Hi everyone,

This week’s speaker in the University of Sydney Philosophy Seminar Series is 
Kathryn MacKay (University of Sydney).

The title of Kathryn’s talk is “Institutions and Virtues”. Here’s the abstract 
for Kathryn’s talk:

This paper proposes a theory of virtue for socio-political institutions. 
Utilizing Oliver Williamson’s (2000) taxonomy of institutions and their 
structures, I will argue that socio-political institutions have an 
under-appreciated and under-theorised role in creating and maintaining the 
conditions for virtue at the community level. Social institutions have a 
widely-recognized role in creating, enforcing, or maintaining the laws, 
policies, regulations, expectations, customs, and contracts that govern 
behaviour and shape the pathways people can take through life. This role means 
that they ought to ensure that these structures tend toward political virtue, 
and away from political vice. So, a theory of political virtue (that is, 
virtues of the polis, not of politicians) should be incorporated into how we 
think about the ethics of institutions. Adapting Philippa Foot and adding a 
dash of Julia Annas, I propose that political virtues are detectable 
characteristics of institutions, which are beneficial to the whole of society, 
corrective to vicious states of affairs, and excellences of collective agency, 
where excellence is understood as expressive of a collective commitment to 

The talk will take place on Wednesday the 15th of March at 3:30 p.m. in the 
Philosophy Seminar Room (N494) in the Quadrangle and will be simulcast via 
Zoom: https://uni-sydney.zoom.us/j/88699564848.

The talk will be followed by drinks and informal discussion at the Rose. All 

Enquiries about the seminar series can be directed to 

Ryan Cox
Associate Lecturer in Philosophy
Discipline of Philosophy
School of Humanities
University of Sydney

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