Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Kok-Chor Tan


Each paper can be read independently, but the general problem that’s at the focus of this dissertation is the following. On the one hand, morality and justice appear to impose the same requirements on all. According to some of the most influential moral and political theories, what we owe to each other should be informed by ‘impartial’ requirements of fairness or respect for persons—requirements that apply regardless of whether the people you interact with happen to be relatives, friends, or members of the same society. Yet many would balk at the notion that we cannot permissibly favor some—they would charge that these sorts of views of morality or justice don’t do justice to the importance of ‘special’ relationships. This dissertation focuses on how we should think about resolving this tension between requirements, especially when it comes to national or democratic ties in emergency contexts. The first paper offers a critical analysis of the special relationship that nationalists claim we hold to co-nationals. The second paper assesses the limits of this relationship under the emergency conditions provided by the pandemic. The third investigates our special relationship to democratic society and the limits of action under the climate emergency. In ‘Against Cultural Identity as Grounds for the Intrinsic Value of Self-Determination’ I argue against the liberal nationalist claim that national self-determination is intrinsically valuable because it’s grounded in national cultural identity. In ‘Vaccine Nationalism and Basic Rights’ I argue that the case against COVID-19 vaccine nationalism is robustly overdetermined because it violates duties we have to uphold a basic subsistence right to health. In ‘Eco-Sabotage as Defensive Activism’ I argue that we can do justice to our commitments to democratic society and yet still engage in illegal and coercive property destruction with environmental aims.