Abstracts – 2nd St Andrews CEPPA Graduate Conference
Friday (8 Feb)
18:00 “So, You Want to Be a Public Philosopher?” Public Philosophy Workshop with Carrie Jenkins (University of British Columbia)
Saturday (9 Feb)
9:30 “On Doing Less Good” Jessica Fischer (University College London)
Abstract: Many philosophers, consequentialists and non-consequentialists alike, think that we have a default duty to maximize value when no other moral considerations are at play. That is, once any constraints, permissions, or duties are absent or already fulfilled, and all other things are equal, even many non-consequentialists believe that one ought to do more good rather than less good if one is able to do so at no cost. However, cases of charitable giving offer a compelling counter-example to the idea that there is default duty to maximize value, since most people believe that it is permissible to donate to a less efficient charity rather than to a more efficient charity, even if one could donate to the more efficient charity at no additional cost. But since only one of the two claims can be correct, this adds up to a puzzle. In this paper, I consider two options to solve this problem: we can either agree with Theron Pummer and Joe Horton that our intuitions are wrong and that it is impermissible to donate to a less efficient charity, or we must reject the assumption that there is a default duty to maximize the good. I argue that we should reject the duty to maximize the good, thus offering motivation to turn our backs on the form of non-consequentialism which is currently most dominant in the literature.
11:00 “Why It Makes No Difference Whether You Make a Difference” Samuel Lee (New York University)
Abstract: Collective action can be harmful: extremists are elected to political office, rampant consumption ruins the environment, and too many tourists ruin the vibe. In such cases we are inclined to think that the individual actors comprising the group that caused the outcome have done something that they had reason not to do. Most have wished to account for these individual reasons in acausal terms, having noted that, for instance, the outcome of an election depends on no single vote. In this paper I buck the trend by offering a simple causal account of our reasons to act in cases of collective action. I argue for this approach by showing it is the only one that can preserve the connection between moral responsibility and causal responsibility. Additionally, I show that a more complicated causal account of collective action fares worse in predicting our judgements than does the simpler theory I advocate. I close by drawing some lessons for the metaphysics of causation more generally
12:15 “Clay, Glass and Implicit Bias” Sam Sumpter (University of Washington)
Abstract: How should we respond when someone does something subtly racist, sexist, or otherwise oppressive? Should we try to convince them how and why they’re wrong? Should we aggressively call them out? Should we calmly explain the historic, economic, and social implications of their actions? An increasing number of theorists who work in the ethics of implicit bias argue we should do whatever will ultimately be most effective at getting that person to “change their mind.” For many of these writers, this question of effectiveness is tempered by a concern that eliciting the wrongdoer’s defensiveness will make them less likely to “change their mind,” and they we should avoid employing responsibility-holdings that elicit defensiveness. In this paper, I start by taking for granted the shared aim of arriving at responsibility-holding practices that are optimally effective at advancing the broad goal of mitigating the harms of oppression. However, I question and ultimately reject the argument that wholesale avoidance of wrongdoers’ defensiveness in cases of implicit bias is the most effective route towards achieving that goal. First, I propose three axes of analysis to ground our examination of what kinds of practices are likely to be effective. I then examine more closely the account of Robin Zheng, who advocates avoiding wrongdoers’ defensiveness, before demonstrating that her account falls short of likely effectiveness. I conclude by sketching an alternative model based on George Yancy’s concept of un-suturing that I think bears out more productive results.
14:30 Keynote: “Towards a Narrow Conception of Disrespect (and of Respect, too, for that matter)” Christine Bratu (LMU Munich)
Abstract: What does it mean to disrespect another person? This is still an open (and surprisingly little investigated) question. In this talk, I try to shed some light on this important aspect of our everyday practices of recognition. I claim that we should reject both generalising conceptions (according to which we disrespect another person by wronging her) and mentalistic conceptions (according to which we disrespect another person by failing to correctly deliberate about her). I argue that, instead, we should adopt a narrower account that conceptualises disrespect as a form of communication. According to this account, we disrespect another person by communicating (either via our words of via our actions) that she has lower moral status. Thinking about disrespect in this way allows to see why disrespectful actions are morally wrong and, also, why they are prevalent in hierarchical unjust societies. It also us to draw some conclusions about what a philosophically useful conception of respect would have to look like.
16:00 “Probabilistic Classifiers, Unknown Objects, and the Ethics of Automated Vehicles” Geoff Keeling (University of Bristol)
Abstract: A recent dispute in applied ethics looks at what morality requires in automated vehicle (AV) collisions in which (i) harm to at least one person is unavoidable; and (ii) a choice is required about how to distribute harms between multiple persons whose interests are in conflict (Keeling 2018a: 414, 2018b: 259). This dispute has been criticised for its failure to account for the fact that AV decisions involve risk and various kinds of uncertainty; and for its failure to produce accounts of justified harm in AV collisions which are congruent with engineering practice (Nyholm and Smids 2016; Goodall 2016; Himmelreich 2018). In this paper, I take these criticisms as a starting point. My aim is to articulate an ethical question about one kind of uncertainty which we can expect to arise in AV collisions: uncertainty about what kind of objects are in the AV’s environment, and what the moral status of those objects is. Roughly speaking, the question asks how the AV’s aversion to colliding with a particular object should depend on its degree of belief in that object being a person. I consider three answers to this question. I call these
the Most Likely Class View, the Threshold View and the Continuous View. I argue that, of these views, the Continuous View is the most plausible.
17:30 “Microagressions and Indignation: How our Emotions Help us Track Injustice” Lara Jost (Université de Genève)
Abstract: According to Derald Wing Sue (2010, xvi), “microaggressions are brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership.” Trying to justify that a microaggression has occurred by appealing to emotions is often dismissed because emotions are seen as an unreliable source of justification. This leads to a practice of silencing (Dotson, 2011) which is extremely harmful. Philosophy contributes to this practice of silencing by performing a willful hermeneutical ignorance, as it does not
include emotions in the possible sources for moral knowledge. The paper shows how emotions could be a reliable source of justification when it comes to recognising that a microaggression has occurred. The importance of lived experience is explained, which leads to the presentation of the attitudinal theory of emotion, and how emotions understood as attitudes track values in a reliable manner in the specific case of microaggressions. This enables attitudes to become a source of justification for moral knowledge, as I argue that microaggressed people develop a reliable mencian virtue of justice by being exposed to microaggressions on a regular basis. To conclude, I show the
implications that this theory has for marginalised groups in the world, and how this theory helps prevent practices of silencing in the case of microaggressions, in philosophy and outside academia, which is a first step towards a more just world.
Sunday (10 Feb)
10:00 “Tackling Lookism” Enrico Galvagni (University of Trento)
Abstract: Lookism can be defined as discrimination against people considered physically unattractive. This concept has recently gained the attention of scholars in practical philosophy and applied ethics. In my paper I give an account of contemporary analyses of lookism and retrace three normative proposals which have been advanced in the recent debate. After showing how empirical evidence demonstrates that lookism exists and it has a negative impact on people’s lives, I consider the following possible strategies to reduce its effects: (A) free cosmetic interventions; (B) practical measures and (C) legal regulation. I consider them in turn, coming to show the limits of their efficacy in the light of the current debate in social and everyday aesthetics. In particular, I show that (A) trying to delete every form of imperfection, could make lookism even fiercer and that working to create a more inclusive standard of beauty is far more beneficial than offering free cosmetic interventions. I then illustrate how (B) reduces the richness of aesthetic interactions to a subject-object model, disqualifying the concept of personal charm and atmosphere, which is central in our everyday experience of attractiveness. Finally I express a caveat concerning (C): the attempt to include unattractive people in the list of groups needing immediate protection risks to result in a lack of resources to fight against other discriminatory behaviors directed to more disadvantaged groups. I conclude my essay calling for further research concerning lookism, emphasizing in particular the importance of a collaboration between applied ethics and contemporary aesthetics scholars.
11:30 “Rawls and the Distribution of Fair Work” Frauke Schmode (Technischen Universität München)
Abstract: In this paper, I will argue that Rawlsian justice requires a more equal distribution of work that can be classified as bad work. Bad work is multifaceted – as are the harms it implies. In this paper, I will focus on two forms of bad work that could be recognized as such by Rawls’ liberal theory: work that does not promote or undermine one’s self-respect and work that affects one’s physical and/or mental dysfunction. While some of these harms can be repaired or compensated, some are irrevocable and hence incommensurable. But if fundamental capacities or functioning are permanently impaired, one’s life choices and the range of conceptions of the good one is able to pursue is severely and irrevocably limited. Thus, I argue, that the distribution of bad work, if it is socially necessary, matters from the perspective of justice and ought to be regulated by Rawls’ two principles of justice.
13:30 Keynote: “Democracy and the Ethics of Voting” Annabelle Lever (Sciences Po Paris)
15:00 “On David Estlund’s Account of Qualified Acceptability” William Chan (University of Warwick)
Abstract: In Democratic Authority, David Estlund defends an account of democratic legitimacy. This account, as he calls it, is epistemic proceduralism. According to epistemic proceduralism, a necessary condition on legitimacy is the acceptability requirement (AR): it requires that any legitimate political procedures be justifiable in terms acceptable to all qualified viewpoints. For a political procedure to be fully legitimate, however, it must track correct political decisions optimally, among all political procedures fulfilling the AR. Only democracy, on Estlund’s view, can be fully legitimate. This article focuses on the question: should the AR be conceived as (a) a weighty pro tanto moral good with respect to political legitimacy, or (b) an exceptionless and absolute threshold forming the boundary between legitimate and illegitimate political procedures? I intend my exploration of this question to reveal certain counter-intuitive implications and inconsistencies in Estlund’s argument. Here are my main claims. First, many parts of Democratic Authority show that Estlund tends to regard the AR as (b). But (b) leads to counter-intuitive conclusions, especially when it comes to the trade-offs between qualified acceptability and substantive justice. Second, in Estlund’s reply to the charge that democracy is subject to qualified objections, he seems to have abandoned (b), and sees the AR as (a) instead. However, I argue that (a) and (b) are inconsistent—Estlund ‘s response to the qualified-controversy-over-democracy charge contradicts (a), which is one core claim of Democratic Authority.
Many thanks to the Mind Association, Scots Philosophical Asssociation, the Aristotelian Society, CAPOD, and CEPPA for their generous funding.