Justice Everywhere

a blog about justice in public affairs

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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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Call for Applications: Equality and Citizenship Summer School in Rijeka

The Center for Advanced Studies – South East Europe, the University of Rijeka, the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Rijeka and the Croatian Society for Analytic Philosophy are organizing the 5th edition of the Equality and Citizenship Summer school from June 25th – 29th, 2018 in Rijeka, Croatia.

The Summer school does not reproduce, in a diluted form, the familiar teaching format of a university course. Instead, it is organized around “Author-Meets-Critics” symposia that are dedicated to publications and works-in-progress by some distinguished authors. All the leading participants will give a paper on a topic on which they are currently working, or a précis of a recently published book. During the symposia dedicated to them, they will then reply to the papers given by the other scholars.

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Plastic Pollution: How to avoid further degrading our natural environment

The theme of this year’s World Environment Day (5 June 2018) is Beat Plastic Pollution. Plastic pollution is indeed a serious problem, severely affecting animals, humans, and marine ecosystems.  Removal of the pollutants that are already in the environment is exceedingly difficult, so we should also ask: How can we avoid plastic and other pollutants entering the environment in the first place?

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Moral progress in beliefs and practices

Abraham Lincoln said: “If slavery is not wrong, then nothing is wrong”. Similarly we could say: “If the abolition of slavery is not an instance of moral progress, then nothing is an instance of moral progress.” The abolition of slavery is the favourite example of philosophers who write about the topic of moral progress. While the existence and the possibility of moral progress are contested, the view that if there were such a thing as moral progress, the abolition of slavery would be an instance of it is not. (By the way, I fully acknowledge that slavery still exists, especially new forms of slavery, which are in some respects even worse than the old forms. But this doesn’t change the fact that the slave trade that we used to have for centuries is now illegal in every country in the world.) Other popular examples of moral progress include the development of a human rights regime, the emancipation of women and the abolition of foot binding. In a previous post, I argued that moral progress is not impossible and cited evolutionary considerations. In this post, I challenge Michelle Moody-Adams’ view of moral progress in social practices as the realization of previously gained moral insights.

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Should we grant legal personhood to robots?

With significant recent advances in artificial intelligence and robotics, it is increasingly pressing that we consider the legal and ethical standing of autonomous machines.

Here I post some considerations on this matter from a recent debate organised by Thomas Burri (University of St. Gallen) with Shawn Bayern (Florida State University) and myself:

A Moral Case for Strikes against Syria? Part II: Punitive Strike

In this post, I explore the punitive justifications for the recent strikes against Syria in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons. In the previous post, Sara was right to call into question the HI justification for the strikes provided by Theresa May. Indeed, even if one could assume that the strikes could satisfy the just cause criterion (and this is a big if), it’s doubtful that other ad bellum criteria could be met (proportionality and reasonable chance of success). The situation is Syria is complicated with multiple parties involved, either directly or through proxy. It is, therefore, difficult to determine what success would mean in this context and, correspondingly, what would be counted as proportionate force. I think Sara is right that the strikes could not be justified on the basis of HI. But, I ask, are there any other justifications for these strikes?

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A Moral Case for Strikes against Syria? Part I: Humanitarian Intervention

Early on Saturday, 14 April, it was announced that the US, UK and France had conducted targeted strikes on three targets in Syria – a chemical weapons and storage facility, a research centre and a military bunker – in response to Assad’s (alleged) use of chemical weapons in Douma.  The reaction to this news was mixed. One key problem that was highlighted was the question of the legality of the strikes, under both domestic and international law. However, although these are of course very important issues, a different one has remained relatively unexplored: could these strikes be permissible from a moral perspective? Given that international law is largely customary, and given that law doesn’t exhaust the limits on our behaviour, this is a crucial question.

There are a number of ways in which the resort to strikes on regime targets in Syria could be justified. The common moral framework for thinking about the morality of war, just war theory, recognises a number of reasons for legitimate use of force: self-defence against aggression, defence of another state against aggression and, increasingly, intervention to alleviate humanitarian suffering. In this post and the next, Anh Le and I will consider whether the strikes could be justified according to the standards set by just war theory. Here, I will consider possibly the most controversial just cause: intervention in order to stop severe suffering. In the next post, Anh will investigate whether the strikes can be considered morally legitimate as forms of punishment.

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