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Social Theory and Practice

Volume 43, Issue 4, October 2017

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Displaying: 1-9 of 9 documents

1. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 43 > Issue: 4
Michael Davis Locke, Simmons, and Consent: A Lawyerly Approach
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This paper is primarily a response to John Simmons’s critique of Locke’s consent theory of political obligation (Two Treatises). It seeks to apply ordinary legal reasoning to what Locke actually says about “express consent” and “tacit consent.” The result is a theory both different from the theory commonly attributed to Locke and more plausible. Among the differences is that express consent (“entering political society”) is understood to arise chiefly from seeking to vote (rather than by oath or voting) and tacit consent is understood as a reasonable (but rebuttable) presumption of actual consent. In the course of presenting Simmons’s critique, the paper identifies four commonly accepted criteria of adequacy for theories of moral obligation to obey law or government, noting that Locke’s theory, under its lawyerly interpretation, fails to satisfy any of the four criteria but seems reasonably plausible (for example, in its ability to deal with Simmons’s critique). This is taken to be reason to weaken all four criteria.
2. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 43 > Issue: 4
Seth Mayer Resolving the Dilemma of Democratic Informal Politics
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The way citizens regard and treat one another in everyday life, even when they are not engaged in straightforwardly “political” activities, matters for achieving democratic ideals. This claim provokes an underexamined unease in many. Here I articulate these concerns, which I argue are prompted by the approaches most often associated with these issues. Such theories, like democratic communitarianism, require problematic sorts of unity in everyday social life. To avoid these difficulties, I offer an alternative, called procedural democratic informal politics, which allows democrats to evaluate everyday life without demanding questionable forms of unity within it.
3. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 43 > Issue: 4
Isaac Taylor Just War Theory and the Military Response to Terrorism
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This paper considers whether just war theory needs to be modified to assess the use of military force against terrorist groups. It rejects two existing arguments for doing this (“the contractualist justification” and “the policing model”), and outlines and defends a third (“the consequentialist justification”). Just war theory, it is claimed, is partially designed to bring about certain desirable consequences, and when empirical circumstances change in ways that mean following its principles is less likely to result in those consequences—as when terrorist groups are involved in conflicts—they need to be adjusted.
4. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 43 > Issue: 4
James Pearson Carnap, Explication, and Social History
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A. W. Carus champions Rudolf Carnap’s ideal of explication as a model for liberal political deliberation. Constructing a linguistic framework for discussing social problems, he argues, promotes the resolution of our disputes. To flesh out and assess this proposal, I examine debate about the social institutions of marriage and adoption. Against Carus, I argue that not all citizens would accept the pragmatic principles underlying Carnap’s ideal. Nevertheless, explication may facilitate inquiry in the social sciences and be used to create models that help us to understand past disputes. This latter application reveals explication’s potential for refining the social histories that inform contemporary political discourse.
5. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 43 > Issue: 4
William Hasselberger Knowing More than We Can Tell: Virtue, Perception, and Practical Skill
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‘Skill models’ of ethical virtues offer a promising way of explaining the distinctive kind of ethical knowledge or understanding had by a virtuous person: virtues are akin to practical skills (in carpentry, sailing, musicianship, etc.) in that both are experience-based capacities of agency that yield non-codifiable knowledge of how-to-act-well in particular circumstances. This paper poses a puzzle for skill models of virtue concerning the non-deliberative character of much skillful and virtuous activity, and critiques two opposing ways of responding to the puzzle, reflecting two different skill models—Julia Annas’s intellectualist account and Hubert Dreyfus’s anti-intellectualism. The paper then offers an alternative skill model of virtue that draws on Wittgenstein’s remarks on pre-reflective perceptual discernment, and on a distinction between propositional (discursive) knowledge and a broader form conceptual understanding operative in the phenomenology of skillful agency. This view aims to respect what is true in Annas’s and Dreyfus’s views while avoiding the problems they encounter with non-deliberative action. It also reveals continuities between practical understanding and evaluative appreciation in ethical life and in other skillful activities, as well as important limits to discursive articulacy about these domains.
6. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 43 > Issue: 4
Elizabeth Finneron-Burns The Intergenerational Original Position
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I evaluate the mechanism Rawls uses to elicit his just savings principle. My analysis focuses on his account of membership in the original position because who is in the original position and what they know has important consequences for the rest of Rawls’s theory of intergenerational justice. I consider three options: present time of entry (PTE), actual people from various generations, and all possible people. However, I will argue that Rawls is ultimately not successful since there is no plausible composition of the original position that avoids the non-identity problem and generates acceptable moral principles without logical contradictions or inconsistencies with the rest of his theory of justice.
7. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 43 > Issue: 4
Andrew Jason Cohen The Harm Principle and Parental Licensing
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Hugh LaFollette proposed parental licensing in 1980 (and 2010)—not as a requirement for pregnancy, but for raising a child. If you have a baby, are not licensed, and do not get licensed, the baby would be put up for adoption. Despite the intervention required in an extremely personal area of life, I argue that libertarians—of a certain sort—ought to endorse this. The paper is of general interest as the core of libertarian thinking (as discussed here) is more widely accepted than libertarianism as a whole, accepted by all liberals, though in less strict form. If that is right, they too should endorse parental licensing.
8. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 43 > Issue: 4
Maxime Lepoutre Hate Speech in Public Discourse: A Pessimistic Defense of Counterspeech
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Jeremy Waldron, among others, has forcefully argued that public hate speech assaults the dignity of its targets. Without denying this claim, I contend that it fails to establish that bans, rather than counterspeech, are the appropriate response. By articulating a more refined understanding of counterspeech, I suggest that counterspeech constitutes a better way of blocking hate speech’s dignitarian harm. In turn, I address two objections: according to the first, which draws on contemporary philosophy of language, counterspeech does not block enough hate speech; according to the second, counterspeech blocks too much speech. Although these objections should qualify our optimism regarding counterspeech, I demonstrate that each can be turned, with even greater force, against hate speech bans.
9. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 43 > Issue: 4
D. C. Matthew Racial Injustice, Racial Discrimination, and Racism: How Are They Related?
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Current thinking and talk about race uses ‘racist’ for virtually everything that goes wrong in the domain of race. This paper examines the relationship between racial justice, racial discrimination and racism to argue for a more pluralistic approach to race-related ills. Such an approach provides the tools we need to understand an important if relatively neglected source of racial injustice, and does much to illuminate some race-related disputes. It starts by arguing that racial justice is a surprisingly limited ideal, and then suggests understanding ‘racial discrimination’ in a minimal way. From there it is argued that while racial discrimination is necessary for racial injustice, the same is not true for racism.