Justice Everywhere

a blog about philosophy in public affairs

The Potential Mediating Role of the Artificial Womb

On May 6th, I published a post about the artificial womb and its potential role for promoting gender justice. I keep thinking about this technology, and since there is more and more ethical discussion about it, I want to address it again, this time from the point of view of mediation theory and in an attempt to anticipate the potential mediating role of this technology. According to mediation theory, technology mediates how humans perceive and act in the world. The Dutch philosopher Peter-Paul Verbeek has extended this post-phenomenological approach, which has been developed by Don Ihde, to the realm of ethics. Verbeek sees technology as being intrinsically involved in moral decision-making. Technology mediates our moral perceptions and actions. Moral agency is not something exclusively human, but a “hybrid affair”. Moral actions and decisions “take place in complex and intricate connections between humans and things”. Verbeek illustrates technology’s mediating role by means of the example of obstetric ultrasound. I shall apply the idea of the technological mediation of morality to the artificial womb and discuss some ways in which that technology could play a mediating role in morality.

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Is it wrong to enjoy violent horror films?

In this post, Ian Stoner discusses his recent article in Journal of Applied Philosophy offering a defence of gory fictions.


I have a soft spot for the slasher films of the 1980s–A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Child’s Play, etc. were nostalgic favorites at movie nights in my college years. At the time, I cheerfully ignored the conservative position, still common in the 1990s, that watching these movies was morally wrong.

Many years later, I watched a few instances of the genre known as the New French Extremity. These films–such as Martyrs, Irréversible, and Haute Tension–left me feeling miserable. I caught myself thinking, “people who have fun watching these brutal movies must be sickos, sadists.” Which is to say that I caught myself thinking the same thing of fans of the New French Extremity as the conservatives of my youth thought of me.

Was I wrong to dismiss the anti-slasher position? Is there some difference between these sub-genres such that I was right judge them differently? After reflection, I have settled on the view I defend in an article in the Journal of Applied Philosophy. (Alternatives: free read-only access or download a pre-print.) I now believe that my suspicion of the New French Extremity was misguided and that depictions of suffering and death could never themselves make a horror film morally wrong to watch.

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Should central banks create their own cryptocurrency?

Bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies have attracted widespread media attention. Interestingly, their advent has also triggered reflection among central bankers. Their first reaction was, unsurprisingly, to warn consumers against the dangers of unregulated private money. However, almost ten years after the creation of Bitcoin, central bankers now see the huge potential of these currencies for monetary policy and the control of payments. Is this enthusiasm justified? Should central banks create their own digital currency?

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To Strike or Disrupt?

In this post, guest contributor Liam Shields discusses an important dilemma related to the strike in UK higher education institutions.

Members of the University and College Union, the trade union that represents many lecturers and other university staff in the UK, at 60 universities will be called upon to withdraw their labour from their employers from 25th November to 4th December. However, some are on research leave, or will not be doing any teaching on some or all strike days, so their striking will go unnoticed. The question then is: should they go on strike or not?

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Why Two Parents rather than One or Five?

In this post, Kalle Grill discusses his recent article in Journal of Applied Philosophy on how many parents there should be in a family.

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Engaged parenting is hard work. That is one reason most of us prefer to have a co-parent. But why stop at one? As I argue in a recent article, I don’t think there is a good and general answer to that question. Some people are committed to an existing two-parent family, or to starting one, but there is no reason why society should endorse that family form as a norm.

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From Fact-Checking to Value-Checking

Fears over ‘fake news’, targeted disinformation, and the rise of post-truth politics have met with a central mainstream solution: ‘fact-checking’. Fact-checking is featuring prominently in coverage of the 2019 UK General Election. ITV News, for instance, will use FullFact.org to analyse the claims made by Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn in their forthcoming leadership debate, with the aim of better informing their viewers by exposing misleading statements.

This reflects the wider embrace of fact-checking as a panacea against the rise of anti-expert politics. It has been employed in coverage of US presidential and primary debates, as well as the parliamentary theatre of Brexit. Third party fact-checking organisations have also been championed by social media companies in response to demands by regulators and legislatures that they take responsibility for the content circulated on their platforms. Indeed the use of ‘independent’ fact-checkers to flag content was highlighted by Mark Zuckerberg, during his various appearances before Congress, in defence of Facebook’s practices.

However, the concept of fact-checking frames the problems of post-truth politics in narrowly positivist terms – as reducible to a lack of information (‘facts’), leading to sub-optimally rational decision-making by electorates. It has not been underpinned by a sophisticated account of the epistemic conditions for the exercise of democratic citizenship. Fact-checking occupies an increasingly central place in our political culture, but the justification for it remains largely implicit and untheorized.

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Should governments care about the fertility gap?

In most rich countries, and increasingly in low and middle income countries, there is a ‘fertility gap’: people say they want to have more children than they end up having. For example, two-thirds of Australian 44 year olds have fewer children than they intended to, working out at one and a half children per parent. While the size of the discrepancy varies from place to place, the pattern is the same in most of Europe and the US: 

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Announcement: MOOC on ‘Inequality and Democracy’

This is an announcement on behalf of the Private Property and Political Power project at Utrecht University. Its members have developed a freely-available Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) entitled “Inequality and Democracy” that may be of interest to our subscribers, readers, and/or their students.

Most countries are getting more and more unequal. But the core of democracy is political equality: that everyone should have an equal say in how their country is run. Can we really expect these things to go together? Can people have equal political power while economic inequality grows and grows? Take this course and decide for yourself.

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Multi-parenting: what would it take for it to work?

Earlier this year I published a short article arguing that multi-parenting can provide a solution to a contemporary conundrum: on the one hand, many people are increasingly worried about climate change and environmental destruction. They know that having fewer children is, for a majority of people, the most effective individual action they can take to reduce their carbon footprint. Some women go on “birth strikes” – they decide not to bring children into the world. On the other hand, life without children can be terribly impoverished. Parenting may be the most important – and creative! – act one can engage in, a non-substitutable occasion for personal growth and, for many, the central source of meaning in life. (Which is not to deny that, for many other people, a childless life is perfectly fine.)

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Should We Be Cheering the Death of al-Baghdadi?

On the Sunday morning of 27 October, President Trump sent out a flurry of tweets, announcing to the world the death of one of the most hunted terrorists: ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The full detail of the assault is still emerging, as is expected with any covert operations. One thing is clear. The US and allies view al-Baghdadi’s killing as a positive news. I, however, think we should be cautious in uncritically celebrating his death. By this, I mean we should first assess this act of killing through a critical lens. In other words, we should ask: was this act of killing permissible?

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