A recurrent challenge in applied ethics concerns the development of principles that are both suitably general to cover various cases and sufficiently exact to guide behavior in particular instances. In business ethics, two central approaches—stockholder and stakeholder—often fail by one or the other requirement. The author argues that the failure is precipitated by their reliance upon “universal” theory, which views the justification of principles as both independent of their context of application and universally appropriate to all contexts. The author develops (...) a contextual interpretation of “constructivism” as an alternative approach, and argues that this alternative meets the above challenge. -/- . (shrink)
Technological advances in media communications have raised questions about the appropriateness of media ownership rules for traditional TV and radio broadcast. This article contributes to this debate by defending a set of principles that ought to govern the distribution of broadcast spectrum. In particular, it defends principles reflecting the ‹public interest’ constraint currently informing broadcast media ownership rules, and argues against a free-market procedure for distributing spectrum use. The argument relies upon the application of a political constructivist approach typical to (...) many political theories. In applying this approach, the author illustrates the strengths and weakness of constructivism and in the process provide an example for how constructivism can be applied to other subjects. As a result, the article has two aims. First, it defends a set of broadcast ownership principles. Second, it provides a model for how philosophers might apply constructivism to other subjects. (shrink)
Abstract: In this article the author develops the view, held by some, that political constructivism is best interpreted as a pragmatic enterprise aiming to solve political problems. He argues that this interpretation's structure of justification is best conceived in terms of two separate investigations—one develops a normative solution to a particular political problem by working up into a coherent whole certain moral conceptions of persons and society; and the other is an empirically based analysis of the political problem. The author (...) argues that the empirically based analysis can generate criteria for assessing whether the normative theory successfully works out a solution, thereby developing a functionalist structure of justification. He further argues that this interpretation overcomes a longstanding criticism of constructivism, namely, that the use of substantive moral concepts in the hypothetical choice procedure biases the defense of principles in a particular direction and therefore begs important philosophical questions. (shrink)
Political Constructivism Political Constructivism is a method for producing and defending principles of justice and legitimacy. It is most closely associated with John Rawls’ technique of subjecting our deliberations about justice to certain hypothetical constraints. Rawls argued that if all of us reason in the light of these conditions we could arrive at the same … Continue reading Political Constructivism →.
Moral and political philosophers are increasingly using empirical data to inform their normative theories. This has sparked renewed interest into questions concerning the relationship between facts and principles. A recent attempt to frame these questions within a broader approach to normative theory comes from David Miller, who has on several occasions defended ‘contextualism’ as the best approach to justice. Miller argues that the context of distribution itself brings one or another political principle into play. This paper examines this claim. It (...) considers several plausible strategies for carrying out Miller’s general project and argues that each strategy fails. Nevertheless, the author maintains that an investigation into why they fail paves the way for a philosophically plausible account of the relationship between facts and principles.Keywords: justice; contextualism; global distributive justice; justification; John Rawls; David Miller. (shrink)
This paper interprets the relation between justice and legitimacy found in John Rawls's Political Liberalism and then applies it to the field of transitional justice. The author argues that transitional mechanisms can be better defended in terms of “legitimacy” than in “justice,” because the circumstances of transitional justice admit of reasonable disagreement over “just” public policy. In such circumstances, policy recommendations can always be construed as falling short of justice, thus raising plausible concerns over their normative justification. This paper attempts (...) to answer such concerns by justifying transitional mechanisms as morally appropriate yet less than fully just. The author explains how the concept of legitimacy facilitates such a justification and how such a justification can secure the normative grounds that are ironically threatened by investigations relying on a concept of justice. (shrink)
Is there really an ethical crisis? We propose that the situation is not as bad as many would have us believe. We have attempted to present an alternative explanation for some earlier reports of an ethical crisis. This has resulted in a number of research propositions. We are optimistic that there are, in spite of reports to the contrary, an overwhelming majority of ethical people populating our business community.
This paper deals with Ludwik Fleck’s theory of thought styles and Michael Polanyi’s theory of tacit knowledge. Though both concepts have been very influential for science studies in general, and both have been subject to numerous interpretations, their accounts have, somewhat surprisingly, hardly been comparatively analyzed. Both Fleck and Polanyi relied on the physiology and psychology of the senses in order to show that scientific knowledge follows less the path of logical principles than the path of accepting or rejecting (...) specific conventions, where these may be psychologically or sociologically grounded. It is my aim to show that similarities and differences between Fleck and Polanyi are to be seen in the specific historical and political context in which they worked. Both authors, I shall argue, emphasized the relevance of perception in close connection to their respective understanding of science, freedom, and democracy. (shrink)
Suppose a fire broke out in a fertility clinic. One had time to save either a young girl, or a tray of ten human embryos. Would it be wrong to save the girl? According to Michael Sandel, the moral intuition is to save the girl; what is more, one ought to do so, and this demonstrates that human embryos do not possess full personhood, and hence deserve only limited respect and may be killed for medical research. We will argue, (...) however, that no relevant ethical implications can be drawn from the thought experiment. It demonstrates neither that one always ought to let the embryos die, nor does it allow for any general conclusion concerning the moral status of human embryos. (shrink)
This article presents a critical analysis of two influential readings of Kant’s Second Analogy, namely, Gerd Buchdahl’s “modest reading” and Michael Friedman’s “strong reading.” After pointing out the textual and philosophical problems with each, I advance an alternative reading of the Second Analogy argument. On my reading, the Second Analogy argument proves the existence of necessary and strictly universal causal laws. This, however, does not guarantee that Kant has a solution for the problem of induction. After I explain why (...) the empirical lawfulness of nature does not guarantee the empirical uniformity of nature, I examine the modal status of empirical laws in Kant and argue contra Buchdahl and Friedman that empirical laws express two different kinds of necessity that are not reducible to each other. -/- . (shrink)
Michael Sandel’s latest book is not a scholarly work but is clearly intended as a work of public philosophy—a contribution to public rather than academic discourse. The book makes two moves. The first, which takes up most of it, is to demonstrate by means of a great many examples, mostly culled from newspaper stories, that markets and money corrupt—degrade—the goods they are used to allocate. The second follows from the first as Sandel’s proposed solution: we as a society should (...) deliberate together about the proper meaning and purpose of various goods, relationships, and activities (such as baseball and education) and how they should be valued. -/- Public philosophy is a different genre from academic philosophy, but that does not mean that it cannot be held to high standards. In my view, while this book does provide food for thought and food for conversation, it nevertheless has significant failings as a work of public philosophy rather than journalistic social activism on the model of Naomi Klein’s No logo (1999). (shrink)