Agrarian political philosophies since ancient Greece stress the role of agriculture in forming political solidarity and civic virtue. More recent transformations suggest a way to conjoin these elements of what makes a polity politically sustainable with environmental sensitivity and literacy.
Nanotechnologies that have been linked to the possibility of enhancing cognitive capabilities of human beings might also be deployed to reduce or eliminate such capabilities in non-human vertebrate animals. A surprisingly large literature on the ethics of such disenhancement has been developed in response to the suggestion that it would be an ethically defensible response to animal suffering both in medical experimentation and in industrial livestock production. However, review of this literature illustrates the difficulty of formulating a coherent ethical debate. (...) Well structured arguments for disenhancement can be made on the basis of mainstream views on the basis of ethical obligations to animals, but these arguments have not been persuasive against the moral intuition that disenhancements are unethical. At the same time, attempts to ground these intuitions in a coherent philosophical doctrine have been plagued by logical fallacies and question begging assertions. As such, the debate over animal disenhancement forecasts an enduring conundrum with respect to the core question of transforming the nature of sentient beings, and this conundrum is logically independent of claims that relate either to the distinctive of human beings or to issues deriving from the emphasis on enhancement. (shrink)
Bioethics coverage of the recent Ebola outbreak neglected the ethical issues associated with aspects of the outbreak having environmental significance. The neglect of environmental dimensions is symptomatic of the way that the current institutionalization of bioethics as a field of inquiry separates medical and environmental expertise. As visionaries who are recognizing the need for better integration of human and veterinary medicine with environmental health are starting to call for “One Health”, it is now time to recognize the need for “One (...) Bioethics.”. (shrink)
Recent developments in synthetic biology are described and characterized as moving the era of biotechnology into platform technologies. Platform technologies enable rapid and diffuse innovations and simultaneous product development in diffuse markets, often targeting sectors of the economy that have traditionally been thought to have little relationship to one another. In the case of synthetic biology, pharmaceutical and biofuel product development are occurring interactively. But the regulatory and ethical issues associated with these two applications share very little overlap. As such, (...) there is some risk that focus on traditional medical applications, for which the ethical expertise is highly developed, will overshadow the ethical issues that arise in connection with land use and its attendant socioeconomic consequences, especially in the developing world. The 2010 report of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethics exhibits this tendency. (shrink)
Agricultural crops developed using the tools of genetic engineering have become socially institutionalized in three ways that substantially compromise the inherent potential of plant transformation tools. The first is that when farming depends upon debt finance, farmers find themselves in a competitive situation such that efficiency-enhancing technology fuels a trend of bankruptcy and increasing scale of production. As efficiency increasing tools, GMOs are embedded in controversial processes of social change in rural economies. The United States, at least, has chosen not (...) to undertake policy interventions to slow or reverse this trend. The second institutionalization of GMOs is found in the way that agricultural science has become divided between two camps, one focused on efficiency and total global production, the other focused on maintaining soil and water ecosystems in the face of both population growth and climate change. GMOs have been strongly supported by the first camp and regarded as irrelevant to the goals of the second. Finally, GMOs have become symbolic markers in the global debate over neoliberal institutions for trade and the protection of intellectual property. While there may be agronomic arguments for favoring GMO technology, the way that it has become situated in each of these social debates insures that it will be subject to strong opposition without regard to its biological risks and potential benefits. (shrink)
Codes of conduct are a conspicuous feature of modern business organization, but doubts have been raised regarding their efficacy in ensuring high standards of behavior. Although some of the issues involved have been discussed at some length in the business ethics literature, the amount of systematic empirical evidence on the impact of codes is very limited. This paper seeks to make a contribution to that body of knowledge by studying the policies and procedures of a sample of banks which have (...) signed a statement on banking and the environment promulgated by the United Nations Development Programme. Although some differences are found when compared with a sample of banks which did not sign the Statement, they are not extensive. The implications of the findings, for codes of conduct and for future empirical studies, are then discussed. (shrink)
Critically analyzes and revitalizes agrarian philosophy by tracing its evolution. Today, most historians, philosophers, political theorists, and scholars of rural America take a dim view of the agrarian ideal that farmers and farming occupy a special moral and political status in society. Agrarian rhetoric is generally seen as special pleading on the part of farmers seeking protection from labor reform and environmental regulation while continuing to receive direct payments and subsidies from the public till. Agrarianism should not be viewed as (...) a set of immutable claims about farming and political order, but as a tradition of moral and political philosophy that has evolved and deepened over the centuries. Agrarian naturalism--the belief that culture and conduct are conditioned by nature because they are of a piece with nature--becomes pragmatic naturalism, giving way to a new set of puzzles about how we are to understand the rural landscape and our responsibilities for its use. The agrarian idea that personality and sociability are integrated with the material transformation of the landscape can serve as the basis for a new, pragmatically grounded ethic of natural resources and rural development. The essays in this volume critically analyze and revitalize agrarian philosophy by tracing its evolution in the classical American philosophy of key figures such as Franklin, Jefferson, Emerson, Thoreau, Dewey, and Royce. Three chapters address the belief that farming peoples develop moral virtue and a taste for democracy as it evolved in the American context, and four examine how a reconstitution of agrarian themes might invigorate our nation's thinking on environment, food, and rural development policy. The Agrarian Roots of Pragmatism will be of broad interest to scholars of American philosophy, rural history, history of ideas, geography, and agricultural or natural resource policy. (shrink)
The Spirit of the Soil challenges environmentalists to think more deeply and creatively about agriculture. Paul B. Thompson identifies four `worldviews' which tackle agricultural ethics according to different philosophical priorities; productionism, stewardship, economics and holism. He examines current issues such as the use of pesticides and biotechnology from these ethical perspectives. This book achieves an open-ended account of sustainability designed to minimise hubris and help us to recapture the spirit of the soil.
After centuries of neglect, the ethics of food are back with a vengeance. Justice for food workers and small farmers has joined the rising tide of concern over the impact of industrial agriculture on food animals and the broader environment, all while a global epidemic of obesity-related diseases threatens to overwhelm modern health systems. An emerging worldwide social movement has turned to local and organic foods, and struggles to exploit widespread concern over the next wave of genetic engineering or nanotechnologies (...) applied to food. Paul B. Thompson's book applies the rigor of philosophy to key topics in the first comprehensive study explore interconnections hidden deep within this welter of issues. Bringing to bear more than thirty years of experience working closely with farmers, agricultural researchers and food system activists, he explores the eclipse of food ethics during the rise of nutritional science, and examines the reasons for its sudden re-emergence in the era of diet-based disease. Thompson discusses social injustice in the food systems of developed economies and shows how we have missed the key insights for understanding food ethics in the developing world. His discussions of animal production and the environmental impact of agriculture break new ground where most philosophers would least expect it. By emphasizing the integration of these issues, Thompson not only brings a comprehensive philosophical approach to moral issues in the production, processing, distribution, and consumption of food -- he introduces a fresh way to think about practical ethics that will have implications in other areas of applied philosophy. (shrink)
The essays in this volume apply philosophical analysis to address three kinds of questions: What are the implications of genetic science for our understanding of nature? What might it influence in our conception of human nature? What challenges does genetic science pose for specific issues of private conduct or public policy?
The central thesis of this book is that the semantic conception is a logical methodologically and heuristically richer and more accurate account of scientific theorizing, and in particular of theorizing in evolutionary biology, than the ...
What is the significance of the wicked problems framework for environmental philosophy? In response to wicked problems, environmental scientists are starting to welcome the participation of social scientists, humanists, and the creative arts. We argue that the need for interdisciplinary approaches to wicked problems opens up a number of tasks that environmental philosophers have every right to undertake. The first task is for philosophers to explore new and promising ways of initiating philosophical research through conducting collaborative learning processes on environmental (...) issues. The second task is for philosophers to recognize the value of philosophical skills in their engagements with members of other disciplines and walks of life in addressing wicked problems. The wicked problems framework should be seen as an important guide for facilitating philosophical research that is of relevance to problems like climate change and sustainable agriculture. Content Type Journal Article Category Articles Pages 1-14 DOI 10.1007/s10806-011-9344-0 Authors Paul B. Thompson, Department of Philosophy, Michigan State University, 503 S. Kedzie Hall, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA Kyle Powys Whyte, Department of Philosophy, Michigan State University, 503 S. Kedzie Hall, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA Journal Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics Online ISSN 1573-322X Print ISSN 1187-7863. (shrink)
A noticeable push toward using agricultural crops for ethanol production and for undertaking research to expand the range of possible biofuels began to dominate discussions of agricultural science and policy in the United States around 2005. This paper proposes two complementary philosophical approaches to examining the philosophical questions that should be posed in connection with this turn of events. One stresses a critique of underlying epistemological commitments in the scientific models being developed to determine the feasibility of various biofuels proposals. (...) The second begins with a broader set of questions about the philosophical goals of agriculture, then queries the place that a turn to biofuels might have within the philosophy of agriculture. Both are portrayed as viable and important. The paper itself is a preliminary stage-setting reflection on the need for these two types of philosophical inquiry. (shrink)
Risk communication poses a challenge to ordinary norms of truth-telling because it can easily mislead. Analyzing this challenge in terms of a systematic divergence between expertise and public attitudes fails to recognize how two specific features of the concept of risk play a role in managing daily affairs. First, evaluating risk always incorporates an estimate of the reliability of information. Since risk communication is an effort at providing information, audiences will naturally and appropriately incorporate their assessment of the reliability of (...) the risk communicator into their assessment of the risk as such. Second, one conceptual and grammatical feature of the concept of risk is to categorize experience as non-routine and demanding further deliberation. That is, the whole point of calling something a risk can be to distinguish it from activities or phenomena that need no further attention. Risk communications that stress relative comparisons of measured probabilities and expected utilities can be inconsistent with both features of our concept of risk. At best they mislead; at worst they undermine our society’s capacity to cope with risk. While there are no simple answers to these two conundrums, technical experts should bear them in mind when communicating with the broader public. (shrink)
Recent publications by Pogge ( Global ethics: seminal essays. St. Paul: Paragon House 2008 ) and by Singer ( The life you can save: acting now to end world poverty. New York: Random House 2009 ) have resuscitated a debate over the justifiability of famine relief between Singer and ecologist Garrett Hardin in the 1970s. Yet that debate concluded with a general recognition that (a) general considerations of development ethics presented more compelling ethical problems than famine relief; and (b) some (...) form of development would be essential to avoiding the problems of growth noted by Hardin. Better than renewing the debate, we should recognize two points. First, food needs do indeed evoke a moral response that is more direct and compelling than the philosophical positions often generated to rationalize a duty to bring aid. As such the argument for feeding hungry people cannot be generalized into a paradigm for development ethics without distortions that undercut the morally valid elements in Singer’s original argument. Second, contrary to prevailing assumptions in present day development ethics, food aid and famine relief continue to be important priorities for international agencies, notably the World Food Program. Emergency food assistance, the nominal topic of Singer’s original article, thus is an important issue for agricultural as well as development ethics, though one that should indeed be seen as distinct from more complex duties to address the conditions of chronic poverty and underdevelopment. (shrink)
Ideas for How to Take Wicked Problems Seriously Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-5 DOI 10.1007/s10806-011-9348-9 Authors Kyle Powys Whyte, Department of Philosophy, Michigan State University, 503 S. Kedzie Hall, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA Paul B. Thompson, Department of Philosophy, Michigan State University, 503 S. Kedzie Hall, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA Journal Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics Online ISSN 1573-322X Print ISSN 1187-7863.
Debates over the future of agriculture in North Americaestablish a dialectical opposition between conventional,industrial agriculture and alternative, sustainable agriculture.This opposition has roots that extend back to the 18th century inthe United States, but the debate has taken a number ofsurprising turns in the 20th century. Originally articulated as aphilosophy of the left, industrial agriculture has utilitarianmoral foundations. In the US and Canada, the articulation of analternative to industrial agriculture has drawn upon threecentral themes: the belief that agriculture is, in some (...) way, tiedto democracy; the belief that complex bureaucratic organizationsare inherently opposed to human interests; and the belief thatthe family farms characteristic of 19th century North Americatend to produce people of superior moral character. It has proveddifficult to weave these themes into a coherent vision ofagriculture for the 21st century. Often, risk and health-basedconcerns are the basis for public criticism of conventionalagriculture, but these do not conflict with the utilitarianorientation of the industrial model, and are easily incorporatedinto it. If there is to be a philosophical debate over the futureof agriculture, we must find some way to rehabilitate thequasi-Aristotelean view of agriculture that emerges from thethree critical themes noted above. (shrink)
We provide a retrospective of 25 years of the International Conference on AI and Law, which was first held in 1987. Fifty papers have been selected from the thirteen conferences and each of them is described in a short subsection individually written by one of the 24 authors. These subsections attempt to place the paper discussed in the context of the development of AI and Law, while often offering some personal reactions and reflections. As a whole, the subsections build into (...) a history of the last quarter century of the field, and provide some insights into where it has come from, where it is now, and where it might go. (shrink)
The development of modern evolutionary ethics began shortly after the publication of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection. Early discussions were plagued by several problems. First, evolutionary ethical explanations were dependent on group-selection accounts of social behavior (especially the explanation of altruism). Second, they seem to violate the philosophical principle that “ought” statements cannot be derived from “is” statements alone (values cannot be derivedfrom facts alone). Third, evolutionary ethics appeared to be biologically deterministic, deemed incompatible with (...) the free will required for ethics to be possible. Fourth, social policies based on evolutionary theory (for example, eugenics in the early part of this century) seemed patently unethical. Sociobiology (which coalesced as a field of study with Edward O. Wilson's Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, 1975) addressed several of these problems and provided a rich framework and a new impetus for evolutionary ethics. The lingering problems were the philosophical is-ought barrier and biological determinism. After tracing the early and more recent development of evolutionary ethics, I argue that the remaining problems can be surmounted and an incipient evolutionary ethics can be defended. Thoroughgoing evolutionaryethics must await theoretical developments in neurobiology and cognitive science. (shrink)
Mainstream environmental ethics grew out of an approach to value that was rooted in a particular conception of rationality and rational choice. As weaknesses in this approach have become more evident, environmental philosophers have experimented with both virtue ethics and with pragmatism as alternative starting points for developing a more truly ecological orientation to environmental philosophy. However, it is possible to see both virtue ethics and pragmatism as emerging from older philosophical traditions that are here characterized as “agrarian.” Agrarian philosophy (...) stresses the role of nature, soil and climate in the formation of moral character as well as social and political institutions. As such, reaching back to the agrarian tradition may provide a way to move forward with both virtue oriented themes as well as pragmatist themes in developing ecological ethics. (shrink)
I will argue that one class of issues in computer ethics oftenassociated with privacy and a putative right to privacy isbest-analyzed in terms that make no substantive reference toprivacy at all. These issues concern the way that networkedinformation technology creates new ways in which conventionalrights to personal security can be threatened. However onechooses to analyze rights, rights to secure person and propertywill be among the most basic, the least controversial, and themost universally recognized. A risk-based approach to theseissues provides a (...) clearer statement of what is ethicallyimportant, as well as what is ethically problematic. Once theissues of security have been articulated clearly, it becomespossible to make out genuine issues of privacy in contrast tothem. (shrink)
Public controversy over animalbiotechnology is analyzed as a case that illustratestwo broad theoretical approaches for linking science,political or ethical theory, and public policy. Moralpurification proceeds by isolating the social,environmental, animal, and human health impacts ofbiotechnology from each other in terms of discretecategories of moral significance. Each of thesecategories can also be isolated from the sense inwhich biotechnology raises religious or metaphysicalissues. Moral purification yields a comprehensive andsystematic account of normative issues raised bycontroversial science. Hybridization proceeds bytaking concern for all these (...) elements to be a mark ofsound moral character. The advocate of hybridizationinfers that those who employ a strategy ofpurification seek to avoid accountability by dividingissues, and hence are not to be trusted. Lack of trustincreases perceived risk and challenges the legitimacyof government regulations to control social,environmental, and human health risks that areestablished under separate mandate, and administeredby separate agencies.The close alignment between government agencies, theiracademic affines, and the categories of purificationplaces the purified analysis in a favored politicalposition. Legitimation of science-based policy inareas like animal biotechnology becomes problematicbecause the concern of those who would take a hybridapproach (arguably the majority of lay persons) tounderstanding controversial science are excluded.Ironically, this exclusion heightens the perception ofrisk from animal biotechnology. The paper concludeswith a call for procedural approaches to incorporatingthe hybrid view of science‘s moral significance. (shrink)
An environmental, climate mitigation rationale for research and development on liquid transportation fuels derived from plants emerged among many scientists and engineers during the last decade. However, between 2006 and 2010, this climate ethic for pursuing biofuel became politically entangled and conceptually confused with rationales for encouraging greater use of plant-based ethanol that were both unconnected to climate ethics and potentially in conflict with the value-commitments providing a mitigation-oriented reason to promote and develop new and expanded sources of biofuel. I (...) argue that the conceptual construct of technological trajectories provides a fecund approach to the ethical evaluation of R&D strategies in the case of plant-based liquid transportation fuels. The idea of a trajectory has a current use in the literature of science studies and aptly summarizes a number of themes that are critical to the evaluation of tools and techniques whose future shape, design, applications and potential consequences are necessarily somewhat speculative. In the case of biofuels, it is the imagined future trajectory that provides the basis for resistance to an emerging technology, rather than the present-day technical capabilities and the unexpected consequences of biofuel development. (shrink)
Biotechnology applied to traditional foodanimals raises ethical issues in three distinctcategories. First are a series of issues that arise inthe transformation of pigs, sheep, cattle and otherdomesticated farm animals for purposes that deviatesubstantially from food production, including forxenotransplantation or production of pharmaceuticals.Ethical analysis of these issues must draw upon theresources of medical ethics; categorizing them asagricultural biotechnologies is misleading. The secondseries of issues relate to animal welfare. Althoughone can stipulate a number of different philosophicalfoundations for the ethical assessment of welfare,most (...) either converge on Bernard Rollins principle ofwelfare conservation (Rollin, 1995), or devolve intodebates over the ethical significance of animaltelos or species integrity. The principle of welfareconservation prohibits disfunctional geneticengineering of food animals, but would permit alteringanimals biological functions, especially when (as inmaking animals less susceptable to pain or suffering)do so improves an individual animals well being.Objections to precisely this last form of geneticengineering stress telos or species integrity asconstraints on modification of animals, and thisrepresents the third class of ethical issues. Most whohave formulated such arguments have failed to developcoherent positions, but the notion of species being,derived from the 19th century German tradition,presents a promising way to analyze the basis forresisting the transformation of animal natures. (shrink)
Abstract: This essay critically examines whether there are ethical dimensions to the way that expertise, knowledge claims, and expressions of skepticism intersect on technical matters that influence public policy, especially during times of crisis. It compares two different perspectives on the matter: a philosophical outlook rooted in discourse and virtue ethics and a sociological outlook rooted in the so-called third-wave approach to science studies. The comparison occurs through metaphilosophical analysis and applied claims that clarify how the disciplinary orientations appear to (...) lead to different judgments about matters related to Robert Paarlberg's condemnation of activists who advise African politicians to ban genetically modified food. (shrink)
John Steinbeck’s 1939 novel can be given a reading that links events and the mentality of characters to mainstream schools of liberal and neo-liberal political theory: libertarianism, egalitarianism, and utilitarianism. Each of these schools is sketched in outline and applied to topics in rural political culture. While it is likely that Steinbeck himself would have identified with an egalitarian or utilitarian view, he resists the temptation to deny his Okie characters an authentic voice that matches none of these schools so (...) well as it articulates an agrarian mentality once associated with Thomas Jefferson and today articulated by Wendell Berry. This reading of The Grapes of Wrath, in turn, can be interpreted as both a rebuke to contemporary social theorists who continue to impose an ill-fitting left-right dichotomy on working class political culture in rural America and as a roadmap suggesting ways that philosophy and rural sociology might engage one another more directly and productively with respect to contemporary rural development and environmental quality issues. (shrink)
Agricultural research and education ended 100 years of funding under the Hatch Act with a decade of unprecedented criticism of goals and outcomes. This paper examines the way that planners can accommodate some of these criticisms within a framework for understanding the ethical and social goals of agriculture that is consistent with traditional practice. The paper goes on to state that some criticisms are so fundamental that they cannot be readily incorporated into this framework. They must be regarded as a (...) challenge, both politically and intellectually, to longstanding practices within academic institutions devoted to agriculture. (shrink)
This essay critically examines whether there are ethical dimensions to the way that expertise, knowledge claims, and expressions of skepticism intersect on technical matters that influence public policy, especially during times of crisis. It compares two different perspectives on the matter: a philosophical outlook rooted in discourse and virtue ethics and a sociological outlook rooted in the so-called third-wave approach to science studies. The comparison occurs through metaphilosophical analysis and applied claims that clarify how the disciplinary orientations appear to lead (...) to different judgments about matters related to Robert Paarlberg's condemnation of activists who advise African politicians to ban genetically modified food. (shrink)
Flores and Johnson (Ethics 93 No. 3 (1983) pp. 537, 545.) offer a solution to the problem of individual and collective responsibility which obscures the fundamental requirement for responsibility ascriptions, namely, moral agency. Close attention to matters of individual and collective agency provides a simple yet defensible criterion for establishing when an individual is and isn't responsible for the untoward consequences of a collective act.
brook muller begins his contribution to the Coss Dialogues by contesting and at least partially deconstructing Le Corbusier’s aphorism “a house is a machine for living.” He then trades upon an ambiguity that masks the difference between watersheds that mark an important transition from one phase to another and those that are defined by the drainage area associated with a body of water. The 2015 Coss Dialogues took place in the watershed of the Grand River, which extends from its southeast (...) limit near Jackson, Michigan, through my home in Lansing before emptying into Lake Michigan near Grand Haven, some 40 miles to the west of Grand Rapids. The main point that I take.. (shrink)
Formal, informal and material institutions constitute the framework for human interaction and communicative practice. Three ideas from institutional theory are particularly relevant to technical change. Exclusion cost refers to the effort that must be expended to prevent others from usurping or interfering in one’s use or disposal of a given good or resource. Alienability refers to the ability to tangibly extricate a good or resource from one setting, making it available for exchange relations. Rivalry refers to the degree and character (...) of compatibility in various uses for goods. The paper closes with a note on how attention to these factors might be useful ways toconceptualize what Langdon Winner has called “the technological constitution of society,” and what Andrew Feenberg has theorized as “secondary rationalization,” as well as within more practical contexts of technical research, development and design. (shrink)
This book explores historical and current discussions of the relevance of evolutionary theory to ethics. The historical section conveys the intellectual struggle that took place within the framework of Darwinism from its inception up to the work of G. C. Williams, W. D. Hamilton, R. D. Alexander, A. L. Trivers, E. O. Wilson, R. Dawkins, and others. The contemporary section discusses ethics within the framework of evolutionary theory as enriched by the works of biologists such as those mentioned above. The (...) issue of whether ethical practice and ethical theory can be grounded in the theory of evolution has taken a new and significant direction within the context of sociobiology and is proving to be a challenge to previous thinking. This book conveys that challenge. (shrink)
_The Spirit of the Soil_ challenges environmentalists to think more deeply and creatively about agriculture. Paul B. Thompson identifies four `worldviews' which tackle agricultural ethics according to different philosophical priorities; productionism, stewardship, economics and holism. He examines current issues such as the use of pesticides and biotechnology from these ethical perspectives. This book achieves an open-ended account of sustainability designed to minimise hubris and help us to recapture the spirit of the soil.
In this paper I argue that Bolzano's concept of deducibility and Tarski's concept of logical consequence differ with respect to their philosophical intent. I distinguish between epistemic and ontic approaches to logic, and argue that Bolzano's deducibility presupposes an epistemic approach, while Tarski's logical consequence presupposes an ontic approach.
Bryan Norton’s 2005 book Sustainability describes a pragmatic approach to environmental philosophy that stresses philosophy’s role as one of mediating between scientific and ordinary language. But on two topics, Norton’s approach is not pragmatic enough. In the case of his discussion of risk, he accedes to a scientific notion that fails to acknowledge the way that ordinary usage of the word risk involves pragmatic links to human action and moral responsibility. With respect to the word sustainability, his analysis fails to (...) acknowledge important scientific work that characterizes the functional integrity of system cycling, opting instead for usage grounded either in economic accounting or in an even less substantive sense of a broad social movement for environmental improvement. On each of these topics, adherence to the pragmatic orientation of Norton’s philosophy results in a different analysis of the concepts in question. (shrink)