Thanks to Sara for a thoughtful response to my initial post. Sara’s very reasonable, and I confess a certain deliberate provocativeness in the original post. Nonetheless, I want to push back on a few things.
Category: Academia Page 1 of 9
Last week, Michael Bennett proposed an ‘ad-hominem attack’ on non-consequentialism. He suggested, quite plausibly, that philosophers and political theorists tend to produce work that is complex, at least partially because ‘[p]romotion and prestige requires a constant stream of publications’ and it is ‘difficult to keep that up unless you have complex theories that require a great deal of elaboration’. This provides support for a kind-of debunking argument against contemporary anti-consequentialism:
It does seem awfully suspicious that the normative realm would turn out to be so complicated, given our career incentives to make it look complicated. I think we have reason to be less confident in complex philosophy as a result, and less confident in anti-consequentialism in particular.
I think it’s clear that among academic philosophers there is a tendency to overcomplicate things. This applies to philosophers of all stripes and backgrounds, but is perhaps particularly jarring among philosophers of the ‘analytic’ or ‘Anglo-American’ tradition, given our avowed focus on analysis, logic argument and rigour (this characterization of the analytic tradition can and has been questioned, but let’s go with it for the time being). Indeed, the focus on providing logical arguments for our positions seems to me to contribute significantly to this tendency towards complexity, often at the cost of clarity.
But to get to the point – does this institutional and epistemic bias in favour of complexity provide an argument (debunking or otherwise) against anti-consequentialism? I’m not sure that this is the case.
I think there’s something unintentionally revealing about the title of Frances Kamm’s book Intricate Ethics. Most people, I expect, would find it quite odd for intricacy to be a key selling point for a theory of ethics. Yet this actually makes complete sense, albeit not in the way Kamm intends. Philosophers need ethics to be intricate. If it were simple, they’d be out of a job.
This is a guestpost in Justice Everywhere’s Teaching Philosophy series. It is written by Talia Shoval, Grace Garland and Joseph Conrad, of the Environmental Working Group of the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Ethics and Critical Thought (Critique).
In this blogpost, we share insights from the exploratory journey we undertook into ‘environmentalising’ the curriculum: a project aimed at bringing the environment to the fore of learning and teaching in higher education. After briefly explaining the guiding rationale, we sketch the contours of the environmentalising project and suggest trajectories for moving forward.
As political theorists working on issues concerning the environment, we start from the working observation that environmental issues tend to be downplayed—or worse, altogether overlooked—in the context of academic learning and teaching, as well as in scholarly research. The environment, when it is mentioned, is often treated as a miscellaneous category, an ‘Other’ that falls outside the remit of and constitutes the backdrop to human affairs. This tendency is exemplified by the lack of environmental materials in syllabi across the social sciences and humanities. Even when environmental issues are present, they are discussed, more often than not, in human-centred ways. Juxtaposed with the evidence of environmental degradation all around, this felt odd, and somewhat disquieting. Our initial intuition told us that the environment should take up much more space in academic curricula and common research, learning, and teaching practices—even in the social sciences, including politics and ethics.
This is the latest interview in our Beyond the Ivory Tower series (you can read previous interviews here).
Born and raised in Hong Kong, Joseph Chan worked for three decades as Professor in the Department of Politics of Public Administration at the University of Hong Kong. After Beijing’s crackdown on the 2019 protests in Hong Kong and the imposition of the National Security Law on Hong Kong in July 2020, he left Hong Kong for Taiwan. He now lives and works in Taipei as a distinguished research fellow at the Research Center for Humanities and Social Sciences, Academia Sinica. Throughout his career, Joseph was a public intellectual well-known to politicians, activists and ordinary citizens in Hong Kong, and played some roles in Hong Kong politics, including as a mediator between the government and student protestors in 2014. We talked about how he got into political theory, his work in integrating Confucian political philosophy with Western liberalism, the tensions and limits of being a public intellectual, and his recent interest in the ethics of violence and protest.
Guest Post by Sergi Morales-Gálvez and Josep Soler
This post provides a tentative view about the justice issues that arise from linguistic prejudice in academia. It introduces the plights that affect non-native English speakers, and how these may count as forms of epistemic injustice.
Have you ever had something to say at the tip of your tongue, but you momentarily forget the correct word to express it? We are sure that’s an experience many of us are familiar with. For people who speak two, three or even more languages on a regular basis, this can be a frequent occurrence. This is, at least, our experience as speakers of Catalan, Spanish, English, and other languages. Although a momentary lapse like this does not mean that someone is not a capable speaker of a particular language, it might be interpreted negatively.
It is difficult to read anything on the justification of high salaries these days without running into catch phrases such as “the hunt for talent”, “attracting the best people to this job”, or “retaining human capital.” The core idea underlying this kind of discourse is one that has got a lot of traction in political philosophy in recent decades, too: It is justified to pay certain individuals – be they neurosurgeons, lawyers, or CEOs – financial incentives, because the productive contribution they will make in response benefits us all.
Aaron Wentland (Vision Fellow in Public Philosophy at King’s College London) is organizing a major online benefit event for the Ukrainian academy on 17 and 18 March, entitled: ‘What Good Is Philosophy? – The Role of the Academy in a Time of Crisis’.
This is the latest interview in our Beyond the Ivory Tower series (you can read previous interviews here). For this edition, Diana Popescu spoke to Philippe Van Parijs, Hoover Chair of economic and social ethics at the University of Louvain. Van Parijs is the author of several books, including Real Freedom for All and Linguistic Justice for Europe and for the World. He is a founder of the Basic Income Earth Network, and chair of its advisory board. In May 2012, an article he published, ‘Picnic the Streets’, triggered a movement of civil disobedience which led to the decision to make Brussels’ central lanes car-free
This is the latest interview in our Beyond the Ivory Tower series (you can read previous interviews here). Back in February, Aveek Bhattacharya sat down with Ciaran Thapar, a youth worker, educational consultant and author of the recent book Cut Short, which draws on his experience working with young people in London to analyse violence, inequality and criminal justice among other issues. Through the youth organisation, Roadworks, he delivers PATTERN, a storytelling workshop programme based on the themes of Cut Short. Thapar began mentoring young people as a Master’s student in Political Theory at the London School of Economics, and our interview explored the relevance of academic philosophy and the realities of disadvantaged young people’s lives.