Justice Everywhere

a blog about philosophy in public affairs

Intellectually Humble Free Speech Law

Scholars familiar with the philosophical arguments in favor of robust free speech protections commonly identify three kinds of arguments given in favor of such protections:

1. Free speech helps us discover truth,
2. Free speech is required for democratic self-governance,
3. Free speech is an important part of autonomy.

Contemporary social and political circumstances—including the persistent spread of viral misinformation via social media—have called these traditional arguments into question.

Can we really claim that free speech helps us discover truth when the data suggest that falsehoods travel, on average, much faster and farther than truthful corrections? Does free speech, on balance, help preserve democracy when the integrity of elections is being undermined by orchestrated viral disinformation campaigns?

Such questions prompted by social, political, and material reality ought to be taken seriously. Taking such questions seriously may require us to reconsider what kinds of arguments best ground free speech rights. This may, in turn, require us to reconsider what good free speech law and policy should look like.

Israel “Is at War with Hamas”, What Does the Ethics of War Say about That?

This is a guest post by Anh Le. Anh currently works in the NGO sector on environmental issues but previously taught at the University of Manchester, where he also got his PhD, writing on the ethics of force short of war.

It’s important to note at the outset that what unfolded on Saturday October 7th in Southern Israel when Hamas fighters overran the Israel – Gaza border, infiltrated deep into Israeli territory, murdered more than a thousand Israelis, and took more than a hundred hostages back across Gaza was a war crime (or at least most of it was, the killing of Israeli soldiers, even if most of them were unarmed can be argued to be the legitimate targeting of combatants in an armed conflict). Equally important to note is how the Israel Defence Force (IDF) has responded to the initial attack also violates the International Humanitarian Law, e.g. the blockade of Gaza, indiscriminate bombings of residential areas. At the time of writing, the IDF hasn’t officially conducted a land invasion of Gaza, although some ground incursions have occurred. In this post, I argue that, contrary to what has been taken as a fact – that Israel has the right to go to war against Hamas following its attack on Israel and the only question that is morally, and legally, relevant is how they go about doing that, a question of jus in bello – it’s not clear if Israel’s war meets the criteria of jus ad bellum – the right to go war, and thus if Israel has a right to go to war against Hamas.

I should first make clear that I will not weigh in on the ethics of the situation between Israel and Palestine. The history is protracted and there are others eminently more qualified to unpack it than myself.

Why policymakers should care about post-truth

Post-truth is often viewed as a threat to public affairs such as vaccination policy, climate change denialism, or the erosion of public discourse. Yet combating post-truth is rarely viewed as a priority for policymakers, and the preferred ways of combating it usually take the form of localised epistemic interventions such as fact-checking websites or information campaigns.

What Claims Do We Have Over Our Google Search Profiles?

This is a guest post by Hannah Carnegy-Arbuthnott (University of York).

We’ve all done things we regret. It used to be possible to comfort ourselves with the thought that our misadventures would soon be forgotten. In the digital age, however, not only is more of our personal information captured and recorded, search engines can also serve up previously long-forgotten information at the click of a button.

An ad-hominem attack on… actually, let’s just call it Reply to Van Goozen

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.

An ad-hominem attack on an ad-hominem attack on non-consequentialism

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.

An ad-hominem attack on anti-consequentialism

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.

Countering Social Oppression

In this post, Suzy Killmister (Monash) discusses her recently published article in the Journal of Applied Philosophy giving an answer to the question, what, if anything, can members of oppressed groups do to counter that oppression?

© Adam Fagen (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

During the Memphis Sanitation Strike of 1968, protestors marched through the streets carrying signs bearing the slogan ‘I Am a Man’. Today, protesters march through the streets carrying signs declaring ‘Trans Rights are Human Rights’, while others proclaim ‘No Human is Illegal’. What’s going on here? And more importantly, what explains the rhetorical power of such statements?

Welcome to our 2023/24 session!

Justice Everywhere is back for a new season. We continue in our aim to provide a public forum for the exchange of ideas about philosophy and public affairs.

We have lots of exciting content coming your way! This includes:

  • Weekly posts from our a wonderful team of house authors, offering analysis of a vast array of moral, ethical, and political issues on Mondays.
  • The continuation of our collaboration with the Journal of Applied Philosophy, introducing readers to cutting-edge research being published on justice-related topics in applied and engaged philosophy.
  • More from our special series: Beyond the Ivory Tower where we interview those who work at/across the boundary between theory and practice, and Teaching Philosophy.

So please follow us, read and share posts on social media (we’re on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter), and feel free to comment on posts using the comment box at the bottom of each post. If you have a suggestion for a topic or would like to contribute a guest post on a topical subject in political philosophy (broadly construed), please feel free to get in touch with us at justice.everywhere.blog@gmail.com.

From the Vault: Justice, Culture, and Society

While Justice Everywhere takes a short break over the summer, we recall some of the highlights from our 2022-23 season. 

Here are a few highlights from this year’s writing on a wide range of issues relating to society and culture:

Stay tuned for even more on this topic in our 2023-24 season!

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Justice Everywhere will return in full swing on 4th September with fresh weekly posts by our cooperative of regular authors (published on Mondays), in addition to our Journal of Applied Philosophy series and other special series (published on Thursdays). If you would like to contribute a guest post on a topical justice-based issue (broadly construed), please feel free to get in touch with us at justice.everywhere.blog@gmail.com.

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