Justice Everywhere

a blog about philosophy in public affairs

Category: Academia (Page 2 of 6)

Universities and Democratic Legitimacy (Part 2)

In part 1 of this post I outlined an account of the mainstream liberal view about academic freedom, free speech, and their overlapping democratic purposes. According to this account the university should have an academic zone, protected by academic freedom, and aimed at furthering democratic competence, and it should also have a free speech zone, aimed at supporting democratic legitimation.

I think there’s a problem with this picture. Roughly, what goes on in the academic zone is compromised by what goes on in the free speech zone. The intellectual aims that the university is meant to serve, with a view to furthering our democratic competence, can be undermined by the kind of free speech culture that takes root in universities.

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Universities and Democratic Legitimacy (Part 1)

Free speech is vital to democracy. Alexander Meiklejohn offered a powerful defense of this idea in the mid-20th century, and since then it has gravitated towards centre stage in free speech discourse. The modern academic defenders of this view — people like Robert Post, Eric Heinze, and Ronald Dworkin — typically say that free speech isn’t just important for the health of a democracy, but that it’s also a necessary condition for democratic legitimacy. In a free society people are unafraid to broadcast their ethical convictions in public. There is a free press, an arts sector untouched by state censorship, and a cherished liberty for all to mock and criticise our leaders. The democratic government’s authority is legitimised partly through its upholding these freedoms.

But where does academic freedom fit into this picture? And what is the university’s role in ensuring the vitality and legitimacy of democratic society?

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What would it take to turn Facebook into a democracy?

by Severin Engelmann and Lisa Herzog*

When the relation between “Facebook” and “democracy” is discussed, the question usually is: what impact does Facebook – as it exists today – have on democratic processes? While this is an urgent and important question, one can also raise a different one: what would it mean to turn Facebook into a democracy, i.e. to govern it democratically? What challenges of institutional design would have to be met for developing meaningful democratic governance structures for Facebook?

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Justice and “Contingent Faculty”

In this post, Matthew Adams addresses the question: What are the responsibilities of university faculty who have permanent positions to those who have contingent (or non-permanent) positions, if any? 

In the United States almost three quarters of American college-level teachers/researchers are “contingent faculty.” Contingent faculty is an umbrella term for part- and full-time non-tenure-track positions. These include adjuncts, non-tenure track instructors, graduate teaching assistants, part-time lecturers*, etc. Not all faculty who are classified as contingent faculty are equally disadvantaged. For instance, some non-tenure track instructors—in contrast to almost all adjuncts—have health insurance. However, one thing is clear: few (if any) academics would choose to be part of the contingent rather than permanent faculty, at least after they have completed their graduate studies and postdocs.

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Recent Vacancies in Political Theory/Philosophy/Ethics

Lecturer in Political Theory (Permanent), University of Essex (closing imminently)

Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy (Value Theory), Bowdoin College, Brunswick (closing imminently)

Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Information Ethics/Applied Ethics, The Ethics Institute and Department of Philosophy, Northeastern University, Boston (closing imminently)

Postgraduate Scholarships in Philosophy (MA and MPhil), University of Warwick (closing imminently)

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Call for Papers: Stanford Junior Scholars Workshop

Here is a call for funded (!) workshop for junior scholars at Stanford’s Center for Ethics in Society:

https://ethicsinsociety.stanford.edu/research-outreach/junior-scholars-workshop

An excerpt from the Call: “We are especially interested in scholarship in what might be called “interdisciplinary ethics.” Normative scholarship focused on issues like immigration, climate change, global poverty, and the governance of new technologies can benefit from engagement with the social sciences, law, engineering, and life sciences. We especially encourage submissions that bring relevant empirically-oriented scholarship to bear on normative questions and analysis.”

Very much in the spirit of this blog!

“Dumbed down for the masses”? Public philosophy in different keys, and why it matters for justice

When one makes one first steps into public philosophy, one quickly encounters a challenge: as academic philosophers, we are used to writing in a slow, careful, sort-of-boring-but-at-least-precise way: to hedge our claims, to qualify the scope of our theses, etc. For public philosophy, editors want the opposite: brief, succinct sentences, never mind a bit of exaggeration and a polemical tone. And often, they request more: “We really need a concrete example here.” “This is too abstract, we’ve taken the liberty of rewriting it a bit.”  “Can you please do a photo session, for a nice picture?” For many of us, these things feel a bit awkward. Different people draw the line in different places – but it seems unavoidable to play this game, at least up to a point, if you want to reach a broader audience. And as I will argue, there is a matter of justice at stake here.

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5th Annual Conference of the Centre for the Study of Global Ethics

The Call for Papers for the 5th Annual Conference of the Centre for the Study of Global Ethics (30-31 May 2019, Birmingham) is now open. We welcome abstract submissions on the Conference’s theme Bodies and Embodiment as well as other topics in global ethics. For more information, please see below or visit the conference website.

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Philosophical experiment about inequality

A cross-post with crooked timber  – written with Ingrid Robeyns.

Political philosophers often engage in thought experiments, which involve putting hypothetical persons in hypothetical scenario’s. However, it is often challenging to find ways to involve real, non-hypothetical, people with the questions we are dealing with, aside from the more traditional ways to engage in outreach such as debates and opinion pieces.  On the evening of Friday the 5th of October, the Fair Limits team – which studies the plausibility of upper limits in the distribution of economic and ecological resources – attempted a new way to engage the public by making use of a participatory “veil-of-ignorance” thought experiment.

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Who Cares: Emotional Labour in Academia

As I am finishing yet another application for a position with limited chances of success (I did my statistics homework), I am reminding myself again that I shouldn’t get too emotionally invested: I shouldn’t picture myself with this specific position in this particular place just yet. I should take a potential ‘No’ lightly as a sportive challenge and not see it as a fundamental rejection of my work and my value as a member of the academic community. I know all of that. But it is emotionally exhausting. It requires energy and time to deal with the anxieties and insecurities this process brings up. And, importantly, it often requires the support and care of people that are close to me.

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