At the moment, I’m mostly working on my "Habilitation", which has the working title Morals and Non-Ideal Markets. The central idea is to examine non-ideal-but-non-failed markets, as for example the market for kidneys in the US, from a moral perspective. In this market, kidneys are exchanged, but not following the logic of the "ideal market" (impersonal forces of supply and demand coordinated via the price of the good). Still, what we see is anything but a case of market failure. In fact, the market is explicitly designed to operate in this way, i.e. designed to deviate from the ideal market, to be non-ideal in at least one respect (no money is used as a means of facilitating exchange). How are we to evaluate the market for kidneys and similar non-ideal markets from an ethical perspective?

Articles & chapters

  • Mildenberger, C.D. (forthcoming). Spontaneous Disorder. Journal of Institutional Economics.
Abstract: This paper analyses the emergence and persistence of disorder due to bellicose (i.e. ‘conflict-kindling’) institutions. It does so relying on a novel empirical approach, examining the predatory and productive interactions of 400,000 users of a virtual world as well as its institutions. The paper finds that while there are many cases of spontaneous order in that virtual world, and while the users are not more conflict-loving as such, bellicose institutions sanctioning suicidal attacks in a supposedly safe region spontaneously emerged and rigidly persist, thus upholding disorder (i.e. a particularly violent kind of ordered anarchy).

  • Mildenberger, C.D. (forthcoming). Economic Evil and the Other. Revue de philosophie économique.
Abstract: The purpose of this paper is twofold. First, it proposes an idiosyncratically economic definition of evil. An agent performs an economically evil action if he intentionally harms (or causes others to harm) another agent materially, if he likewise materially loses from this action, and if there would have been a materially more rewarding course of action open to him. Second, it argues how we can classify different theories of economic evil and different economically evil actions based on an analysis of the relationship between the harming agent and the harmed Other. Doing so, the essay highlights how one particular kind of economic evil has yet to receive proper attention. This kind of economic evil is characterized by a special relationship of agent and Other. Namely, the agent only cares about the Other as far as the Other’s material payoff is concerned – and only to the extent that he makes sure that it is negative. The paper also cites evidence of such behavior.

  • Mildenberger, C.D. (forthcoming). Expressives, Majoratives, and Ineffability. Kriterion. 31(2). [Open access link]
Abstract: The purpose of this essay is to argue that not all instances of expressive language suffer alike from the problem of descriptive ineffability. Descriptive ineffability refers to the problem that speakers are never fully satisfied when they are asked to paraphrase sentences containing expressive terms such as ‘damn’ using only descriptive terms. It is commonly assumed that descriptive ineffability is an important feature of all kinds of expressive language – derogatory language just as commendatory or valorizing language. However, I find that majoratives, i.e. the positive counterpart to negative expressives (pejoratives), do not exhibit the characteristic of descriptive ineffability. This finding is important both to clarify what kind of data competing theories of expressives have to explain and to shed further light on the wider phenomenon of ineffability.

  • Mildenberger, C.D. (2017). A Liberal Theory of Externalities? Philosophical Studies. DOI 10.1007/s11098-017-0950-1. [Penultimate] [Link]
Abstract: Unlike exploitative exchanges, exchanges featuring externalities have never seemed to pose particular problems to liberal theories of justice. State interference with exchanges featuring externalities seems permissible, like it is for coercive or deceptive exchanges. This is because exchanges featuring negative externalities seem to be clear cases of the two exchanging parties harming a third one via the exchange – and thus of conduct violating the harm principle. This essay aims to put this idea into question. I will argue that exchanges featuring negative externalities are not unjust in this straightforward way, i.e. because they would constitute an instance of wrongfully causing or risking a bodily or material harm. In fact, unless we are subscribing to particularly demanding variants of liberalism – e.g. perfectionist liberalism – or unless we are exclusively focusing on borderline cases of externalities – i.e. of effects of exchanges hardly to be called externalities – there is no liberal theory of how exchanges featuring externalities are unjust.

  • Mildenberger, C.D. (2017). Virtual Killing. Philosophical Studies. 174(1), 185-203. [Penultimate] [Link]
Abstract: Debates that revolve around the topic of morality and fiction rarely explicitly treat virtual worlds like, for example, Second Life. The reason for this disregard cannot be that all users of virtual worlds only do the right thing while online – for they sometimes even virtually kill each other. Is it wrong to kill other people in a virtual world? It depends. This essay analyzes on what it depends, why it is that killing people in a virtual world sometimes is wrong, and how different virtual killings are wrong in different ways. I argue that killing people online is wrong if it is an instance of deliberately and non-consensually evoking disagreeable emotions in others. Establishing this conclusion requires substantial conceptual work, as virtual worlds feature new kinds of fictional agency, particular emotional responses to fiction, and unique ways in which the fiction of the virtual world relates to the wrongness of the killing.

  • Mildenberger, C.D. (2015). Virtual World Order – The Economics and Organization of Virtual Pirates. Public Choice, 164, 401-421. [Penultimate] [Link]
Abstract: This paper investigates the problem of how order may emerge in anarchy using a novel empirical approach. It analyzes the predatory and productive interactions of the 400,000 users of a virtual world. Virtual worlds are computer-created environments that visually mimic physical spaces, where people interact with each other and with virtual objects in manifold ways. Notably, the paper examines the behavior of users acting as virtual pirates. The paper finds that even in a largely anonymous and anarchic virtual world private rules of order mitigate the most destructive forms of conflict. This is true even though the virtual pirates are found to be conflict-loving rather than conflict-averse. Although the costs of conflict are dramatically reduced in virtual worlds, private rules that limit violence spontaneously emerge. An important part of the paper’s contribution is methodological. The analysis of the problem of order in anarchy serves to exemplify the power and usefulness of the new approach.

  • Mildenberger, C.D. (2015). “Games and Evil.” In: Philosophical Perspectives on Play. Ryall, E., Russell, W., & M. MacLean (eds). London: Routledge. [Penultimate] [Link]
Abstract: Many of the activities we engage in are morally undetermined. What I mean by this is that performing these activities might turn out to be either a good thing or a bad thing. Take giving advice as an example. Normally, it seems to be a good thing if we help somebody by giving her some (hopefully well grounded) advice. However, it is also possible to give advice to a mass murderer as to how to kill even more people. This is a very bad thing to do. Thus, giving advice is morally undetermined in the sense that performing this activity we might either be doing a good thing or a bad thing. In this essay, I will put forward the claim that playing a game is an activity which is not entirely morally undetermined. Notably, I shall argue that when we are playing a rule-bound game, we cannot commit evil. Playing a game is an activity that is partly morally determined, as it is impossible to adopt an evil course of action and still be playing the game. The most extreme form of negative behaviour in the moral sphere, namely evil behaviour, is excluded from rule-bound games. This conclusion follows from what it is to play a rule-bound game. It is because of the defining properties of such games that playing a rule-bound game is a special activity from a moral point of view.

  • Mildenberger, C.D. (2014). Das Böse aus Ökonomischer Sicht. Zeitschrift für Wirtschafts- und Unternehmensethik, 15(3), 435-444. [Penultimate] [Link]
Abstract: Wurden im Zuge des Aufstiegs der Verhaltensökonomie vor allem diejenigen menschlichen Eigenschaften beleuchtet, die den Menschen besser als den homo oeconomicus machen, so liefert diese Arbeit das aus normativer Sicht negative Pendant hierzu. Sie beschreibt, wie ökonomische Akteure manchmal zur negativen Seite hin vom Idealtyp des homo oeconomicus abweichen. Der Begriff des Bösen wird hierbei nicht eingeführt, um zu behaupten, dass es objektiv böse Handlungen oder Institutionen gebe. Die Arbeit will mit diesem Begriff auch keine Wertung vornehmen. Er ist als purer Gegenbegriff gedacht: Wenn es allgemein akzeptierte ökonomische Theorien der „Gerechtigkeit“ gibt, so sollte es auch eine Möglichkeit geben, den Begriff des „Bösen“ in der Ökonomie zu verwenden.

  • Mildenberger, C.D. (2013). The Constitutional Political Economy of Virtual Worlds. Constitutional Political Economy, 24(3), 239–264. [Penultimate] [Link]
Abstract: In virtual worlds, a social order able to coordinate the actions of tens of thousands of people emerges in a non-predetermined but designed way. The central puzzle the developers of such worlds have to solve is the same political economists face: to establish a well-functioning set of rules allowing for the thriving of the regulated community. The purpose of this paper is to provide a discussion of the particularities of the constitutional political economy of virtual worlds: their institutions, the prevalent beliefs of the players, and their organizations. The main reason why we should care about doing research on virtual worlds is the huge potential for research in virtual worlds. Virtual worlds present a middle ground in the debate between the greater control of laboratory experiments and the higher external validity of the field. Besides being an important cultural phenomenon per se, they emerge as the researchers’ tool to conduct experiments on a truly social level with tens of thousands of subjects. To show the usefulness of such environments for research in political economy in an exemplary but concrete fashion, the paper also presents some findings difficult to be produced elsewhere: data on an astonishingly high percentage of altruistic behavior in a Hobbesian natural state drawn from a dictator game played online.


  • Mildenberger, C.D. (2016). Commutative Justice. PhD thesis in philosophy, St Andrews: University of St Andrews. [Link]
Abstract: The purpose of thise thesis is to present a conception of commutative justice. Commutative justice is defined as that part of justice in transfer (as opposed to justice in acquisition as well as retributive distributive or distributive rectificatory justice), which deals with transferring goods via market exchanges. Thus, thise thesis examines which conditions a market exchange has to fulfill in order to be called just.
Whereas traditionally speaking conditions like non-coercion or non-deception have received most attention – i.e. conditions focusing on the act of exchanging itself – the thesis’ focus is a different one. It argues that we necessarily also have to take into account the consequences of a certain market exchange in order to judge whether it is truly just. ConsequentlyTherefore, the thesis proceeds to analyze how problematic market outcomes like externalities, the formation of monopolies, violations of the Lockean proviso, inequality, and commodification, and inequality affect the justice of the market exchanges which gave rise to them.
The thesis finds that we need to broaden our conception of commutative justice – but only a little. Whereas the issues of externalities, violations of the Lockean proviso, and inequalities do not affect whether a certain market exchange is just, monopolization and commodification do. In order to be commutatively just, a market exchange must not only fulfill the traditional conditions of non-coercion, non-deception, etc., but it also must not bring about certain forms of monopoly nor further certain kinds of commodification. This conclusion leaves open the idea that, say, inequality or externalities could be relevant to distributive justice if not commutative justice.

  • Mildenberger, C.D. (2013). Economics and Social Conflict. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. [Link]
Abstract: The purpose of this thesis is to provide empirical evidence on the existence of economically evil actions and evil social institutions. Firstly, providing evidence that evil actions and evil institutions exist and matter complements the already existing body of literature on human behavior in economics. Secondly, going beyond this, it is shown that established economic theories are incapable of accounting for some kind of evil actions motivated by what is seemingly a human “taste for harming”; and that the commonly held belief that social institutions that foster conflict will be overcome eventually might be too optimistic: Evil rules persist. Evil actions and evil institutions are phenomena to be considered in their own right. In order to prove these claims, research was conducted in the virtual world of “EVE Online”, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). The advantages and limitations of establishing MMORPGs as a new research environment for the social sciences are presented both theoretically and empirically. Overall, what is found in this thesis is as important as how it was found.

Short pieces
  • Mildenberger, C.D. (2008), “Wie Reflexion uns besser macht”, Index 1-2, 104-105. [Link]
  • Mildenberger, C.D. (2017), "Heimat: Die Erwählung durch Orte", [Link]

Work in progress
  • "Commutative Justice" - book project
  • "A reason to be rational" (philosophy) - under review
  • "Commodification and the Limits of Liberalism" (philosophy) - under review
  • "Comparing contest success functions: evidence from virtual worlds" (economics) - joint work with A. Pietri, in progress
  • "Justice in exchange, equivalency, and markets" (philosophy) - under review
  • "Corporate responsibilization" (business ethics) - revise & resubmit
  • "Purely just procedures?" (philosophy) - under review


  • “Comparing CSFs in virtual worlds”, Workshop in Economics and Conflict, Paris (France), 2015
  • “A reason to be rational”, Postgraduate Session of the Joint Session of the Aristotelian Society & the Mind Association, Cambridge (UK), 2014
  • "Better Money", Universität Düsseldorf (Germany), 2017
"Equivalency, justice in exchange, and markets"
  • Deutscher Kongress für Philosophie, Berlin (Germany), 2017
"Morals and Non-Ideal Markets"
  • Forum Wirtschaftsphilosophie, Berlin (Germany), 2017
"Good grey markets"
  • European Congress of Analytic Philosophy (ECAP 9), Munich (Germany), 2017
"Currency, culture, markets - preconditions and moral status of non-cash markets"
  • Meeting of the Arbeitsgruppe für Wirtschaftsphilosophie und Ethik der DGPhil, St. Gallen (Switzerland), 2017
"A reason to be rational"
  • Deutscher Kongress für Philosophie, Münster (Germany), 2014
  • World Congress of Philosophy, Athens (Greece), 2013
"Virtual killing"
  • Philosophy at Play, Gloucester (UK), 2013
  • 9th International Conference Philosophy of Computer Games, Bergen (Norway), 2013
  • International Association for Computing and Philosophy World Congress, Birmingham (UK), 2012
  • Economic Justice and Political Action, Barcelona (Spain), 2015
  • GAP.9, Jahrestagung Gesellschaft für Philosophie, Osnabrück (Germany), 2015
"Evil economic agents and the other"
  • 2nd International Conference Economic Philosophy, Strasbourg (France), 2014
"Virtual world order"
  • International Society for New Insitutional Economics (ISNIE) Annual Conference, Florence (Italy), 2013
  • International Workshop in Political Economy, Silvaplana (Switzerland), 2012
  • European School of New Institutional Economics (ESNIE), Corsica (France), 2012
"Against Systems"
  • Swiss Society for Quality Management in Health Care, Baden (Switzerland), 2009
"Comparing CSFs in virtual worlds"
  • European Public Choice Society, Annual Meeting, Freiburg (Germany), 2016
  • Association for Public Economic Theory, Annual Meeting, Luxembourg (Luxembourg), 2015

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