Katharine Schweitzer

Katharine Schweitzer, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Katharine Schweitzer


My dissertation, "Principled Compromise in Theorizing about Justice" (Emory University, May 2014), focused on how to understand and resolve conflicts of values, especially those which are associated with the ideals of liberal democracy. I offer an answer to the question how to respond to disagreement about the basic principles of justice. In contrast to scholars who have interpreted compromise only as strategic, I argue that there are principled reasons that citizens should compromise on what conception of justice our society should adopt. My research draws attention to the normative aspects of compromise, such as responsive engagement with people to whom we are opposed and respect for society as a fair scheme of social cooperation. I contend that reasons for principled compromise can be found in the public democratic culture and in the practice of citizenship. Without a nuanced understanding of principled compromise, theorists lack a key resource for negotiating the diversity of moral, religious, and metaphysical beliefs and values. Parties to disputes understand differently the grounds of their conflict after constructing a principled compromise.

Much of my conference presentations, and a book chapter based on a conference presentation, concerns the political theory of modus vivendi. Modus vivendi is a term for a type of political arrangement that John Rawls disparaged in his second masterwork, Political Liberalism (Columbia University Press, 1993). Rawls argued that citizens who reason with each other could arrive at a consensus on the content of their polity's constitutional essentials. According to Rawls, this consensus would be moral in content and accepted for moral reasons. Political philosophers debate whether Rawls identified the correct goal of politics. Following John Horton and other philosophers who adopt a realist approach to politics, I argue that a modus vivendi provides a more feasible and yet still morally worthy goal for societies divided by deep disagreement. My research articulates how a modus vivendi is a form of compromise that is different from the consensus that Rawls envisioned. My research also distinguishes the preconditions of compromise and the preconditions of toleration, which are two political phenomena that many scholars have treated as more similar in nature than they actually are.


  • Social and political philosophy
  • philosophy of law
  • ethics
  • applied ethics
  • feminist philosophy


  • PHIL 101 — Introduction to Philosophy
  • PHIL 207C — Introduction to Social and Political Philosophy
  • Phil 213 — Introduction to Modern Philosophy
  • PHIL 244 — Bioethics
  • Phil 245 — Contemporary Moral Issues
  • PHIL 450 — Ethical Theory
  • Phil 453 — Topics in the Philosophy of Law
  • Phil 454 — Global Ethics and Justice


  • Ph.D., Philosophy, Emory University, 2014
  • M.A., Philosophy, Emory University, 2011
  • B.A., Philosophy, Miami University, 2008