David McCabe

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David McCabe

Richard J. and Joan Head Chair in Philosophy

Department/Office Information

12 Hascall Hall
  • M 3:00pm - 4:00pm (12 Hascall Hall)
  • F 10:30am - 12:30pm (12 Hascall Hall)
  • BA, Williams College, 1985 cum laude
  • PhD, Northwestern University, 1995

Colgate University

  • Associate Professor of Philosophy, 2001-08
  • University Professor, Core Curriculum: Challenge of Modernity, 2007-08 
  • Assistant Professor of Philosophy, 1994-2001

Hamilton College, Clinton, NY

  • McCullough Visiting Associate Professor in Political Philosophy, 2008-09

University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews, Scotland

  • Fellow, Centre for Ethics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs, Spring 2005

Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, 1989-94

  • Instructor, University College, 1991-94
  • Teaching Assistant, 1989-91
  • Political philosophy
  • Moral theory
  • Applied ethics

Philosophies of patriotism and nationalism, philosophy of education, liberalism. Current research focuses on moral dilemmas, the problem of dirty hands in politics, and the general relationship between public and private morality within liberal democracies.

  • "National Security, Self-Rule, and Democratic Action," The Journal of Ethics 1-22 (2021)
  • "Patriotism and Politics," in Springer Handbook of Patriotism, ed. Mitja Sardoč (2020), 325-46.
  • "Kant was a Racist: Now What?", APA Newsletter on Teaching Philosophy, Spring 2019.
  • "Modus Vivendi as a Global Political Morality," in The Political Theory of Modus Vivendi, ed. John Horton et. al. (Switzerland: Springer, 2018), 149-68
  • "Learning, Judgment, and the Rooted Particular," Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, Volume 11, Issue 3, July 2012, 313-26.
  • Modus Vivendi Liberalism: Theory and Practice, Cambridge University Press (2010)
  • "Joseph Raz and the Contextual Argument for Liberal Perfectionism," in Liberalism: Critical Assessments, vol. III, ed. Geoff Smith (London: Routledge 2003)
  • "Patriotic Gore, Again," in Patriotism, ed. Igor Primoratz (Amherst, NY: Humanity Books, 2002), 121-39
  • "Joseph Raz and the Contextual Argument for Liberal Perfectionism," Ethics 111, no. 3 (April 2001), 493-522
  • ‘‘Michael Oakeshott and the Idea of Liberal Education," Social Theory and Practice 26, no. 3 (Fall 2000), 443-64
  • "Knowing About the Good: A Problem with Anti-Perfectionism," Ethics 110, no. 2 (January 2000), 311-38
  • "The Idea of the National Interest," in The Philosophical Forum XXX, no. 2 (June 1999), 91-114
  • "Private Lives and Public Virtues: The Idea of a Liberal Community," in Canadian Journal of Philosophy 28, no. 4 (December 1998), 557-86.
  • "Hegel and the Idea of Philosophical History," in History of Philosophy Quarterly 15, no. 3 (July 1998), 369-88
  • "Patriotic Gore, Again," in The Southern Journal of Philosophy XXXV, no. 2 (Summer 1997), 203-23
  • "John Locke and the Argument Against Strict Separation," in The Review of Politics 59, no. 2 (Spring 1997), 233-58
  • "Outline for a Defense of an Unreconstructed Liberalism," in The Journal of Social Philosophy 28, no. 3 (Winter 1997), 63-80
  • "New Journals in Political Theory and Related Fields," in Ethics 106, no. 4 (July 1996), 800-816 

Encyclopedia Articles

  • ‘Authority,’ in The International Encyclopedia of Ethics (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013)
  • ‘Political Obligation,’ in The International Encyclopedia of Ethics (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013)

Book Reviews

  • Liberalism for a New Century, ed. Neil Jumonville and Kevin Mattson, and Freedom’s Power, by Paul Starr, inCommonweal, Nov. 9, 2007, 22-4
  • Frontiers of Justice, by Martha Nussbaum, in Commonweal, May 19, 2006, 26-8
  • Torture, ed. Sanford Levinson, in Commonweal, May 6, 2005, 25-7
  • Liberals and Cannibals: The Implications of Diversity, by Steven Lukes, in Ethics, 115, no. 2, 427-30.
  • The Tragedy of Liberalism, by Bert van den Brink, in Ethics, 114, no. 1, 206-8.
  • Alternative Conceptions of Civil Society, ed. Simone Chambers and Will Kymlicka, in Ethics 113, no. 4, 871-3
  • Religion and the Demise of Liberal Rationalism, by J. Judd Owen, in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews,March 2002.03.05 (on-line address: ndpr.icaap.org)
  • Liberal Pluralism, by William Galston, in Commonweal , February 28, 2003, 26-8
  • Sovereign Virtue, by Ronald Dworkin, in Commonweal vol. CXXVII, 22, Dec. 15th, 2000, 21-23
  • Political Theory: Tradition and Diversity, ed. Andrew Vincent, in Ethics 110, no.1 (October 1999), 255
  • The Principles of Representative Government, by Bernard Manin, in Ethics 109, no.2 (January 1999), 484-5
  • Isaiah Berlin, by John Gray, in Ethics 107, no. 4 (July 1997), 763-4
  • Philosophical Arguments, by Charles Taylor, in Cross Currents 47, no. 4 (Winter 1997-8), 558-60
  • The Idea of a Liberal Theory, by David Johnston, in Ethics 106, no. 2 (January 1996), 488-9
  • ‘To the Woodshed’ (review of The Death of Outrage, by William Bennett), in Commonweal CXXV, no. 20 (November 20, 1998), 26-8
  • ‘Leaning on Religion' (review of Michael J. Perry’s The Idea of Human Rights), in Commonweal CXXV, no. 16 (September 25, 1998), 26-7
  • ‘The Value of Freedom’ (review of John Garvey’s What are Freedoms For?, in Commonweal CXXIV, (October 24, 1997), 27-8
  • 'Relativism in Retreat' (review of Seedbeds of Virtue, ed. by Mary Ann Glendon and David Blankenhorn, and Common Values, by Sissela Bok), in Commonweal CXXIII, no. 12 (June 14, 1996), 26-7
  • 'Democracy's Weak Pulse' (review of Jean Bethke Elshtain's Democracy on Trial), in Commonweal CXXII, no. 3 (February 10, 1995), 18-20
  • 'A Philosopher on the Limits of Philosophy' (review of Michael Oakeshott's Morality and Politics in Modern Europe and Religion, Politics, and the Moral Life), in Commonweal CXXI, no. 8 (April 22, 1994), 21-2
  • 'Is Pornography "Free Speech"?' (review of Catharine MacKinnon's Only Words), in Commonweal CXXI, no. 3 (February 11, 1994), 22-3
  • 'Autonomy, Yes; Community, Yes' (review of Yael Tamir's Liberal Nationalism), in Commonweal CXX, no. 10 (May 21, 1993), 28-9
  • ‘Taylor’s Significant Horizons’ (review of Charles Taylor’s The Ethics of Authenticity and Multiculturalism and the Politics of Recognition), in Commonweal CXX, no. 3 (February 12, 1993), 19-20


  • ‘Isaiah Berlin: Understanding, not Mastery’ (discussion of the significance of Berlin’s thought), in Commonweal CXXV, no. 14 (August 14, 1998), 16-7

Papers Presented

  • ‘Dirty Hands and Moral Constraints,’ Invited Lecture, Hamilton College, Clinton, NY, November 12, 2008
  • ‘The Challenge of Illiberal Groups,’ Invited Lecture, University of St. Andrews Departments of Philosophy, St. Andrews, Scotland, May 18, 2005
  • ‘The Challenge for Development Ethics’ (comments on Dan Little’s The Paradox of Wealth and Poverty), Author Meets Critics session, APA Conference on Global Justice, Pasadena, CA, March 28, 2004
  • ‘Mill and the Value of Autonomy’ (comments on Rachael Yokum’s paper ‘John Stuart Mill and the Idea of Positive Liberty’), APA Eastern Division, Boston, MA, December 30, 1999
  • ‘Knowing About the Good: A Problem for Political Liberalism,” APA Pacific Division, Berkeley, CA, April 3, 1999
  • 'The Crisis in Liberal Education: Michael Oakeshott on the Idea of the University,' Colgate University Humanities Colloquium, Hamilton, NY, February 19, 1999
  • ‘Pluralism and the Politics of Well-Being,’ Colgate Philosophy and Religion Department, Hamilton, NY, January 22, 1998
  • ‘Patriotic Gore, Again,’ North American Society for Social Philosophy, De Pere, WI, August 14, 1996
  • 'Liberal Autonomy and the Principle of Equal Respect,' Tennessee Philosophical Association, Nashville, TN, November 11, 1995
  • 'Liberal Education Is Moral Education,' Association for the Philosophy of Education, Boston, MA, December 29, 1994
  • 'Free Speech and Hate Speech: An Inquiry into Campus Speech Codes,' Chapin Residential College of the Humanities, Evanston, IL, May 28, 1992

Academic Administrative Experience

  • Director, Core 152: The Challenge of Modernity, 2007-present.  
  • Oversee curriculum, staffing, and implementation of one part of Colgate’s four-part Core Curriculum
  • Director, Colgate University’s Center for Ethics and World Societies, 2001-02
  • Oversaw $100,000 budget involving guest speakers, curricular development, and academic programming
  • Advisory Board, Colgate’s Peace and Conflict Studies Program, 2006-present
  • Advisory Board; Colgate Institute for Politics, Philosophy, and Economics / Lampert Institute; 2007-present

Along with standard entry-level courses in philosophy, ethics, and applied ethics, a range of upper-level courses and senior seminars:

Upper-level courses 

  • Modern Political Philosophy
  • Contemporary Political Philosophy
  • International Ethics
  • The Social Contract

Senior Seminars 

  • Partiality, Patriotism and the Moral Point of View
  • Post-Enlightenment Political Philosophy
  • Autonomy, Pluralism, and the Human Good
  • Rawls
  • Multiculturalism