Joseph Bowen

Joseph Bowen 2020

PhD 2020

HEIs: University of St Andrews and University of Stirling

Funding: AHRC DTP

Title: Why More Than What Happens Matters: Robust Rights and Harmless Wronging 

Supervisors: Prof Rowan Cruft and Dr Theron Pummer


What was your research about?

If I fail to meet your friend for a drink after promising them to, or harm them for no reason, I act wrongly. But I also wrong your friend. They get to feel aggrieved. They get to complain about how I acted. What I don’t do, and this should be obvious, is wrong you by failing to meet your friend. I don’t wrong you by harming your friend. This can be explained by saying your friend, but not you, had a right that I meet them for a drink. They, but not you, have a right that I not harm them. As obvious as this may seem, why is that? My PhD focused on this and related questions—when, and why, is it that one holds a right to something?

What made you apply for the SGSAH AHRC DTP?

During my two-year long masters, I enjoyed carrying out research. I enjoyed getting to write longer papers than during my undergraduate, on topics I chose and cared about. But perhaps more importantly, I enjoyed talking with my peers, teachers, and visiting speakers about philosophy. So it seemed only natural to try and remain in an environment where I could continue to do all of that.

Which aspects of your PhD did you enjoy the most?

On an everyday basis, I enjoyed working at the shared office—being able to run ideas past people, see what they thought of something interesting I’d just read, and have people to discuss things with if I was stuck. I enjoyed attending talks, workshops, and conferences across my PhD. And I also really enjoyed bringing the thesis itself together towards the end of my PhD, having written the bulk of the thesis as independent papers.

How has your PhD helped you to decide on a career path?

I’ve not really got an interesting answer to this, since I became an academic. I guess it helped by allowing me to try out being an academic!

And now?

I’m currently a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Stockholm Centre for the Ethics of War and Peace, based at Stockholm University. From August, I’ll be a Lecturer at the University of Leeds.

With regards to what I am working on now, I’m thinking about the nature of duties to rescue people. If you were to come across a child drowning in a pond, whom you could rescue by wading into the pond, it’d be wrong for you not to save them. At the same time, there’s countless people in peril across the world whom, by donating your spare time and money to, you could help; yet, it seems that it’s not wrong for you to fail to help them when it would have such an impact on your life. My current work focuses on why this is, and where the boundaries between obligatory rescues and those rescues that go beyond our obligations sit.

One piece of advice you would give an incoming PhD researcher?

Completing a PhD can be very stressful, especially the closer that you get to completing. Don’t forget to enjoy yourself where you can. You’ll unlikely have that freedom again to read around topics that interest you.

I’d also recommend getting involved in the research community as much as possible. People tend to be supportive and helpful, it’ll allow you to get more from the experience, and should hopefully be enjoyable.

Where can people find you?

Twitter: @joe_bowen_1

Website: https://joseph-bowen.weebly.com/

This article was published on 25 May, 2022