Moral psychology studies the features of cognition, judgement, perception and emotion that make human beings capable of moral action. Perspectives from feminist and race theory immensely enrich moral psychology. Writers who take these perspectives ask questions about mind, feeling, and action in contexts of social difference and unequal power and opportunity. These essays by a distinguished international cast of philosophers explore moral psychology as it connects to social life, scientific studies, and literature.
Issues in reproductive ethics, such as the capacity of parents to ‘choose children’, present challenges to philosophical ideas of freedom, responsibility and harm. This book responds to these challenges by proposing a new framework for thinking about the ethics of reproduction that emphasizes the ways that social norms affect decisions about who is born. The book provides clear and thorough discussions of some of the dominant problems in reproductive ethics - human enhancement and the notion of the normal, reproductive liberty (...) and procreative beneficence, the principle of harm and discrimination against disability - while also proposing new ways of addressing these. The author draws upon the work of Michel Foucault, especially his discussions of biopolitics and norms, and later work on ethics, alongside feminist theorists of embodiment to argue for a new bioethics that is responsive to social norms, human vulnerability and the relational context of freedom and responsibility. This is done through compelling discussions of new technologies and practices, including the debate on liberal eugenics and human enhancement, the deliberate selection of disabilities, PGD and obstetric ultrasound. (shrink)
Giorgio Agamben has gained widespread popularity in recent years for his rethinking of radical politics and his approach to metaphysics and language. However, the extraordinary breadth of historical, legal and philosophical sources which contribute to the complexity and depth of Agamben's thinking can also make his work intimidating. Covering the full range of Agamben's work, this critical introduction outlines Agamben's key concerns: metaphysics, language and potentiality, aesthetics and poetics, sovereignty, law and biopolitics, ethics and testimony, and his powerful vision of (...) post-historical humanity. Highlighting the novelty of Agamben's approach while also situating it in relation to the work of other continental thinkers, "The Philosophy of Agamben" presents a clear and engaging introduction to the work of this original and influential thinker. (shrink)
Choice architecture is heralded as a policy approach that does not coercively reduce freedom of choice. Still we might worry that this approach fails to respect individual choice because it subversively manipulates individuals, thus contravening their personal autonomy. In this article I address two arguments to this effect. First, I deny that choice architecture is necessarily heteronomous. I explain the reasons we have for avoiding heteronomous policy-making and offer a set of four conditions for non-heteronomy. I then provide examples of (...) nudges that meet these conditions. I argue that these policies are capable of respecting and promoting personal autonomy, and show this claim to be true across contrasting conceptions of autonomy. Second, I deny that choice architecture is disrespectful because it is epistemically paternalistic. This critique appears to loom large even against non-heteronomous nudges. However, I argue that while some of these policies may exhibit epistemically paternalistic tendencies, these tendencies do not necessarily undermine personal autonomy. Thus, if we are to find such policies objectionable, we cannot do so on the grounds of respect for autonomy. (shrink)
In this article, I consider recent debates on the notion of procreative liberty, to argue that reproductive freedom can be understood as a form of positive freedom—that is, the freedom to make oneself according to various ethical and aesthetic principles or values. To make this argument, I draw on Michel Foucault’s later work on ethics. Both adopting and adapting Foucault’s notion of ethics as a practice of the self and of liberty, I argue that reproductive autonomy requires enactment to gain (...) meaning within the life contexts of prospective parents. Thus, I propose a shift away from the standard negative model of freedom that sees it solely as a matter of noninterference or nonimpedance, a view advocated by major commentators such as John Harris and John Robertson. Instead, reproduction should be understood as a deeply personal project of self-making that integrates both negative and positive freedom. (shrink)
White supremacy is the unnamed political system that has made the modern world what it is today. You will not find this term in introductory, or even advanced, texts in political theory. A standard undergraduate philosophy course will start off with plato and Aristotle, perhaps say something about Augustine, Aquinas, and Machiavelli, move on to Hobbes, Locke, Mill, and Marx, and then wind up with Rawls and Nozick. It will introduce you to notions of aristocracy, democracy, absolutism, liberalism, representative government, (...) socialism, welfare capitalism, andlibertarianism. But though it covers more than two thousand years of Western political thought and runs the ostensible gamut of political systems, there will be no mention of the basic political system that has shaped the world for the past several hundred years. And this omission is not accidental. Rather, it reflects the fact that standard textbooks and courses have for the most part been written and designed by whites, who take their racial privilege so much for granted that they do not even see it as political, as a form of domination. Ironically, the most important political system of recent global history-the system of domination by which white people have historically ruled over and, in certain important ways, continue to rule over nonwhite people-is not seen as a political system at all. It is just taken for granted; it is the background against which other systems, which we are to see as political are highlighted. This book is an attempt to redirect your vision, to make you see what, in a sense, has been there all along. (shrink)
After a brief summary of the 17 essays in Sally Haslanger ’s collection, Resisting Reality: Social Construction and Social Critique, I raise questions in two areas, the defense of constructionism and the definition of gender and race in terms of social oppression. I cite Robin Andreasen’s and Philip Kitcher’s essays arguing that races are both biologically real and socially constructed, and also Joshua Glasgow’s claim that constructionist arguments ultimately fail. I then cite Jennifer Saul’s critique that “ oppression ” definitions (...) of gender and race run into problematic counterexamples, and add some other points arising from the different histories of gender and racial categories and realities. As someone sympathetic to constructionism myself, my aim is not a critique of Haslanger but rather an inquiry as to how she thinks constructionists should answer such challenges. (shrink)
Since its original 1996 publication,Jorge Garcia''s ``The Heart of Racism'''' has beenwidely reprinted, a testimony to its importanceas a distinctive and original analysis ofracism. Garcia shifts the standard framework ofdiscussion from the socio-political to theethical, and analyzes racism as essentially avice. He represents his account asnon-revisionist (capturing everyday usage),non-doxastic (not relying on belief),volitional (requiring ill-will), and moralized(racism is always wrong). In this paper, Icritique Garcia''s analysis, arguing that hedoes in fact revise everyday usage, that hisaccount does tacitly rely on belief, (...) thatill-will is not necessary for racism, and thata moralized account gets both the scope and thedynamic of racism wrong. While I do not offeran alternative positive account myself, Isuggest that traditional left-wing structuralanalyses are indeed superior. (shrink)
In this article I assess the ability of motivational accounts of paternalism to respond to a particular challenge: can its proponents adequately explain the source of the distinctive form of disrespect that animates this view? In particular I examine the recent argument put forward by Jonathan Quong that we can explain the presumptive wrong of paternalism by relying on a Rawlsian account of moral status. I challenge the plausibility of Quong's argument, claiming that although this approach can provide a clear (...) response to the explanatory challenge, it is only successful in doing so when it relies on the strength of its rival: the argument from personal autonomy. In doing so I illustrate that such responses are conceptually dependent on an account of respect for persons, and thus much of the relevant controversy is actually disagreement over how we respect other individuals. (shrink)
Starting from Thomas Hobbes's distinctively materialist version of social contract theory, I argue that Hobbes can assist us in theorizing the racialized body politic of the white LEVIATHAN that is the United States. However, we will need to go beyond his own qualified materialism to recognize the social materiality of race, a materiality not to be reduced to, though incorporating, the body.
An applicant to our graduate program in philosophy, accepted as well by one (but only one) other graduate program, wrestles with his decision. Finally he decides to attend the other program, but he thanks me for our offer, telling me, "I'm glad that at least I had a choice." I want to focus a bit on these two stories, for while the central conclusion in each -- something turning on the importance of choice -- is initially compelling, it is also, (...) on reflection, philosophically puzzling. It is compelling, because many of us in similar positions would share this response; phenomenologically, it feels right to us. We want to believe that the central facts of our lives -- whether or not we have children, where we are educated, what career we follow, with 1 whom we join as partners -- contain in them some fundamental element of our own selection and decision. We will be exploring below exactly what will turn out to be important here, and why, but for now, in our pre-reflective grasp of this phenomenon, we can say that it seems to have something to do with the value we place on autonomy, self-governance, self-authorship. We want, metaphorically speaking, to write the story of our own lives. But let me now begin to draw out why I find this insistence on the importance of choice, which so many of us would share, to be so puzzling. Both individuals, in both stories, want to be offered a certain additional option in order to have -- or at least to feel that they have? -- a choice about what they are going to do next. But, on the one hand, we could argue that, even with this added option, they still don't have a "real" choice -- they don't have the choice of doing what they most want to do; and on the other hand, one could argue that even without the added option, they always had some choice. Let me explain. In the first story, my friend certainly doesn't have open to her the option that would have been her first choice (and, in our society, what we might call the standard choice, the most frequently chosen option): to produce a biological child with her partner in a happy marriage.. (shrink)
"What do grown children owe their parents?" Over two decades ago philosopher Jane English asked this question and came up with the startling answer: nothing (English 1979). English joins many contemporary philosophers in rejecting the once-traditional view that grown children owe their parents some kind of fitting repayment for past services rendered. The problem with the traditional view, as argued by many, is, first, that parents have duties to provide fairly significant services to their growing children, and persons do not (...) owe repayment for others' mere performance of duty; second, even where parents go above and beyond duty in their loving and generous rearing of their children, the benefits are bestowed, at least on young children, without their voluntary acceptance and consent, and so, again, fail to generate any obligation of subsequent repayment on their part (see Blustein 1982: 182-3). Moreover, the entire idiom of obligation and repayment, in English's 1 words, "tends to obscure, or even to undermine, the love that is the correct ground of filial obligation" (352). English's alternative, however -- that children strictly "owe" their parents nothing except what flows naturally from whatever love and affection exist between them -- also strikes many as problematic. Christina Hoff Sommers offers examples of what seem to be clearly delinquent adult children, who simply don't "feel" like sharing their lives with their aging parents, or providing any emotional or financial support to them, and so don't (Sommers 1986: 440-41). Sommers points out that we need some talk of obligations in order to fill in the cracks in human relationships where love and affection fail: "The ideal relationship cannot be 'duty-free,' if only because sentimental ties may come unraveled, often leaving one of the parties at a material disadvantage'" (450-51). Sommers proposes as her alternative to English that legitimate duties arise out of special relationships defined by social roles: being a father or mother, a son or a daughter, "is socially as well as biologically prescriptive; it not only defines what one is; it also defines who one is and what one owes" (447).. (shrink)
In this paper I will argue for the ethical and political virtue of a form of critique associated with the work of Michel Foucault. Foucault’s tryptich of essays on critique---namely ”What is Critique?’ ”What is Revolution?’ and ”What is Enlightenment?’---develop a formulation of critique understood as an attitude or disposition, a kind of relation that one bears to oneself and to the actuality of the present. I suggest that this critical attitude goes hand in hand with a mode of intellectual (...) practice realized rhetorically in the form of the interrogative and methodologically in ”problematology’. But, in addition to highlighting the habitus of critique suggested by Foucault, I also want to consider the entanglement of this critical enterprise in the conditions of the present that it attempts to diagnose. Specifically, I ask, in what way is a critical enterprise in the interrogative mood itself imbricated in the trope of interrogation that fills so much of our current political and public landscape? (shrink)
Most of us spend much of our time trying to get other people to act as we would like them to act, trying to influence them in some way to further our purposes or advance our ends. In this enterprise, we make use of a wide array of motivational levers; we take advantage of various sources of others’ susceptibility to influence. Much of this, I submit, is morally unproblematic. There is no moral reason why we should eschew all attempts at (...) influence and pursue our projects unassisted or why we should in turn resent others’ efforts to shape our own beliefs, desires, and ends. To maintain otherwise is to insist on a peculiar kind of individualistic isolationism. Nonetheless, the details of exactly how we influence others matter morally— what motivational levers we pull and the ways in which we pull them. I maintain—although I cannot defend this claim here—that it is difficult to offer general guidelines for assessing various motivational strategies, beyond saying, of course, that one should try to motivate others toward good ends and in ways that are not proscribed by our other moral rules. For the rest, we shall need to look at each kind of motivational strategy individually, with close attention to the details of its own particularity, to appraise whether it can survive moral scrutiny. (shrink)
The “Occupy Wall Street!” movement has stimulated a long listing of other candidates for radical “occupation.” In this paper, I suggest the occupation of liberalism itself. I argue for a constructive engagement of radicals with liberalism in order to retrieve it for a radical egalitarian agenda. My premise is that the foundational values of liberalism have a radical potential that has not historically been realized, given the way the dominant varieties of liberalism have developed. Ten reasons standardly given as to (...) why such a retrieval cannot be carried out are examined and shown to be fallacious. (shrink)