Contemporary Western societies are often criticized for being excessively individualistic. One interpretation of this claim is that their citizens mainly care about their own well-being and not so much about that of others or about communal bonds. Another, complementary interpretation that I develop here argues that our ideas in economics and about justice overestimate the contributions individuals make to economic production. Recognising the extent to which our productivity and thus our standard of living depends on the cooperation of others has a humbling effect on what income we can legitimately think we are entitled to.
Tag: Political Philosophy Page 1 of 2
Housing deprivation is a manifest indication of injustice in many cities. It occurs when individuals either cannot access housing or when they face a high risk of losing their homes, with the implication that people end up living in the streets or in precarious situations. According to United Nations Habitat, 1.8 billion people lack adequate housing. In Latin America, housing deprivation affects more than 28 million lower-income households. In Brazil, data from the 2022 Census shows that 281.472 people are homeless and from the Brazilian IBGE estimates that more than 5 million people are living in irregular houses. Questions that arise are: why this is an injustice, and how can we best address it?
In recent years, these questions have gained increasing scholarly attention, in particular following the book on the subject written by Casey Dawkins (2021) and the work done by Katy Wells (2019; 2022). Both philosophers claim that housing deprivation is an injustice because it violates basic ideas of fundamental human needs – which have material and relational dimensions. However, they propose resourcist housing policies as a solution. In this post, although I agree with them that housing deprivation requires a multidimensional normative account, I argue that we should go beyond a resourcist policy.
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.
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.
The existence of children enlisted in armed groups poses difficult questions to moral and political philosophers regarding our assumptions about what childhood is, or the relationship between victimhood and criminality, or autonomy, dependence and vulnerability. This post aims to briefly introduce how discourses on child soldiers can be morally problematic. The post is based on a forthcoming chapter (co-authored by Alexandra Echeverry) on child soldiers in Colombia.
In the movie Monos, a group of teenage guerrilla soldiers guard a kidnapped prisoner, and tend their cow. Through this simple plot, the film portrays the inner tensions, the plurality of roles, and the complex relationships between children in their condition as children, and their status as soldiers.
Stating that it is difficult nowadays for a state to pursue ambitious redistributive policies through a highly progressive tax system: is it right-wing or simply realistic? Claiming that it will not be possible to fund a universal basic income sufficient to cover the basic needs of all citizens, or to open borders and offer quality social protection to everyone at the same time: are these instances of taking economic constraints seriously or defending the status quo?
Is realism right-wing?
On closer inspection, many political issues that tend to be placed on the left-right spectrum could be interpreted as opposing an idealistic and a realistic perspective. However, these two oppositions are not identical.
Earlier this year I published a short article arguing that multi-parenting can provide a solution to a contemporary conundrum: on the one hand, many people are increasingly worried about climate change and environmental destruction. They know that having fewer children is, for a majority of people, the most effective individual action they can take to reduce their carbon footprint. Some women go on “birth strikes” – they decide not to bring children into the world. On the other hand, life without children can be terribly impoverished. Parenting may be the most important – and creative! – act one can engage in, a non-substitutable occasion for personal growth and, for many, the central source of meaning in life. (Which is not to deny that, for many other people, a childless life is perfectly fine.)
Why do we trust experts to take care of our health and not to take care of our interests in the political realm? This is a very old question of democratic theory. Epistocracy is a neologism frequently used in recent works to refer to a form of government by those who know more or are wiser than the mass.
Two different aspects might differentiate an epistocracy from a democracy: the absence of political equality in the selection of the rulers, or the absence of egalitarian accountability. In addition to these undemocratic aspects, an epistocracy would differ from other non-democratic regimes by some mechanism allowing people who distinguish themselves from the mass by their wisdom or expertise to rule or at least enjoy an important degree of political power. The best example and – to my knowledge – the most interesting challenge to our democratic convictions is Jason Brennan’s idea of an “epistocratic council”. Members of this council would be selected on a meritocratic basis, passing a competency exam. And all citizens would have an equal voice in the choice of the expertise criteria.
Leaving aside the practical challenges such as the choice of the people in charge of preparing the exam, what would be wrong with such an epistocratic council?