Daniel Shapiro – Professor


Social and Political Philosophy
Philosophy and Public Policy

Research Interests

My main research is in Social and Political Philosophy-but with an unusual focus. This is best explained by my recent book Is The Welfare State Justified? (Cambridge University Press, 2007).

I argue that the dominant positions in contemporary political philosophy – egalitarianism, positive rights theory, communitarianism, and many forms of liberalism – should reject central welfare state institutions. I do this by examining how major welfare institutions, such as Social Security, national health insurance, and government welfare, actually work, comparing them with more market-based feasible alternatives-using the dominant perspectives as the basis for the comparison. I argue that these dominant non-libertarian perspectives in contemporary political philosophy have misunderstood the implications of their own principles, which in fact support more market-based or libertarian institutional conclusions than they may realize.

Three cool features of this book:

  • I integrate a large body of social science research into philosophical arguments for and against the welfare state. I do this in part because I believe you cannot make a sound argument in political philosophy for institutional change without using social science. For details, see excerpts from my first chapter here
  • I turn the consensus in contemporary political philosophy on its head. That consensus consists of theorists who disagree among themselves which basic political principles are true or most plausible but agree that (almost) all of the institutional implications of these principles support the welfare state. By contrast, I take no stand on the truth of basic political principles, but argue that (almost) all of them lead to the rejection of the welfare state.
  • I avoid the usual Anglo-Centric bias in contemporary political philosophy by examining institutions in a variety of welfare states.

For more information, see:
Updated CV

Other Interests

I love animals, and have done volunteer work at Animal Friends, a no-kill shelter in Grafton, WV. I am or was an obsessive Harry Potter fan. You could say I am a Beatles fanatic, but that doesn’t quite do justice to my interest and love of the Beatles—ask me a Beatles trivia question, and I am likely to know it. I love baseball, and am currently going through Ken Burns’ 10 volume DVD series on the history of baseball. Also, I am interested in contemporary politics.

Courses Offered

Phil 130: Current Moral Problems
Phil 323: Social and Political Philosophy
Phil 325: Philosophy of Law

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