Justice Everywhere

a blog about philosophy in public affairs

Why We Should ‘Environmentalise’ the Curriculum

A photograph of a group of people sitting on a frosty hillside. One person is standing up and talking to the others.
Outdoor Philosophy Session by the Critique Environmental Working Group: Place-Based Ecological Reflection Exercise in Holyrood Park, Edinburgh. Photo supplied by authors.

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.

An Interview with Thomas Shakespeare (Beyond the Ivory Tower Series)

This is the latest interview in our Beyond the Ivory Tower series, a conversation between Diana Popescu and Tom Shakespeare. Tom Shakespeare (CBE, FBA) is a Professor of Disability Research at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He was trained in social and political sciences at Cambridge University but his work combines disability studies with sociology, social policy, and sexuality studies. His books include The Sexual Politics of Disability (1996); Disability Rights and Wrongs (2006; 2014); Disability – the Basics (2017). He was a member of Arts Council, England (2003-2008), a technical officer at the World Health Organisation where he co-edited the World Report on Disability (2008-2013), and a member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics (2013-2019).  He is currently chair of Light for the World – UK, and vice-chair of Light for the World International.

Feminism without “woman”?

Anyone who is at all online these days – as you are if you’re reading this – will know that one of the most fierce culture wars revolve around the meaning of “woman”. They’re fought in courts, in universities, on other blogs and of course on social media and even on streets.

Taking political education out of families

Political education can be defined as the process by which people come to form political judgments – how they evaluate different political parties and issues of public policy, basically. The primary context of political education is the family. It is in this environment that people are first exposed to political judgments and inculcated with political values. It should come as no surprise that, as a result, many (if not most) people remain faithful to their parents’ political orientations, as research in political sociology often reports. Fortunately, though, political education is not reducible to family transmission. As they grow up, kids become more and more exposed to different political views, be it in school or within their social network, and they can be influenced by all sorts of people and events in this process. It remains true, however, that in the absence of a strong countervailing educational process, families are the main driver of political education in most if not all countries. Should we be happy with this situation?

The care perspective and the police: reform, defund or abolition?

In recent months, the police have been the object of extensive discussion and harsh criticism in the UK. The Louise Casey report published in March found the Metropolitan Police (the police service for the Greater London area) to be institutionally racist, misogynistic and homophobic. Since then, various incidents in different parts of the country – most recently in Cardiff last week, resulting in the tragic deaths of teenagers Kyrees Sullivan and Harvey Evans – have seen the police behaving in deeply problematic ways. The police have also come under attack for its behaviour towards protesters, or people believed to be such, especially during the weekend of the Coronation following the passing of the Public Order Bill. This is in the context of a crisis of legitimacy that the institution has been facing for a few years now, in part as a result of a number of other high-profile cases and investigations. The police are increasingly seen not as an institution that function to protect all citizens, but as a potential threat to members of different social groups. Scepticism about whether the police can be trusted to act lawfully and to provide truthful accounts of its activities is mounting. Mistrust towards the police is of course not in itself a new phenomenon, especially among certain sectors of society, but it has been gaining more traction in broader segments of the population.

The Need for Technomoral Resilience

Changes in moral norms, practices and attitudes are partly driven by technological developments, a phenomenon called “technology-induced moral change”. Such change can be profoundly disruptive, meaning that it disrupts human practices at a fundamental level, including moral concepts. In a recent paper, Katharina Bauer and I argue that such changes and disruptions require the development of what we call “technomoral resilience”, and that moral education should aim at fostering this complex capacity. We illustrate our concept of technomoral resilience by means of the example of human caregivers confronted with the introduction of care robots in elderly care. Our argument does not entail that the cultivation of moral resilience is sufficient for dealing with current challenges in elderly care and healthcare more generally. Structural changes such as better payment for care workers are urgently called for, and it is not our intention to place the burden of ensuring the continuous provision of good care entirely on individuals. We see the development of technomoral resilience as contributing to a differentiated and balanced reaction to the change that happens, thus complementing the necessary changes at the political and institutional level.

An interview with Joseph Chan (Beyond the Ivory Tower series)

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.

Language, justice, and linguistic prejudice in academia

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.

Image by Melk Hagelslag from Pixabay (Free to use under Content License)

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.

Artificial Intelligence and the Role of Political Philosophers

In a recent blog post, Paul Christiano estimates there is a 20% probability that most humans will die within 10 years of building powerful AI. This assessment is so bewildering that many of us will quickly dismiss it as a crazy prediction rooted in science fiction rather than reality. Unfortunately, it is not the fringe view of some apocalyptic dilettante. Paul Christiano previously ran the alignment team at OpenAI, most famously known as the creators of ChatGPT. And in a 2022 survey of researchers in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and computational neuroscience, about half of respondents estimated there is an at least 10% probability of an “extremely bad outcome (e.g. human extinction)” from advanced AI. The timeframe for advanced AI? Of course, it is impossible to make definitive claims, but Geoffrey Hinton, often called the “Godfather of AI” now puts it at 20 years or less, suggesting that even a timeframe of 5 years should not be excluded. This post does not offer any elaborate philosophical argument. Instead, it aims to highlight the pressing need of recognising the most salient issue humanity will face in the near future, which is the rapid development of ever-more powerful AI, and to tentatively explore what – if any – part political philosophers should play in all of this.

Selling Silence: The Morality of Sexual Harassment NDAs

In this post, Scott Altman (USC Gould) discusses his recent JOAP 2022 Annual Essay Prize winning article about the morality of sexual harassment nondisclosure agreements.

Harvey Weinstein, Chairman, The Weinstein Company
Harvey Weinstein by Thomas Hawk (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) pay sexual harassment and abuse victims not to tell their stories or name their abusers. Harvey Weinstein’s many NDAs, and the #MeToo movement, spurred some states to make such NDAs legally unenforceable. 

My Selling Silence article argued in favor of these laws. Sexual wrongdoer NDAs protect abusers, endanger future victims, and undermine deterrence. The article rejected three justifications for wrongdoer NDAs, two of which I will mention briefly before explaining the third.

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