St Andrews CEPPA Graduate Conference – Abstracts

Abstracts – St Andrews CEPPA Graduate Conference

Aggregation with Constraints – Korbinian Rueger (Oxford) – 10:00am, 17th Feb
Abstract: According to strictly aggregative views in ethics, we might have to let one person die in order to save a very large number of people from a minor headache. According to strictly nonaggregative views we might have to let a large number of people suffer from a terrible disease, only slightly less bad than death, in order to save only a single person from death. Both judgements seem implausible, which gives us reason to believe that no such strict view is true. Call any view denying both of these implausible judgements Limited Aggregation. It is my aim in this essay to spell out what I take to be the most plausible version of Limited Aggregation. My main thesis will be the following: Though interpersonal aggregation is always permissible in the evaluation of outcomes, aggregation is not always permissible at the level of choice. There are other considerations than the value of possible outcomes that we need to take into account when choosing between different acts. These other considerations can sometimes block the permissibility of realizing what would be the best outcome in aggregate. My paper is divided into three sections. Building on an existing account by Alex Voorhoeve, in the first section I introduce Limited Aggregation in more detail. In the second section I raise what I take to be the two strongest objections against Limited Aggregation. In the third and last section I introduce my own approach, which I call Aggregation with Constraints, and argue that it does better in dealing with these two objections.

Keynote 1 – Longevity and Liability – Prof Andrew Williams (ICREA & Pompeu Fabra University) – 11:30am, 17th Feb
Abstract: Human beings are living longer lives but some lives are (predictably) longer than others, and, in some societies, lifespan variation is even increasing. This presentation addresses the relatively neglected question of whether there are conditions under which lifespan variations generate unfairness. It identifies two complementary explanations of why institution designers have reasons to limit the extent to which individuals can gain unfair advantages from longer lifespans.

How To Avoid Three Problems for Moral Relativism: Attribute Reasons to Societies as Well as Persons! – Michelle M. Dyke (NYU) – 2:00pm, 17th Feb
Abstract: There are at least two well-known philosophical motivations for rejecting moral realism and for endorsing a form of moral antirealism, such as relativism, instead. The first line of argument draws attention to the alleged inability of realist views to provide a plausible account of the epistemology of our moral beliefs. A second line of argument, which is intended to provide positive support for moral relativism, begins by emphasizing the widespread observable diversity of social customs and value systems espoused by people of different cultures. Yet as I argue here, existing forms of relativism remain highly unsatisfying. More specifically, I argue, well-known forms of relativism are unable to accommodate, at once, a set of three highly intuitive theses about the distinctive character of moral reasons, especially as they interact with one’s normative reasons of other kinds, such as reasons of self-interested practical rationality. Yet I argue that it is possible to formulate a novel kind of antirealism about normative reasons that does have the power to accommodate these claims. This novel view combines the relativist idea that the normative facts are attitude-dependent with the insight that there are other agents, in addition to human persons, to which it makes sense to attribute the kinds of attitudes that give rise to normative reasons. Societies, as well as people, can possess reasons to pursue their aims. By associating moral versus practical reasons with different sorts of agents, I argue it is possible to articulate a fruitful new understanding of the nature of moral and practical reasons.

Third-Factor Explanations and Disagreement in Metaethics – Michael Klenk (Utrecht) – 3:15pm, 17th Feb
Abstract: On the most commonly cited construal of the evolutionary debunking challenge, the challenge is to explain the reliability of the objectivist moral beliefs (cf., Street 2006, 2016; Joyce 2006, 2016). If an adequate explanation proves to be in principle impossible, the challenge goes, then we have no reason to think that the objectivist moral beliefs are epistemically justified. Several objectivists regard this challenge to be their most arduous test (e.g., Enoch 2010; Shafer-Landau 2012). It is widely assumed that so-called third-factor explanations are the most promising candidate explanations available to objectivists (e.g., Enoch 2010). Third-factor accounts appeal to “bridge principles” that “posit a relation between the facts in virtue of which our moral beliefs are true and the (non-moral) facts to which the evolutionary account attributes them” (Tersman 2015: 12-14). If third-factor explanations work, then objectivists can pass their most arduous test. This paper addresses a recent innovative proposal by Folke Tersman about how to determine the epistemic legitimacy of third-factor explanations (Tersman 2015). Tersman argues that third-factor explanations are constrained by the epistemic significance of disagreement. More precisely, objectivists rely on a substantive moral claim, in the form of the bridge principle, to get the third-factor explanations off the ground and radical moral disagreement might undermine the objectivist’s prima facie justification for maintaining that claim. Tersman’s proposal threatens objectivists with a second-order problem: there might be no legitimate moral belief to serve as the bridge principle for a third-factor explanation. If Tersman is right, then objectivists lose their most promising answer to the evolutionary debunking challenge. More generally, Tersman’s view lends support to a novel hypothesis about the general epistemic significance of debunking explanations, as championed by White (2010), Bogardus (2016), and Mogensen (2017): what’s troubling about the casual origins of our beliefs has to do with the epistemic significance of disagreement. This paper aims at showing that Tersman’s argument fails on three fronts: the constraints that Tersman proposes prove to be impossible to violate, irrelevant for the objectivists cause, or implausibly violated given what we know about the ethnographic record.

Terrorism as a Violent Practice of Eradication: Killing Bodies to Kill Ideas – Lu-Vada Dunford (Toronto) – 4:45pm, 17th Feb
Abstract: Despite the abundance of sophisticated literature on terrorism, there is very little consensus among theorists on what counts as a good definition of terrorism. This has led to serious problems. The dangerous trend among states to adopt self-serving definitions of terrorism is clearly intended to capture the idea that state-sanctioned violence is not terroristic. This propagandistic use of the term ‘terrorism’ has led to serious infringements of human rights. To prevent the continued domestic and global misuse of power, we need to formulate a proper definition of terrorism. This paper argues that just war theory is the reason there is no consensus on a proper definition of terrorism, how to get around this problem, and offers a new definition of terrorism that promises to have more theoretical and practical value.

Adaptive Preference Tradeoffs – Audra Jenson (Virginia Tech) – 10am, 18th Feb
Abstract: Consider the following scenario: A mother chooses to marry off her 10 year-old daughter, not because she doesn’t know the harmful effects of child marriage, nor because she thinks that it is good that her daughter marries when she is 10 years old. Rather, she is unable to feed her daughter and realizes that her daughter’s survival depends upon her marrying a financially stable man. This is an apparent example of what human development practitioners and political philosophers call an adaptive preference (AP): a preference, formed under oppressive circumstances, that seems to perpetuate the agent’s own oppression. Prevailing opinion is that forced tradeoffs, like the case presented above, are a type of AP: one in which a person makes a decision because of a limited option set. In this paper I argue that no paradigm cases of forced tradeoffs should not be classified as APs. The paper begins with a brief history of the various uses of the concept. I then address Serene Khader’s (2012) taxonomy of APs. I offer a revised definition of adaptive preferences where I argue that adaptive preferences are mental states that cause the agent with adaptive preferences to make irrational or uninformed decisions that perpetuate their own oppression. I defend this new definition by exploring the implications of changing the definition. In particular, forced tradeoffs involve different kinds of interventions from other kinds of adaptive preferences and including forced tradeoffs risks committing testimonial injustice against those who have limited option sets.

Keynote 2 – Moral and Aesthetic Virtue – Prof Alison Hills (Oxford) – 11:30am, 18th Feb
Abstract: TBA

Are Unjust Non-Combatants Liable To Attack? – Romy Eskens (Oxford) – 2pm, 18th Feb
Abstract: The question addressed in this essay is how advocates of revisionist just war theory can account for the apparent implication of their view that non-combatants become liable to lethal defensive harm, simply by making minor financial, material or political contributions to their country’s unjust war effort. Although the notion of causal agency is crucial to claims about liability, and to claims about non-combatant liability in particular, a framework of causal agency in war has thus far been lacking. In this essay, I propose a viable account of causal agency in war, which I employ to argue (i) that Fabre’s and McMahan’s suggestions to deny that contributing unjust non-combatants are liable to lethal defensive harm are unsuccessful, and (ii) that unjust non-combatants are nevertheless non-liable because warfare is overdetermined in multiple ways. In this way, I show that the credibility of revisionism is not threatened by the apparent implication that contributing unjust non-combatants are liable to lethal attack.

Inspiration Pornography and the Objectification of the Physically Disabled – Nadia Mehdi (Sheffield) – 3:15pm, 18th Feb
Abstract: In this paper I attempt to provide theoretical underpinnings for the concept of ‘inspiration porn’. Well-used by disabled activists the concept attempts to capture a means of objectification of disabled people, by non-disabled people, for the purposes of inspiration. Using Martha Nussbaum (1995) and Rae Langton’s accounts of objectification I will demonstrate that inspiration porn does indeed objectify disabled people. I will then argue that this mode of objectification is morally problematic as it is incompatible with the notions of respect, equality and consent. Inspiration pornography will be shown to rely on pity, and a socially sanctioned way of seeing disabled people that places the viewer in the position of someone who is able-bodied, and subordinates those disabled people being viewed, specifically by locating them as objects for the use of able-bodied people.

Extrinsic identity, intrinsic value – Kacper Kowalczyk (Oxford) – 4:45pm, 18th Feb
Abstract: I discuss three arguments linking metaphysics of persons and value theory. They go wrong in positing implausible links between value and its metaphysical basis. I develop a version of Broome’s argument in Weighing goods (§11.3) which I call the intrinsicality argument. It is that lives cannot have final value because final value is intrinsic yet personal identity through time is not intrinsic. Therefore, all final value at the level of a life has to be reducible to the value of this life’s constituent time-slices. This implies, among other things, that the shape of a life (whether it is an improving or a deteriorating life, for example) is evaluatively irrelevant. I show that the intrinsicality argument overcomes the main problems of the other arguments considered and I sketch some reasons for accepting its premisses. I respond to an objection to the intrinsicality argument which concerns the interaction of intrinsicality and maximality.



For generous funding and support, we are grateful to Aristotelian Society, the Centre for Academic, Professional and Organisational Development at the University of St Andrews, the Mind Association, the Scots Philosophical Association, and the Centre for Ethics, Philosophy and Public Affairs.




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