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.
Year: 2018 Page 1 of 4
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.
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.
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.
Scott Chipolina offers the second in a series of Justice Everywhere posts on the US midterm elections and what they say about the state of American democracy. (For the first in the series, see Emilee Chapman’s ‘The United States Needs a Democracy Movement‘.)
The November 6 midterms saw some 113 million Americans cast a ballot. This is the first time in American history that over 100 million voted in a midterm election. Prima facie, this record-setting voter turnout might indicate a thriving democracy. Yet other observations indicate just how far from secure American democracy is.
While most headlines have focused on the divergent successes of Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate, respectively, the 2018 midterm elections featured mixed results on another important dimension: electoral reform. Ballot measures on various aspects of election law appeared on the ballots in 14 states, and most of them passed. Voters in Colorado, Michigan, and Missouri (and possibly Utah) approved measures to establish more independent redistricting processes. Michigan and Maryland voters passed laws to make registering to vote easier, and Florida voted to re-enfranchise approximately 1.4 million people who have completed sentences for prior felony convictions. At the same time, though, voters in Arkansas and North Carolina approved requirements that voters to show a photo ID at the polls, making it more difficult for many people (disproportionately members of minority groups) to vote.
For nearly all activists involved in electoral reform, these outcomes will seem a mixed success. But to most citizens, these results all look like a win for democracy.
Theme: Justice in Times of Austerity, Rupture, & Polarisation
Submissions: We welcome papers in any area of social and political philosophy, and particularly encourage papers offering normative or evaluative perspectives addressed to the contemporary political climate – papers concerned with justice in or in response to the context of countries reducing public expenditure and/or budget deficits, rising inequality, attitudes and parties veering towards political extremes, declining political civility, and both states and supra-state institutions facing schisms and separatist movements. This could include topics such as:
- Social and economic policy
- Disadvantage and inequality
- Political ruptures
- Democratic crisis and renewal
For more information about the conference and submission details please visit our website: conferences.ncl.ac.uk/aspp
The outcome of the October 7th Brazil elections meant a wide defeat of the Workers’ Party (PT), of the Brazilian Social Democracy’s Party (PSDB) and of many traditional political leaders. Jair Bolsonaro and other candidates who presented themselves as outsiders were the winners. However, politics is not only made by people, but also by ideas. Which of them were defeated?
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.