Publications

Here are some of my recent publications (you can access the full texts by clicking on the titles).


Arrell, Robbie (2019) ‘Public Reason and Abortion: Was Rawls Rights After All?’, in Journal of Ethics (Online First)

In ‘Public Reason and Prenatal Moral Status’ (2015), Jeremy Williams argues that the ideal of Rawlsian public reason commits its devotees to the radically permissive view that abortion ought to be available with little or no qualification throughout pregnancy. This is because the only (allegedly) political value that favours protection of the foetus for its own sake—the value of ‘respect for human life’—turns out not to be a political value at all, and so its invocation in support of considerations bearing upon the permissibility of abortion is beyond public reason’s remit. Thus, it will scarcely if ever be legitimate to restrict women’s equality and bodily autonomy for the sake of the foetus, even at full term.

In this paper, I argue that Williams fails to establish that Rawlsian reasonable citizens must endorse the radically permissive stance vis-à-visabortion. Citizens can, I claim, reasonably accord the value of respect for human life weight, and indeed converge on the claim that it outweighs other salient political values, during later stages of gestation. Nevertheless, Williams’s argument gets something right in that it reveals why the value of respect for human life is inadmissible at the bar of public reason in early stages of pregnancy. But then, far from throwing Rawlsian public reason into disrepute, Williams’s argument actually (albeit inadvertently) provides arguably more compelling grounds than any hitherto rallied for endorsing Rawls’s much maligned claim that opposition to the duly qualified right to abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy is ‘unreasonable’


Arrell, Robbie (2018) ‘Should we Biochemically Enhance Sexual Fidelity?’, in Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement, 83, pp.389-414.

In certain corners of the moral enhancement debate, it has been suggested we ought to consider the prospect of supplementing conventional methods of enhancing sexual fidelity (e.g. relationship counselling, moral education, self-betterment, etc.) with biochemical fidelity enhancement methods. In surveying this argument, I begin from the conviction that generally-speaking moral enhancement ought to expectably attenuate (or at least not exacerbate) vulnerability. Assuming conventional methods of enhancing sexual fidelity are at least partially effective in this respect – e.g. that relationship counselling sometimes successfully attenuates the particular vulnerability victims of infidelity feel – then presumably the case for supplementing conventional methods with biochemical methods turns, in part, on the claim that doing so will better promote attenuation of victim vulnerability.

In this paper, I argue that on a sufficiently sophisticated conception of what this vulnerability consists in, biochemical methods of enhancing fidelity will not expectably attenuate victims’ vulnerability. Moreover, when combined with conventional methods, biochemical methods will predictably tend to undermine whatever attenuation conventional methods expectably promote in that respect. Thus, I conclude that couples committed to saving their relationship following an instance of sexual infidelity have reason to prefer conventional methods of enhancing sexual fidelity sans biochemical methods to conventional methods plus biochemical methods.


Arrell, Robbie (2017) ‘The Robust Demands of the Good: Ethics with Attachment, Virtue and Respect, by Philip Pettit’, in Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 95, 2, pp.408-411.

This publication, which the AJP invited me to write, reviews the 2015 book The Robust Demands of the Good by the internationally renowned Irish philosopher and L.S. Rockefeller University Professor of Politics and Human Values at Princeton University, Philip Pettit.


Arrell, Robbie (2014) ‘The Source and Robustness of Duties of Friendship’, in International Journal of Philosophical Studies, 22, 2. pp.66-83.

Certain relationships generate associative duties that exhibit robustness across change. It seems insufficient for friendship, for example, if I am only disposed to fulfil duties of friendship towards you as things stand here and now. However, robustness is not required across all variations. Were you to become monstrously cruel towards me, we might expect that my duties of friendship towards you would not be robust across that kind of change. The question then is this: is there any principled way of distinguishing those variations across which robustness of the disposition to fulfil duties of friendship is required from those across which it is not? In this paper I propose a way of answering this question that invokes distinctions concerning how we value friends and friendships, and how persons and friendships possess value – distinctions that are central to the project of specifying not only the limits of robustness, but also the source of duties of friendship and associative duties more generally.

(The IJPS awarded this article the Robert Papazian Annual Prize for outstanding essay submission of 2014).


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