So pleased to be welcoming Avia Pasternak officially as a contributor (and associate editor) to PEA Soup! Avia is a lecturer in political theory in the Department of Government at University of Essex, working on, among other things, collective responsibility and the relation between global justice and democratic theory.
In our last post, we mentioned our partnerships with a variety of excellent journals publishing new work in ethics and political philosophy. In this post, we want to explain ways in which we will try to push the blog to expand in a more informal direction as well, capturing again some of that old time bloggy fun we used to have. We have two proposals.
First off, we (Daves Sobel and Shoemaker) are happy and excited to have received the baton from Dan Boisvert, Josh Glasgow, and Doug Portmore to co-edit PEA Soup for the indefinite future. Thanks so much to D, J, and D for their excellent contributions to the philosophical community via the construction and caretaking of the blog for well-nigh 9 years. We hope not to despoil their legacy. But we aim higher than non-despoilage; we also have several ideas for ways of energizing the blog and expanding its reach, a few of which we will explain in this and a subsequent post.
This is a call for
abstracts for the first annual Workshop
for Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy to be held Oct. 17-20, 2013 in
Tucson, AZ at the Westward Inn Hotel and Resort. Abstracts in all areas of
Political Philosophy are welcome.
submit an abstract, you must first go to the above web page and register. Once
your registration is accepted, you will be able to login at that page and
upload an abstract. Abstracts should not
be e-mailed to the editors. Abstracts of between 250-500 words are due no
later than April 15th . Submission of an abstract will be
taken to imply that the paper is not under submission for publication elsewhere
as well as implying an agreement to include the paper in the resulting volume
of Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy,
if accepted. There is a limit of one submission per person. We expect to be
able to inform those whose papers have been accepted no later than May 15th,
The authors of all accepted abstracts
will be expected to provide drafts of their essays for distribution to the workshop’s
attendees three weeks prior to the workshop, present their ideas at the workshop,
and submit the paper for possible inclusion into the inaugural volume of Oxford
Studies in Political Philosophy by
January 15th, 2014. It is important to note, however, that acceptance
of an abstract for the workshop in no way guarantees that the paper will be
accepted for publication.
workshop is free and open to the public. We regret that we are unable to
provide any financial support for those whose abstracts are accepted
Hope to see you in Tucson,
David Sobel, Peter Vallentyne, and Steve Wall (editors)
Previously I have argued here (and here) that the Self-Ownership views associated with left and right-libertarianism have difficulties stemming from their failure to adequately differentiate serious from unimportant property rights infringements. The self-ownership libertarian (the only kind of libertarian I am here discussing) tends to conclude that we enjoy very strong protection against paternalism or infringing our property rights for the sake of the greater good of others. They tend to reach these conclusions by supposing that our property rights provide strong (if not absolute) protection even against infringements that involve only small or trivial harm to the person whose rights are infringed. This presupposition is what licenses the inference that such actions are quite generally wrong without an investigation into the size of the harm that would be caused by the infringement.
But such powerful protections would make impermissible most pollution or fires as these things cross the border of other people’s property, e.g. their lungs, without permission. I argued earlier (following Nozick and Railton), that when we see this, we see that the above simple path from self-ownership to a vindication of traditional libertarian conclusions is unpromising. Thus the path from self-ownership to traditional libertarian conclusions needs to become more complicated if it is to be plausible.
One obvious way to respond to the challenge would be to distinguish between important property rights and relatively trivial ones and be willing to sell violations of the less important property rights relatively cheaply for social good. That is, the view might provide a theory of value that explains why some property rights are more significant than others by showing that some protect more valuable things and others protect only trivial things.
I want to try to develop an argument against deontological libertarian moral principles that treat a wide range of our basic rights as flowing from morally powerful rights of self-ownership. I am curious how widely this problem afflicts a broader range of deontological views but I will not much pursue that here.
Previously (and following Nozick and Railton) I offered the criticism that such libertarian views have great trouble handing risk. The fear was that such views cannot explain why it is permissible for me to throw a stick for my dog when there is some small chance that the stick would violate the property rights of others. I now think (non-absolutist) libertarians should accept that, whatever amount of social good it takes to justify a property rights violation, they should say that it takes only 10 percent of that amount of good to justify a 10 percent chance of a rights violation. While this perhaps makes our rights more fungible for social good than the libertarian is comfortable with, it seems necessary to explain why we are permitted to fly planes, throw sticks, etc.
Suppose that Sue’s considered opinion was that Joe had all things considered most reason to do one thing. In what sense could Sue, in consistency with that thought, earnestly criticize Joe for failing to do something else? Of course, it could be that Sue thinks that Joe had no good reason to believe that he had good reason to act as he did, despite having most reason to act that way, and so was irrational, given his information, to act as he did. Such a possibility opens the door to the earnest criticism of Joe that he was irrational. But let us ignore such cases. Additionally Sue might criticize Joe with an eye only to the causal upshot of that criticism. She might hope that the criticism would produce a situation that she thinks is better. But here the criticism is less than fully earnest, at least it will be if it misrepresents Sue’s view of what there was most reason for Joe to do. So let us ignore cases where one criticism of the agent misrepresents one’s view of what the agent has most reason to do.
There will be a conference on practical reason in Bowling Green April 7-9. Featured speakers are: Michael Bratman, Stephen Darwall, James Dreier, Elijah Millgram, Peter Railton, Joseph Raz, Michael Smith, and Gary Watson. For details check here: http://www.bgsu.edu/departments/phil/reasonconf/schedule.htm
Consequentialism, many philosophers have claimed, asks too much of us to be a plausible ethical theory. Indeed, consequentialism’s severe demandingness is often claimed to be its chief flaw. I will try to show that consequentialism’s demandingness cannot be the theory’s downfall. I do not here aim to vindicate consequentialism or demonstrate that it is not too demanding. What I think I can show is that the demandingness of consequentialism cannot plausibly be the decisive objection to the view. This is the case because the demandingness objection, in any plausible form, requires that we already reject consequentialism before it can be persuasive. Unless we presuppose an ethically significant distinction between, for example, causing and allowing, or intending and foreseeing, any moral theory that is less demanding than consequentialism will permit us to cause or intend too much to be at all plausible. Thus, key components of consequentialism must already be assumed or argued to be false before the demandingness objection can get a grip. Thus the demandingness objection should not be what persuades us that consequentialism is false. The arguments I use to show this are not new, I borrow them from Shelly Kagan and others,but they are underappreciated and have not been made in the most useful and general way.