Social action is central to social thought. This centrality reflects the overwhelming causal significance of action for social life, the centrality of action to any account of social phenomena, and the fact that conventions and normativity are features of human activity. This book provides philosophical analyses of fundamental categories of human social action, including cooperative action, conventional action, social norm governed action, and the actions of the occupants of organizational roles. A distinctive feature of the book is that it applies (...) these theories of social action categories to some important moral issues that arise in social contexts such as the collective responsibility for environmental pollution, humanitarian intervention, and dealing with the rights of minority groups. Avoiding both the excessively atomistic individualism of rational choice theorists and implausible collectivist assumptions, this important book will be widely read by philosophers of the social sciences, political scientists and sociologists. (shrink)
There is a need to provide an appropriate normative conception of the modern university: a conception which identifies its unifying purposes and values and, thereby, gives direction to institutional role occupants, governments, public policymakers and other would-be institutional designers. Such a conception could admit differences between modern universities; differences, for example, between so-called universities of technology and other universities. Indeed, it is preferable to frame the issue at the level of higher education or university systems rather than at the level (...) of individual universities. According to the teleological normative theory of social institutions, social institutions are organizations or systems of organizations that provide collective goods by means of joint activity; universities are no exception. So what are the fundamental collective good that universities of technology, or the larger systems of which they are a part, ought to be providing and how are they travelling in this regard? This is the question addressed in this paper. (shrink)
The dual-use dilemma arises in the context of research in the biological and other sciences as a consequence of the fact that one and the same piece of scientific research sometimes has the potential to be used for bad as well as good purposes. It is an ethical dilemma since it is about promoting good in the context of the potential for also causing harm, e.g., the promotion of health in the context of providing the wherewithal for the killing of (...) innocents. It is an ethical dilemma for the researcher because of the potential actions of others, e.g., malevolent non-researchers who might steal dangerous biological agents, or make use of the original researcher’s work. And it is a dilemma for governments concerned with the security of their citizens, as well as their health. In this article we construct a taxonomy of types of “experiments of concern” in the biological sciences, and thereby map the terrain of ethical risk. We then provide a series of analyses of the ethical problems and considerations at issue in the dual-use dilemma, including the impermissibility of certain kinds of research and possible restrictions on dissemination of research results given the risks to health and security. Finally, we explore the main available institutional responses to some of the specific ethical problems posed by the dual-use dilemma in the biological sciences. (shrink)
In this book, Seumas Miller examines the moral foundations of contemporary social institutions. Offering an original general theory of social institutions, he posits that all social institutions exist to realize various collective ends, indeed, to produce collective goods. He analyses key concepts such as collective responsibility and institutional corruption. Miller also provides distinctive special theories of particular institutions, including governments, welfare agencies, universities, police organizations, business corporations, and communications and information technology entities. These theories are philosophical and, thus, foundational and (...) synoptic in character. They are normative accounts of a sampling of contemporary social institutions, not descriptive accounts of all social institutions, both past and present. Miller also addresses various ethical challenges confronting contemporary institutional designers and policymakers, including the renovation of the international financial system, the 'dumbing down' of the media, the challenge of world poverty, and human rights infringements by security agencies combating global terrorism. (shrink)
This paper examines workplace surveillance and monitoring. It is argued that privacy is a moral right, and while such surveillance and monitoring can be justified in some circumstances, there is a presumption against the infringement of privacy. An account of privacy precedes consideration of various arguments frequently given for the surveillance and monitoring of employees, arguments which look at the benefits, or supposed benefits, to employees as well as to employers. The paper examines the general monitoring of work, and the (...) monitoring of email, listservers and the World Wide Web. It is argued that many of the common justifications given for this surveillance and monitoring do not stand up to close scrutiny. (shrink)
In this paper, I explore the relationship between joint epistemic action and collective moral responsibility. Here, we need to distinguish between the genus, joint action, and an important species of joint action which I introduced in some earlier work, namely, joint epistemic action. In the case of the latter, but not necessarily the former, participating agents have epistemic goals, e.g. the acquisition of knowledge. The notion of joint action per se is a familiar one in the philosophical literature, albeit I (...) have provided, and defended, a particular analysis of it. However, the notion of joint epistemic action is a novel one. Nevertheless, I argue that it can be given the same kind of analysis as joint action which is not epistemic in character. The other key notion in play in this paper is that of collective moral responsibility. Over the last decade or two this notion has been receiving a good deal of attention in the philosophical literature. Two influential kinds of theory are non-individualist cor.. (shrink)
At the United Nations climate change conference in 2011, parties decided to launch the “Durban Platform” to work towards a new long-term climate agreement. The decision was notable for the absence of any reference to “equity”, a prominent principle in all previous major climate agreements. Wealthy countries resisted the inclusion of equity on the grounds that the term had become too closely yoked to developing countries’ favored conception of equity. This conception, according to wealthy countries, exempts developing countries from making (...) commitments that are stringent enough for the collective effort needed to avoid dangerous climate change. In circumstances where even mentioning the term equity has become problematic, a critical question is whether scope for a fair agreement is being squeezed out of negotiations. To address this question we set out a conceptual framework for normative theorizing about fairness in international negotiations, accompanied by a set of minimal standards of fairness and plausible feasibility constraints for sharing the global climate change mitigation effort. We argue that a fair and feasible agreement may be reached by (i) reforming the current binary approach to differentiating developed and developing country groups, in tandem with (ii) introducing a more principled approach to differentiating the mitigation commitments of individual countries. These two priorities may provide the basis for a principled bargain between developed and developing countries that safeguards the opportunity to avoid dangerous climate change without sacrificing widely acceptable conceptions of equity. (shrink)
Margaret Gilbert has long defended the view that, roughly speaking, agents share the intention to perform an action if and only if they jointly commit to performing that action. This view has proven both influential and controversial. While some authors have raised concerns over the joint commitment view of shared intention, including at times offering purported counterexamples to certain aspects of the view, straightforward counterexamples to the view as a whole have yet to appear in the literature. Here we provide (...) such counterexamples to show that joint commitment is neither necessary nor sufficient for shared intention. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that torture is morally justified in some extreme emergencies. However, I also argue that notwithstanding the moral permissibility of torture in some extreme emergencies, torture ought not to be legalised or otherwise institutionalised.
In this paper I provide a theory of the speech act of assertion according to which assertion is a species of joint action. In doing so I rely on a theory of joint action developed in more detail elsewhere. Here we need to distinguish between the genus, joint action, and an important species of joint action, namely, what I call joint epistemic action. In the case of the latter, but not necessarily the former, participating agents have epistemic goals, e.g., the (...) acquisition of knowledge. It is joint epistemic action that assertion is a species of. (shrink)
The notion of a joint action is a familiar one in the philosophical literature. Moreover, the notion of epistemic action has recently been discussed in the literature. Elsewhere I have suggested that these two notions can be brought together to yield the notion of joint epistemic action and provided a relational individualist analysis of joint epistemic actions. In this article I extend this analysis and show how this extended analysis applies to different kinds of important epistemic institutional phenomena: voting in (...) a democracy; financial benchmarks, e.g. LIBOR rate) and; profiling using computer databases. Each of these institutional mechanisms is important in its own right. Moreover, each is a species of a more widespread generic social form that I refer to as joint institutional mechanisms which, I suggest, are ubiquitous yet somewhat diverse in character. Accordingly, there is a need to distinguish them from the more basic phenomenon of joint action but also to taxonomise them. The latter is a large task to which this article is a first step. (shrink)
We have two aims in this paper. The first is negative: to demonstrate the problems in Bernard Gert’s account of common morality, in particular as it applies to professional morality. The second is positive: to suggest a more satisfactory explanation of the moral basis of professional role morality, albeit one that is broadly consistent with Gert’s notion of common morality, but corrects and supplements Gert’s theory. The paper is in three sections. In the first, we sketch the main features of (...) Gert’s account of common morality in general. In the second, we outline Gert’s explanation of the source of professional moral rules and demonstrate its inadequacy. In the third section, we provide an account of our own collectivist needs-based view of the source of the role-moral obligations of many professional roles, including those of health care professionals. (shrink)
Conformity by an agent to a convention to which the agent is a party is rational only if the agent prefers to conform given the other parties conform and believes the others will conform. But this justification is inadequate; what, for example, is the justification for this belief? The required rational justification requires recourse to (a) preferences for general conformity (as opposed to merely conditional preferences for one's own conformity) and (b) procedures. An agent adopts a procedure when he chooses (...) to perform a whole set of future actions, as opposed to a single action. (shrink)
In this paper I consider the general view of terrorism put forward by Jan Narveson in his “Pacificism and Terrorism: Why We Should Condemn Both” and by Alan Rosenbaum in his “On Terrorism and the Just War: Some Philosophical Reflections.” This is the view that terrorism is morally indefensible. Contra Narveson and Rosenbaum, I argue that some forms of terrorism are morally defensible in some circumstances.In the first section of the paper I will discuss the definition of terrorism, including the (...) definitions put forward by Narveson and Rosenbaum. In the second section, I will outline an account of collective moral responsibility as a necessary precursor to identifying potentially morally defensible forms of terrorism. In the third section I outline a morally defensible form of terrorism, namely terrorism in which certain categories of morally culpable non-attackers are targeted. (shrink)
_Investigative Ethics: Ethics for Police Detectives and Criminal Investigators_ presents applied philosophical analyses of the ethical issues that arise for police detectives and other investigators in contemporary society. Explores ethical issues relating to investigative independence, rights of victims and suspects, use of informants, entrapment, privacy and surveillance, undercover operations, deception, and suspect interviewing Represents the first monograph providing a detailed consideration of ethical issues in police investigations Features authorship by an applied philosopher specializing in police ethics, and a former UK (...) senior police officer Combined authorship ensures the text is anchored in actual police practice as well as providing high quality ethical analysis. (shrink)
ABSTRACT In the standard case of justifiable killing in self‐defence one agent without provocation tries to kill a second agent and the second agent's only way to avoid death is to kill his attacker. It is widely accepted that such killings in self‐defence are morally justifiable, but it has proved difficult to show why this is so. Recently, Montague has put forward an account in terms of forcing a choice between lives, and Teichman has propounded a quasi‐Hobbesian rights‐based account of (...) self‐defence. I argue that neither Montague nor Teichman has succeeded in providing an adequate justification for killing in self‐defence. (shrink)
In this paper I offer a teleological account of social institutions. Specifically, I argue that: social institutions have as their defining purposes or ends the provision of collective goods, and; participants in social institutions have moral rights to such collective goods, and the moral rights in question are individual, and jointly held, moral rights.
Socializing Metaphysics supplies diverse answers to the basic questions of social metaphysics, from a broad array of voices. It will interest all philosophers and social scientists concerned with mind, action, or the foundations of social theory.
This article is a reply to Alan Rosenbaum’s reply to my reply to his orginal article on terrorism and collective responsibility. As before, and contra Rosenbaum, I argue that some forms of terrorism in some circumstances might be morally justified. This position is consistent with holding the terrorist acts of groups such as Hamas and al-Qaeda to be morally unjustifiable. An example of a possibly morally justifiable form of terrorism was that practised by the African National Congress in its armed (...) struggle against the apartheid regime in South Africa. (shrink)
In this paper I explore the notion of collective moral responsibility as it pertains both to nation-states contemplating humanitarian armed intervention in international social conflicts, and as it pertains to social groups perpetrating human rights violations in such conflicts. I take the Rwandan genocide as illustrative of such conflicts and make use of it accordingly. I offer an individualist account of collective moral responsibility, according to which collective moral responsibility is a species of joint responsibility.
The last few decades have seen a dramatic increase in concern with matters of ethics in all areas of public life. This ‘applied turn’ in ethics raises important issues not only of focus, but also of methodology. Sometimes a moral end or moral feature is designed into an institution or technology; sometimes a morally desirable outcome is the fortuitous, but unintended, consequence of an institutional arrangement or technological invention. If designing-in ethics is the new methodological orientation for applied ethics, globalisation (...) is providing many of the practical ethical problems upon which to deploy this methodology. (shrink)
The essays in this book engage the original and controversial claims from Michael Boylan's A Just Society. Each essay discusses Boylan's claims from a particular chapter and offers a critical analysis of these claims. Boylan responds to the essays in his lengthy and philosophically rich reply.
The main purpose of this paper is to argue that there are no minority moral rights. Rights claimed to be minority moral rights, such as land rights and hunting rights of indigenous peoples, and the political and language rights of some minority cultures, turn out to be either collective moral rights which are not also minority moral rights, or else to be merely (possibly morally justified) legal minority rights which are not also minority moral rights.