Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

Research Student: Joshua Hobbs

Moral Psychology, Political Feasibility, and International Poverty Relief: Psychological Traits as Feasibility Constraints on Poverty Relief Programs

Photo of Joshua Hobbs

Can moral psychology research inform an understanding of the political feasibility of differing international poverty relief programs suggested by political theory?

More than a billion people face severe poverty worldwide. Estimates suggest around 50,000 people die from poverty related causes every day. Some theorists argue the comfortable have onerous duties to address this whilst others suggest barely any exist at all. Similarly, some argue these are matters of justice, others matters of charity.

These debates fail to address feasibility concerns. If an approach is feasible, this recommends it from a practical perspective, as it is easier to implement, and a normative perspective, as transition may involve moral costs, such as coercion, or circumventing democratic processes. Therefore feasibility is relevant to international poverty relief for both practical and normative reasons.

Moral psychology research indicates that individuals in developed countries share a variety of entrenched psychological traits when thinking about moral issues. Most attempts to alleviate world poverty are addressed to these individuals, as potential donors or political actors. I argue we ought to take these traits seriously as feasibility constraints when assessing and constructing accounts of global poverty relief, as accounts that are compatible with these psychological traits are likely to have greater success in motivating action than alternate schemes.

My research has been awarded the POLIS fees and maintenance scholarship.


I graduated from The University of Nottingham with a BA (Hons) in Philosophy in 2007 and obtained a Master’s Degree in Political Theory from The University of Sheffield in 2012. During my time at Sheffield I worked as a volunteer teacher with the Sheffield based outreach program ‘Philosophy in the City’.

I taught English in South Korea for two years, spent a year working in Australia, and some time travelling in Europe, Africa, India, and Asia. I have had a variety of jobs in a variety of countries including working at a game estate, a pawnbrokers, and an avocado farm.

What motivated me to undertake PhD study?

I was motivated to undertake PhD study as I am interested in the subject and what to pursue it further.

What makes me passionate about my subject?

I am interested in the topic of political feasibility as it is closely related to people’s pretheoretical judgments about justice. Similarly, most theories of justice make tacit assumptions concerning what is feasible.

© Copyright Leeds 2016