In The Heart of Human Rights, Allen Buchanan emphasizes the distinction between moral human rights (MHRs) on the one hand and international legal human rights (ILHRs) on the other. MHRs are the moral rights held universally by all humans simply in virtue of being human. ILHRs are the legal rights of international practice, which are articulated in the United Nations’ International Bill of Rights and related legal documents. One of the most controversial aspects of Buchanan’s account of (...) human rights is its denial of any significant role for MHRs in the justification of the content of ILHRs. This is at odds with the orthodoxy according to which there is a close connection between MHRs and ILHRs. In particular, Buchanan challenges what he calls the ‘Mirroring View’ according to which each ILHR constitutes the reflection of some corresponding MHR. Buchanan is right to subject the Mirroring View to scrutiny, and although I agree that it should be rejected, I argue in this paper that his alternative account of the justification of ILHRs is also problematic. In particular, I argue that rejecting the Mirroring View does not entail the irrelevance of MHRs to the justification of the content of ILHRs, and I propose an alternative account that avoids the shortcomings of the Mirroring View while nevertheless placing MHRs at the core of the justification of ILHRs. (shrink)
What is the role of conscious experience in the epistemology of perceptual knowledge: how should we characterise what is going on in seeing that o is F in order to illuminate the contribution of seeing o to their status as cases of knowing that o is F? My proposal is that seeing o involves conscious acquaintance with o itself, the concrete worldly source of the truth that o is F, in a way that may make it evident to the subject (...) that o is an instance of ‘x is F’ as she understands this, and hence evident that o is F. Seeing that o is F is thus a way of its being evident that o is F and is therefore a way of knowing that o is F. (shrink)
A taped conversational interview with Daniel Dennett and Bill Uzgalis covers a wide range of topics arising from Dennett’s thoughts about computing and human beings. The background of Dennett’s work is explored as are his views about mind-brain identity theory, artificial intelligence, functionalism, human exceptionalism, animal culture, language, pain, freedom and determinism, and quality of life.
The Nobel prize-winning molecular biologist Walter Gilbert described the mapping and sequencing of the human genome as “the grail of molecular biology.” The implication, endorsed by enthusiasts for the new genetics, is that possessing a comprehensive knowledge of human genetics, like possessing the Holy Grail, will give us miraculous powers to heal the sick, and to reduce human suffering and disabilities. Indeed, the rhetoric invoked to garner public support for the Human Genome Project appears to appeal to the best of (...) the Western tradition's enthusiasm for progress: the idea of improving human lives through the practical application of scientific knowledge. (shrink)
Using the writings of slaves and former slaves, as well as commentaries on slavery, Between Slavery and Freedom explores the American slave experience to gain a better understanding of six moral and political concepts—oppression, paternalism, resistance, political obligation, citizenship, and forgiveness. The authors use analytical philosophy as well as other disciplines to gain insight into the thinking of a group of people prevented from participating in the social/political discourse of their times. Between Slavery and Freedom rejects the notion that philosophers (...) need not consider individual experience because philosophy is "impartial" and "universal." A philosopher should also take account of matters that are essentially perspectival, such as the slave experience. McGary and Lawson demonstrate the contribution of all human experience, including slave experiences, to the quest for human knowledge and understanding. (shrink)
I take it as my assignment to criticize the Gauthier enterprise. At the outset, however, I should express my general agreement with David Gauthier's normative vision of a liberal social order, including the place that individual principles of morality hold in such an order. Whether the enterprise is, ultimately, judged to have succeeded or to have failed depends on the standards applied. Considered as a coherent grounding of such a social order in the rational choice behavior of persons, the enterprise (...) fails. Considered as an extended argument implying that persons should adopt the moral stance embodied in the Gauthier structure, the enterprise is, I dunk, largely successful. Considered as a set of empirically falsifiable propositions suggesting that persons do, indeed, choose as the Gauthier precepts dictate, the enterprise offers Humean hope rather than Hobbesian despair. (shrink)
To commence any answer to the question “Can democracy promote the general welfare?” requires attention to the meaning of “general welfare.” If this term is drained of all significance by being defined as “whatever the political decision process determines it to be,” then there is no content to the question. The meaning of the term can be restored only by classifying possible outcomes of democratic political processes into two sets – those that are general in application over all citizens and (...) those that are discriminatory. (shrink)
Massimo Renzo has recently argued in this journal that Allen Buchanan’s account of the ethics of intervention is too permissive. Renzo claims that a proper understanding of political self-determination shows that it is often impermissible to intervene in order to establish a regime that leads to more self-determination for a group of people if that group was or would be opposed to the intervention. Renzo’s argument rests on an analogy between individual self-determination and group self-determination, and once we see (...) that there are differences between the two kinds of self-determination, his argument against Buchanan fails, and thus there are more cases of permissible intervention than Renzo countenances. However, understanding these differences also reveals that Buchanan’s account is also not permissive enough. There are cases of justified intervention beyond even what Buchanan compasses. (shrink)
In Our Moral Fate: Evolution and Escape from Tribalism, Buchanan’s challenging attempt to account for morality through an evolutionary lens has, as its turning point, the introduction of the key roles of the human capacity for critical, open-ended moral reasoning and the powerful motivating force of moral identity to exercise it, in order to explain the shift from “shallowly inclusive” to “deeply inclusive moralities” and therefore to account for the possibility of the Two Great Expansions of the moral regard. (...) Nevertheless, these two crucial human traits seem to produce those large-scale social-political effects required by these two momentous moral shifts only under certain necessary conditions, specifically because—according to the author—the widespread and relatively unconstrained exercise of the capacity for critical, open-ended moral reasoning is something of a luxury good, namely, something that requires a considerable surplus reproductive success. This contribution aims at highlighting why a real exercise of human moral reasoning cannot be a luxury good, by raising three fundamental points to ground Buchanan’s novel pathway from a moral standpoint. The first section argues for the introduction of a moral justification for the necessary conditions underlying the REHMR. The second section claims the need for an evolutionary or moral foundation of the moral reasons and principles which inform and prompt the affirmation of an authentic moral identity. Finally, the third section motivates the demand for an elucidation on what deep normative source of morality is specifically at stake in Buchanan’s theory. (shrink)
This article presents an interpretation of Deleuze’s concept of difference-in-itself. I argue that this is best understood as an adption of Duns Scotus’s concept of ultimate difference. After suggesting that the influence of Scotus on Deleuze extends beyond their shared commitment to the univocity of being, I turn to briefly review Deleuze’s notion of absolute difference. I proceed from there to explain Scotus’s accounts of univocity and ultimate difference, throughout noting the many stark parallels with Deleuze. On the basis of (...) this Scotistic reading of Deleuzian difference, I then show how Deleuze’s synthesis of univocal being and difference-in-itself can be uniquely situated within the fourteenth-century Scotistic disputations on the predicability of univocal being to ultimate difference. I conclude with some suggestions on possible further connections between Deleuze and medieval metaphysics which are opened up through this association of Deleuze with Scotus and the Scotistic tradition. (shrink)
Propositions are the things we believe, intend, desire, and so on, but discussions are often less precise than they could be and an important driver of this deficiency has been a focus on the objects but a neglect of the attitudinal relations we bear to them. In what follows, we will offer some thoughts on what it means for a proposition to be the object of an attitude and we will argue that an important part of the story lies with (...) the attitude relations rather than the propositions. As we will see there are infinitely many relations we might bear to a proposition, but the propositional attitude relations are special amongst them. Accounting for what makes them special will be an important component in the discussion that follows. We will argue that once one appreciates certain facts about propositional attitude relations, various claims that metaphysicians often make regarding propositions themselves begin to look undermotivated. In fact, many views on the metaphysical nature of propositions come to look like plausible candidates for being that to which our propositional attitudes relate us. As will emerge, we will see that the principle role of propositions in the theory of mind is simply to keep track of how our attitudinal states represent things as being. But, we argue, in order to do this work, very few constraints must be placed on the nature of propositions themselves. In particular, contra much of the recent work on the metaphysics of propositions, they need not represent nor must they be structured. In light of these observations, we conclude by sketching our own favored minimalist view of propositions. (shrink)
Bill Brewer presents an original view of the role of conscious experience in the acquisition of empirical knowledge. He argues that perceptual experiences must provide reasons for empirical beliefs if there are to be any determinate beliefs at all about particular objects in the world. This fresh approach to epistemology turns away from the search for necessary and sufficient conditions for knowledge and works instead from a theory of understanding in a particular area.
Bill Cosby’s immorality has raised intriguing aesthetic and ethical issues. Do the crimes that he has been convicted of lessen the aesthetic value of his stand-up and, even if we can enjoy it, should we? This article first discusses the intimate relationship between the comedian and audience. The art form itself is structurally intimate, and at the same time the comedian claims to express an authentic self on stage. After drawing an analogy between the question of the moral character (...) of comedians and the aesthetic value of their stand-up and the debate over the ethical criticism of art, this article argues that it is reasonable to find a comedian’s performance less funny, because stand-up’s artistic success relies on this intimacy. It contrasts the comedy of Bill Cosby with that of Louis C.K. C.K.’s moral flaws are much more present in his comedy, and it is therefore more difficult to find him funny. Last, it is ethically permissible to enjoy their comedy, if no harm to others results, both because it does not corrupt the audience’s character and because amusement is valuable. (shrink)
In Learner Agency: Building the Mindset and Skill Set of Hope in Our Classrooms, author Bill Zima clarifies what student agency looks and sounds like in the classroom. Zima introduces a framework that K-12 educators can use to organize their instructional practice to create opportunities and the right conditions that give learners control over their thinking. When teachers deliberately plan and structure lessons with the goal of developing student agency, they shift away from simply delivering content to encouraging students (...) to become active participants in their learning. By reading Learner Agency, teachers and leaders will discover research-based strategies for supporting and cultivating students' ability to build agency within themselves. (shrink)
James Buchanan often argued that fairness is an obligation toward our equals. If Adam Smith is our equal, then we are under obligation to try to understand him. We see this in Buchanan’s attempts to reformat political economy on the basis of natural equals, a world in which Smith’s street porter does indeed have the same capacity as the philosopher. This shows in Buchanan’s excitement over increasing returns models as well as John Rawls’ Theory of Justice both (...) of which he saw a way to make this view operational. (shrink)
Ethical guidelines for conducting clinical trials have historically been based on a perceived therapeutic obligation to treat and benefit the patient-participants. The origins of this ethical framework can be traced to the Hippocratic oath originally written to guide doctors in caring for their patients, where the overriding moral obligation of doctors is strictly to do what is best for the individual patient, irrespective of other social considerations. In contrast, although medicine focuses on the health of the person, public health is (...) concerned with the health of the entire population, and thus, public health ethics is founded on the societal responsibility to protect and promote the health of the population as a whole. From a public health perspective, research ethics should be guided by giving due consideration to the risks and benefits to society in addition to the individual research participants. On the basis of a duty to protect the population as a whole, a fiduciary obligation to realise the social value of the research and the moral responsibility to distribute the benefits and burdens of research fairly across society, how a public health perspective on research ethics results in fundamental re-assessments of the proper course of action for two salient topical issues in research ethics is shown: stopping trials early for reasons of efficacy and the conduct of research on less expensive yet less effective interventions. (shrink)
A timely new edition of the classic journalism guide, now featuring updated material on the importance of reporting in the age of media mistrust and fake news--and how journalists can use technology while also navigating its challenges. More than two decades ago, the Committee of Concerned Journalists gathered some of America's most influential newspeople to ask the question "What is journalism for?" Through exhaustive research, surveys, interviews, and public forums, they identified the essential elements that define journalism and its role (...) in our society. The result is one of the most important books on the media ever written, winner of the Goldsmith Book Prize from Harvard, the Society of Professional Journalists Award, and the Bart Richards Award from Penn State University. Updated with new material covering the ways journalists can deftly leverage technology to their advantage, especially given the shifting revenue architecture--with "clickbait" fading away and consumers paying a higher premium for quality reporting--this fourth edition of The Elements of Journalism is an essential read for journalists, students, and anybody hoping to stay informed in contentious times. (shrink)
The topic of enhancement has become a booming sector in ethics in the last decade, and with this broad and detailed overview of arguments in favor and against biomedical enhancement, Allen Buchanan provides an authoritative and detailed insight into the central issues of this topic.As defined by Buchanan in the first chapter of this book, “a biomedical enhancement uses biotechnology to cause an improvement of an existing capacity by acting directly on the body (including the brain)” (p. 5). (...) It is an intensely discussed topic in bioethics. Issues at stake in the debate are the moral definition of what is part of human nature and what is not, the autonomy of potential users, equality in the distribution of resources, the safety of biomedical enhancement, and possible benefit for the whole society.In this small but effective volume the Author analyzes all these issues from a perspective of legitimacy, both as an individual and as a society. The book is aimed at a wide audience, beyond pro .. (shrink)
Traditional ecocentric ethics relies on an ecology that emphasizes the stability and integrity of ecosystems. Numerous ecologists now focus on natural systems that are less clearly characterized by these properties. We use the elimination and restoration of wolves in Yellowstone to illustrate troubles for traditional ecocentric ethics caused by ecological models emphasizing instability in natural systems. We identify several other problems for a stability-integrity based ecocentrism as well. We show how an ecocentric ethic can avoid these difficulties by emphasizing the (...) value of the wildness of natural systems and we defend wildness value from a rising tide of criticisms. (shrink)
Early modern empiricists thought that the nature of perceptual experience is given by citing the object presented to the mind in that experience. Hallucination and illusion suggest that this requires untenable mind-dependent objects. Current orthodoxy replaces the appeal to direct objects with the claim that perceptual experience is characterized instead by its representational content. This paper argues that the move to content is problematic, and reclaims the early modern empiricist insight as perfectly consistent, even in cases of illusion, with the (...) realist contention that these direct objects of perception are the persisting mind-independent physical objects we all know and love. (shrink)
How do issues of form and content shape the documentary film? What role does visual evidence play in relation to a documentary’s arguments about the world we live in? In what ways do documentaries abide by or subvert ethical expectations? Are mockumentaries a form of subversion? Can the documentary be an aesthetic experience and at the same time have political or social impact? And how can such impacts be empirically measured? Pioneering film scholar Bill Nichols investigates the ways documentaries (...) strive for accuracy and truthfulness and simultaneously fabricate a form that shapes reality. Such films may rely on reenactment to re-create the past, storytelling to provide satisfying narratives, and rhetorical figures such as metaphor or devices such as irony to make a point. Documentaries are truly a fiction unlike any other. With clarity and passion, Nichols offers incisive commentaries on the basic questions of documentary’s distinct relationship to the reality it represents, as well as close readings of provocative documentaries from this form's earliest days to its most recent incarnations. These essays offer a definitive account of what makes documentary film such a vital part of our cultural landscape. (shrink)
Introduction -- What is journalism for? -- Truth: the first and most confusing principle -- Who journalists work for -- Journalism of verification -- Independence from faction -- Monitor power and offer voice to the voiceless -- Journalism as a public forum -- Engagement and relevance -- Make the news comprehensive and proportional -- Journalists have a responsibility to conscience -- The rights and responsibilities of citizens.
The entrenchment of a bill of rights, and the consequent removal of the matters covered in the bill from the domain of the legislature, is commonly thought to constitute a transfer of power from the legislature to the courts. Yet the simple answer to this thought is that, strictly speaking, no such transfer takes place, for in acquiring power to determine the content of a bill of rights the courts do not acquire the power to legislate that (...) the bill denies to the legislature. The more complex response is that what the courts acquire when a bill of rights is entrenched is the power to set a constitutional agenda, a power that the legislature may never have had and so has not necessarily lost, a power the political significance of which depends on the form and content of what is entrenched and the value and character of the power it leaves in the hands of the legislature. In particular, the entrenchment of a project of governance (as typified by the positive duties conventionally associated with economic and social rights) raises concerns about the power exercised by courts that are not raised by the entrenchment of a project of non-governance (as typified by the negative duties conventionally associated with civil and political liberties). Non-governance may be objectionable, but not because the courts secure it. Governance, however, may be objectionable just because the courts secure it. (shrink)
In this paper I discuss a number of different relationships between two kinds of obligation: those which have individuals as their subject, and those which have groups of individuals as their subject. I use the name collective obligations to refer to obligations of the second sort. I argue that there are collective obligations, in this sense; that such obligations can give rise to and explain obligations which fall on individuals; that because of these facts collective obligations are not simply reducible (...) to individual obligations; and that collective obligations supervene on individual obligations, without being reducible to them. The sort of supervenience I have in mind here is what is sometimes called ‘global supervenience’. In other words, there cannot be two worlds which differ in respect of the collective obligations which exist in them without also differing in respect of the individual obligations which exist in them. (shrink)