February 12, 2017
By S. Matthew Liao
I’ll be doing a Reddit Philosophy AMA (Ask me Anything) this Wednesday, Feb 15, 2017, starting at 11am (EST). Do come and join the conversation!
Here is an excerpt of my bio:
“My story is a common one for many immigrants from Asia. In the early 80s, my family and I moved from Taiwan to Cincinnati, Ohio. Since it was easier, as a non-native English speaker, to excel in math and science, I focused on those subjects throughout high school. When I went to college at Princeton University, I initially continued on that path by enrolling in math and economic courses. In my sophomore year though, I decided to take a course on the history of western philosophy with Cornell West. I became fascinated by the works of Friedrich Nietzsche and Ludwig Wittgenstein specifically and philosophy generally. In my junior year, I took a number of courses in political philosophy and I decided to write my senior thesis examining different contemporary theories of justice from John Stuart Mill to John Rawls and Michael Walzer.
It was during this time that I became acquainted with Susan Moller Okin’s seminal work, Justice, Gender and the Family, in which she criticized John Rawls for not applying his principles of justice to the family; in particular, Okin had in mind the relationship between men and women inside a family. Okin made a strong case that if Rawls had applied one of his principles of justice, namely, the principle of equality, to such a family, he would have come to the conclusion that men and women should share household responsibilities equally in a family. When I reflected further on Okin’s criticism of Rawls, it occurred to me that the family often also consists of the relationship between parents and children. However, the principle of equality seems less applicable to this relationship since it seems that this relationship is fundamentally unequal, at least in the case of younger children. So I became interested in finding out what kind of moral principle would apply to the parent-child relationship. I decided to pursue my graduate studies at Oxford University.
When I embarked on this project, there were very few people working on this topic or on family ethics generally. So it took me some time to get my bearings. During my research, I came across a number of international declarations, bills of rights, and the mission statements of various charitable foundations that claimed that children have a right to be loved. This claim was intriguing for a number of reasons. For one thing, a number of philosophers such as James Griffin and L.W. Sumner had expressed concerns that rights are often claimed without sufficient consideration as to whether these claims can be justified. So there was the worry that this claim is merely empty rhetoric. In addition, feminists and the then-in-vogue communitarian critics of liberalism often claimed that the liberal language of rights is incompatible with affection, care and love. If they were correct, the right of children to be loved would appear to be an oxymoron. So I wrote my D.Phil. dissertation on whether children have a right to be loved and I argued that indeed this claim is coherent and that its justification can and does hang together as a whole. Recently, I reworked most of the chapters and wrote new chapters in order to take into account new works that have been appeared in the intervening years. I have now published those pieces in a book entitled, The Right to Be Loved.”
You can get more information about the event here: