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articles
1. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 27 > Issue: 1
José-Antonio Orosco, Lark Sontag, Zara Stevens, Taine Duncan Special Section: Anarres Project for Alternative Futures Collection
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This article contains four essays from the Anarres Project, a forum for conversations, ideas, and initiatives that promote a future free of domination, exploitation, oppression, war, and empire. In the spirit of philosophy in the contemporary world, the selection includes recent work on the pandemic and related struggles for justice in the past year. An introduction to the project is included.
2. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 27 > Issue: 1
Becky Vartabedian Guests in the Out-Side: Becoming, Knowing, and Acting in Jane Bennett’s Vital Materialism
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Jane Bennett’s vital materialism develops positive ontological commitments to lively matter and resistant vitality, articulated using notions of actant and assemblage, thing-power and the out-side. I show that these ontological commitments reveal a limit for traditional modes of human knowing, favoring an emergent epistemology that attends to the ways actants and assemblages express themselves. I then argue for an account of acting that positions humans as guests of vibrant matter. Compacts of guest-friendship in Plato’s Crito and Kant’s To Perpetual Peace indicate that to be a guest is to be embedded in an asymmetrical system. The compact that binds the guest in a world of vibrant matter is the prospect of friendship with nonhuman others, a prospect I discuss following the work of Nick Bingham. I conclude by addressing Axelle Karera’s recent critique of Anthropocenean discourses, explaining the role guest-friendship can play in addressing certain of the weaknesses Karera identifies.
3. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 27 > Issue: 1
Elizabeth Lanphier Friends and Citizens in Plato’s Crito: A Revisionary Relational Reading
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I propose a revisionary reading of Plato’s Crito focusing on the dramatic rendering of the friendship between Crito and Socrates, which I argue affords a model for political participation in a social contract. Their friendship models how citizens can come to be conventionally related to one another, and how they should treat one another internal to that relationship. This approach is apt for contemporary democratic theory, perhaps more so than standard interpretations of the political theory traditionally mined from the text, rather than drama, of the Crito. My account moves beyond questions of civility in deliberative democratic politics and deepens an account of how and why we ought to regard those with whom we disagree, but to whom we have nonetheless quasi-voluntarily bound ourselves within the same project of democracy. Friendship also addresses regard for those who have not previously received equal consideration within a putatively democratic social contract.
4. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 27 > Issue: 1
Seth Mayer Mass Deliberative Democracy and Criminal Justice Reform: Beyond Democratic Communitarian Localism
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The American criminal justice system falls far short of democratic ideals. In response, democratic communitarian localism proposes a more decentralized system with a greater emphasis on local control. This approach aims to deconcentrate power and remove bureaucracy, arguing local control would reflect informal cultural life better than our current system. This view fails to adequately address localized domination, however, including in the background culture of society. As a result, it underplays the need for transformative, democratizing change. Rejecting communitarian localism, I defend a mass deliberative democratic approach to criminal justice reform that relies on institutions outside localities to democratize local institutions and background cultural patterns. Nonetheless, local institutions must be empowered to exert democratic control, as well as to influence institutions outside the locality. This process of democratic co-development offers greater hope for political equality, non-domination, and inclusive democratic deliberation about criminal law than democratic communitarian localism.
book reviews
5. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 27 > Issue: 1
H. A. Nethery IV Echeverría, Bolívar. Modernity and “Whiteness”
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articles
6. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 26 > Issue: 1/2
Sharyn Clough Using Values as Evidence When There’s Evidence for Your Values
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I have argued that political values are beliefs informed, more or less well, by the evidence of experience and that, where relevant and well-supported by evidence, the inclusion of political values in scientific theorizing can increase the objectivity of research (e.g., Clough 2003, 2004, 2011). The position I endorse has been called the “values-as-evidence” approach (Goldenberg 2013). In this essay I respond to three kinds of resistance to this approach, using examples of feminist political values. Solomon (2012) questions whether values are beliefs that can be tested, Alcoff (2006) argues that even if our values are beliefs that can be tested, testing them might not be desirable because doing so assigns these important values a contingency that weakens their normative force, and Yap (2016) argues that the approach is too idealistic in its articulation of the role of evidence in our political deliberations. In response, I discuss the ways that values can be tested, I analyze the evidential strength of feminist values in science, and I argue that the evidence-based nature of these values is neither a weakness nor an idealization. Problems with political values affecting science properly concern the dogmatic ways that evaluative beliefs are sometimes held—a problem that arises with dogmatism toward descriptive beliefs as well. I conclude that scientists, as with the rest of us, ought to adopt a pragmatically-inclined appreciation of the fallible, inductive process by which we gather evidence in support of any of our beliefs, whether they are described as evaluative or descriptive.
7. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 26 > Issue: 1/2
James B. Gould Covid 19, Disability, and the Ethics of Distributing Scarce Resources
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The Covid-19 pandemic provides a real-world context for evaluating the fairness of disability-based rationing of scarce medical resources. I discuss three situations clinicians may face: rationing based on disability itself; rationing based on inevitable disability-related comorbidities; and rationing based on preventable disability-related comorbidities. I defend three conclusions. First, in a just distribution, extraneous factors do not influence a person’s share. This rules out rationing based on disability alone, where no comorbidities decrease a person’s capacity to benefit from treatment. Second, in a just distribution, undeserved luck does not influence a person’s share. This rules out rationing for biologically caused comorbidities that decrease capacity to benefit. Third, in a just distribution, social injustice does not influence a person’s share. This rules out rationing for socially caused comorbidities that decrease capacity to benefit.
8. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 26 > Issue: 1/2
Charles Harvey Insatiable: Why Everything is not Enough
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In this essay, I argue that the deepest roots of Homo sapiens’ propensity towards excessive consumption lie in the emptiness of human awareness, itself possibly rooted in brain plasticity. I attempt to demonstrate how this insight emerged and appeared repeatedly throughout the history of philosophy and religious thought and how industrialized capitalism and consumer culture led to the current domination and envelopment of our lives by the “commodity canopy.” In the final section of the paper, I envision one way that contemporary humanity might use the history of insights about empty, restless awareness and brain plasticity to develop cultures that focus more on doing than having, more on events than on objects.
9. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 26 > Issue: 1/2
Lawrence Quill Should A.I. Be Your Therapist?
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Recent advances in Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) and their application within the field of mental health provision raise issues that cross social, economic, and philosophical boundaries. While Therapeutic A.I. promises to disrupt the current provision of mental health services to reach populations without access to adequate mental health care there are risks. This paper addresses the philosophical problems posed by Therapeutic A.I. I suggest that in the absence of legal guidelines there is a need for philosophical guidance that prioritizes the dignity of clients/consumers. To that end, I advance Rosen’s (2012) concept of dignity-as-respectfulness as the most appropriate philosophical principle to guide the application of Therapeutic A.I.
10. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 26 > Issue: 1/2
Joshua M. Hall iZombie Cyborg Dancers: Rechoreographing Smartphone Abusers
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Compulsive smartphone users’ psyches, today, are increasingly directed away from their bodies and onto their devices. This phenomenon has now entered our global vocabulary as “smartphone zombies,” or what I will call “iZombies.” Given the importance of mind to virtually all conceptions of human identity, these compulsive users could thus be productively understood as a kind of human-machine hybrid entity, the cyborg. Assuming for the sake of argument that this hybridization is at worst axiologically neutral, I will construct a kind of phenomenological psychological profile of the type of cyborg which engages in these patterns of behavior. I follow Judith Butler in seeing this identity as the result of performance practices, which as such can be modified or replaced using other performances. Pursing one such alternative, I compose a dancing critique that “reverse engineers” the choreographies implied by these cyborgs’ survival practices. The upshot of this critique is that their movement patterns do indeed align closely to those of horror cinema’s zombies. I therefore conclude by suggesting a few possible choreographic imperatives to facilitate more enabling ways of being for iZombie cyborgs today.
2020 graduate student prize article
11. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 26 > Issue: 1/2
Grace Goh Rethinking Belonging in a Globalized World: Home(s) in Morrison and Lugones
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book reviews
12. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 26 > Issue: 1/2
Brian Hisao Onishi George Yancy. Across Black Spaces: Essays and Interviews from an American Philosopher (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2020). Kindle Edition
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articles
13. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 25 > Issue: 2
Robert Paul Churchill An Introduction to Honor Killing and Women in the Crossfire
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14. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 25 > Issue: 2
Christian Matheis “Transformations of Shame and Honor: Ideology, Diagnostics, and Liberation from State Interests”: A response to Robert Paul Churchill’s Women in the Crossfire: Understanding and Ending Honor Killings
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15. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 25 > Issue: 2
Candice L. Shelby A Complex Adaptive Systems Approach to Understanding the Honor Killer: Comments on Robert Paul Churchill’s Women in the Crossfire: Understanding and Ending Honor Killing
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16. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 25 > Issue: 2
James Snow Women in the Crossfire: A Reply to Robert Paul Churchill
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17. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 25 > Issue: 2
Robert Paul Churchill Response to My Critics
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18. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 25 > Issue: 2
Eddy Souffrant Some Approaches to an Ethics for Disaster
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We have witnessed, and in some instance from afar, disasters of all sorts that span the globe from the Caribbean, South and North America, Asia, to Australia and other affected regions of the world. Some of these destabilizing and at times fatal events have resulted in lives lost, forced migration, and a restructuring of the physical, social and economic architecture of the affected parts of the globe. Further, the disasters as massive restructuring of the physical and psychological status quo are at times human made and at others, natural.
19. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 25 > Issue: 2
Karen Lancaster The Robotic Touch: Why There is No Good Reason to Prefer Human Nurses to Carebots
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An elderly patient in a care home only wants human nurses to provide her care – not robots. If she selected her carers based on skin colour, it would be seen as racist and morally objectionable, but is choosing a human nurse instead of a robot also morally objectionable and speciesist? A plausible response is that it is not, because humans provide a better standard of care than robots do, making such a choice justifiable. In this paper, I show why this response is incorrect, because robots can theoretically care as well as human nurses can. I differentiate between practical caring and emotional caring, and I argue that robots can match the standard of practical care given by human nurses, and they can simulate emotional care. There is growing evidence that people respond positively to robotic creatures and carebots, and AI software is apt to emotionally support patients in spite of the machine’s own lack of emotions. I make the case that the appearance of emotional care is sufficient, and need not be linked to emotional states within the robot. After all, human nurses undoubtedly ‘fake’ emotional care and compassion sometimes, yet their patients still feel adequately cared for. I show that it is a mistake to claim that ‘the human touch’ is in itself a contributor to a higher standard of care; ‘the robotic touch’ will suffice. Nevertheless, it is not speciesist to favour human nurses over carebots, because carebots do not (currently) suffer as the result of such a choice.
20. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 25 > Issue: 1
James Rocha Environmental Racism and Privileged Consumerism
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Environmental racism concerns the ways in which environmental protections are unfairly distributed along racial lines. One outcome of environmental racism is that environmental degradation does not harm us all equally, with oppressed racial groups facing greater burdens. Consequently, members of privileged groups can more comfortably engage in environmentally destructive consumerism because they will neither initially nor primarily face the worst impact from environmental destruction. I will argue that the ability to feel comfortable while engaging in environmentally destructive consumerism is a form of racism, and that this racism strengthens the blameworthiness of such privileged consumerism.