Justice Everywhere

a blog about philosophy in public affairs

The Truth-Revealing Power of Courts

Image credit: David Veksler on Unsplash.

Lots of people in the United States (and elsewhere) are pessimistic about their ability to distinguish the truth from falsehoods. This is perhaps unsurprising given the relentless attack on truth that the United States experienced during the previous presidential administration.

As one observer recently put it: “There’s so much information that’s biased, that no one believes anything. There is so much out there and you don’t know what to believe, so it’s like there is nothing.”

Given all the uncertainty, polarization, and misinformation people have experience worldwide recently, this is an understandable reaction. Still, it’s troubling. It is hard for individuals or societies to function well without reliable access to truth.

No single solution will fix all of such epistemic challenges. Still, I think we can make meaningful progress by broadening our focus beyond just who or what to believe, to consider when we should believe.

Sometimes answering the question “When should I believe someone?” is enough to help dispel a fog of confusion. The reason why is rooted in common sense: people are more likely to be honest under some circumstances as opposed to others. 

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It is not enough to listen carefully – we also have to identify who is not in the epistemic room

Shawn raises his hand and asks quietly: “Mr Warner?” […] Mr Warner does not hear Shawn or notice his raised hand. Instead, Mr Warner is fielding questions from a group of middle-class students  […] Shawn sighs and puts his hand down (Calarco 2018: 164).

Post by Leonie Smith and Alfred Archer

Introduction

When middle-class students are regularly heard in the classroom and working-class students, such as Shawn, are regularly not heard, and when news reporters consistently fail to seek out women experts to the same extent that they seek out men experts, something unjust is happening. In a recent paper, we argue that this something is an epistemic attention deficit.

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Political Philosophy in a Pandemic (Book Announcement)

We have some exciting news to share: the first ever Justice Everywhere book is on its way. Entitled Political Philosophy in a Pandemic: Routes to a More Just Future, it will be published in  print in September by Bloomsbury Academic (pre-order here). We are hoping that the e-book version will be out in the summer. Edited by Fay Niker and Aveek Bhattacharya, two of the convenors of the blog, the idea for the book developed out of the ‘Philosophers’ Rundown on the Coronavirus Crisis’ that we published here in April last year.

Political Philosophy in a Pandemic contains 20 essays on the moral and political implications of COVID-19 and the way governments have responded to it, arranged around five themes: social welfare, economic justice, democratic relations, speech and misinformation and the relationship between justice and crisis. Almost all of the contributors have featured on Justice Everywhere in recent years in form or another, either as authors or interviewees.

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The Political Power of Food as Medicine

What is the inter-relationship between food and medicine? At various points in history, such as in the Byzantine empire, food and medicine were seen as almost the same thing. The basic idea was that medicine and food both performed the same function of balancing bodily humors. In contemporary countries, such as the US, many people are aware that food has a significant impact on health. But, I think that it’s fair to say, food and medicine are increasingly construed as very different things. Crudely speaking, medicine is a public good that requires great scientific expertise; food is a private affair that depends on different people’s cultures, whims, and private financial resources.

I want to discuss a new policy development that raises questions about what the inter-relationship between food and medicine could and should be. This policy development has largely been overlooked by philosophers. But, I will argue, it raises interesting theoretical questions about the framing of public policies, feasibility, and justice.

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The COVID-19 crisis: what should we do about the zoos?

 

Brown bear, Germany, 2016. Photo credit: Jo-Anne McArthur / Born Free Foundation

The global COVID-19 pandemic has forced many of us to reassess what we value, what kinds of communities we want to live in, and how we spend our money. The financial pressures caused by repeated lockdowns and rising unemployment means that many businesses and other organisations will not survive without targeted support. And, with so many in need of financial assistance, many of us are faced with the question of who we should help.

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The precarious role of social norms in journalism

In this post, Lisa Herzog discusses their recent article in Journal of Applied Philosophy on the role of shared norms in journalism.


Imagine that you’re competing fiercely with someone – but there are no legal rules to keep the competition fair! All that you and the other competitors can hope for is that all of you will stick to certain norms of fairness. This hardly sounds like a comfortable situation. Yet, it is, arguably, the situation news outlets currently find themselves in. Such concerns motivate my recent paper, where I argue that we need to consider the role of competition for journalism ethics, not least because this helps understand the precarious role of social norms in journalism.

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With Friends Like These, Free Speech Doesn’t Need Enemies

Conservatives are the only people who believe in free speech nowadays. At any rate, that’s what many conservatives seem to think. Witness the wearying succession of anti-leftist think-pieces about how progressives have turned into authoritarian censors. Or notice the meteoric rise (and fall) of Parler, a social media site touting itself as a free-speech-friendly rival to censorious Silicon Valley tech giants. Or see the many comedians who, while mostly sharing the progressive sensibilities of coastal elites, bemoan the chilling of free speech at universities. Today, if you care about free speech and you’re looking for staunch allies, they’re more likely to be found in conservative circles.

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How Much Does Slaughter Harm Humanely Raised Animals?

In this post, Coleman Solis discusses their recent article in Journal of Applied Philosophy on the harmfulness of death in humane farming.


The way that we think about death can have a profound impact on our answers to the moral questions we encounter in ordinary life. Take the case of humane meat farming. Those of us who feel repulsed by contemporary animal-rearing as practiced in grotesque “factory” farms have a few options. We can transition to vegan diets – which are becoming more popular and feasible by the day – or we can choose to source our meat and animal products from humane farms, from animals in decent-to-very-good living conditions. At first glance, humane animal products strike many of us as ethically sound – we picture an idyllic pasture with cows and chickens roaming free, a far cry from your typical factory farm. But, as vegans will point out, meat farming, humane or not, involves the slaughter of sentient creatures. Can humane meat, then, possibly constitute an ethically acceptable alternative?

Our answer to this question will turn on a great many factors – the environmental impact of humane meat, the ethicality of imposing human control on animals, the possibility of animal rights, and so on – most of which I will not discuss here. Rather, I intend to focus in on one particular aspect of this ethical debate. In recent years, some critics of humane animal farming have argued that death itself constitutes a harm to farm animals. Assuming that we are opposed to harming animals (otherwise, why oppose factory farms?), humane farming cannot then be ethical. This position has power, both emotionally and philosophically. In my recent article in the Journal of Applied Philosophy, however, I argue that typical humanely raised animals are not, in fact, harmed much by their deaths. This finding may vindicate humane meat farming – or it may give us reason to change the way we think about death.

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The Left, the Right and Political Realism

Realism Vs Idealism Quotes. QuotesGram

Stating that it is difficult nowadays for a state to pursue ambitious redistributive policies through a highly progressive tax system: is it right-wing or simply realistic? Claiming that it will not be possible to fund a universal basic income sufficient to cover the basic needs of all citizens, or to open borders and offer quality social protection to everyone at the same time: are these instances of taking economic constraints seriously or defending the status quo?

Is realism right-wing?

On closer inspection, many political issues that tend to be placed on the left-right spectrum could be interpreted as opposing an idealistic and a realistic perspective. However, these two oppositions are not identical.

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Is it fair to select immigrants based on skill?

On the first of January, 2021, the UK’s new “points-based” immigration system came into force. The creation of a “fairer” immigration system, which doesn’t treat EU citizens differently from anyone else, was one of the promises of the current UK government and at least on that count they have delivered: the new rules apply equally to all new would-be migrants (except for those from Ireland, and asylum seekers).

The new rules could, in certain respects, be considered an improvement: there are no longer differential standards for EEA and non-EEA migrants. The general salary threshold is lowered (from £30,000 to £25,600), and the six-year rule which required migrants to either switch into another immigration category (e.g. apply for residency) or leave after six years is removed. These changes are clearly positive from an equalities perspective (even if we can easily imagine an alternative immigration system which would be even better). In this post, I will ask: how fair are the new rules really?

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