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Social Philosophy Today

Volume 22, 2006
Science, Technology, and Social Justice

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Displaying: 1-20 of 21 documents

1. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 22
John Rowan Preface
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2. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 22
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part i: science
3. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 22
Sandra Harding Modernity, Science, and Democracy
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Thinking about Western sciences has always also meant making assumptions about modernity and about democratic social relations. Yet in recent decades the standard meanings and referents of all three of these terms—”Western sciences,” “modernity,” and “democratic social relations”—have come under skeptical scrutiny. This essay will look at three critics of modernity who also examine the political practices and consequences of Western sciences. All three also think postmodernisms to be valuable but merely symptomologies without useful prescriptions for change, and they all propose specific strategies for transforming modern sciences into ones that are empirically more effective and politically more accountable. These are Bruno Latour, Ulrich Beck, and Ashis Nandy. Yet these otherwise valuable accounts each have serious shortcomings which create obstacles to the intellectual and political success of their projects. Here I focus on one such limitation: their blindness to the gendering of science and of modernity.
4. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 22
Martin Gunderson Human Rights, Dignity, and the Science of Genetic Engineering
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In the past decade several international declarations have called for banning reproductive non-therapeutic and germ-line engineering. Article 11 of UNESCO’s Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights states that practices that are contrary to human dignity such as cloning of human beings should not be permitted. Article 12 of the same declaration restricts genetic applications to the relief from suffering and the improvement of health. The European Council has also taken a strong stand on germ-line genetic engineering in general and cloning in particular. Article 13 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Dignity of the Human Being with regard to the Application of Biology and Medicine: Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine simply forbidsgerm-line engineering except for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes. The convention along with its explanatory report make it clear that the rationale for the decision is based, in large part, on the need to protect the dignity of persons.Several notions of dignity have been advanced to support bans on non-therapeutic germ-line engineering. I argue that they fail to provide a rationale for such a ban. I consider both secular and religious views of human dignity. In addition, I argue that there are forms of germ-line and non-therapeutic engineering that are compatible with human rights.
5. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 22
Matthew R. Silliman Two Cheers for Reductionism
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This imagined conversation between Sir Isaac Newton and the priestess Diotima (from Plato’s Symposium) examines the possible merits of reductionism in scientific inquiry, finding it of value both as a methodology for the simplification of scientific explanations and for the decisive elimination of metaphysically extravagant scientific hypotheses. However, the power and narrative appeal of reductionism renders its overuse a perennial danger. Science thus needs reductionism, but also needs reminding that its task is to explain natural phenomena, not to explain them away.
part ii: technology
6. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 22
Carol C. Gould Global Democratic Transformation and the Internet
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This paper begins with two cases pertaining to the internet in an effort to identify some of the difficult normative issues and some of the new directions in using the Internet to facilitate democratic participation, particularly in transnational contexts. Can the Internet be used in ways that advance democracy globally both within nation-states that lack it and in newly transnational ways? Can it contribute to strengthening not only democratic procedures of majority rule, periodic elections, and representation, but also more substantive forms of deliberative democracy? And specifically, which directions are to be encouraged and on what normative basis? Or, instead, is the Internet to become ever more a means for facilitating commercial sales, corporate control, or government surveillance? This sort of normative account, while not addressing public policy questions directly, suggests a framework within which, I would argue, such policy questions can be helpfully considered.
7. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 22
Drew Pierce Toward a Critique of Systematically Distorting Communication Technology: Habermas, Baudrillard, and Mass Media
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Since seminal essays like Adorno’s ‘The Culture Industry’ and Benjamin’s ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,’ the mass media has been of central concern for Critical Theory. Yet Critical Theorists have produced relatively little in the way of systematic analysis of the concrete institutions of mass communication. Early on, Habermas seemed to be headed in this direction, especially with the publication of The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. However, in Habermas’s later years, this concern is eclipsed, on the one hand by an ideal theory of communication which says relatively little about non-ideal institutions that “systematically distort” communication, and on the other hand by an increasing focus on properly “political” institutions and the formal structure of law, exemplified by his later work Between Facts and Norms. In this essay, I will show how the colonization of public space by private interests, via technological media, remains sorely under-theorized in Habermas’s work, and that this is not just a peripheral oversight but a central problem that Habermas fails to resolve. I will then give some preliminary suggestions as to how one might expand and develop the critique of systematically distorted communication in more fruitful directions by developing the idea of a politics of meaning. My argument is located within the extensive discussion generated by the relatively recent translation of The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere into English, which has produced many useful and important criticisms.
8. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 22
Johann A. Klaassen Contemporary Biotechnology and the New “Green Revolution”: Feeding the World with “Frankenfoods”?
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Both the Green Revolution and GE foods have come under persistent attack by social philosophers, environmentalists, and other commentators, who argue that these technologies should be banned. In this essay, I examine five of the most common arguments for banning further development of GE crops, and show how they effectively reduce to two: distress at blurred boundaries, and hazards of a new technology. I will also show that both of these arguments can be addressed and defused—and so we can use “Frankenfoods” to help feed the world.
part iii: social justice
9. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 22
William L. McBride The End of Liberal Democracy as We Have Known It?
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This paper takes aim at contemporary conceptions of liberal democracy and the accompanying loss of faith with liberal democratic theory which may be observed. There exist problems with procedure, outcomes, and the decline of universality in the face of liberal nationalism which only serve to reinforce boundaries. The clearest cases of these problems have arisen in the United States over the past few years, and especially since the events of September 11, 2001.
10. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 22
Joseph Betz The Definition of Torture
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The conventional dictionary definition of a term is important to the citizen and soldier obeying laws and judging actions that might fall under the term. The “Convention Against Torture” is both binding U.S. law and gives a clear, conventional definition of torture. But the Bush Administration’s standards for interrogating foreign detainees, originating from the Attorney General’s office, failed to respect the prohibitions of torture in the Convention and two other important international human rights documents. I criticize these standards on seven grounds. The directives from President Bush and his Administration thus ordered or allowed most of the terrible recent tortures of Afghanis and Iraqis at Bagram Air Force Base, Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib prisons.
11. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 22
Jean Harvey The Burden of Securing Social Justice: Institutions, Individuals, and Moral Action
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It is a commonsense view held by many citizens in democratic nations that whether or not a society is socially just depends on the nature of these major institutions and their functioning. On this view, social justice is so to with what philosophers have referred to as “realized, rather than abstract, institutions,” rather than, say, individual character or actions. I will examine one sensible sounding argument in support of this view, which I will call “The Effects Argument.” It is deceptively simple in appearance and based on the claim that major social institutions have profound effects on the lives of individuals, effects that are far more significant and far-reaching than those typically brought about by individual action. Because of this vast potential, securing social justice means focusing on such major social institutions and on how they function. In short, social justice is the business and responsibility of those major institutions. Examining this argument, however, provides support for a wider vision of what is involved in achieving social justice and raises concern about the diminishing role of the individual in much of contemporary writings on social justice. Paradoxically, citizens in democratic states are especially in danger of expecting major social institutions to carry a loadthey cannot successfully bear.
12. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 22
Wade Roberts Autonomy, Pluralism and the Future of the Species: Agar and Habermas on Liberal Eugenics
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The present essay tries to address certain questions arising from the conjunction of biological and political issues by entering into the debate surrounding what Nicolas Agar has called “liberal eugenics.”1 The advocates of liberal eugenics argue for the moral validity of both ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ eugenics: genetic interventions which target the prevention of diseases are ‘negative’ while ‘positive’ interventions ‘enhance’ the hereditary capacities of future persons. But is there a necessary contradiction, or at least pronounced tension, between the liberal eugenicist’s emphasis on parental choice in the realm of genetic decision-makingand liberal principles, such as pluralism and autonomy? If so, why? In this paper, I examine Agar’s defense of liberal eugenics. I then discuss the criticisms raised by Jurgen Habermas in “The Debate on the Ethical Self-Understanding of the Species,” concluding that it is necessary to pursue a cautious strategy in the utilization of genetic technologies.
13. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 22
Roger Foster Rethinking the Critique of Instrumental Reason
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My paper argues that Jürgen Habermas’s transformation of critical social theory seriously weakens the potential of the concept of instrumental reason as a tool of social critique. I defend the central role of the concept of instrumental reason in both i) the critique of social injustice, and ii) the diagnosis of pathologies of meaning stemming from cultural modernization. However, I argue that the root of these problems cannot come into view from within the Habermasian paradigm. Contra Habermas, I argue that the problem of a ‘loss of freedom’ is better characterized as a process of integration through power; the problem of a ‘loss of meaning’ must also be reconceived as a problem of moral disintegration. My claim is that a proper understanding of these processes requires an engagement with the understanding of instrumental reason in earlier critical theory as primarily a distortion of the relation of language and experience. This necessitates rethinking the task of critical social theory along the lines of the concept of Selbstbesinnung (self-awareness) rather than according to Habermas’s Kantianized version of self-reflection.
part iv: self and others
14. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 22
Gaile Pohlhaus Knowing (with) Others
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Feminist epistemologists and feminist philosophers of science have argued that our efforts to know the world are always situated, accompanied by such things as desires, beliefs, and interests that guide and shape what it is we discover and perhaps even what we can know. If this is the case, how is one to be receptive to that which is outside of the purview of one’s current understanding of the world? Some feminists have argued that in order to know more effectively and more broadly we need to make our knowledge communities as diverse as possible so as to insure the greatest possible range of discovery. Others have argued thatwe need to begin by adopting the perspectives of those marginalized by society.These suggestions of where we ought to begin our inquiry, however, do not adequately guide us in how we ought to proceed. In both cases (beginning with diverse communities or focusing on the experiences of those marginalized), it is critical that we know and understand others as a condition for broadening the range of our sources of knowledge. Knowing others is a crucial yet often neglected epistemological problem. In this paper I begin by examining some problems that can arise with how we understand others. Drawing on the work of Cora Diamond, I suggest some possibilities that may help us with the problems sketched in the first part. Finally I argue that developing the virtue of care is critical if we are to further our possibilities for knowing the world in general.
15. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 22
Helga Varden A Kantian Conception of Rightful Sexual Relations: Sex, (Gay) Marriage, and Prostitution
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This paper defends a legal and political conception of sexual relations grounded in Kant’s Doctrine of Right. First, I argue that only a lack of consent can make a sexual deed wrong in the legal sense. Second, I demonstrate why all other legal constraints on sexual practices in a just society are legal constraints on seemingly unrelated public institutions. I explain the way in which the just state acts as a civil guardian for domestic relations and as a civil guarantor for private property and contract relations—and thereby enables the existence of legally enforceable claims. Throughout the aim is to demonstrate that Kant’s relational conception of justice entails that legally enforceable claims regarding sexual deeds are fully justifiable only insofar as they are determined and enforced by a public authority that we may refer to as a liberal democratic welfare state.
16. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 22
Patricia Marino Seeking Desire: Reflections on Blackburn’s Lust
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This paper is a critical discussion of Simon Blackburn’s recent work on lust. Blackburn develops a view on which lust is decent only when part of a pure mutuality in sex, and is best left alone—we ought not tamper with its “freedom of flow.” I argue that this treatment, which I believe reflects commonly held views, fails in several ways. First, it does not square with the fact that we pursue lust as a good in itself. Second, pure mutuality is hard to come by and almost impossible to recognize, so Blackburn’s account is more restrictive than it may seem. Third, on such a view, masturbation is morally sanctioned only insofar as it mimics real sex; this doesn’t seem right. Finally, such a perspective fits ill with some recent research on the biology of lust in women.
part v: nassp book award
17. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 22
Jeremy Bendik-Keymer Why Can’t Democracies Be Universal?: How Do Democracies Resolve Disagreement over Citizenship?
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18. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 22
Marilyn Fischer Comments on The Rights of Others: Aliens, Residents and Citizens
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19. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 22
Johann A. Klaassen Economics, Citizenship, and the Possibility of “Economic Cosmopolitanism”
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20. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 22
Seyla Benhabib Democratic Boundaries and Economic Citizenship: Enhancing the “Rights of Others”
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