Henry Richardson

Senior Research Scholar, Kennedy Institute of Ethics
Professor, Department of Philosophy

Henry S. Richardson is Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University. After obtaining a law degree and a Masters of Public Policy at Harvard University, he stayed on there to do a Ph.D. in philosophy. He wrote his M.A. thesis with Martha Nussbaum and his dissertation with John Rawls.

Richardson’s philosophical work has explored practical reasoning in various domains. His first book, Practical Reasoning about Final Ends (Cambridge, 1996) was about individuals’ reasoning. His second, Democratic Autonomy: Public Reasoning about the Ends of Policy (Oxford, 2002)—winner of the Herbert A. Simon Best Book Award of the Public Administration Section of the American Political Science Association and the David Easton Award of the Foundations of Political Theory Section of the American Political Science Association—was about why we must, and how we can, reason together politically. His current book project, tentatively entitled Articulating the Moral Community, concerns how participatory, inclusive moral reasoning can make a difference to what we ought to do.

Richardson’s scholarly articles have engaged the capabilities approach as a friendly critic. Examples include “Some Limitations of Nussbaum’s Capacities,” QLR [Quinnipiac Law Review], 19 (2000): 309-332; “Rawlsian Social Contract Theory and the Severely Disabled,” The Journal of Ethics 10 (2006): 419-462 (a response to Nussbaum’s Frontiers of Justice); “The Social Background of Capabilities for Freedoms,” Journal of Human Development 8 (2007): 389-414; and “Mapping Out Improvements in Justice: Comparing vs. Aiming,” Rutgers Law Journal 43 (2012): 211-41 (a contribution to a symposium on Sen’s Idea of Justice). Other relevant work includes “The Stupidity of the Cost-Benefit Standard,” The Journal of Legal Studies 29 (2000): 971-1003; “Public Opinion, Happiness, and the Will of the People: Policy-making in a Democracy,” in Beyond the Ballot Box (Thimphu, Bhutan: Centre for Bhutan Studies, 2010): 25-59; and “On the Sites of Remedial Justice: Colleges, Clinics, and the State,” in Martha C. Nussbaum and Zoya Hasan, eds., Equalizing Access: Affirmative Action in Higher Education in India, United States, and South Africa (Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2012): 21-43.

Richardson has also worked on the ethics of medical research in developing countries, which is addressed by his most recent book, Moral Entanglements: Medical Researchers’ Ancillary-Care Obligations (Oxford, 2012). He has twice been a Visiting Scholar at the Department of Bioethics at the (U.S.) National Institutes of Health and has participated as a faculty member in short research-ethics courses organized by that department in Uganda and Tanzania.