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February 17, 2018
Rachel Louise Fredericks
When Wanting the Best Is Bad
first published on February 17, 2018
Here I call attention to a class of desires that I call exclusionary desires. To have an exclusionary desire is to desire something under a description such that, were the desire satisfied, it would be logically impossible for people other than the desiring subject to possess the desired object. Assuming that we are morally responsible for our desires insofar as and because they reflect our evaluative judgments and are in principle subject to rational revision, I argue that we should, morally speaking, alter both social structures and our individual psychologies to minimize, or at least substantially reduce, exclusionary desires.
January 30, 2018
Vida Panitch, L. Chad Horne
Commodification, Inequality, and Kidney Markets
first published on January 30, 2018
People tend to be repulsed by the idea of cash markets in kidneys, but support the trading of kidneys through paired exchanges or chains. We reject anti-commodification accounts of this reaction and offer an egalitarian one. We argue that the morally significant difference between cash markets and kidney chains is that the former allow the wealthy greater access to kidneys, while the latter do not. The only problem with kidney chains is that they do not go far enough in addressing equality concerns, and we show how the introduction of cash payments by the state could remedy this.
January 26, 2018
How Not to Ground Full Moral Status
first published on January 26, 2018
Mental-threshold egalitarianism, well-known examples of which include Jeff McMahan’s two-tiered account of the wrongness of killing and Tom Regan’s theory of animal rights, divides morally considerable beings into equals and unequals on the basis of their individual mental capacities. In this paper, I argue that the line that separates equals from unequals is unavoidably arbitrary and implausibly associates an insignificant difference in empirical reality with a momentous difference in moral status. In response to these objections, McMahan has proposed the introduction of an intermediate moral status. I argue that this move ultimately fails to address the problem. I conclude that, if we are not prepared to give up moral equality, our full and equal moral status must be grounded in a binary property that is not a threshold property. I tentatively suggest that the capacity for phenomenal consciousness is such a property, and a plausible candidate.
January 24, 2018
A Moral Alternative to Defensive War
first published on January 24, 2018
It is widely believed that some wars are just, and that the paradigm case of a just war is a defensive war. A familiar strategy used to justify defensive war is to infer its permissibility from the case of self-defensive killing. I show, however, that the permission to defend oneself does not justify killing, but instead calls for nonviolent resistance. I conclude that on the account of self-defense I develop, the appropriate way to respond to a war of aggression is not by prosecuting a defensive war, but by engaging in a form of nonviolence I call pacific resistance.
January 23, 2018
Dan Demetriou, Bob Fischer
A Rights-based Defense
first published on January 23, 2018
Faced with the choice between supporting industrial plant agriculture and hunting, Tom Regan’s rights view can be plausibly developed in a way that permits a form of hunting we call “dignitarian.” To motivate this claim, we begin by showing how the empirical literature on animal deaths in plant agriculture suggests that a non-trivial amount of hunting would not add to animal harm. We discuss how Tom Regan’s miniride principle appears to morally permit hunting in that case, and we address recent objections by Jason Hanna to environmentally-based culling that may be seen to speak against this conclusion. We then turn to dignity, which is especially salient in scenarios where harm is necessary or justifiable. We situate “dignitarian” hunting within a larger framework of adversarial ethics, and argue that dignitarian hunting gives animals a more dignified death than the alternatives endemic to large-scale plant agriculture, and so is permissible based on the kinds of principles that Regan endorses. Indeed, dignitarian hunting may actually fit better with Regan’s widely endorsed animal rights framework than the practice of many vegans, and should only be rejected if we’re just as willing to condemn supporting conventional plant agriculture.
November 23, 2017
A Liberal Anti-Porn Feminism?
first published on November 23, 2017
In the 1980s and 1990s, attempts were made to create U.S. legislation that would make it possible to sue the makers and distributors of pornography for doing so. One defence of such legislation was and is the free speech argument against pornography. Philosophers Rae Langton, Jennifer Hornsby, and Caroline West have supposed that this argument can function as a liberal defence of the legislation: in particular, a defence based on the value of women’s liberty. I argue that the free speech argument cannot be so used. The legislation is, to some extent, self-defeating insofar as it is understood in terms acceptable to a fairly standard kind of liberal. This becomes apparent when we consider the value pornography can have for women, which we can see if we consider what female makers, distributors, and consumers of pornography have to say about why they make, distribute, and consume it.
November 10, 2017
D. C. Matthew
Racial Injustice, Racial Discrimination, and Racism
How Are They Related?
first published on November 10, 2017
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.
Knowing More than We Can Tell
Virtue, Perception, and Practical Skill
first published on November 10, 2017
‘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.
November 9, 2017
Andrew Jason Cohen
The Harm Principle and Parental Licensing
first published on November 9, 2017
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.
The Intergenerational Original Position
first published on November 9, 2017
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.
November 8, 2017
Hate Speech in Public Discourse
A Pessimistic Defense of Counterspeech
first published on November 8, 2017
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.
November 4, 2017
Carnap, Explication, and Social History
first published on November 4, 2017
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.
November 1, 2017
Just War Theory and the Military Response to Terrorism
first published on November 1, 2017
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.
Resolving the Dilemma of Democratic Informal Politics
first published on November 1, 2017
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.
October 31, 2017
Locke, Simmons, and Consent
A Lawyerly Approach
first published on October 31, 2017
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.
August 10, 2017
Does Corporate Moral Agency Entail Corporate Freedom of Speech?
first published on August 10, 2017
In Citizens United, the Supreme Court held that corporate speech is entitled to the protection of the First Amendment. The Court’s argument was that the First Amendment prohibits the government from suppressing the viewpoint of any speaker on political subjects and that corporations are speakers with their own viewpoints. This argument has been subject to severe criticism on the ground that corporations are not speakers with viewpoints. Contemporary advocates of corporate moral agency argue that corporations possess the three characteristics that are necessary for moral responsibility–autonomy, normative judgment, and the capacity for self-control–and hence, that corporations are “conversable agents” that speak with voices of their own. In this article, I contend that the argument offered by advocates of corporate moral agency both undermines the primary criticism of Citizens United and provides a reason to believe that it is correctly decided.
August 8, 2017
Fetuses, Orphans, and a Famous Violinist
On the Ethics and Politics of Abortion
first published on August 8, 2017
In this paper, I urge feminists to re-center fetal moral status in their theorizing about abortion. I argue that fundamental feminist normative commitments are at odds with efforts to de-emphasize fetal moral status: The feminist commitment to ensuring care for dependents supports surprising conclusions with regard to the ethics of abortion, and the feminist commitment to politicizing the personal has surprising conclusions regarding the politics of abortion. But these feminist insights also support the conclusion that, conditional on fetal moral status, care for unwanted fetuses would be a social obligation that only derivatively falls to women who are unwillingly pregnant.
August 5, 2017
first published on August 5, 2017
The ethics of self-defense is dominated by the Orthodox View, which claims that at least some cases of self-defensive assault are permissible. I defend the radical view that there are no permissible instances of self-defensive assault. My argument proceeds as follows: Every permissible act of self-defensive assault could, in principle, have its permissibility be massively overdetermined. Such ‘super-permissible’ acts of assault are ones in which agents are objectively permitted to perform those acts in morally trivializing or cavalier fashion: that is, agents need not ‘think twice’ about inflicting or permitting harm and are permitted to assault persons as if it were morally insignificant. Yet this is never true, since assaulting persons is always morally serious. It follows that there are no acts of permissible self-defensive assault.
The Conventionalist Challenge to Natural Rights Theory
first published on August 5, 2017
Call the conventionalist challenge to natural rights theory the claim that natural rights theory fails to capture the fact that moral rights are shaped by social and legal convention. While the conventionalist challenge is a natural concern, it is less than clear what this challenge amounts to. This paper aims to develop a clear formulation strong enough to put pressure on the natural rights theorist and precise enough to clarify what an adequate response would require.
What’s So Deviant about Production Deviance?
The Ethics of ‘Withholding Effort’ in the Workplace
first published on August 5, 2017
In the world of human resource management employees who deliberately “withhold effort” on the job are called “production deviants.” The implication is that workers are under a duty to perform as best they can, but why should we accept this? Three answers are presented and interrogated. The first says that employees who withhold effort are guilty of “time-banditry” or theft from their employers. The second says that withholding effort harms one’s colleagues or co-workers. The third suggests that employees owe their employers a debt of gratitude, whose discharge requires that they be as productive as they reasonably can be.
August 4, 2017
Eric R. Boot
Classified Public Whistleblowing
How to Justify a pro tanto Wrong
first published on August 4, 2017
Though whistleblowing is quickly becoming an accepted means of addressing wrongdoing, whistleblower protection laws and the relevant case law are either awkwardly silent, unclear or mutually inconsistent concerning public disclosures of classified government information. I remedy this problem by first arguing that such disclosures constitute a pro tanto wrong as they violate (1) promissory obligations, (2) role obligations and (3) the obligation to respect the democratic allocation of power. However, they may be justified if (1) the information disclosed concerns grave government wrongdoing, (2) alternative channels of disclosure are first exhausted and (3) steps are taken to minimize harm.
Agent and Object
first published on August 4, 2017
If a person has lost all or most of her capacities for agency, how can she be harmed? This paper begins by describing several ways in which a person loses, or never develops, significant capacities of agency. In contrast with other work in this area, the central analyses are not of fetuses, small children, or the cognitively disabled. The central analyses are of victims of mistreatment or oppressive social circumstances. These victims are denuded of their agential capacities, becoming, in an important sense, objects or pseudo-agents. In light of this, the concern of this paper is how further harm to ersatz agents should be understood.
August 3, 2017
Collective Responsibility for Oppression
first published on August 3, 2017
Many contemporary forms of oppression are not primarily the result of formally organized collective action nor are they an unintended outcome of a combination of individual actions. This raises the question of collective responsibility. I argue that we can only determine who is responsible for oppression if we understand oppression as a matter of social practices that create obstacles for social change. This social practice view of oppression enables two insights: First, that there is an unproblematic sense in which groups can bear irreducible collective responsibility for oppression. Second, that there are derived forms of individual responsibility for members of dominant groups.
August 1, 2017
Toleration and Civility
first published on August 1, 2017
Toleration and civility are commonly treated as synonyms. This paper elaborates a novel distinction between the concepts and suggests that the relatively neglected idea of civility may provide a more promising basis for the accommodation of normative diversity in a liberal polity. It argues that liberal regimes of toleration depend for their success on a form of fraternal solidarity among citizens that is unlikely to flourish in conditions of liberal freedom. Regimes of civility, by contrast, depend on a form of liberal friendship that is more congruent with the wider tendencies of a liberal culture.
February 27, 2017
The Core of Oppression
Why Is it Wrong?
first published on February 27, 2017
There are seven general ways to understand the main harm of oppression: (1) political deprivation, (2) economic deprivation, (3) freedom deprivation, (4) social deprivation, (5) psychological harm, (6) the deprived capability to self-develop, or (7) some combination of the former. Though all these suggestions touch upon serious concerns, in this paper I argue that (6) is the most fitting as an explanation for why oppression is wrong.
February 23, 2017
Selecting Immigrants by Skill
A Case of Wrongful Discrimination?
first published on February 23, 2017
It has been suggested that states have no right to directly discriminate against would-be immigrants on grounds of race or sex. However, while the discourse on cases of wrongful discrimination has largely focused on discrimination on grounds of gender, race, and sexual orientation, states frequently engage in discrimination of a different kind when it comes to admissions and naturalisation policies. It is assumed that the anti-discrimination principle does not include cases of talent-based discrimination, and that these fall well within the rights of states. I wish to suggest, to the contrary, that selecting immigrants on the basis of talent is a form of wrongful discrimination. First, with reference to Deborah Hellman’s expressive theory of discrimination, I explain what is wrongful about particular forms of state discrimination between would-be migrants. Next, I tackle the issue of immigrant selection on grounds of talent, which I refer to as ‘talent-based selection’. Unlike gender or race-based selection, it is generally not regarded as wrongful discrimination, for the reason that it does not express disrespect in the same way that sexist or racist selection criteria does. I argue that this assumption is mistaken, as talent-based discrimination does involve the expression of disrespect. In the present context, it has the expressive effect of reproducing demeaning stereotypes about low-skilled foreigners. Finally, I anticipate four objections to my conclusion.
February 19, 2017
Public Reason Can Be Reasonably Rejected
first published on February 19, 2017
Public reason as a political ideal aims to reconcile reasonable disagreement; however, is public reason itself the object of reasonable disagreement? Jonathan Quong, David Estlund, Andrew Lister, and some other philosophers maintain that public reason is beyond reasonable disagreement. I argue this view is untenable. In addition, I consider briefly whether or not two main versions of the public reason principle, namely, the consensus version and the convergence version, need to satisfy their own requirements. My discussion has several important implications for the debate on public reason.
February 17, 2017
Felon Disenfranchisement and Democratic Legitimacy
first published on February 17, 2017
Philosophers have long criticized policies that deny voting rights to convicted felons. However, some have recently turned to democratic theory to defend this practice, arguing that democratic self-determination justifies, or even requires, disenfranchising felons. I review these new arguments, acknowledge their force against existing criticism, and then offer a new critique of disenfranchisement that engages them on their own terms. Using democratic theory’s “all-subjected principle,” I argue that liberal democracies undermine their own legitimacy when they deny the vote to felons and prisoners. I then show how this argument overcomes obstacles that cause problems for other critiques of disenfranchisement.
February 15, 2017
Alberto G. Urquidez
Jorge Garcia and the Ordinary Use of "Racist Belief"
first published on February 15, 2017
Wittgenstein’s “grammatical method” analyzes multiple uses of language across contexts of use, with the aim of identifying differences and dissolving conceptual confusion. This paper uses Wittgenstein’s method to undermine Jorge L. A. Garcia’s volitional account of racism. Garcia claims that his theory accommodates the ordinary use of terms like “racist belief.” However, he did not consider whether such terms might have multiple uses/meanings. My paper identifies three uses of “racist belief” that escape Garcia’s analysis. Consequently, philosophers should take Wittgenstein’s advice to heart: do not assume that target-terms have a single use, but “look and see” whether they do.
February 14, 2017
Anti-Cosmopolitanism and the Motivational Preconditions for Social Justice
first published on February 14, 2017
Abstract: This article reconstructs the political motivation argument against cosmopolitanism, according to which the extension of social justice beyond bounded communities would be motivationally unstable, and thus unjustified. It does so through an analysis of the stability problem, and a reconstruction of the three most prominent anti-cosmopolitan arguments—Rawlsian statism, liberal nationalism, and civic republicanism—as solutions to this problem. It then examines, and rejects, three prominent objections, each denying a different level of the argument. The article concludes that the civic republican version of the argument is the most plausible, and implications for cosmopolitanism are considered.
February 4, 2017
Advantage, Restraint, and the Circumstances of Justice
first published on February 4, 2017
I focus on the mutual advantage conception of justice and on a related Humean argument according to which “the circumstances of justice” obtain only when there is a conflict of ends, a suitable level of scarcity, and rough equality of power. I add to the challenges facing the argument by using a Millian illustration whose significance has not been appreciated in prior discussions of the circumstances of justice to show that, contrary to a key premise of the Humean argument, restraining ground rules concerning entitlement can be mutually advantageous even if there is no conflict of ends or rough equality of power. It follows from my reasoning that, if justice has a place and point when restraining ground rules concerning entitlement would be mutually advantageous, the circumstances of justice can obtain without a conflict of ends or rough equality of power.
February 3, 2017
Problems of Incommensurability
first published on February 3, 2017
This essay discusses implications of incommensurability of values for justified decision-making, ethics and justice. Under particular conditions incommensurability of values causes what might be called ‘incomplete comparability’ of options. Some leading theorists interpret this in terms of ‘imprecise equality’ and ‘imprecise comparability.’ This interpretation is mistaken and conceals the implications of incommensurability for practical and ethical reasoning. The aim of this essay is to show that, in many cases, incommensurability prevents the assignment of determinate weights to competing values. This may have problematic consequences for a complete and impartial justification of decisions concerning conflicting values to the extent that they depend on the need of weighing them.
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