When Do We Owe Allegiance to the State?

German Schoolchildren Pledge Allegiance to the Third Reich, 1934

(Wikimedia Commons)

 Some Promises of the Capitalist State:

National Prosperity, Power, and Prestige

(Wikimedia Commons; click to enlarge)

 Some Perils of the Capitalist State:

Domination and Exploitation

(Wikimedia Commons; click to enlarge)

What Distinguishes Authoritarian Nationalism from Fascism?

What Powers Should We Give to the Police? What Tools Should We Provide Them With?

Officers of the Marion County (Oregon) Sheriff's Office, 2009

(Wikimedia Commons) 

 May Civilians Ever Be Held Liable For What Is Done by Their Armies? What Role Do Race, Xenophobia, and Collective Emotion Play in Such Judgments?

U. S. Government Propaganda Poster after News of the Bataan Death March Became Public
(Wikimedia Commons)

What Counts as Racial Injustice?

Margaret Bourke-White, At the Time of the Louisville Flood, 1937

(Fair use; click to enlarge)


 Can War Be Restrained by Ethics? What Moral Principles Should Govern War? What Counts as Flagrant Violations of Those Principles? Are Some Wars So Just That the Just Side Can Do Whatever It Deems Necessary?

Hiroshima Immediately After the U. S. air force dropped the atomic bomb, August 1945. Photo signed by the bomber pilot, Paul Tibbetts

(Wikimedia Commons)

How Should We Balance the Liberties of Individuals against the Dangers of Pandemics? 

Quarantine of a Village whose Inhabitants Believe that Doctors Are Poisoning Cholera Victims

(Wikimedia Commons)

What Special Values Are Sought by Those Conventions We Call Traditions?

When Should Traditions Have Authority For Us?

 Royal Enclosure, Royal Ascot. 2017 will be its 307th annual running.

(The Australian; fair use)

What Special Values Are Sought by Those Conventions We Call Fashions?
When Should Fashions Have Authority For Us?

 Recent Street Scene, Manhattan (Wikimedia Commons)

Some Aims of the Interventionist Welfare State, as Seen by Its Supporters 

Albert Beveridge and the Welfare State Challenge the Five Great Evils That Beveridge's Welfare Program Aimed to Abolish

(Fabians.org.uk; fair use)

What Should We Do about Class Conflict? Is There a Class War?

Occupy Oakland General Strike, 2 November 2011

(Wikimedia Commons)

What Are the Main Goals and Commitments of Socialism? Solidarity, Social Ownership, or Something Else?

A Peril of Social-Ownership Government, as Seen by Its Detractors

Reeve and Serfs, from an English psalter, ca. 1310

(Wikimedia Commons)

 What Are the Boundaries between Politics and the Private? What Should They Be?

 Is Slavery Abolished? What Should We Do about Slavery Today?

(Wikimedia Commons; click to enlarge)

 Which, If Either, Is Worse: Subordination within the Community of Moral Persons, or Exclusion from the Community of Moral Persons? Why?

Subordination: The Hobble Skirt, 1911 (Wikimedia Commons; click to enlarge)

Exclusion: Memorial to Memphis Sanitation Workers' Strike, 1968 (Wikimedia Commons)

Who Is Unfree under Systematic Injustice? Only the Victims? Who Is Liberated when Oppression Ends?


Aaron Douglas, The Spirit Rising (Harriet Tubman Mural at Bennett College, 1930-1)

Thomas Nast, The Union as It Was (1874)

(Wikimedia Commons; click to enlarge)

Is the State Always A Vehicle for Domination by a Particular Social Group of All Other Groups? Or Is It Possible to Have a State without Such Domination?

The Ruling Class in the Capitalist State?

Representatives of the Ruling Class in the Communist State?

Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, during the Party Congress, December 1927
(Wikimedia Commons)

Representatives of the Ruling Class in the Theocratic State?

Shia clerics Ali Khamenei, current Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the late Hussein-Ali Montazeri, sometime Deputy Supreme Leader
(Wikimedia Commons)

 Democracy Is Rule by the People:

But Who or What Is the People?

The Masses?

Crowd in Dhaka (Wikimedia Commons)

The Non-elite Majority--the Common People?
Giuseppe Pelizza de Volpedo, The Fourth Estate (1901; Wikimedia Commons, click to enlarge)

The Nation?
(Wikimedia Commons, click to enlarge)

The Citizenry?
Town Meeting, American Samoa (Wikimedia Commons)

The Majority?
(Wikimedia Commons)

 What Special Values Does National Self-Determination Seek to Achieve?

Who Counts as a Nation, and Why?

Baldessari Venazzi, Episode from the Five Days of Milan (1848; Wikimedia Commons, click to enlarge)

(Wikimedia Commons)

 How Powerful Are Ideas--For Good or Ill?

Do Vested Interests Win in the Short Run, and Ideas in the Long Run?

Bruno Bruschi, after Jacek Yerka, Bible Dam

(2013; click to enlarge) 

(The Foundry.co.uk; fair use) 

Do Our Vested Interests Drive Us to All of Our Political Ideas?

(Alyson Hewett; Flickr; fair use)


What Gives a Political Community a Right to a Particular Territory with a Particular Extent?

The territory of Mexico in 1844, prior to the cession of Texas--divided into modern states (Wikimedia Commons)

Can Conquest Ever Be Justified? What May the Invaded People Do to Resist Conquest?

 Fernando Castro Pacheco, The Conquest [in Yucatan] (1974; Wikimedia Commons)

On What Grounds Should We Grant or Deny the Suffrage?

W. A. Ford, American Woman and Her Political Peers (1893)

(A mentally disabled man, a convict, a madman, an unenfranchised indigenous American, and a woman U. S. national: all were denied the suffrage in 1893; click to enlarge; Kansas Historical Society; fair use)

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