“It is very good that more and more analytic philosophy is being directed towards the conceptually trickiest practical problems of our time... However, given how our subject has been developing over the last 40 or so years there is real reason to fear that philosophy will die the death of dissolving completely into more technical sub-disciplines. The great challenge is to find ways of educating excellent professional philosophers to keep an active interest in more than one contemporary branch, and in some of the great past philosophers, and to be animated by an open-ended love of adventures in ideas while fully maintaining their obsessional practice of critical clarification. The latter is essential for the subject to move forward, but without the former that subject risks ceasing to be philosophy.” -Sarah Broadie FBA
Welcome! I am a Ph.D. candidate in legal philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, the program in Jurisprudence and Social Policy. It is a convention in academic philosophy to identify ourselves in terms of narrow areas of specialization and competence. But I find myself having followed late professor Broadie's advice closely in pursuing an open ended love of adventures in ideas. Having the privilege of studying at a truly multi-disciplinary program, I keep a diverse research agenda that spans practical, comparative, and theoretical philosophy. My previous degrees (in Rhetoric, Classics, Ancient Philosophy, and Law) and my side-vocation as a technologist only contribute to the diversity of my interests in analytic philosophy. This much interdisciplinarity may pose a risk to the career of a graduate student, but it is a small one, after all, lest philosophy dies a death of over specialization, in me, or in the world!
My interest in legal philosophy started with my experience of growing up in Iran and what I saw as a philosophical problem in the ideal of the rule of law. It is said that the rule of law, as an ideal, obtains when the law (rather than people) rules. Where I grew up, systematic oppression is unleashed onto the population by way of purportedly democratic law. Even in genuinely democratic societies, the law is said to compel its subjects. When the law compels, it can force its subjects to, say, follow traffic rules or observe covid-safe protocols. But it can also torture, silence dissent, and terrorize the population to create submission to those ruling. Is there something essentially different about the nature of law in these two kinds of cases? Where there is rule of law then, which of the two obtains: an institutionally sophisticated way of domination or a pluralist, impersonal, impartial form of government? Although my interest in these questions grows out of personal struggles, whether one should obey or disobey the law is a question that affects us all, especially those of us acting in some official capacity.
My interest in these questions became the basis for my PhD dissertation with the generous support and encouragements of late professor John Gardner, who helped me transition from ancient philosophy at Oxford to legal philosophy at Berkeley.
In my dissertation, I argue that the traditions which dominate legal philosophy since at least the Nuremberg trials, namely legal positivism and anti-positivism, raise more questions about our responsibilities under unjust laws than they answer. I then offer an alternative, arguing that legal obligations arise from the value of legally constituted social practices that are integral to human life. On my view, though intrinsic to law, these obligations are nonmoral and defeasible by countervailing moral obligations. This provides a new position in analytic jurisprudence that defends the common-sense view that one should generally follow the law but can never hide behind it to do something immoral.
Much of my other work concerns social justice and largely falls within the rubric of political philosophy (ancient and modern, Eastern and Western). A large portion of my ongoing work is inspired by the philosophies of Catharine MacKinnon and Plato (and at times connects both).
You can find details about all my research projects in the Research page of this website.
I received my J.D. and B.A. (in Rhetoric) also from UC Berkeley. Before coming back to Berkeley for graduate studies, I received two master’s degrees, one in Classics from Cambridge and one in Philosophy from Oxford.
I held visiting studentships in law at Cambridge (2019-20) and in philosophy at Hamburg (2019, 2021), Köln (2021) and Regensburg (2019) universities. I will be a visiting student in philosophy at the University of Lausanne in summer 2022.
During the 22-23 academic year, I will be a stipendiary resident fellow at the Information Society Project at Yale Law School.
My first name is pronounced like Aminoacid. I have a non-dashed-two-word-last-name, which is confusing. Chances are you’ll encounter me under Ebrahimi, Afrouzi, or E. Afrouzi!
He or They Series
Copyright © 2021 Amin Ebrahimi Afrouzi - All Rights Reserved. Photo credit: Jake Grefenstette and Julie Lin Ji.