Justice Everywhere

a blog about justice in public affairs

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On the Ethics of Self-Driving Cars: An Interview with Johannes Himmelreich

My colleague at Stanford’s Center for Ethics in Society, Johannes Himmelreich, is a philosopher who investigates agency and responsibility in contexts of collective collaboration and technological augmentation. Here, I ask Johannes about the ethical issues raised by the development of self-driving cars – one strand of his current research.

FN: Can you tell those of us who know less about the technology behind self-driving cars a little bit about where it’s currently at and how fast the development is going?

JH: In my view, the automotive sci-fi future will not come to your city within the next eight years. I would be very surprised if the majority of driving will be much different from what it is now. I expect we will see gradual improvements of systems that assist human driving. But, honestly, that’s more of a guess than a prediction. I actually can say very little about where the technology is at, since there is not much to go by that is publicly available and that is not just boisterous over-promising. This will change in the next 12-18 months. Google offshoot Waymo is starting a taxi service with self-driving cars in Phoenix, Arizona this year and General Motors’ brand Cruise say that they will start a similar so-called “robo-taxi” service in San Francisco next year. That’s when the rubber hits the road.

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Recent Vacancies in Political Theory/Philosophy/Ethics

Lecturer in Political Theory, University of Manchester (closing imminently)

Lecturer in Ethics / Political Philosophy, University of Sheffield (closing imminently)

Teaching Fellow in Philosophy, University of Edinburgh (closing imminently)

Tenure-Track / Tenured Position in Social & Political Philosophy, Stanford University

Research Associate in Ethics, Lancaster University

Lecturer / Senior Lecturer in Social & Political Philosophy, University of Edinburgh

Senior Lecturer in Political Economy & Philosophy, Swansea University

Lecturer in Philosophy, Swansea University

Lecturer in Political Philosophy, Newcastle University

Assistant / Associate Professor in Political Theory, University of California, Berkeley

Assistant Professor in Philosophy, LSE

Assistant Professor (teaching) in Political Theory, Durham University

Max Weber Post-Doctoral Fellowships (open to political theory/philosophy applications), European University Institute

The Philosopher Queens

Women in philosophy have been ignored. Help crowdfund The Philosopher Queens to have their voices heard.  Its editors Rebecca Buxton and Lisa Whiting tell us more about how and why this important book project has come about.  

 

When we began looking for a book on women in philosophy we were not prepared for what we found – or rather didn’t find. An afternoon in Waterstone’s, followed by a trip to Kensington library, followed by an evening of angrily searching online for something, anything on women in philosophy, had generated almost nothing. The only book we found was written by an incredible woman in philosophy herself, Mary Warnock, who wrote a book in women in philosophy over 20 years ago. 

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Why central banks must change before the next crisis hits

Our recent book Do Central Banks Serve the People? sheds a critical light on the actions of central banks in the wake of the 2007 financial crisis. Using the US Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, and the Bank of England as examples, we show how they have stretched their mandate beyond their traditional tasks of price stability and financial stability. This short introduction to the book summarizes the argument that the expanded role of central banks has three serious drawbacks.

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How Workplace Wellness Programs Harm People with Disabilities

In a world where “wellness” has become a cultural signal of the American elite (think yoga and spa treatments), employers have not been afraid to market wellness  programs as a one-way ticket to greater health, wealth, and happiness. Watching this kind of rhetoric on display in the wellness movement, it’s hard not to think that wellness programs actually strengthen biases against what they’re intended to combat: disability, economic stagnancy, and mental illness. In this post, I articulate precisely this worry.

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Are multi-buy discount bans paternalistic?

In recent months, both the central UK Government at Westminster, and the Scottish Government have released strategic plans for addressing obesity. In both cases, among the measures being considered is a ban on multi-buy discounts for unhealthy foods and drinks, such as  confectionery, crisps, cakes and sugary sodas. This would outlaw price promotions that offer a discount for purchasing a larger quantity of the product – for example, ‘buy one, get one free’, or ‘2 for £3’. Promotions of this sort have been illegal for alcohol in Scotland (though not England) since 2011.

Critics of these plans see them as “draconian” government interference with private individuals’ freedom to make their own choices regarding what to eat and drink. Indeed, on the face of it, policies like the multi-buy discount ban look like a clear example of paternalism, infringing John Stuart Mill’s famous harm principle

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Climate ethicists flying to conferences? The middle ground regarding voluntarily offsetting emissions

Voluntary offsetting allows you to ‘neutralise’ your carbon dioxide emissions by preventing the same amount of carbon dioxide from being emitted by someone else, most often somewhere else. Offsetting is a very polarised issue: some defend it as an effective way for individuals to neutralise their carbon emissions, while others have fiercely opposed it as a morally dubious practice

In this post, I take a position in the middle: I believe that under some conditions, emitting-and-offsetting should be morally acceptable.

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Current Vacancies in Political Theory/Philosophy/Ethics

Teaching Fellow – Political Theory, University of Edinburgh (closing 03/09/18)

Research Fellow in Drone Violence and AI Ethics, University of Southampton (closing 04/09/18)

Open-rank, Tenure-Track Position in Political Theory, University of Virginia (application review begins on 18/09/18)

Assistant Professor in Political Theory, University of Colorado, Boulder (priority for applications submitted by 01/10/18)

Assistant/Associate/Full Professor in Philosophy, Princeton University (priority for applications submitted by 01/11/18)

Postdoctoral Fellowship in Political Theory, Center for the Study of Liberal Democracy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (closing 15/01/19)

From the Vault: Good Reads in Left-Wing Politics

While Justice Everywhere takes a break over the summer, we recall from our archives some of our memorable posts from 2017-2018.

Here are three good reads on issues commonly associated with left-wing politics that you may have missed or be interested to re-read:

Lisa Herzog’s interview with Isabelle Ferreras on ‘Workplace Democracy

Lasse Nielsen’s ‘Sufficiency on Political Inequality

Miriam Ronzoni’s ‘On Striking as a Privilege

Debate the Future of the European Union with Political Philosophers

Together with an amazing group of people, I have initiated Twelve Stars. Twelve Stars in Europe’s flag symbolize Europe’s unity in diversity. The Twelve Stars project  brings together citizens and practical philosophers from all over Europe to discuss proposals for the future of the European Union. Twelve Stars is premised on two assumptions. First, that the ideas of political philosophers can make a real contribution to improving the European Union. Second, that political philosophers have much to learn from discussing their proposals and arguments with a wider audience.

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