(781) 283-2624
B.A., Victoria University; M.A., Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Helena de Bres
Associate Professor of Philosophy

Researches and teaches political and moral philosophy, with a focus on questions of distributive justice in global politics.

Should we be concerned about the large gap in living standards between the developing and the developed worlds? What is the extent of, and justification for, our duties to assist the global poor, if there are any such duties? Is it appropriate to apply norms of fairness to international politics? My research addresses these and other questions of global political morality. I am particularly interested in questions of distributive justice in relation to international institutions and practices, such as trade, financial, and environmental regimes, that involve interstate cooperation and the exercise of authority across borders. These institutions share many of the trappings of states (e.g., legislation, sanctions, adjudication) and yet lack others (e.g., hierarchical governance, comprehensive scope, and coercive enforcement). This raises the question of which of the preceding features are relevant to the application and content of distributive justice, and, if so, in which ways.

I teach courses in global justice, political philosophy, and ethics. The courses most closely related to my research are Introduction to Global Justice and my seminar on Justice and International Trade. The first provides an understanding of various philosophical approaches to the ethics of international relations and applies those approaches to current global challenges (e.g. poverty, climate change, humanitarian intervention and immigration); the second goes more deeply into the particular case of trade, using both work by philosophers and empirical research on the multilateral trading system. I have also advised student theses on the moral foundations of human rights and same-sex marriage.

I believe that philosophy can be enlightening, practically relevant and fun all at the same time, and my classes reflect that belief. (The project of making philosophy fun has so far included cartoons of my students, a fake relationship-counseling session, Miley Cyrus videos and a Political Philosophy Croquet Match).  In my role as faculty advisor for the Wellesley Philosophy Club, I proposed a Philosophy Variety Show...and WON it, dressed in drag as John Stuart Mill.

In my spare time I enjoy swimming, mid-century modern architecture, trips to New Zealand and California, and mixing cocktails. I also like hiking, but mainly for the picnic at the end.