Moving from the social and political arena to the choices we face in our own private lives, ClaudiaMills asks how information about someone’s mental illness should be shared with others. While open communication about mental illness works toward the important goal of reducing its unfair stigma, it can cause harm or embarrassment, violate privacy, and challenge an individual’s own preferred self-representation. She offers tentative guidelines for how to proceed on this sensitive and morally charged issue.
"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)
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)
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)
This article explores the philosophically neglected topic of artistic integrity, situated within the literature on personal or moral integrity more generally. It argues that artists lack artistic integrity if, in the process of creation, they place some other—competing, distracting, or corrupting—value over the value of the artwork itself, in a way that violates their own artistic standards. It also argues, however, that artistic integrity does not require adamant refusal to acknowledge or act upon commitments to values other than single-minded devotion (...) to one's art. Artists of integrity need not be inflexible fanatics. They can seek to earn a living through their art, alter their vision of a work to reach an audience, evolve their artistic standards as they grow as artists, and balance the energy devoted to their art against energy devoted to family, friends, and self-care; they can honor the demands of morality. (shrink)
This paper grows out of a story. A friend of mine got his girlfriend pregnant, in the usual way. He did not want to be a father, though he was willing to help pay for her abortion and to support her emotionally through the experience of abortion (his first choice); or (his second choice), he was willing to help pay her medical expenses for the birth and support her through the experience of giving birth and then relinquishing the child for (...) adoption. What he got, however, was his nonchoice, what he did not choose at all: she had the baby, kept the baby, and he became a father, with financial and emotional responsibilities to meet for the rest of his life. Throughout the decision-making ordeal, he became increasingly frustrated that his fate, his future, depended almost entirely on her choice. He had to wait to see what she would decide to find out whether or not he would have a lifelong identity that he wished to reject. If she chose abortion, he would have no obligations to this child, for there would be no child; if she chose adoption, he would have no obligations to this child, for such.. (shrink)
The statistics at least seem alarming. The production of Ritalin, an amphetamine derivative used for the treatment of attention deficit disorder in children (and lately, in adults as well), has risen a whopping 700 percent since 1990. According to figures given by Lawrence Diller in Running on Ritalin, over the decade, the number of Americans using Ritalin has soared from 900,000 to almost 5 million -- the vast majority children from the ages of 5 to 12, though there is a (...) significant rise in Ritalin use among teens and adults as well. No comparable rise is reported in other countries, though a much smaller surge has taken place in Canada and Australia. In Virginia Beach, Virginia (perhaps the most egregious example), 17 percent of fifth-grade boys were taking Ritalin in 1996 to control behavior problems and improve school performance. (Boys on Ritalin 1 outnumber girls in a ratio of 3.5 to 1; when I was recently complaining to another mother about my own son's academic difficulties, she said simply, "Welcome to the world of boys.") Stimulants have been used to treat behavior problems in children since 1937; Ritalin itself appeared on the market in the 1960s to treat what was then called "hyperactivity" -- impulsive, disruptive behavior by children who just "couldn't sit still." In recent years, however, the root problem has been identified as "attention deficit disorder" (ADD), either with or without attendant hyperactivity. Symptoms of ADD, according to the standard survey used in its diagnosis, include: "often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork," "often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities," and "often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require mental effort (such as schoolwork or homework)." Symptoms of ADD-H (the variant with hyperactivity) include: "often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat," and "often has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly." Ritalin, by most accounts, is remarkably effective in getting such children to settle down and pay attention, with resultant (at least short term) gains in parental sanity and academic achievement. The fear, stated quite baldly, is that as a society we are 1 drugging our children in ever-larger numbers to get them to conform to adult expectations.. (shrink)
According to this rich and rewarding book, "the moral problem" is that we are committed to three seemingly incompatible propositions about morality and human psychology. First, moral judgments are objective: they report beliefs about moral facts; when we argue about morality, there is a truth of the matter that we are arguing about. Second, moral judgments are practical: to judge that it is right to do x is, other things being equal, to be motivated to do x. There is something (...) incoherent about saying that I accept the judgment that I should do x, but nonetheless see no reason for my doing x. However, these two propositions are in tension with a third: the Humean thesis that belief and desire are distinct entities, where only the latter is capable of motivational force. So, according to the objectivity of morality, moral judgments are statements of our beliefs. According to the Humean thesis about beliefs and desires, beliefs are incapable of moving us to action. However, according to the practicality of morality, moral judgments are capable of moving us to action. It thus seems that either morality cannot be objective, or it cannot be practical, or Hume was wrong to draw his strict distinction between belief and desire. (shrink)
I once attended a writing conference for aspiring authors of books for children, at which one speaker enraged the audience by making the pronouncement that, in his view, parents were disqualified to be authors of children's fiction. His reason: parents have to protect themselves from the reality of their children's pain and so wouldn't be able to write about childhood traumas with sufficient awareness and honesty. To this the audience, largely composed of mothers, shot back that parents are especially qualified (...) to write for children, for precisely the opposite reason: they live with children in a relationship of great intimacy and so know children in a way that non-parents 1 do not. But, assuming, as I am inclined to do (as myself a writer of books for children who is also a parent), that the parents are correct here, or at least correct in asserting that they have a distinctive avenue of access to children on which they can draw to enrich the writing of their books, what ethical problems, if any, arise? If children do indeed provide their author-parents with "material," is this material the parents are entitled to use? If the children grow up themselves to be authors some day, will they be able to draw on their own childhoods -- and their relationships with parents and siblings -- to craft their own novels, or memoirs? (Flannery O'Connor is quoted as saying that no author need ever be at a loss for subject matter to write about: "All you need is a childhood.") Can friends write about friends, while still remaining friends and being true to the expectations and obligations of friendship? In this essay I want to highlight -- and then partially seek to dissolve, or resolve -- the particular tensions that arise between the obligations of friendship (or family relationships) and the necessity for an author (of either fiction or memoirs) to draw on her own life -- that is to say, her own relationships with friends and family -- in her work.. (shrink)
First, two stories. A friend, after struggling with years of infertility, divorces her husband. Single now, and still grieving her childlessness, she begins to explore the option of single-parent adoption. She tells me that she thinks in the end she will probably decide against adoption, but, in her words, "At least I'll know that I'm childless by choice.".
Recent years have seen the emergence of two interrelated trends in the arena of cultural politics. First, there has been a call for multiculturalism: for greater diversity in artistic and educational offerings, for a broadening of the spectrum of society's interest beyond the activities and experiences of dead or living white males. Thus, students demand courses in black, Hispanic, and women's studies; children's librarians clamor for more books about Native American and Asian youth; viewers of all races protest if their (...) stories are not told on television's nightly news and prime-time sitcoms. Second, there has been an insistence that those offering representations of previously unrepresented groups be themselves members of the group in question -- that courses in black studies be taught by black faculty, books about Native American youth be written by Native American writers, and reporters covering the Hispanic community be of Hispanic descent. It is this second and more controversial requirement that I wish to submit to examination here. (shrink)
A children's book frequently takes as its subject the moral growth of its protagonist. The Little House books of Laura Ingalls Wilder trace Laura's growth in moral awareness and moral development from early childhood through her first employment, courtship by Almanzo, and marriage. Laura's moral maturation is rich and multi-layered, but at the heart of the Little House books, and shaping their progression as one multi-volumed novel, is the theme of obedience giving way to autonomy, literally moral self-rule.
More than two decades after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the issues of racial discrimination and affirmative action are still matters of controversy. The fragile national consensus on civil rights policy has been increasingly fragmented by resistance and confusion in recent years, especially under the impact of the Reagan administration's efforts to change its direction dramatically. Similarly, since the mid-1960s, the women's rights movement has worked to end discrimination and bring about greater equality for women in (...) employment and public life. Yet, recent years have witnessed increased national ambivalence about these goals and how they should be achieved, especially on the issue of comparable worth. (shrink)
In The Morals of Modernity, Charles Larmore engages two central features of modernity: the fact of inescapable disagreement about the nature of the good, and the prevalent naturalism that denies the possibility of moral knowledge. Larmore challenges the second, while building his moral and political theory upon the first.
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.
Between the later views of Wittgenstein and those of connectionism 1 on the subject of the mastery of language there is an impressively large number of similarities. The task of establishing this claim is carried out in the second section of this paper.
Open Access: This essay argues that Claudia Card numbers among important contributors to nonideal ethical theory, and it advocates for the worth of NET. Following philosophers including Lisa Tessman and Charles Mills, the essay contends that it is important for ethical theory, and for feminist purposes, to carry forward the interrelationship that Mills identifies between nonideal theory and feminist ethics. Card's ethical theorizing assists in understanding that interrelationship. Card's philosophical work includes basic elements of NET indicated by (...) Tessman, Mills, and others, and further offers two important and neglected elements to other nonideal ethical theorists: her rejection of the “administrative point of view,” and her focus on “intolerable harms” as forms of “extreme moral stress” and obstacles to excellent ethical lives. The essay concludes that Card's insights are helpful to philosophers in developing nonideal ethical theory as a distinctive contribution to, and as a subset of, nonideal theory. (shrink)
Liberalism is the political philosophy of equal persons, yet liberalism has denied equality to those it saw as black sub-persons. In Black Rights/White Wrongs: The Critique of Racial Liberalism, political philosopher Charles Mills challenges mainstream accounts that ignore this history and its current legacy in the United States today.
In this paper, Charles Mills discusses what he calls “white ignorance”, developing one of the main themes of his 1997 book, The Racial Contract. His discussion is concerned with the idea of a cognitive disadvantage based on membership in a social group, which is not strange to the radical philosophical tradition, and that has been explored with more vigor in the recent Social Epistemology, in debates about epistemic injustices, silencing, willful ignorance, cognitive biases, epistemological standpoints, etc. Mills argues (...) for an “Epistemology of the white ignorance”, a racially and socially situated epistemology, which contraposes itself, in a great extent, to the individualistic tendencies of the traditional epistemological work, while conserving the interests in objectivity and truth of this work. (shrink)
Feminism and postcolonialism are allies, and the impressive selection of writings brought together in this volume demonstrate how fruitful that alliance can be. Reina Lewis and Sara Mills have assembled a brilliant selection of thinkers, organizing them into six categories: "Gendering Colonialism and Postcolonialism/Radicalizing Feminism," "Rethinking Whiteness," "Redefining the 'Third World' Subject," "Sexuality and Sexual Rights," "Harem and the Veil," and "Gender and Post/colonial Relations." A bibliography complements the wide-ranging essays. This is the ideal volume for any reader interested (...) in the development of postcoloniality and feminist thought. (shrink)