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1. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 46 > Issue: 2
Andrew T. Forcehimes, Luke Semrau Relationship Sensitive Consequentialism Is Regrettable
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Personal relationships matter. Traditional Consequentialism, given its exclusive focus on agent-neutral goodness, struggles to account for this fact. A recent variant of the theory—one incorporating agent-relativity—is thought to succeed where its traditional counterpart fails. Yet, to secure this advantage, the view must take on certain normative and evaluative commitments concerning personal relationships. As a result, the theory permits cases in which agents do as they ought, yet later ought to prefer that they had done otherwise. That a theory allows such cases is a serious defect. We thus conclude that, in terms of how the theories handle personal relationships, agent-relative consequentialism fairs no better than its traditional counterpart.
2. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 46 > Issue: 2
August Gorman Depression’s Threat to Self-Governance
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Much of the literature on impairment to self-governance focuses on cases in which a person either lacks the ability to protect herself from errant urges or cases in which a person lacks the capacity to initiate self-reflective agential processes. This has led to frameworks for thinking about self-governance designed with only the possibility of these sorts of impairments in mind. I challenge this orthodoxy using the case of melancholic depression to show that there is a third way that self-governance can be undermined: an agent may fail to form the desire she most wants to act on.
3. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 46 > Issue: 2
Shane Gronholz Welfare: Does Thinking Make It So?
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According to what I call the judgment view about welfare, a subject S’s life is going well for S only if S judges that S’s life is going well for S. This means that a person’s welfare depends, at least in part, on that person’s own judgment about her welfare. According to this view, it is not possible for a person to have a life that is going well for her if she judges that it is not. In this paper, I challenge this view by showing that there can be cases where a person’s life is going well for her even if she does not judge that it is.
4. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 46 > Issue: 2
Richard L. Lippke Retributivism and Victim Compensation
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Given the desert-centric character of retributive penal theory, it seems odd that its supporters rarely discuss the undeserved losses and suffering of crime victims and the state’s role in responding to them. This asymmetry in the desert-focus of retributive penal theory is examined and the likely arguments in support of it are found wanting. Particular attention is paid to the claim that offenders, rather than the state, should supply compensation to victims. Also, standard retributive accounts of why the deserving should be punished are shown to support state-supplied victim compensation.
5. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 46 > Issue: 2
Nahshon Perez What Are Data Good for Anyway?: A Typology of Usages of Data in Contemporary Political Theory
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This article develops a typology of usages for empirical data in normative theorizing in ‎contemporary political theory. A typology of usages is indicated, providing definitions, ‘names’ and an analysis for each ‎usage, and points to the typical stage within political theory research for each usage. The typology is built in a casuistic methodology. It includes the following categories: (i) Spotlighting, (ii) Definition, ‎‎(iii) Conversion, (iv) Institutional clarity, (v) Theoretical clarity, and (vi) Theory improvement. The typology creates a novel toolbox that can be adopted by political theorists; and it clarifies the methods and achievements of data-sensitive political theory.
6. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 46 > Issue: 2
Tina Rulli Conditional Obligations
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Some obligations are conditional such that act A is morally optional, but if one chooses A, one is required to do act B rather than some other less valuable act C. Such conditional obligations arise frequently in research ethics, in the philosophical literature, and in real life. They are controversial: how does a morally optional act give rise to demanding requirements to do the best? Some think that the fact that a putative obligation has a conditional structure, so defined, is a strike against its being a genuine obligation. I argue that conditional obligations are to be expected in a moral theory that has moral options.
7. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 46 > Issue: 2
Rosa Terlazzo (When) Do Victims Have Duties to Resist Oppression?
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In this article, I first propose four guidelines that follow from understanding the project of assigning victims duties to resist oppression as an ameliorative project. That is, if we understand the project to be motivated by the urgent aim of ending or mitigating the harm that oppression imposes on the oppressed, I argue that we should focus on developing and assigning duties that satisfy what I call the ability, weighting, fairness, and overdemandingness guidelines. Second, I develop the duty to be a non-normative individual, which satisfies all four guidelines.
8. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 46 > Issue: 2
Chad Van Schoelandt Functionalist Justice and Coordination
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This article lays out the “functionalist” view according to which justice is a social technology for adjudicating competing claims, then defends the claim that any functional principles of justice must effectively coordinate the expectations of diverse members of society. From there, it argues that within the functionalist framework there cannot be any adequate conception of justice for society’s basic institutional structure or constitution under conditions of reasonable pluralism. It concludes by discussing the theoretical place of emergent legal and constitutional principles within a functionalist theory.
9. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 46 > Issue: 1
Marc A. Cohen Generalized Trust in Taiwan and (as Evidence for) Hirschman’s doux commerce Thesis
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Data from the World Values Survey shows that generalized trust in Mainland China—trust in out-group members—is very low, but generalized trust in Taiwan is much higher. The present paper argues that positive interactions with out-group members in the context of Taiwan’s export-oriented economy fostered generalized trust—and so explains this difference. This line of argument provides evidence for Albert O. Hirschman’s doux commerce thesis, that market interaction can improve persons and even stabilize the social order. The present paper defends this point by separating two theses that Hirschman combines under that label, a countervailing forces thesis and a doux commerce thesis narrowly understood. These theses offer different explanations (or mechanisms) for how commerce could have those positive effects. The data about Taiwanese trust practices provides evidence for the latter.
10. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 46 > Issue: 1
Mollie Gerver Inferring Consent without Communication
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Some claim that consent requires common knowledge. For a doctor to obtain consent, a doctor must know that her patient has given her permission to perform surgery, and her patient must know the doctor knows that he has given this permission. Some claim that such common knowledge requires communication, and so consent requires communication: the patient must tell the doctor he consents for both to know consent took place, and for both to know the other knows consent took place. I first defend the claim that consent requires common knowledge, responding to recent objections. I then argue that, though consent requires common knowledge, it does not always require communication. It does not require communication when the agent obtaining consent can infer common knowledge based on non-behavioral facts about the world.
11. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 46 > Issue: 1
Tim Heysse Truth in Democratic Politics: An Analysis of Commitments
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This article clarifies the recent epistemic rehabilitation of democracy and adds to it in two respects. First, I point out that the epistemic rehabilitation of democracy identifies an internal connection of democracy with normative truths—but only an external connection with substantial truth and correctness. Second, such an internal connection surfaces when we focus on the place of criticism in democracy. Criticism, however, presupposes pluralism and a recognition of the provisionality of decisions. So I, third, analyse prominent theories of truth and examine what conceptions of pluralism and provisionality they allow. This evokes a view emphasizing the unruly role of truth; criticism introduces a commitment to correctness, and this commitment to correctness underwrites the provisional nature of democratic decisions.
12. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 46 > Issue: 1
Keith Horton Philosophy and Activism: The Epistemic Argument
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In this article I develop and defend what I call the ‘Epistemic Argument for Activism.’ According to this argument, some moral and political philosophers have certain features that give them epistemic advantages when tackling topics such as the moral status of certain practices, policies, and institutions (‘PPIs’). Because of these advantages, when these philosophers study those PPIs carefully they generally develop views about the moral status of those PPIs that have a number of enhanced epistemic properties. And because their views have such enhanced epistemic properties, these philosophers have distinctive, epistemic-based reasons to take activist steps in certain circumstances.
13. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 46 > Issue: 1
Erik Magnusson Can Gestation Ground Parental Rights?
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In law and common-sense morality, it is generally assumed that adults who meet a minimum threshold of parental competency have a presumptive right to parent their biological children. But what is the basis of this right? According to one prominent account, the right to parent one’s biological child is best understood as being grounded in an intimate relationship that develops between babies and their birth parents during the process of gestation. This paper identifies three major problems facing this view—the explanatory, adjudicatory, and theoretical problems—and explains how an alternative autonomy-based account is capable of avoiding them.
14. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 46 > Issue: 1
Joseph Mazor The Case for Citizen Duty
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This article defends a novel type of institutionalized mass deliberation: Citizen Duty. Citizen Duty would legally require every citizen to engage in one day of diverse, moderated political deliberation prior to major elections. This deliberation would realize a variety of benefits, including wiser electoral decisions and a more respectful electoral process, while avoiding the dangers of citizen deliberation. A comparison with jury duty and with non-deliberative alternatives suggests that Citizen Duty’s substantial economic and liberty costs are justified. Finally, an examination of citizen attitudes towards politics and deliberation suggests that Citizen Duty is not as quixotic as it first appears.
15. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 46 > Issue: 1
Andrei Poama Waiving Jury Deliberation: The Humility Argument
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This article argues that, given the current pervasive uncertainty about the reliability of jury deliberation, we ought to treat it with epistemic humility. I further argue that epistemic humility should be expressed and enforced by turning jury deliberation from a mandatory rule of the jury trial to a waivable right of the defendant. I consider two main objections to my argument: the first one concerns the putative self-defeatingness of humility attitudes; the second objection points to the burdensomeness of granting an unconditional jury deliberation waiver to the defendant.
16. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 46 > Issue: 1
Lachlan Montgomery Umbers A Citizens’ Assembly for the Cognitively Disabled
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Most democracies disenfranchise persons with cognitive disabilities. Several democratic theorists have, for a range of reasons, recently argued that such restrictions ought to be abolished. I agree with such arguments. Some, however, have also expressed the hope that enfranchising such persons might give politicians more powerful incentives to attend to such persons’ interests. I argue that such hopes are likely to be disappointed. If we wish to ensure that such persons’ interests are taken seriously in the political process, we must consider reforms of other kinds. After considering several alternatives, I argue for a deliberative solution—a Citizens’ Assembly for the Cognitively Disabled, modeled upon the 2004 British Columbia Citizens’ Assembly on electoral reform.
17. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 46 > Issue: 1
Baldwin Wong Public Reason and Structural Coercion: In Defense of the Coercion Account as the Ground of Public Reason
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Political liberals usually assume the coercion account, which argues that state actions should be publicly justified because they coerce citizens. Recently some critics object this account for it overlooks that some policies are non-coercive but still require public justification. My article argues that, instead of understanding coercion as particular laws or policies, it should be understood as the exercise of collective political power that shapes the basic structure. This revised coercion account explains why those ostensibly non-coercive policies are in fact coercive. Moreover, I argue that the alternative accounts suggested by critics fail, unless they assume the revised coercion account.
18. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 45 > Issue: 4
Amy Berg Incomplete Ideal Theory
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What is the best way to make sustained societal progress over time? Non-ideal theory done on its own faces the problem of second best, but ideal theory seems unable to cope with disagreement about how to make progress. If ideal theory gives up its claims to completeness, then we can use the method of incompletely theorized agreements to make progress over time.
19. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 45 > Issue: 4
Mavis Biss A Kantian Response to the Problem of Reception
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This paper addresses the problem of explaining the relationship between social recognition and justification of moral action, or “the problem of reception.” It is an especially acute and distinctive problem for agents who resist oppression by challenging established norms because action may be necessary even when good reception cannot be expected. I draw on recent work in Kantian ethics that acknowledges the conditions of socially embedded rational agency to argue that moral resisters’ misread actions may count as moral achievements, despite the fact that failed reception may frustrate the realization of moral ends, threaten moral confidence and inhibit rational flourishing.
20. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 45 > Issue: 4
Naima Chahboun Ideal Theory and Action-Guidance: Why We Still Disagree
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This article clarifies the disagreement concerning ideal theory’s action-guiding capacity through the unpacking of two underlying disagreements. The first concerns the threshold for action-guidance on the scales of empirical and normative determinacy; I argue that the dispute between critics and proponents of ideal theory is not about whether ideal principles offer some specific information, but about which information should count as action-guiding. The second concerns the task of normative principles; I argue that the different weight critics and proponents attribute to the risks associated with ideal theory may reflect diverging views on whether principles primarily generate or explain normative judgments.