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BIOUNCERTAINTY - ERC Starting Grant no. 805498

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Making Up for What We Did: From Morality to the Law; From the Present to the Past

Making Up for What We Did: From Morality to the Law; From the Present to the Past

The research project "Making Up for What We Did: From Morality to the Law; From the Present to the Past" was funded by the POLONEZ BIS 2 competition, co-financed by the European Commission and the National Science Center under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie COFUND grant.

Basic information

  • Project Title: Making Up for What We Did: From Morality to the Law; From the Present to the Past
  • Duration: March 1, 2023 - February 28, 2025
  • Project Manager: Dr Giulio Fornaroli (giulio.fornaroli@uj.edu.pl)
  • Supervisor: Tomasz Żuradzki, PhD, Prof. UJ

Popular description

We are sometimes required to make up for what we did. It is something we are told from the beginning of our moral
education: if you do something bad to others and do not make up for it, these others may have a legitimate grievance
against you, which they can turn into resentment or antipathy.
Philosophers have widely commented on this received moral wisdom. Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, for instance, is
credited with having first identified an entire branch of justice – corrective justice – whose core content is the
appropriate reparation of wrongs inflicted by some actors on others. The regulation of reparations is, further, one of the main branches of private law.

The investigation I pursue during the program is about the concept of a moral wrong and its relation to corrective
justice. Its objectives are: 1) elaborating an account of wrong that may sustain the idea that some wrongs call for
corrective interventions, 2) explaining the limits of intervention in the legal treatment of wronging, taking medical
negligence as an example and 3) employing the concepts of wrong and corrective justice to address the problem of
reparations for historical wrongs. The perspective I advance is original in three dimensions. Firstly, it gives unity to the three distinct literatures on corrective justice, historical reparations, and the legal analysis of corrective practices. Secondly, it offers a novel conception of wronging which, more than any other previous attempt at explaining what it means to wrong others, can help us understand why all cases of wronging are followed by demands for corrections.
Wronging, I argue, consists in denying others minimal moral concern, thus acting as if others’ status as a moral fellow
were irrelevant in one’s deliberation. By correcting, the wrongdoer demonstrates that the lack of concern did not
originate out of a presumption of moral superiority and commits to paying adequate respect to the victim’s moral status in future interactions.
The account does not reduce corrective duties to duties of reparation. If correcting means counterbalancing moral
neglect, repairing the damage can often be neither necessary nor sufficient to discharge a corrective duty. It may not be necessary because certain harms can be repaired by third parties without that preventing the wrongdoer from
discharging her corrective duties. And it can be insufficient because repairing the damage may be an overly easy option for some wrongdoers.
Once I have defended an account of wronging, I move to the applied parts of the project. In the firs applied part, I argue that the law cannot simply mimic corrective justice: any treatment of harm redress and harm prevention in liberal democracies ought to respond both to corrective justice and, through what I call accommodation (the idea that,
sometimes, the costs of some individual decisions can be borne by society rather than by the individual who caused
them) to individual autonomy. To exemplify, I will consider in particular, due to the research specialisation of the
Interdiscilplinary Center of Ethics, the case of medical negligence. In the second applied part, I argue that what one
needs to prove to make a demand for historical corrections sensible is that some individuals currently count as victims of the original wrong and other individuals count, under some kind of description, as perpetrators. To prove this, I argue, merely relying on the beneficiary pays principle is insufficient as benefiting from an injustice is not equivalent to wronging the wrongdoer. I advance two conditions that can make a request for historical corrections meaningful. One is that the agent required to correct is a collective or coporate one, which has a kind of trans-historical existence. The second it was reasonable for the agent who committed a wrong in the past to consider the long-term consequences of their actions, including on agents that are still unborn.

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Source of funding

This research is part of the project No. 2022/47/P/HS1/01942 within the POLONEZ BIS programme co-funded by the National Science Centre and the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 945339. 

Acronym: MakingUp

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"Human Rights under Emergency: A Normative Assessment of Derogation" in the journal Social Theory and Practice

International human rights law allows states to derogate some of their human rights obligations in times of public emergency. This essay attempts a normative assessment of the practice of derogation. We discuss, specifically, whether derogation is compatible with the logics and morality of rights. We notice that a major inconsistency between rights and derogation derives from the unilateral character of derogation: derogating parties are assigned a power-right to annul their own rights-based obligations. This contrasts with the idea, central to rights, that rights-based obligations are owed to the right-holder. Only through consent of right-holders, we argue, can duties owed to them be modified or annulled. But whether the current practice of derogation is interpretable as a form of consent to rights infringement is highly disputable.

Fornaroli, G., & Rettig, C. (2023). Human Rights under Emergency: A Normative Assessment of DerogationSocial Theory and Practicehttps://doi.org/10.5840/soctheorpract2023623196

“Conflicts of Rights and Action-Guidingness” in the journal Ratio Juris

In this paper, we raise two points. First, any rights-based theory should provide a method by which to guide reasoning in addressing conflicts of rights. The reason, we argue, is that these theories must provide guidance on what should be done. Second, this method must contain two key recommendations: (1) We should try to find a deliberative mechanism through which none of the rights is simply eliminated from the scene; (2) these rights may be balanced against each other to define which right should prevail, but without considering non-rights-interests as if they were rights in the process. These recommendations instantiate two crucial principles that underlie our common intuitions on rights, namely, the principle that rights deserve equal respect and the principle that rights should be taken seriously.

Rettig, C. and Fornaroli, G. (2023), Conflicts of Rights and Action-GuidingnessRatio Jurishttps://doi.org/10.1111/raju.12374

“Neglecting Others and Making It Up to Them: The Idea of a Corrective Duty” in the journal Legal Theory

I aspire to answer two questions regarding the concept of a corrective duty. The first concerns what it means to wrong others, thus triggering a demand for corrections (the ground question). The second relates to the proper content of corrective duties. I first illustrate how three prominent accounts of corrective duties—the Aristotelian model of correlativity, the Kantian idea that wronging corresponds to the violation of others’ right to freedom, and the more recent continuity view—have failed to answer the two questions satisfactorily. I then introduce my proposal, which holds that we wrong others when we fail to treat their status as moral agents as a source of stringent constraints on our action. I call it the moral neglect account. Once we have identified a common aim of corrective duties (counterbalancing moral neglect), we can fill their content in the various contexts in which wronging has occurred. I conclude by observing that it is not the primary role of corrective justice to assign responsibilities for damage reparations; in fact, requests for compensation make more sense if framed in distributive rather than corrective terms.


Fornaroli, Giulio. 2024, Neglecting Others and Making It Up to Them: The Idea of a Corrective Duty. Legal Theory 1–25. doi: 10.1017/S1352325223000198

“Corrective Duties, Damages, and the Liberal State”

15th Conference of the Italian Society for Analytic Philosophy. Alessandira, Italy, 2023

“Rights and wrongs, sex, and the (liberal) state”

SIFA Conference. Manchester, United Kingdom, 2023

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Recent publications

New article authored by Giulio Fornaroli

New article authored by Giulio Fornaroli

Giulio Fornaroli, INCET employee, published a new article in the journal "Philosophy Compass"
Read More o New article authored by Giulio Fornaroli
New paper by Giulio Fornaroli

New paper by Giulio Fornaroli

Giulio Fornaroli published a new article: "Neglecting Others and Making It Up to Them: The Idea of a Corrective Duty” in Legal Theory.
Read More o New paper by Giulio Fornaroli
New paper co-authored by Giulio Fornaroli

New paper co-authored by Giulio Fornaroli

Giulio Fornaroli from INCET and Cristián Rettig published a new article: "Human Rights under Emergency: A Normative Assessment of Derogation" in Social Theory and Practice. This paper is a part of Making Up for What We Did: From Morality to the Law; From the Present to the Past project.
Read More o New paper co-authored by Giulio Fornaroli