Levente (Lev) Szentkirályi† is a Political Science Ph.D. candidate at the University of Colorado-Boulder, an award-winning instructor (GPTI) with the Program for Writing and Rhetoric, and a recent recipient of the Faculty Fellows in Community-Based Learning grant. His primary research bridges normative political theory with environmental policy, engaging questions of environmental justice. Lev’s dissertation project on the ethics of risk and environmental risk regulation, e.g., examines the moral problem of releasing substances into the environment whose health effects are scientifically unverified and whose probability of injuring others cannot be calculated. In brief, Lev develops a broadly Kantian argument that we have a duty to exercise due care (precaution) under conditions of uncertainty, and that failing to take reasonable measures to prevent exposing others to potential injury constitutes wrongdoing for which we are morally culpable. For this disregard violates the equal moral standing of those who may be exposed to the uncertain threats we create, and wrongfully gambles with their welfare. This challenges existing theories in the ethics of risk and arguments from moral luck, which assert that when uncertainty obtains—when we cannot reasonably foresee harm to others—the indeterminate threats we create are morally permissible or excusable.
His dissertation project has direct implications on issues of human rights, food justice, and climate ethics. For instance, Lev’s current work on food justice complicates existing debates over protecting the human right to food and eliminating food insecurity, by arguing that a right to basic sustenance implies a right to food that is safe to eat! Yet, in the food deserts of poorer, urban, and predominately racial minority communities, healthy alternatives free of synthetic pesticides, preservatives, additives, and GMOs—many of which pose uncertain threats to public health—are generally unavailable. Thus, he argues that championing a meaningful human right to food requires that we safeguard the rights of vulnerable populations against inequitable exposure to these uncertain threats of environmental harm.
Lev also has substantive research interests and teaching experience in international relations. He is concerned, e.g., with better understanding why third-party states intervene militarily on behalf of rebel groups, how the international community judges which revolutions are legitimate challenges to state authority, and what the normative merits and limits are of resorting to revolutionary violence in self-defense.
† pronounced: sěnt-kē-rŏ-yē :: “sent-key-rah-yee”