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21. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 45 > Issue: 4
Lina Eriksson Social Norms as Signals
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According to the signaling theory of social norms, people comply with social norms in order to signal that they have a low discount rate for future costs and benefits and thereby that they are reliable cooperation partners. But the theory does not take into sufficient account the fact that the signaling value of social norm compliance depends on how many other people that comply, and that the signaling value at high compliance levels (which is typical for social norms) is rather low. Therefore, although signaling can explain some compliance with social norms, it is unlikely to be the main explanation.
22. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 45 > Issue: 4
Michael Huemer Gun Rights as Deontic Constraints
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In earlier work, I argued that gun prohibition is unjustified because it violates an individual right to self-defense. Here, I defend that argument against objections posed by Nicholas Dixon and Jeff McMahan to the effect that the right of citizens to be free from gun violence counterbalances the right of self-defense, and that gun prohibition does not violate the right of self-defense because it renders everyone overall safer.
23. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 45 > Issue: 4
Brian Kogelmann Kant, Rawls, and the Possibility of Autonomy
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One feature of John Rawls’s well-ordered society in both A Theory of Justice (TJ) and Political Liberalism (PL) is that citizens in the well-ordered society, when adhering to the principles of justice governing that society, realize their full autonomy. This notion of full autonomy is explicitly Kantian. This constancy, I shall argue, raises problems. Though the model of the well-ordered society presented in TJ is arguably consistent with Kant’s notion of autonomy, the model of the well-ordered society presented in PL is not. The problem is that in the well-ordered society of PL people’s reasons for complying with the principles of justice are overdetermined in a problematic way. This raises the interesting question of acting from overdetermined motives in Kant’s system of ethics. In this paper I argue that regardless of which plausible interpretation of acting from overdetermined motives we adopt, the prospect of citizens realizing their full autonomy in Rawls’s PL are small. This is a serious defect of the theory.
24. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 45 > Issue: 4
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25. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 45 > Issue: 3
Ben Cross Intolerance and Argument Expression
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Most philosophers seem to think that argument expression is not normally a form of intolerance. Call this the ‘argument-friendly view’ of intolerance. In this article, I argue that the case for the argument-friendly view is much weaker than commonly thought. I consider three possible arguments for the argument-friendly view and conclude that all three fail. This leaves us with a choice: either reject the argument-friendly view, or accept it as a feature of the concept of tolerance which has no rational basis apart from our everyday usage of the term.
26. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 45 > Issue: 3
Joshua Cutts Herbert Marcuse and "False Needs"
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Herbert Marcuse’s claim that people may have superimposed “false needs” (vs. authentic “true needs”) has been criticized by a number of commentators. These critics argue that if all human needs are sociohistorically conditioned, as Marcuse believes, this effectively means that all needs are superimposed on us, and are thus, “false.” I defend Marcuse’s distinction by drawing attention to his expressed definition of false needs as those which perpetuate harm upon satisfaction. Marcuse’s distinction between true and false needs is not a reiteration of the distinction between needs and wants, as his critics claim, but is rather a recognition that in our society, we are forced to need things that ultimately do not lead to our individual (or collective) benefit.
27. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 45 > Issue: 3
Andrew Franklin-Hall What Parents May Teach Their Children
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Many liberals assume that, while children should not be rigidly indoctrinated, parents may raise them according to their own comprehensive values. Matthew Clayton, however, argues that the reasons for embracing antiperfectionism in politics also apply to parental authority. In this paper, I defend the perfectionist conception of childrearing. I claim that we cannot realistically foster a child’s sense of justice without embedding it in a comprehensive doctrine. Furthermore, I argue that since parents cannot avoid bearing some responsibility for their children’s intial orientation to comprehensive doctrines, they are justified in parenting according to their own views of the valuable and true.
28. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 45 > Issue: 3
Johannes Kniess Justice in the Social Distribution of Health
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How should we think, from the point of view of distributive justice, about inequalities in health and longevity? Norman Daniels’s influential account derives a social duty to reduce health inequalities from Rawls’s principle of fair equality of opportunity. This paper criticises Daniels’s approach and offers an alternative. To the extent that the basic structure of society shapes people’s opportunities to be healthy, we ought to think of ‘the social bases of health’ directly as a Rawlsian primary social good. The paper attempts to clarify the correct principle for its distribution, and its relationship to other goods that give rise to considerations of justice.
29. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 45 > Issue: 3
C. M. Melenovsky The Value of a Non-Ideal
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In The Tyranny of the Ideal, Gerald Gaus gives an extended argument on behalf of the “Open Society.” Instead of claiming that it is uniquely best from some privileged moral perspective, he argues for the Open Society by showing why it is acceptable to many perspectives. In this way, Gaus argues for a liberal market-based society in a way that treats deep diversity as a fundamental feature of social life. However, the argument falters at four important points. When taken together, these four problems significantly limit the significance of Gaus’s conclusions.
30. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 45 > Issue: 3
Joseph Metz FOMO and Regret for Non-Doings
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An important but underexplored aspect of our negative agency is that it is fitting to regret only a limited subset of our non-doings even though there are many things that we fail to do. This paper examines why it is ill-fitting to regret certain non-doings, arguing that abilities form the primary constraint on the fittingness of this regret. There are many types of abilities, so a central aim of this paper is to clarify which abilities are relevant to such regret. Finally, virtues and further applications of the proposed ability-based account are explored.
31. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 45 > Issue: 3
Ross Mittiga What’s the Problem with Geo-engineering?
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Many feel a sense of aversion and tragedy about proposals for engineering the climate. Precautionary concerns only partly explain these feelings. For a fuller understanding, we need a thicker conception of the values and ends of political society than “neutralitarian” political theories offer. To this end, I examine how Buddhist and Greek notions of temperance, justice, and freedom bear on the question of geo-engineering. My intention is not to pronounce on whether geo-engineering is morally “right” or “wrong,” but to highlight reasons for thinking it unattractive in a broader sense, thereby strengthening the case for exhausting conventional emissions-reductions options.
32. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 45 > Issue: 2
David Atenasio Blameless Participation in Structural Injustice
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According to Iris Marion Young, a structural injustice occurs when members participating in one or more scheme(s) of social coordination act blamelessly, but the schemes, in combination with norms and background conditions, systematically prevent some from developing their capacities and fulfilling their rights. Because participants are mostly blameless, Young argues that traditional individualist theories of responsibility inadequately address structural injustices. Young instead proposes a social connection theory of responsibility, whereby participants in a structural injustice acquire forward-looking responsibilities to remediate the injustice by organizing, voting, protesting and pressuring institutions. In this paper, I argue that Young’s theory of structural injustice conflates several different moral failings, and that when we correctly disambiguate structural injustices, we can successfully address them with traditional individualist theories of responsibility, both forward-looking and backward-looking.
33. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 45 > Issue: 2
Elizabeth Brake Rebuilding after Disaster: Inequality and the Political Importance of Place
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Liberal egalitarians face unappreciated challenges in explaining why the state should assist citizens in disaster recovery and why the state should ever assist in rebuilding in high-risk areas. Addressing these challenges and justifying state-funded disaster recovery assistance requires invoking the most politically salient aspect of disasters: their tendency to increase social inequality. A liberal egalitarian principle of equal opportunity justifies assistance in recovery, at least for disadvantaged citizens. But further argument is required to show why the state should ever subsidize rebuilding as opposed to relocation, if citizens can have access to equally good opportunities in a low-risk area. I argue that displacement has costs which matter under equal opportunity – but this rationale for disaster recovery extends to other causes of displacement, such as gentrification.
34. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 45 > Issue: 2
Jeffrey Church Liberalism and Meaningfulness: Common Ground in the Perfectionism Debate
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The contemporary debate between perfectionists and anti-perfectionists is at an impasse. This paper does not take sides in this long-standing debate, but finds common ground between both groups in the notion of “meaningfulness,” as developed recently by philosopher Susan Wolf and psychologist Roy Baumeister. This notion is distinct from the good life in that meaningfulness describes formal qualities of a good life, but not its basis and substance. Accordingly, I argue, we can expect far less fundamental disagreement about meaningfulness than about the good life, giving perfectionists a good reason to focus on meaningfulness. In addition, I contend that meaningfulness is a necessary condition for the exercise of our liberty, giving political liberals a good reason to embrace it as well. Finding this common ground, both sides would hold that a legitimate function of government is to foster meaningful options for individual self-determination.
35. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 45 > Issue: 2
Roland Kipke, Markus Rüther Meaning and Morality: Some Considerations on a Difficult Relation
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The debate on how an individual human life can be understood as being more or less meaningful has been pursued for a considerable time now. Despite extensive discussion some important aspects remain under-explored, namely the relation between meaningfulness and morality – even though many authors implicitly assume a connection between these two value dimensions. But how does morality contribute to a meaningful life? Is it a necessary condition? Or is it not necessary but sufficient or contributive? Or is there, when explored further, no connection at all? This article discusses the relation between morality and meaning by outlining the central positions in the debate, explains the main arguments for and against, and offers some indications for future work in the field.
36. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 45 > Issue: 2
Alycia W. LaGuardia-LoBianco Self-Saboteurs and Ethical Relationships
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Common-sense morality tells us we should help our loved ones who suffer. Self-saboteurs complicate this intuition: ought we help someone who wants to suffer? In this paper, I discuss mechanisms of and motivations for self-sabotaging behavior. I then turn to the ethical complications of these cases: the risk of becoming complicit in another’s self-sabotage; the acceptable limits of caring for a self-saboteur; and the permissibility of paternalistic interference. I argue that while there is some permissible leeway involved in meeting another’s needs—including submitting to their low-stakes manipulation—doing so risks damaging the relationship. While paternalistic interference may seem justified, I argue that this approach is a morally problematic denial of the self-saboteur’s agency. Instead, I offer an alternative route between complicity and interference: carers ought to try to maintain a relationship built on the honest recognition of each other’s reasons, which may include the self-saboteur’s legitimate reasons to suffer.
37. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 45 > Issue: 2
Viki Møller Lyngby Pedersen Harm to Self or Others: On Central Non-Paternalistic Arguments
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Opponents of paternalism have sought to formulate non-paternalistic arguments for some seemingly reasonable but apparently paternalistic policies. This article addresses two such non-paternalistic arguments—the public charge argument and the psychic harm argument. The gist of both arguments is that a person’s imprudent or risky behavior often affects the interests of others adversely, and that this justifies restricting his or her behavior in various ways. The article shows that both arguments face important problems. It thus throws serious doubt on the prospect of holding on to apparently sound and well-founded policies whilst at the same time avoiding paternalism.
38. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 45 > Issue: 2
Joseph Tarquin Foulkes Roberts Body Modification Practices and the Medical Monopoly
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The state currently grants the medical profession a monopolistic entitlement on the legal use of medical technology. As physicians are duty bound to not expose people to medically unnecessary harm, individuals who wish to engage in Body Modification Practices are effectively precluded from doing so as only physicians are legally entitled to use medical technology. In this article, I argue this is incompatible with respect for persons. Abolishing the medical monopoly allows us to meet the demands of respect for persons by granting access to technology, whilst still upholding physicians’ right to refuse to provide requested services and thereby determine the boundaries of their profession according to what they consider to be the internal morality of medicine.
39. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 45 > Issue: 1
Robert Huseby Luck Egalitarianism and the Distributive Trilemma: Accepting Exploitation?
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It is generally acknowledged that most accounts of distributive justice face a trilemma pertaining to agents who are badly off, or risk becoming so, due to their own imprudent behavior: If we a) leave such agents to their own devices, some might perish, which is harsh (Harshness). If we b) force such agents to buy insurance, for their own good (or ban certain risky activities), we act paternalistically (Paternalism). If we c) secure sufficiency for such agents by taxing everyone, we exploit the prudent (Exploitation). This paper discusses how luck egalitarianism should handle this trilemma. The view defended is that luck egalitarianism should avoid Harshness and Paternalism, and accept Exploitation, by incorporating a sufficientarian constraint. The paper further shows how this can be done without violating core luck egalitarian commitments. Lastly, the paper asks whether securing sufficiency for the imprudent really amounts to exploitation as such, and whether it is, in any case, unfair.
40. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 45 > Issue: 1
Keith Hyams Risk, Responsibility, and Choice: Why Should Some Choices Justify Disadvantage While Others Don’t?
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Choice-based conceptions of substantive responsibility face a number of powerful counterexamples. In order to avoid some of these counterexamples, it is widely claimed that agents are substantively responsible for disadvantage arising from their choices only when the option set from which they chose satisfied a reasonability criterion. I examine three possible justifications for a reasonability criterion: an agent-responsibility-based motivation, a voluntariness-based motivation, and what I call a ‘denied-claim’-based motivation. In each case, I argue that the putative motivation cannot in fact justify a reasonability condition. I end with some comments on what this result means for choice-based conceptions of substantive responsibility.