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Fintan O’Toole and Philip Pettit: The State

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November 15, 2023 • 6:00 pm


The future of our species depends on the state. Can states resist corporate capture, religious zealotry, and nationalist mania? Can they find a way to work together so that the earth heals and its peoples prosper? Two eminent writers and thinkers — one a philosopher, one a journalist — consider these questions and their answers.

In his new book, Philip Pettit examines the nature of the state and its capacity to serve goals like peace and justice within and beyond its borders.

Offering an account that is more realist than utopian, Pettit starts from the function the polity is meant to serve, looks at how it can best discharge that function, and explores its ability to engage beneficially in the life of its citizens. This enables him to identify an ideal of statehood that is a precondition of justice. Only if states approximate this functional ideal, will they be able to deal with the perennial problems of extreme poverty and bitter discord as well as the challenges that loom over the coming centuries, including climate change, population growth, and nuclear arms.

Philip Pettit is Professor of Human Values at Princeton University and Professor of Philosophy at the Australian National University, Canberra. He is the author of Republicanism, On the People’s Terms, and Just Freedom, among other books. Fintan O’Toole is a columnist for the Irish Times and professor in the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University. A regular contributor to the New York Review of Books and the Guardian, he is the author of many acclaimed books, most recently of We Don’t Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Modern Ireland, which is on the list of best books of 2023 of The NYTimes, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The New Statesman.

This event is co-sponsored by Princeton University’s Humanities Council and Princeton University’s Center for Human Values.


November 15, 2023
6:00 pm
Event Category:


Labyrinth Books
122 Nassau Street
Princeton, NJ 08542 United States

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