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Displaying: 1-20 of 39 documents


1. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 43 > Issue: 4
Michael Davis Locke, Simmons, and Consent: A Lawyerly Approach
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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.
2. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 43 > Issue: 4
Seth Mayer Resolving the Dilemma of Democratic Informal Politics
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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.
3. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 43 > Issue: 4
Isaac Taylor Just War Theory and the Military Response to Terrorism
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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.
4. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 43 > Issue: 4
James Pearson Carnap, Explication, and Social History
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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.
5. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 43 > Issue: 4
William Hasselberger Knowing More than We Can Tell: Virtue, Perception, and Practical Skill
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‘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.
6. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 43 > Issue: 4
Elizabeth Finneron-Burns The Intergenerational Original Position
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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.
7. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 43 > Issue: 4
Andrew Jason Cohen The Harm Principle and Parental Licensing
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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.
8. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 43 > Issue: 4
Maxime Lepoutre Hate Speech in Public Discourse: A Pessimistic Defense of Counterspeech
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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.
9. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 43 > Issue: 4
D. C. Matthew Racial Injustice, Racial Discrimination, and Racism: How Are They Related?
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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.
10. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 43 > Issue: 3
Derek Edyvane Toleration and Civility
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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.
11. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 43 > Issue: 3
Titus Stahl Collective Responsibility for Oppression
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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.
12. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 43 > Issue: 3
Nellie Wieland Agent and Object
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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.
13. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 43 > Issue: 3
Ned Dobos What’s So Deviant about Production Deviance?: The Ethics of ‘Withholding Effort’ in the Workplace
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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.
14. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 43 > Issue: 3
Eric R. Boot Classified Public Whistleblowing: How to Justify a Pro Tanto Wrong
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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.
15. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 43 > Issue: 3
Ben Bryan The Conventionalist Challenge to Natural Rights Theory
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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.
16. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 43 > Issue: 3
John Hasnas Does Corporate Moral Agency Entail Corporate Freedom of Speech?
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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.
17. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 43 > Issue: 3
Blake Hereth Against Self-Defense
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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.
18. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 43 > Issue: 3
Gina Schouten Fetuses, Orphans, and a Famous Violinist: On the Ethics and Politics of Abortion
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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.
19. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 43 > Issue: 2
Editorial
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20. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 43 > Issue: 2
Alberto G. Urquidez Jorge Garcia and the Ordinary Use of "Racist Belief"
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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.