Matthew David Hamilton and Mark Fisher, “Opening the Thucydides Trap: A Genealogy of Rise-and-Fall Theory,” International Affairs 100, no. 3 (May 7, 2024): 1189–1206,

Ongoing Research 


In Whose Autonomy? Which Self-Determination?, I seek to separate theories of international justice from the language of self-determination. While it has assisted many legitimate movements for justice, I argue that self-determination misunderstands the ontology of international relations, thereby overlooking and downplaying intrastate and non-state injustices. First, I show how liberal notions of “the consent of the governed” were intentionally and unintentionally fused with nationalist ontologies during the 19th and 20th centuries and illustrate how this historical development creates problems for normative theory today. I then return to and redefine this earlier, liberal notion of consent, for both more conservative and more radical ends. Conservatively, I develop this conception to recognize the real constraints that international actors face: modern Ukraine, for example, shows how states may be forced to choose between subjecting themselves to friendlier or more genocidal international orders. Similarly, state-like actors such as Somaliland or Taiwan illustrate that the supposed right to self-determination depends entirely upon the recognition of other states. More radically, I point this same conception at non- and supra-state actors (e.g., multinational corporations, hegemonic orders) to show how liberal ideals require more robust accountability for the various infrastructures that govern international behavior. I thus push normative theory to investigate and hold accountable the authority of more than just states, and taken together, my theory provides more precise moral evaluation by reflecting the intersubjective nature of international politics and freeing it from solipsistic theories of self-determination. I anticipate finishing the project by May 2025, and my committee includes profs. Joshua Cherniss (chair), Terrence Johnson, Daniel Nexon and Lucia Rafanelli. 

Working Papers

In "A Relational Theory of the State," I challenge conventional accounts of the state that explain state action either by focusing primarily on domestic actors (like political parties or specific government leaders) or appealing to structural factors in the international system. In contrast to these accounts, I center the relational networks from which states emerge to show how states develop in connection to other interstate parties. The various relational milieus that birth a state help explain state behavior by identifying states' international constituents and opposition. 

In  "Laughing to Death," Mark Fisher and I explore Plato's use of humor in the Apology. We aim to recover an Attic understanding of humor that allows us to identify how and why Plato makes Socrates funny as he nears his condemnation to death. Ultimately, we argue that Plato uses humor to reveal how philosophers ought to recognize the limits of human wisdom and respond with laughter and comedy. 

Popular Publications

"How Bonhoeffer Used Spiritual Disciplines to Prepare for Public Action," Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, 07/04/2018