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61. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 21
Jeremy Bendik-Keymer Common Humanity and Human Rights
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Many people, often students, appear apathetic because they do not know how to support human rights. In this paper, I explore a question that is part of a larger project helping people think through moral life in the age of human rights. What are appropriate contexts for invoking human rights? I begin with two assumptions: (1) Our sense of common humanity is the source of human rights. (2) There are situations where it seems we should disregard human rights out of common humanity. Reflecting on two examples, I argue there is a class of harms where one should disregard human rights because one intends to be humane. I call this class “harms that exceed right” (HER). I isolate two kinds of such harm: (1) harms against relationship and (2) harms against personhood. I conclude with a general point: human rights application should bear in mind an “adverbial consideration.” How we invoke human rights matters, and human rights should be invoked humanely.
62. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 21
Frank Cunningham The Conflicting Truths of Religion and Democracy
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This paper suggests that the truths of religion and democracy are, respectively, theocracy and moral relativism. Religion tends toward theocracy, the thesis that religiously influenced political norms should trump secular norms. Democracy tends toward moral relativism, the thesis that society lacks agreed upon standards by which the varying and conflicting moral views therein may be adjudicated. The conflict between religion and democracy is thus unavoidable: theocracy insists that any conflict with democracy be decided in favor of the religious principles in question; and the moral relativism engendered by democracy cannot be tolerated by religion. The recommendation is to act in accordance with principles that will ease the conflict by strengthening tendencies counter to the two, namely the principle of chaos (which mitigates the effects of religion) and the principle of order (which serves to mitigate the effects of democracy).
63. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 21
Glen Pettigrove Rights, Reasons, and Religious Conflict: Habermas and Scanlon on the Role of Religion in Public Debate
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The role of religious commitments in John Rawls’s version of political liberalism has drawn frequent criticism. Some of the critics have complained that it fails to respect those with deep religious commitments by excluding explicitly religious reasons from debate about fundamental issues of justice. Others criticize the exclusion of religious reasons on the ground that it is unnecessary. Political liberalism, they argue, can accommodate appeals to religious reasons. For critics of both stripes, Jürgen Habermas and Thomas Scanlon should seem a welcome alternative. They offer ways of justifying claims of justice and of legitimating political arrangements that do not appear to exclude religious reasons at the outset but still yield liberal polities. In this paper, I argue that Habermas’s and Scanlon’s theoretical frameworks are not only open to religious reasons, they require the inclusion of religious reasons in deliberations about the just ordering of public life. I then explain why such an arrangement is desirable. I close with a look at the limits of Habermas’s and Scanlon’s ability to accommodate religiousreasons in public deliberation, suggesting that their improvements on Rawls are smaller than they at first appear.
64. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 21
65. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 21
Eugene Rice Buddhist Compassion as a Foundation for Human Rights
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The basic philosophical question underlying the Asian values debates is whether human rights represent a universal moral concern applicable to humans in every culture or whether they are simply another form of Western imperialism. While most of the philosophical work on this issue has focused on Confucian and Marxist elements, there is a growing interest in tackling the topic from a Buddhist perspective. This paper evaluates Jay Garfield’s attempt to reconcile Buddhist ethics with Western-style human rights. Garfield endeavors to situate rights in a character-based normative theory of ethics grounded in the Buddhist sentiment ofcompassion. After locating Garfield’s account within the general confines of Buddhism, the paper assesses the resulting nature of the rights themselves. Unfortunately, Garfield’s version of rights does not retain the protective character of individual rights, the unique feature which largely explains their ever-increasing employment in the ethical, legal, and political discourse of modern societies.
66. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 21
Alistair M. MacLeod The Right to Vote, Democracy, and the Electoral System
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Under the first-past-the-post electoral system that is still deeply entrenched in such democracies as Canada and the United States, it is not at all uncommon in a provincial, state, or federal election for there to be a striking lack of correspondence between the share of the seats a political party is able to win and its share of the popular vote. From the standpoint of the democratic ideal what is morally unacceptable about this system is that the right to vote it confers on members of the electorate is not a defensible instantiation of the fundamental right citizens have to participate on terms of equality in the collective decision-making processes that help to determine their options in life. Three common attempts by defenders of the system to shield it from this objection are considered and rejected.
67. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 21
Brian M. Stern Immigration Restriction in a Liberal Democracy
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This paper analyzes the case for justifiable immigration restriction in a liberal democratic state. A number of candidates for such justifications have been put forth, but many of them depend for their plausibility on the confirmation of highly disputed empirical evidence. Others are more philosophical in nature, and so are less dependent on, and vulnerable to defeat from, empirical study. These justifications are the focus of this paper. It is first briefly established that justifications for immigration restriction in a liberal democracy must be consistent with the fundamental democratic values of liberty and equality. Two arguments for immigrationrestriction that seem to be founded on these values are then considered, and it is argued that they fail to adequately respect these values that provide their initial appeal.
68. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 21
Joseph Betz Proportionality, Just War Theory, and America’s 2003–2004 War Against Iraq
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Just war theory requires that a nation at war respect proportionality both before it goes to war, jus ad bellum, and in the way it fights a war, jus in bello. To respect proportionality is to know or estimate on good evidence that the whole war and the tactics used in the war will not generate more evil and harm and costs than they will generate good and help and benefits. This paper argues that the 2003–2004 U.S. war on Iraq fails on both counts. It considers, in regard to jus ad bellum, the evils, harms, and costs that the war forces on the Iraqi military and civilians, the American military, and American and non-Iraqi civilians. It considers, under jus in bello, the evils, harms, and costs that the war forces on Iraqi civilians. On the proportionality standards for a just war, this war is a miserable failure.
69. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 21
Ben Dixon Achieving Moral Progress Despite Moral Regress
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Moral progress and some of the conditions under which groups can make it is the focus of this paper. More specifically, I address a problem arising from the use of pluralistic criteria for determining moral progress. Pluralistic criteria can allow for judgments that moral progress has taken place where there is causally related moral regression. Indeed, an otherwise well-argued pluralistic theory put forward by Michelle Moody-Adams allows for such conflicting judgments. I argue, however, that the way in which Moody-Adams handles these conflicts can be made less counterintuitive. Ultimately, I limit the types of moral progress that arise in instances of value conflict. To demonstrate the attractiveness of my revision, I apply it to the content of a symposium on moral progress built around a John Lachs essay.
70. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 21
Jeffrey Paris Rethinking the End of Modernity: Empire, Hyper-Capitalism, and Cyberpunk Dystopias
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This essay is comprised of two unusual pairings—Immanuel Wallerstein with Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri; and Don DeLillo with William Gibson—and a thesis: We live, today, in a period of transition between modernity and postmodernity that is best characterized as what I call hyper-capitalism. The end of modernity, as described both by Wallerstein’s world-systems theory and by the “postmodern” political philosophy of the authors of Empire, does not lead us into postmodernity proper, but into a period of geopolitical chaos. This chaos may be best understood, not only by closing the gap between these variegated social theorists, but also via the dystopic cyberpunk fiction of DeLillo’s Cosmopolis and Gibson’s Pattern Recognition.
71. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 21
John Rowan Preface
72. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 30
Jeff Gauthier Introduction
73. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 30
Shane J. Ralston The Pragmatic Pyramid: John Dewey on Gardening and Food Security
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Despite the minimal attention paid by philosophers to gardening, the activity has a myriad of philosophical implications—aesthetic, ethical, political, and even edible. The same could be said of community food security and struggles for food justice. Two of gardening’s most significant practical benefits are that it generates communal solidarity and provides sustenance for the needy and undernourished during periods of crisis. In the twentieth century, large-scale community gardening in the U.S. and Canada coincided with relief projects during war-time and economic downturn. More recently, small-scale gardening projects have emerged in schools, blighted urban areas, and communities of activists committed to increasing food security and resisting neo-liberal city planning policies. It is therefore surprising that pragmatist philosophers, who typically work at the nexus of theory and practice, have remained relatively silent about the relationship between gardening and food security. If more were to take up the challenge, they would find considerable guidance from several contemporary scholars working in diverse disciplines, from cultural geography to community studies, who explore the topic in a number of non-philosophical, though equally effective and imaginative, ways (e.g., ethnographic and action research). In this paper, I propose a tentative pragmatist model for understanding how gardens make our food system more secure—a model inspired by John Dewey’s writings on school gardening, which I call the pragmatic pyramid.
74. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 30
Sally J. Scholz Women and Whiskey: Conspiratorial Vices
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The pairing of “whiskey” and “women” may at times be seen as an instance of what I call conspiratorial vices. Conspiratorial vices, I argue, are phenomena that, when working together, inform each other in a way that sets their content. Taken individually, the elements of the conspiracy are, at best, ambiguous with regard to their moral status. The conjoining of the concepts yields the status as “vice” and points to something deemed a threat to the social fabric. Through the use of two cases, I examine possible ways that this instance of conspiratorial vice might be seen as a multifaceted political tool that both contributes to oppression and creates a site for resistance.
75. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 30
Elizabeth Sperry Medina on the Social Construction of Agency and Knowledge
76. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 30
Erinn Gilson Vote With Your Fork? Responsibility for Food Justice
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As popular food writers and activists urge consumers to express their social, political, and ethical commitments through their food choices, the imperative to ‘vote with your fork’ has become a common slogan of emerging food movements in the US. I interrogate the conception of responsibility embedded in this dictate, which has become a de facto model for how to comport ourselves ethically with respect to food. I argue that it implicitly endorses a narrow and problematic understanding of responsibility. To contextualize this claim, I utilize Iris Marion Young’s critique of a “liability model” of responsibility to demonstrate that voting with one’s fork is insufficient as model for taking responsibility for food-related injustices. Instead, I suggest that Young’s social connection model of responsibility is best suited for taking stock of responsibility for food and agriculture related injustices since they are structural and systemic ones. I conclude that although consumer choices and purchases may be important dimensions of our conduct with respect to food and eating, imagining responsibility to be centered on this type of conduct—consumer behavior—is detrimental to attempts to develop a more just food system.
77. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 30
Lisa Heldke, Jens Thomsen Two Concepts of Authenticity
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This paper explores two apparently-unrelated forms of authenticity. One, “restaurant authenticity,” is a subcategory of the larger category of authentic objects, focused specifically on food and especially on ethnic cuisines. “Personal authenticity” refers to a set of traits or qualities in oneself. Contrary to appearances, I argue that the two forms of authenticity intertwine in ways that merit thoughtful attentiveness. I suggest that approaching the question of the authenticity of a cuisine with an attitude of flexibility  and responsiveness can, in turn, constitute an activity that cultivates personal authenticity, understood as “wholehearted living.” As Diana Meyers might put it, it is itself a practice of authenticity.
78. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 30
Christopher Lowry Medina and Mill on Epistemic Interaction
79. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 30
Paul B. Thompson The GMO Quandary and What It Means for Social Philosophy
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Agricultural crops developed using the tools of genetic engineering (so-called “GMOs”) have become socially institutionalized in three ways that substantially compromise the inherent potential of plant transformation tools. The first is that when farming depends upon debt finance, farmers find themselves in a competitive situation such that efficiency-enhancing technology fuels a trend of bankruptcy and increasing scale of production. As efficiency increasing tools, GMOs are embedded in controversial processes of social change in rural economies. The United States, at least, has chosen not to undertake policy interventions to slow or reverse this trend. The second institutionalization of GMOs is found in the way that agricultural science has become divided between two camps, one focused on efficiency and total global production, the other focused on maintaining soil and water ecosystems in the face of both population growth and climate change. GMOs have been strongly supported by the first camp and regarded as irrelevant (at best) to the goals of the second. Finally, GMOs have become symbolic markers in the global debate over neoliberal institutions for trade and the protection of intellectual property. While there may be agronomic arguments for favoring GMO technology, the way that it has become situated in each of these social debates insures that it will be subject to strong opposition without regard to its biological risks and potential benefits.
80. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 30
Susan Dieleman Urban Agriculture, the Idyllic Farmer, and Stupid Knowing
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In “Farming Made Her Stupid,” Lisa Heldke suggests that those who inhabit the metrocentric position participate in the marginalization of rural people and farmers through a process of “stupidification.” Rural people and farmers become “stupid,” a status that, on Heldke’s account, is worse than ignorant because “stupid people” are thought to be constitutionally incapable of knowing the right sorts of things (urban things) because they know the wrong sorts of things (rural things). It seems reasonable, I suggest in this paper, to think that contemporary urban agriculture movements can serve to mitigate the harms which Heldke argues arise from practices of stupidification. However, I argue that, insofar as such movements rely on and perpetuate the image of the Idyllic Farmer—an image constituted by early, romantic versions of agrarianism—they cannot serve this function. This is because the Idyllic Farmer, which is to agricultural ethics as the Ecological Indian is to environmental ethics, is both descriptively and prescriptively problematic. As such, any urban agricultural movement that takes this image as its guide—which, I argue, some important elements of the movement do—will not help to undermine stupidification and the harms it causes.