Philosophy

Popular Works

  • Ethical Concerns With Cancel Culture

    Hugh Breakey (2020) ‘Is cancel culture silencing open debate? There are perils to shutting down opinions we disagree with’ The Conversation 10 July 2020.

    It is sometimes necessary to censure harmful and offensive speech. But there are ethical costs to widening the scope of our moral outrage to viewpoints that merely differ from our own.

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  • Ethical Decision-Making in a Pandemic

    Hugh Breakey (2020) ‘Acting selfishly has consequences right now – why ethical decision making is imperative in the coronavirus crisis’ The Conversation 24th March 2020.

    In the face of a crisis, people’s willingness to do the right thing can be critical, but there are challenges to relying on ethical decision-making.

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  • Arguing Better

    Hugh Breakey (2019) “Actually, it’s okay to disagree. Here are five ways we can argue better.” The Conversation 13th September 2019.

    When you’re arguing with another person, there are ethical rules that apply. It’s important to be aware of these rules, and to understand why they are important.

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Selected Papers

  • Meta-Argument Allegations

    Hugh Breakey (2020) ‘“That’s Unhelpful, Harmful and Offensive!” Epistemic and Ethical Concerns with Meta-Argument Allegations’ Argumentation.

    Allegations that an arguer has said something offensive or harmful can often feel appropriate. But there are hidden costs to levelling such allegations.

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  • Effective Codes of Ethics

    Hugh Breakey (2020) ‘Harnessing Multi-Dimensional Legitimacy for Codes of Ethics: A Staged Approach’ Journal of Business Ethics.

    Codes of ethics are only effective if they are perceived as legitimate by users and stakeholders. The process of code development and implementation provides opportunities for harnessing key sources of legitimacy.

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  • Arguing Ethically

    Hugh Breakey (2020) ‘The Ethics of Arguing’ Inquiry.

    Argument is not purely a rational endeavour. It also has moral dimensions. If we fail to pay attention to these, or cast them aside too quickly, we can give other people cause for anger and resentment.

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  • The Ethics of ‘Piracy’

    Hugh Breakey (2019) ‘Deliberate, Principled, Self-Interested Lawbreaking: The Ethics of Digital ‘Piracy’’ Oxford Journal of Legal Studies.

    Is digital piracy morally wrong? It turns out there are important (but not always definitive) ethical reasons for respecting copyright law—even for those who think the law is unjust.

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  • The Many Virtues of Human Rights

    Hugh Breakey (2018) “It’s right, it fits, we debated, we decided, I agree, it’s ours, and it works: The gathering confluence of human rights legitimacy” Law and Philosophy, 37(1), 1-28.

    Why should we respect human rights? The history of human rights shows how they have harnessed seven distinct sources of legitimacy that together provide reasons for very different people to endorse them.

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  • Why Are People Moral?

    Hugh Breakey (2018) “Same duties, different motives: Ethical theory and the phenomenon of moral motive pluralism,” Philosophical Studies, 175(2), 531-552.

    A surprising but often overlooked feature of ethical thinking throughout history is that ethical theories call for a shared core of very similar duties—but at the same time they invoke very different types of motivations for performing those duties. This article details this phenomenon and explains its significance.

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  • Corruption Violates Human Rights

    Hugh Breakey (2017) “Arbitrary Power, Arbitrary Interference and the Abuse of Power: Corruption, Natural Rights and Human Rights” Research in Ethical Issues in Organisations, Vol. 17.

    What is the link, ethically speaking, between human rights and corruption? The abuse of power intrinsic to acts of corruption can involve the exercise of arbitrary power over others. When it does so, corruption will be a violation of human rights.

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  • How Can Organisations Empower Ethical Decision-Making?

    Hugh Breakey (2017) “Building Ethics Regimes: Capabilities, Obstacles and Supports for Professional Ethical Decision-Making” University of New South Wales Law Journal 40, no. 1: 322-52.

    Ethical decision-making for professionals requires the successful navigation of several distinct tasks. Personal psychological traits can empower successful ethical decision-making for professionals—but so too can interpersonal and institutional factors.

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  • What Are the Ethical Responsibilities of Employed Professionals?

    Hugh Breakey and Charles Sampford (2017) “Employed Professionals’ Ethical Responsibilities in Public Service and Private Enterprise: Dilemma, Priority and Synthesis” University of New South Wales Law Journal, 40(1), 262-301.

    Employed professionals can be asked to uphold two distinct types of duties—obligations to their employer, and ethical obligations as professionals. While these duties will often overlap, what happens when there is a clash?

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  • Can People With Integrity Be Evil?

    Hugh Breakey (2016) “Compromise despite Conviction: Curbing Integrity’s Moral Dangers” Journal of Value Inquiry, 50(3), 613-629.

    Do terrorists and fanatics have integrity? The very things that make integrity so desirable—passion, public devotion, self-belief—can seem to make it dangerous. To the contrary, I argue that upon analysis the virtue of integrity contains specific principles that respond to the risks of taking one’s own values too seriously.

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  • Can Ecotourism Help Tourists Develop Morally?

    Noreen Breakey and Hugh Breakey (2015) ‘Tourism and Aldo Leopold’s “Cultural Harvest”: Creating virtuous tourists as agents of sustainability.’ Journal of Sustainable Tourism (with Noreen Breakey).

    As one of the forefathers of modern environmentalism, Aldo Leopold argued we should expand our ethical compass to include animals, plants and the ‘land’. Yet Leopold did not think reason alone could change behaviour. The ‘cultural harvest’—a physical and emotional engagement with the land, and a staple of many ecotourism enterprises—remained a critical part of the development of virtuous human beings.

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  • Do Natural Property Rights Prevent Taxation?

    Hugh Breakey (2014) ‘Who’s afraid of Property Rights? Rights as core concepts, coherent, prima face, situated and specified.’ Law and Philosophy, 33(5), 573-603.

    Many people worry that accepting natural property rights makes upholding welfarist rights harder. In fact, principled restrictions on natural rights are utterly commonplace. The perceived tension between property and welfare rights rests on a conceptual confusion between a specified right and the right’s core concept.

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  • Property Protected Activities

    Hugh Breakey (2011) ‘Two Concepts of Property: Ownership of Things and Property in Activities’ The Philosophical Forum, 42(3), 239-265.

    When people think about property, they often envisage ownership of land and chattels. But there is a different concept of property that protects activities rather than things. Property-protected activities explain many puzzling cases of property rights, such as resource property, common property, rights in labour and more.

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  • Stoic Wisdom

    Hugh Breakey 2010 ‘Adaptive Preferences and the Hellenistic Insight’ Australian Journal of Professional and Applied Ethics, 12(1), 29-39.

    Adaptive preferences occur when we scale back our desires to what is achievable, such as to ‘love the one you’re with’. While there can be problems with some types of adaptive preferences, Hellenistic philosophers like the Stoics and Epicureans highlighted benefits of adaptive preferences that are still relevant today.

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  • Natural, But Limited, Intellectual Property Rights

    Hugh Breakey (2009) ‘Natural Intellectual Property Rights and the Public Domain’ The Modern Law Review, 73(2), 208-239.

    Many people intuitively think that if intellectual property rights (like copyright) are natural rights then they will be strong in substance and maybe even perpetual. But with their hallmark concerns with non-interference, prior consent and self-ownership, natural rights approaches contain a host of features that categorically rule out strong intellectual property rights.

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