Cover of Essays in Philosophy
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editor’s introduction
1. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 18 > Issue: 2
Krista Karbowski Thomason Essays in Philosophy: Moral Psychology and War
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2. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 18 > Issue: 2
MaryCatherine McDonald Haunted by a Different Ghost: Re-thinking Moral Injury
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Coined by Jonathan Shay, a clinician who works with combat veterans, the term ‘moral injury’ refers to an injury that occurs when one’s moral beliefs are betrayed. Shay developed the term to capture the shame and guilt of veterans he saw in his clinical practice. Since then, debates about moral injury have centered around the ‘what’ (what kinds of actions count as morally injurious and why?) and the ‘who’ of moral injury (should moral injuries be restricted to the guilt and shame that I feel for what I do? Or is it possible to be morally injured by what I witness?). Clinicians universally acknowledge the challenge of treating moral injuries. I will argue that this is in part because there is an essential piece of the theoretical construct that has been left behind. Namely, when veterans are morally injured, they are not only haunted by what they have done (or failed to do) but also by the specter of a world without morals.
3. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 18 > Issue: 2
Suzanne Dovi Despairing about War: The Democratic Limits of Pessimism
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The realities of modern war provide lots of reasons for pessimism and despair. In this article, I identify ways pessimism cannot only undercut the types of political action needed to end war but also conflict with central democratic norms, e.g. equality and political autonomy. Contrary to the growing literature on pessimism, which stresses its resources for negotiating the moral chaos and disenchantment of modernity, I highlight the democratic costs of relying on pessimism to stop war. To do this, I clarify the meaning of despair, identify two sources of hope, and distinguish three different types of despair.
4. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 18 > Issue: 2
James Rocha Oppositional Courage: The Martial Courage of Refusing to Fight
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In a nearly paradoxical manner, the virtue of martial courage is best understood through violent acts that are typically vicious, such as killing, maiming, and bombing. To ameliorate this worry, I make a new distinction that is dependent on whether the agent acts in accord with social norms (social courage) or against them (oppositional courage). We usually understand martial courage through social courage, where soldiers are courageous through performing violent acts that society determines are necessary. While this understanding is accurate for a just war, violence cannot be virtuous when fighting for an unjust cause. The oppositional form of martial courage involves acting contrary to social norms by refusing to fight on behalf of an unjust cause or in unjust ways. As a virtue, martial courage should include bravely renouncing and resisting unjust wars. In this way, oppositional courage provides a non-violent grounding for martial courage: while martial courage often requires violence, it also requires a vigilant readiness to refuse to be violent when justice requires oppositional courage.
5. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 18 > Issue: 2
Nolen Gertz Military Professionalism and PTSD: On the Need for “Soldier-Artists”
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In part one of this paper I discuss how issues of combatant misconduct and illegality have led military academies to become more focused on professionalism rather than on the tensions between military ethics and military training. In order to interrogate the relationships between training and ethics, between becoming a military professional and being a military professional, between military professionals and society, I turn to the work of Martin Cook, Anthony Hartle, and J. Glenn Gray. In part two I focus on Cook’s analysis of the conflict between the self-understanding and the expected behavior of military professionals. In part three I focus on Hartle’s analysis of how the experience of alienation by military professionals can help to create the culture of military professionals. In part four I introduce a new theory of professionalism based on the existential and phenomenological philosophy of J. Glenn Gray, which can help us to better understand the philosophical and psychological stakes of what it means to become a military professional. I conclude in part five by suggesting that the most pressing issue in the military is not a lack of professionalism, but a lack of trust.
6. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 18 > Issue: 2
Andrew Fiala Moral Injury, Jus Ad Bellum, and Conscientious Refusal
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Although jus in bello violations create transgressive acts that cause moral injury, the primary consideration in thinking about moral injury should be jus ad bellum. If one is fighting in an ad bellum just war, then transgressive acts can be rationalized in a way that allows for consolation. But for morally sensitive combatants engaged in an ad bellum unjust war, consolation is more difficult since there is no way to justify or rationalize morally problematic deeds committed in defense of an unjust cause. Morally serious combatants should consider the question of jus ad bellum as they struggle to deal with moral injury, along with other values such as obedience and loyalty. Such an inquiry can produce further trauma when the justness of the war is called into question. The paper examines moral injury and justice in war, grounding the discussion in concrete examples: the Second World War, the Vietnam War, and the U.S. war in Iraq. It concludes that in a democracy, ordinary citizens should demonstrate solidarity with combatants suffering moral injury, since those combatants serve in wars—even unjust wars—authorized by us and fought in our names.
7. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 18 > Issue: 2
Shannon Fyfe, Amy McKiernan Objective and Subjective Blame after War
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When soldiers come home from war, some experience lingering emotional effects from the choices they were forced to make, and the outcomes of these choices. In this article, we consider the gap between objective assessments of blame and subjective assessments of self-blame, guilt, and shame after war, and we suggest a way of understanding how soldiers can understand their moral responsibility from both of these vantage points. We examine arguments from just war theory regarding the objective moral responsibility of combatants and consider the role moral luck plays in our assessment of moral responsibility. We then use P.F. Strawson’s account of the reactive attitudes to demonstrate the limitations of focusing excessively on the objective stance to determine the blameworthiness of soldiers. We argue that we should think about blame alongside moral emotions like guilt and shame, which will allow us to better understand subjective blame and the experiences of soldiers who blame themselves after war. We claim that objective determinations of heroism or responsibility do not adequately capture the complexity of moral emotions for soldiers returning home after war. As part of a shared moral community, civilians owe veterans more than automated responses based on the civilian experience.
book reviews
8. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 18 > Issue: 2
Ian O’Loughlin Review of Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking, by Daniel C. Dennett
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9. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 18 > Issue: 2
Jacob Caton Review of Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?, by Frans de Waal
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10. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 18 > Issue: 2
Yi Deng Review of Public Reason Confucianism: Democratic Perfectionism and Constitutionalism in East Asia, by Sungmoon Kim
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11. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 18 > Issue: 2
Joshua Kortbein Review of Kafka and Wittgenstein, by Rebecca Schuman
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12. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 18 > Issue: 2
Maximiliano E. Korstanje Book Review of El Miedo en la ciudad de Rio de Janeiro: dos tiempos de una historia. (The Fear in the City of Rio de Janeiro, two times and the same story), by Vera Malaguti Batista
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13. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 18 > Issue: 2
Steve Ross Review of Philosophy Bites Again, by David Edmonds and Nigel Warburton
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editor’s introduction
14. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 18 > Issue: 1
William MacAskill Effective Altruism: Introduction
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15. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 18 > Issue: 1
Alida Liberman Effective altruism and Christianity: possibilities for productive collaboration
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While many Christians accept the claim that giving to support the poor and needy is a core moral and religious obligation, most Christian giving is usually not very efficient in EA terms. In this paper, I explore possibilities for productive collaboration between effective altruists (EAs) and Christian givers. I argue that Christians are obligated from their own perspective to give radically in terms of quantity and scope to alleviate the suffering of the poor and needy. I raise two important potential stumbling blocks for EAChristian collaboration. First, Christians (especially those who believe in an infinite heaven and hell) cannot assess outcomes using a straightforward utilitarian calculus of the sort preferred by many EAs, lest they run into a reductio. Second, Christians will want to give to support aims such as worship and evangelism that are not shared by secular EAs and that are not easily commensurable, making the allocation of giving resources more difficult. I conclude with some tentative suggestions about how Christians who are sympathetic to EA might become more effective in their giving.
16. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 18 > Issue: 1
Andrew Fisher Theory-neutral arguments for “effective animal advocacy”
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17. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 18 > Issue: 1
Gianfranco Pellegrino Effective Altruism and the Altruistic Repugnant Conclusion
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Effective altruism is committed to Altruistic Maximization – the claim that any impact of giving to charities ought to be maximized at the margins and counterfactually. This may lead to counterintuitive or contradictory conclusions in certain cases. For instance, when we can bring about a substantial benefit to few or a tiny benefit to a larger number at the same cost, spreading of benefits across a great number of recipients can compensate substantial loss for fewer people. However, sometimes the perspective of widely spreading tiny benefits instead than giving substantial benefits to small groups is counterintuitive, and repugnantly wrong. Call this the ‘Altruistic Repugnant Conclusion.’ Standard solutions to the Repugnant Conclusion do not work if applied to the Altruistic Repugnant Conclusion. The Altruistic Repugnant Conclusion can be rebutted by giving up on the idea that judgements on such cases should be precise. But imprecision undermines Altruistic Maximization. Hence a dilemma for effective altruists follows: either they accept some strongly counterintuitive judgments—weakening the attractiveness of their position—or they give up on the maximizing requirement, thus admitting sub-optimal contributions.
18. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 18 > Issue: 1
Joshua Kissel Effective Altruism and Anti-Capitalism: An Attempt at Reconciliation
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Leftwing critiques of philanthropy are not new and so it is unsurprising that the Effective Altruism movement, which regards philanthropy as one of its tools, has been a target in recent years. Similarly, some Effective Altruists have regarded anti-capitalist strategy with suspicion. This essay is an attempt at harmonizing Effective Altruism and the anti-capitalism. My attraction to Effective Altruism and anti-capitalism are motivated by the same desire for a better world and so personal consistency demands reconciliation. More importantly however, I think Effective Altruism will be less effective in realizing its own ends insofar as it fails to recognize that capitalism restricts the good we can do. Conversely, insofar as anti-capitalists fail to recognize the similarity in methods which underlie Effective Altruism thinking about the world, it too risks inefficiency or worse, total failure in replacing capitalism with a more humane economic system. I first argue that Effective Altruism and anti-capitalism are compatible in principle by looking at similarities between Effective Altruist theory and some Marxist writing. I then go on to show that the theoretic compatibility can be mirrored in practice. I demonstrate this by considering and replying to objections to anti-capitalism as they might be raised by Effective Altruists and by replying to objections to Effective Altruism as they might be raised by anti-capitalists. I conclude by suggesting that their reconciliation would lead to better outcomes from the perspective of a proponent of either view. In short, an “Anti-Capitalist Effective Altruism” is not just possible, it’s preferable.
19. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 18 > Issue: 1
Kathryn Muyskens The Other Half of Effective Altruism: Selective Asceticism
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What I seek to do in this paper is to reemphasize what I see as the forgotten or neglected other half of the effective altruist equation. Effective altruists need to take seriously the ways in which their actions contribute to systemic inequality and structural violence. Charitable donation is not enough to create a paradigm shift or stop systemic injustice. In tackling systemic injustice, the ascetic response may allow effective altruists to attack the roots of the problem more directly. Further, the cost-benefit analysis and randomized controlled trials favored by the movement can produce distinctly biased perceptions that leave effective altruists blind to the political dimensions of many types of harm. Balancing ascetic approaches to combating suffering may temper the overzealous focus on cost-effective charities and make room for the support of the causes this narrow focus excludes. Ultimately, this paper defends the basic tenets of effective altruism: that we have a duty to reduce suffering in the world and that we should apply our powers of reason in order to make our labors maximally effective.
20. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 18 > Issue: 1
Max Elder, Bob Fischer Focus on Fish: A Call to Effective Altruists
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Effective altruists call us to apply evidence-based reasoning to maximize the effectiveness of charitable giving. In particular, effective altruists assess causes in terms of their scope, neglectedness, and tractability, and then recommend devoting resources to the cause that scores best on these criteria. So far, effective altruists concerned with animal suffering have seen these criteria as supporting interventions that improve the lives of layer hens, and they now seem to think that these criteria support directing efforts toward broilers. In this paper, however, we argue that the effective altruist framework commits animal advocates to focus at least as much attention—if not more—on fish.