In January, the Emeritus White’s Professor of Moral Philosophy, John Broome, the current Sekyra and White’s Professor of Moral Philosophy, Jeff McMahan, and Luděk Sekyra himself all participated in a two-day workship at Corpus to investigate aggregation in moral, political and legal philosophy.

Image: William McMahan, "Human Nature, Part 10"

The workship was ably organised by Elad Uzan, Junior Research Fellow in Philosophy. The participants were a score of philosophers from Oxford, elsewhere in Britain, and the United States. They heard and discussed seven papers over two days. The subject they debated was what moral philosophers call ‘aggregation’. This is the idea that harms or benefits coming to many different people, can aggregate in value to become more morally important than a bigger harm or benefit coming to one person. Some philosophers deny aggregation. For instance, they deny it could ever be better to save each of very many people from suffering a slight headache than to save the life of a single person. They do not necessarily deny all aggregation of value across people; they may think, say, that saving ten people from paraplegia is better than saving the life of a single person. But they deny that small harms or benefits can always be aggregated. That seemed to be the most popular view among the philosophers at the conference.

John Broome says: "The workshop was successful. It is not to be expected that a meeting of philosophers will end in agreement or consensus, and this one did not. But philosophy advances through discussion and debate, and we all emerged with a deeper understanding of the issue that concerned us."

The professorship was created 400 years ago by an endowment from Thomas White, a canon of Christ Church. For the last hundred and seventy of those years it has been associated with Corpus. By the nineteenth century, the endowment seems somehow to have faded away, and for decades the professorship was financed entirely from Corpus’s own funds. The University took over the funding again early in the twentieth century. Then in 2021 the professorship was re-endowed by a magnificent gift from the Sekyra Foundation, created by Luděk Sekyra.