A place for the old right of necessity in the contemporary debate on global poverty

A place for the old right of necessity in the contemporary debate on global poverty


University of Oslo
June 8, 2015 8:00 am — June 9, 2015 5:00 pm
Centre for the Study of Mind in Nature, University of Oslo, Norway. Room 652, Sixth Floor

Contact Alejandra Mancilla for more information.

More information

Theme of the workshop

The question regarding our moral duties to alleviate poverty at the global level has been repeatedly addressed by moral and political philosophers, especially since Peter Singer’s groundbreaking essay ‘Famine, Affluence and Morality’ (1972) and Thomas Pogge’s World Poverty and Human Rights (2002). A question that has been, however, largely neglected, concerns the rights of those in severe need to get out of their plight, especially if this implies infringing on someone else’s private property without their permission.
This one-day workshop intends to address this second question in connection with an old philosophical concept, namely, the ‘right of necessity’. This was understood by theorists like Thomas Aquinas, Hugo Grotius and Samuel Pufendorf as a basic right of all human beings to take and use someone else’s property if this was the only means to save their lives. There were, of course, stringent conditions attached to its exercise, and the first aim of the workshop is precisely to evaluate them in a critical light. A second aim is to examine the legal application and limitations of this right today in the common law and civil law. By bringing together academics working in the fields of global justice and cosmopolitanism, history of ideas, theology and philosophy of law, a third and final aim is to foster discussion over the idea of a right of necessity applied in a global context, and to see how helpful (or unhelpful) this concept may be to address the challenges of global poverty.


Alejandra Mancilla, CSMN, University of Oslo.
Dennis Klimchuk, University of Western Ontario, Canada.
Siegfried Van Duffel, Nazarbayev University, Kazakhstan.
Virpi Mäkinen, University of Helsinki.
The workshop will be followed by a two-day PhD Research Course: “From holding to owning – The origin and justification of property rights”.
The workshop is sponsored by the Society for Applied Philosophy.