Gregory J. Whitfield

Postdoctoral Fellow

Resident at the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften:
September 2019–August 2020

Research topic at the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften:
»On the Concept of Political Manipulation«

Project outline:
Political ethics has a troubling blind spot over trickery, surreptitious or misleading actions, and outright deceit. While political theorists have been at pains to understand the conceptual and normative contours of persuasion and coercion as techniques for securing political ends, we have failed to give a proper account of the ethics of political manipulation. Think of manipulation broadly as an attempt to produce some will or action in another while obscuring one's causal role in the change thus wrought. It is unlike both persuasion and coercion, since those methods are upfront in their intentions. On this description it is implicated in a great deal of partisan politicking: when an incumbent government quashes a backbench push for reform to the electoral system that brought them to power, claiming the public do not agree on a new system; minority voters are targeted with automated calls falsely informing them of polling place closures; a campaign operative pursues an undercover sting operation by offering to provide confidential legal documents to their opponent's campaign in exchange for political favours, but with the intention of baiting the opponent into recorded corruption. In each case the objection might be that the agent has attempted to hide something important from his target, either by straightforward deception, or by giving a plausible but insincere justification, or by distorting true facts. In each case the manipulator, when successful, seems to leave his target unsure that anything untoward has occurred, or lacking the proper information to articulate how and by whom she may have been wronged. When the stakes are high and the interference slight, however, as in the case of certain public health campaigns, manipulation may be justified. The puzzle is then to sort out both what manipulation consists in, and whether a given instance might be justified in a democratic society.
At risk of ignoring weighty ethical issues and ne-grained empirical distinctions over manipulation, political science must go further to account for the practice's distinctive nature, and it must do so with the full range of empirical, theoretical, and normative tools at its disposal. To that end I propose a book project that develops just such an account. (Gregory J. Whitfield)

Funding of the stay:
»Justitia Amplificata. Rethinking Justice − Applied and Global«

Scholarly profile of Gregory J. Whitfield

In 2016, Gregory Whitfield received his PhD from Washington University in St. Louis with a dissertation entitled »Social Science in a Well-Ordered Democracy«. Afterward, he worked as fellow at Queen's University, the University College London and the University of Edingburgh.

Please find more information about Gregory J. Whitfield here.

Main areas of research:
Political thory, justice, democratic theory and practice, applied ethics

Selected publications:
  1. »On the Concept of pPlitical Manipulation«, in: European Journal of Political Theory 2020 (online first; in print).
  2. »Toward a Separate Ethics of Political Science Research«, in: Political Research Articles Quarterly 72:3, 2019.
  3. »Self-Respect and Public Reason«, in: Critical Review of Social and Political Philosophy 20:4, 2017.
  4. (with Frank Lovett) »Republicanism, Perfectionism, and Neutrality«, in: Journal of Political Philosophy 24:1, 2016.
  5. (with Chris Alcantara) »Aboriginal Self-Government through Constitutional Design«, in: Journal of Canadian Studies 44:2, 2010.