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CEPPA Talk (online only) – David Boonin (University of Colorado Boulder)
November 3, 2022 @ 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Location: Teams (online only)
Title: Two Puzzles About the Ethics of Divestment
Abstract: Suppose you own stock in Acme Corp. and you learn that it consistently acts in seriously immoral ways. What should you do? A common answer maintains that owning stock in Acme Corp. makes you complicit in its immoral behavior and that you should therefore divest yourself of it. But as Steven M. Cahn has argued, there seems to be something puzzling about this answer. If you sell your stock to someone, then they will own it. If it’s wrong to own the stock, then they’ll be doing something wrong. So if you divest yourself of the stock, you’ll be helping someone do something wrong. But it seems wrong to help someone do something wrong. So how can a company’s immoral behavior make it wrong for you to own stock in the company but not make it wrong for you to get rid of the stock by selling it to someone else? In this talk, I will present two versions of Cahn’s divestment puzzle and explain the reasoning that leads to each of them. I will then discuss the published responses that have appeared since Cahn first presented the puzzle and argue that none of them succeed as solutions to either version. I will conclude by defending an alternative response to the puzzle.