Our top picks for APA Pacific 2016 – Are You Ready?

This year’s American Philosophical Association Pacific Division Meeting is drawing near. You’re likely combing through the program or app (yes, there’s an app!) squinting at the small font wishing you could split yourself in two in order to attend all the things you’d like AND be able to explore the beautiful city that is San Francisco.

We’re here to help. We’ve put together a list of our top picks – lectures, receptions, and more – to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the good stuff.

SF Haight Street

Day 1 // Wednesday

9am – noon

An Invited Symposium on Chinese Philosophy and Language will be chaired by recent Journal of Chinese Philosophy contributor Xinyan Jiang (University of Redlands).

Or, sit in on the APA Committee on Lectures, Publication, and Research, chaired by Louise Antony (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

If those don’t suit your fancy, we recommend attending the Book Symposium on Lori Gruen’s Entangled Empathy, chaired by Shelley Wilcox (San Francisco State University). Gruen (Wesleyan University) and Wilcox have both worked as editors of Hypatia.

noon – 1pm

Grab some lunch, then head over to the Wiley-Blackwell stand in the exhibit hall. We’re offering 20% off books (to take away or ship directly to you!), free copies of our renowned philosophy journals, and more. Say hello to our acquisitions editor and tell us what you think about the future of philosophy to get a $5 Starbucks gift card.

1 – 4pm

An Invited Symposium: Science and Pragmatism will be chaired by David Boersema (Pacific University). Boersema contributed to the recently published The Ultimate Star Trek and Philosophy: The Search for Socrates.

Also at this time, an APA Committee Session on The Moral Significance of Shame and
Disgust: Chinese and Western Perspectives will take place. Arranged by the APA Committee on the Status of Asian and Asian American Philosophers and Philosophies, this session is chaired by Justin Tiwald (San Francisco State University).

And, you may not want to miss the APA Committee Session on Trends in Brazilian Epistemology, arranged by the APA Committee on International Cooperation. This session is being chaired by Sven Bernecker (University of California, Irvine), author of the book Reading Epistemology: Selected Texts with Interactive Commentary.

4-6 pm

There are several great options to spend your afternoon.

First, a Colloquium on Confucianism and Neo-Confucianism will be chaired for the first hour by Journal of Chinese Philosophy author Nathan Carson (Fresno Pacific University), then chaired by Robin Wang (Loyola Marymount University) for the last hour. Wang has contributed essays to Philosophy Compass (see here and here) and the Journal of Chinese Philosophy (see here and here).

Or, enjoy a lively debate organized by the North American Kant Society. An Author-Meets-Critics session featuring Henry Allison’s Kant’s Transcendental Deduction will be chaired by frequent Wiley philosphy contributor Lucy Allais (University of the Witwatersrand and University of California, San Diego). You can read her past work in the Winter 2008 issue of Philosophy and Public Affairs here and two of her essays featured in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research here and here.

Last but not least, we recommend the APA Committee Session on LGBT Metaphysics. Arranged by the APA Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and
Transgender People in the Profession, this session is chaired by Ásta Sveinsdóttir (San Francisco State University). Sveinsdóttir recently wrote about the role of feminism in naturalism in The Blackwell Companion to Naturalism.

6 – 9pm

If you’re still up for more, the Experimental Philosophy Society is hosting a session on Experimental Work in Formal Semantics, chaired by Philosophy Compass author Seth Yalcin (University of California, Berkeley).

Or, the International Society for Comparative Studies of Chinese and Western Philosophy is hosting a session on Skepticism, Friendship, Perception, and Home: Views from Zhuangzi, Confucians, Montaigne, and Heidegger. This session is chaired by Eirik Lang Harris (City University of Hong Kong). Harris has contributed works to the Philosophy Compass and the Journal of Chinese Philosophy.

Our last pick in this timeslot is a session hosted by the Society for German Idealism. Chaired by Hypatia author Jeff Gauthier (University of Portland), this session will feature the presentation of papers such as, “Du Bois and Hegel on Social Freedom,” “Liberal Naturalism in the Post-Kantian Tradition,” and more.

Day 2 // Thursday

9am-noonpalmquist cover

Start your morning off right with a Book Symposium centered around Stephen Palmquist’s Comprehensive Commentary on Kant’s Religion Within the Bounds of Bare Reason, chaired by Robert Gressis (California State University, Northridge). See critics and author Palmquist (of Hong Kong Baptist University) discuss this new work, the first definitive, comprehensive commentary on Kant’s Religion within the Bounds of Bare Reason.

Alternatively, we recommend the APA Committee Session on Justice in the City, arranged by the APA Committee on Public Philosophy. This session will be chaired by Shelley Wilcox (San Francisco State University).

noon – 1 pm

Don’t forget to stop by the Wiley-Blackwell booth in the exhibit hall! We’d love to chat with you about how you can be published in our journals. In fact, the European Journal of Philosophy is now publishing more pages in each issue – submit your paper ASAP.

1 – 4pm

Next, we recommend seeing the Invited Symposium on Post-Kantian Theories of concepts. Chaired by Mind & Language author Richard Zach (University of Calgary), we’re sure there will be lively discussion around papers such as, “Bolzano on Representations in Logic, Cognition, and Action,” and “The Abstractionist Theory of Concept Formation After Kant.”

Alternatively, observe the Invited Symposium on Women in the History of Philosophy of Religion. This session, chaired by Kristen Irwin (Loyola University Chicago), will debate papers such as, “17th Century Women on God’s Existence and Nature,” and the amusingly titled, “Medieval Women Didn’t Do Philosophy of Religion: So Why Am I Still Talking?” Irwin has contributed work to the Philosophy Compass.

4 – 5pm

Take a break at the Bay Area Feminism and Philosophy Reception taking place in the Italian Room at the Westin St. Francis. A selection of vegetarian canapés will be served, and everyone is welcome. This reception is made possible by the generosity of the Mortimer Fleishhacker Fund for Philosophy at the University of San Francisco.

4 – 6pm

We next recommend the Colloquium on Cognition and the Nature of Acts. Split into two, the first hour will be chaired by Journal of Social Philosophy contributor Jason Kawall (Colgate University), and discuss papers such as, “Knowledge in Action.” The second half of the session will be chaired by David Beglin (University of California, Riverside) and discuss the paper, “‘Philosophy of Action’ Is Not a Philosophy of Acts.”

Or, visit the session hosted by the Society for Philosophy of Creativity. There, you’ll discover a likely fascinating discussion on, “Why Does Art Matter? Reflections on an NEH Enduring Questions Grant,” chaired by Raymond D. Boisvert (Siena College). Boisvert has contributed pieces to The Southern Journal of Philosophy and Journal of Philosophy of Education.

6 – 9pm

The Society for Applied Philosophy is hosting an Author-Meets-Critics session featuring Leif Wenar’s Blood Oil: Tyruants, Violence, and the Rules That Run the World. Gillian Brock (University of Auckland) is chairing. (By the way, their February issue featuring a Singer and Kagan debate of speciesism is available now!)

For those interested in the philosophy of history, the Society for the Philosophy of History is hosting a session on “The Philosophy and Political Thought of Mark Bevir,” chaired by Robert Piercey (University of Regina). Piercey is a contributing author to the new A Companion to Hermeneutics.

We’re also looking forward to the session hosted by the Society

dr emily s lee

Image from the New York Times


for Women in Philosophy. There, “Confronting Racism and Violence: Philosophical Research and Teaching” will be chaired by Hypatia contributor Emily S. Lee (California State University, Fullerton). Papers discussed will include, “A New Paradigm of Anti-Racism: Why Discourses of White Privilege, Justice, and Equality Do Not Work,”, “The Revolution Will Not Be Journal(ized): Blogs, Op-eds, and Podcasts as Timely Philosophical Tools,” and more. This session is sure to be fascinating and timely.

8 – 10pm

The Society for the Philosophy of Human Rights is hosting a late evening session with several speakers: Elizabeth Ashford (University of St. Andrews), Adam Etinson (University of Chicago), Robert Simpson (Monash University), and James Nickel (University of Miami). Clearly this is to be a debate of the utmost relevance and is not to be missed!

10pm – midnight

Then, the APA Annual Reception will take place in the Colonial Ballroom (Mezzanine). Grab a glass or three, say hello to all your friends, and talk about what a wonderful time you’re having at the conference.

Day 3 // Friday

9am – noon

Start your morning off with Aristotle. A Colloquium on the Ethics and Politics in Aristotle will feature three parts. The first hour will cover “Aristotle’s Thumos as Dunamis and Pathos” and be chaired by Michael Ferejohn (Duke University), contributor to the Wiley-Blackwell A Companion to Plato. Hour two will be chaired by Bjorn Wastvedt (University of Arizona) and cover, “Aristotle’s Conception of the Political Life as an Imitation of the Divine.” Finally, the session will conclude with an hour discussing, “Aristotelian Sunaisthesis: A Synoptic View of Life” chaired by Emily Perry (University of California, Berkeley).

noon – 1pmbioethics cover

We invite you to stop by the Wiley-Blackwell table in the exhibitor’s hall. Leaf through the newest edition of Bioethics: An Anthology edited by Helga Kuhse, Udo Schuklenk, and Peter Singer.

1 – 4pm

Look no further than the Book Symposium on Duncan Pritchard’s Epistemic Angst: Radical Skepticism and the Groundlessness of Our Believing. This session will be chaired by Chienkuo Mi (Soochow University), with noted speakers such as Ram Neta (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) and Ernest Sosa (Rutgers University). Neta and Sosa are the esteemed editors of Noûs.

4 – 6pm

You won’t want to miss this year’s annual Dewey Lecture, chaired by editor of Virtue and Vice, Moral and Epistemic Heather Battaly (California State University, Fullerton). Linda Zagzebski (University of Oklahoma) will be speaking on “The Joys and Sorrows of Philosophy.” The reception will take place during the last thirty minutes.


7 – 10pm

Don’t miss the Society for Applied Philosophy’s second session, “Corruption and Accountability: Theory and Practice” chaired by Gillian Brock (University of Auckland). Subtopics to be discussed are “Corruption of Knowledge and the Pharmaceutical Industry,” “Think Tank Ethics: Theory Meets Practice,” and more.

Day 4 // Saturday

9am – noon

You’ll want to give yourself major kudos for having made it this far; you will surely be exhausted. Sleep in, get some breakfast – you’ll have earned it.

1 – 4pm

We’re excited about the Invited Symposium: Normativity of Meaning and Content. This session will be chaired by Kirk Ludwig (Indiana University Bloomington), editor of Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, and feature editors of Thought: A Journal of Philosophy Asa Wikforss (Stockholms Universitet) and Ralph Wedgwood (University of Southern) as speaker and commentator, respectively.

4 – 6pm

For your early evening, we recommend the Colloquium on Moral Normativity and Its Relation to Epistemic Normativity. The first half of this session will be chaired by Hypatia author Sharyn Clough (Oregon State University), and discuss, “Knowledge as Ability: A Constructive Critique.”

6 – 9pm

The International Society for Chinese Philosophy is hosting its second session on “Virtues, Roles, and Self-Cultivation in Confucianism”, and will discuss papers such as, “Agent and Deed in Confucian Thought” and more.

chris cuomoOr, see the International Society for Environmental Ethics’s second session chaired by Chris Cuomo (University of Georgia). Cuomo guest edited a special issue of Hypatia in 2014 on climate change. This session will debate environmental ethics, species extinction, and more.

8 – 10pm

Where did the time go? Stop by the Philosophy of Time Society’s session chaired by A Companion to the Philosophy of Time editor Adrian Bardon (Wake Forest University). Ask yourself, “Does It Really Seem to Us That Time Passes?” (A real paper title to be presesnted by Natalja Deng of University of Cambridge.)

Day 5 // Sunday

9am – 6:30pm

Still wanting more philosophy? ArtSense Taste and Community project have organized open workshops that will analyze how cultural artifacts acquire meaning and value as an example of the process by which communities establish shared terms of reference.

Virtual Roundtable Discussion on Migration and the Refugee Crisis


At the end of 2014, there were an estimated 19.5 million refugees worldwide. This crisis was drawn once again into sharp light as Syrian refugees flooded Europe in recent months. Many of these people are families with children, forced to flee their homes or risk their safety.

Join us Friday, October 16, 12:00pm – 1:00pm EST for a virtual roundtable discussion on migration and the refugee crisis. Our panel of experts span the social sciences and humanities to examine issues of refugees and migration ranging from ethics, family studies, and geo-political. Register today as seating is limited!

Our Panelists

Immanuel NessDr. Immanuel Ness is a professor of political science at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. Editor-in-Chief of The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration, Ness’ research focuses on labor, urban political economy, migration, imperialism, and social mobilizations, worker insurrections, strikes, solidarity in Global North and Global South.

He is a labor activist who founded the New York Unemployed Committee, Lower East Side Community-Labor Coalition and labor organizer for several unions.


Serena ParekhDr. Serena Parekh is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Northeastern University, where she also holds the position as Director of the Politics, Philosophy, and Economics Program. Her primary research interests are in social and political philosophy, feminist theory, continental philosophy, and the philosophy of human rights.

Dr. Parekh has contributed to noted journals such as Hypatia, Philosophy Compass, and The Southern Journal of Philosophy. She is also the Editor of the APA Newsletter on Feminism and Philosophy.


Reenee SinghDr. Reenee Singh is a family therapist based in London at the House Partnership. She is also Co-Director at the Tavistock and UEL Family Therapy and Systemic Research Centre as well as Editor of the Journal of Family Therapy.

Singh holds a particular interest in the intersection of therapy, race and culture. She attributes her personal history and cultural context, growing up in India and having lived and worked in Singapore, as an influence her approach to therapy, research, supervision and training.

In Memoriam: Claudia Card (1940-2015)

Our condolences go out to the surviving family and colleagues of noted Dr. Claudia Falconer Card, who passed away September 12, 2015.

Card was the Emma Goldman Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and her research interests included ethics and social philosophy, including normative ethical theory; feminist ethics; environmental ethics; theories of justice, of punishment, and of evil; and the ethics of Kant, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche. Her work also deeply involved Women’s Studies, Jewish Studies, Environmental Studies, and LGBT Studies.

Claudia Card

Dr. Card’s obituary is linked here.

Additionally, philosopher Kate Norlock, a former student of the professor, beautifully reflects on the life and work of Dr. Card here.

Instead of mourning her death per her own request, the University of Wisconsin-Madison will honor Dr. Card with A Celebration of Life, which will take place Sunday, Oct. 11 from 1:00pm-4:00pm at the Pyle Center Alumni Lounge.

We have joined in celebrating the life and career of Claudia Card by making free a special collection on her articles.

Rape as a Weapon of War

Hypatia | Volume 11, Issue 4, November 1996

Against Marriage and Motherhood

Hypatia | Volume 11, Issue 3, August 1996

Gay Divorce: Thoughts on the Legal Regulation of Marriage

Hypatia | Volume 22, Issue 1, February 2007

Genocide and Social Death

Hypatia | Volume 18, Issue 1, February 2003

Selected Bibliography of Lesbian Philosophy and Related Works

Hypatia | Volume 7, Issue 4, November 1992

Removing Veils of Ignorance

Journal of Social Philosophy | Volume 22, Issue 1, March 1991

Review Essay: Sadomasochism And Sexual Preference

Journal of Social Philosophy | Volume 15, Issue 2, May 1984

The Road to Lake Wobegon

Journal of Social Philosophy | Volume 30, Issue 3, Winter 1999

What’s Wrong with Adult-Child Sex?

Journal of Social Philosophy | Volume 33, Issue 2, Summer 2002

Stoicism, Evil, and the Possibility of Morality

Metaphilosophy | Volume 29, Issue 4, October 1998

Women, Evil, and Grey Zones

Metaphilosophy | Volume 35, Issue 1, October 2000

The Paradox of Genocidal Rape Aimed at Enforced Pregnancy

The Southern Journal of Philosophy | Volume 46, Issue S1, Spring 2008

The American Philosophical Association Announces the 2015 Kavka Prize Winner

Journal of Social Philosophy Cover ImageThe Kavka Prize is awarded for the best paper in a refereed journal, book chapter, or essay in the field of political philosophy.  The American Philosophical Association announced the 2015 winner today was Carol Hay of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell for her paper in the Journal of Social Philosophy.  Hay’s article, entitled, The Obligation to Resist Oppression, defends the controversial claim that people have an obligation to resist their own oppression which is rooted in their obligation to protect themselves. Next year’s APA Pacific conference symposium with be centered around the article.  In honor of Ms. Hay’s success, Wiley is removing the paywall for the article until December 15th.

“After all, no one is oppressed in a social vacuum.” – Carol Hay, The Obligation to Resist

Organized in 6-parts, Hay’s article progresses from the Obligation to Resist through the Kantian theory that oppression harms ones Rational Nature, and further through which actions to take or not.  It seems as though Hay has accomplished a full-spectrum review of the theory.  Regardless if you agree, it’s certainly worth taking a look at.

If you would like to read an additional article by Carol Hay, she has also authored with Hypatia on the article, Whether to Ignore Them and Spin: Moral Obligations to Resist Sexual Harassment.

Hypatia Symposium – Interview with Petra Tschakert

Petra Tschakert, Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and The Earth and Environmental Systems Institute (EESI) at Pennsylvania State University, discusses important themes in gender and climate change for the Hypatia Special Issue on Climate change.

Browse the entire special issue of Hypatia here

Interview conducted by C. Shaheen Moosa.

Hypatia Symposium – Gender & Geoengineering by HOLLY JEAN BUCK, ANDREA R. GAMMON, CHRISTOPHER J. PRESTON

Gender and Geoengineering

Ph.D. candidate, Development Sociology, Cornell University

Ph.D. candidate, Environmental Philosophy, Radboud University Nijmegen

Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Montana




The following is an excerpt, click here to read the full article

Browse the entire special issue here


In the years following Nobel Prize-winner Paul Crutzen’s 2006 landmark editorial essay on atmospheric albedo enhancement (Crutzen2006), the idea of engineering a technical solution to climate change has seen a surge of interest. The suggestion that the “perfect moral storm” (Gardiner 2011a) of climate change might be solved by turning an intractable social, economic, and political problem into a solvable technical and scientific one has created a giddy sense of relief in some quarters and a dark sense of foreboding in others. Although there is a rapidly growing literature on the ethics of geoengineering (Gardiner 2011a; Svoboda et al. 2011; Preston 2012a), very little has been written about its gender and justice dimensions. Given that the ethical considerations pertinent to geoengineering include challenges about participation, potential harm to the marginalized, hubristic attitudes about control, and the emblematic question of “whowould get to set the global thermostat?” it is clear this is an area ripe for gender analysis.

Geoengineering has been helpfully defined as “the intentional manipulation of the earth’s climate to counteract anthropogenic climate change or its warming effects” (Corner and Pidgeon 2010, 26). An early report by the UK’s Royal Society on the main technical and governance issues of geoengineering established what has become a canonical distinction between methods focusing on solar radiation management (SRM) and methods involving carbon dioxide removal (CDR). Whereas CDR would slowly remove atmospheric carbon to restore a safe level of greenhouse gases, SRM would cool the planet more rapidly by reflecting back a portion of the sun’s energy before it has the chance to warm the earth, the oceans, and the atmosphere. Examples of proposed SRM techniques include shooting aerosols into the stratosphere using ballistics, fighter jets, or specially erected hoses and pipes; spraying seawater into the air from ships with tall towers; launching mirrors into space to act as a shield; and wrapping deserts in shiny polyethylene-aluminum sheeting. Examples of the CDR “family” of technologies include afforestation, ocean fertilization, capturing carbon directly from ambient air, and burying biochar to sequester carbon within the earth (Launder and Thompson 2010; SRMGI 2011).

This two-part division of the technologies might already seem gendered for its Freudian imagery: tall spraying devices, nozzles, ejections, dressing up the earth versus fertilizing the oceans, burying things, and sequestering away material. The commonly portrayed risk profiles of the two approaches are also suggestive of a matching gendered slant. SRM gets the attention as a technologically advanced, bold, and risky method. Deployment of an atmospheric shield to deflect solar radiation suggests an Apollonian type of confrontation demanding quick action, steely nerve, and technological prowess. The Royal Society characterized CDR, by contrast, as “a longer term approach to addressing climate change” with “fewer uncertainties and risks” (Royal Society 2009, 54). CDR is usually perceived as slower, gentler, and more natural. Pollution control, if that is what CDR really amounts to, may lack some pizzazz, but it is something almost everyone can get behind, especially if it involves planting trees and engaging citizens.1

Our intention in this paper is not to address this question of whether the SRM/CDR distinction is gendered, though it may be an interesting question in its own right. We plan to look at engineering the climate more broadly in order to examine where gender appears—and where it ought to appear—in the politics, ethics, and science of geoengineering. We intend to suggest areas where the geoengineering discussion should be opened up to issues of gender. Moreover, the need is urgent given that preliminary discussions of geoengineering are rapidly moving toward field-testing and plans for the governance of future deployments.

The Gender Dimensions of Geoengineering

There are a number of compelling reasons to raise gender awareness across several geoengineering axes. From a sheer numbers perspective, half of those who will be affected by geoengineering are women, though women are currently represented at only a fraction of this proportion within the geoengineering community. From an impacts perspective, some women are particularly susceptible to the negative effects of climate change (Dankelman 2002; Cuomo 2011) and in these cases might have more to gain from the benefits geoengineering promises. At the same time, the exact impact of many geoengineering strategies on precipitation and other climate parameters is uncertain and may remain so. Some women may have more at stake in this uncertainty, for example, if they lack access to typical adaptive coping mechanisms, such as migration to cities, access to capital, or educational opportunities to pursue different types of work. From a history of science standpoint, the narrative of masculine attempts to control earth systems introduces many fascinating questions. This means that from a political, funding, and purely pragmatic perspective, geoengineering is particularly vulnerable to an ecofeminist critique, and a failure to acknowledge gender-associated concerns could easily derail the geoengineering agenda. No matter where you sit—as a citizen, policy-maker, natural or social scientist, historian, ethicist, engineer, or lobbyist—to understand what geoengineering means for society in anything more than a superficial sense, the gender-and-geoengineering dynamic must be an integral part of the conversation.

In the discussion below, we consider four contexts in which geoengineering appears to have important gender dimensions: (1) the demographics of those pushing the current agenda, (2) the overall vision of control it involves, (3) the design of particular technologies, and (4) whom geoengineering will most impact and benefit. Our treatment of these areas is intentionally introductory; we aim only to open up discussions deserving greater attention. Following that, we explore three ways the geoengineering discussion could potentially become more gender-aware.

Who Is Pushing Geoengineering?

In an article written in 2011 for the UK’s Guardian newspaper, Australian environmental commentator Clive Hamilton lambasted what he called “the geoclique” currently responsible for much of the geoengineering discourse. Using a term coined by Eli Kintisch (2010), Hamilton argued that global debate on geoengineering is dominated by a remarkably short and recurring list of individuals. According to Hamilton, this group is made up of “a very small group of North American scientists”—harboring mostly “Promethean” views of a “science-as-saviour” culture—who have made themselves the “go to guys” on climate engineering (Hamilton 2011). Hamilton suggested this clique lacks an appreciation, more common in Europe, for the “complexity and capriciousness” of the earth.

Although Hamilton’s characterization may be critiqued—some European governments are actively funding geoengineering research—it is beyond question that the geoengineering discussion is not being driven by a representative sample of those with a stake in it.

An early study of media reports on geoengineering counted the assertions made about geoengineering in print and online news articles through mid-2010, and found that women made just 3% of those assertions (15 out of 500). Women were simply not being quoted on this topic (Buck 2013).2 In geoengineering science, women author research less often than men. A look at the top 100 journal articles sorted by relevance in EBSCO Academic Search Premier—a multidisciplinary database—revealed that 17% of authors were women.3 A similar level of representation was found at the IPCC expert meeting on geoengineering held in Lima, Peru in June 2011, where 8 of the 51 attendees were women (15%) (IPCC 2012, 97). Furthermore, when women do appear in the discourse, it is frequently—though not exclusively—within domains peripheral to the “hard science” of geoengineering: social science, policy, and ethics.

Women’s under-representation in engineering more generally has been highly criticized, often out of concerns about women accessing opportunities to succeed in these fields or about lost innovation opportunities. Part of our disquiet about women’s under-representation here, however, lies not so much in the idea that women/society are missing out on geoengineering careers/discoveries, but in the framing and decision-making powers that participation in geoengineering research implies. Women’s under-representation in the early discussions of geoengineering is consistent with a more general pattern of “power inequalities in decision-making” about natural resources (Arora-Jonsson 2011, 749). In a draft report written for the Green Political Foundation, Christa Wichterich notes a persistent glass ceiling and lack of “recognition of feminine expertise” in climate matters:

Only after 14 rounds of negotiations, did the UNFCCC secretariat finally call on the parties to carry out gender-sensitive measures in 2008. When UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon assembled an advisory group on Climate Change Financing in 2010, however, he appointed 19 men. Following vehement protests, the high-level body was expanded to include then French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde. (Wichterich 2012, 4)

These low figures provoke all sorts of questions (Denton 2002). Emerging technologies are subject to rapid and contentious framing in the print and electronic media. Exactly how (and by whom) the technology gets framed has broad implications for which of the numerous ethical and political dimensions of geoengineering are seen as most salient (Nisbet 2009; Scott 2012). Women currently have a minority voice in explaining what geoengineering is and in influencing how it is presented in the media.

Of course, the gender breakdown of the participants in these types of discussions does not tell the whole story. Equally important as who is doing the talking and the framing is what are they talking about. Matters here appear to be improving, but progress is slow and still mixed (Dankelman 2002). Working Group II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) does now consider women and gender issues when considering impacts, adaptation, and vulnerabilities (for example, IPCC 2007), but only in 2011 were efforts to include references to gender throughout the Green Climate Fund finally successful (Wichterich 2012, 14). A submission by the Asia-Pacific Women’s Group to the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in June of 2012 did add a gender component to the nascent geoengineering discourse, stating that:

Women are greatly concerned by corporate driven technological solutions to climate change that are harmful to the planet and people. Such technologies must be subject to rigorous, transparent and participatory assessments including the implications on women’s and children’s health and well being. (APWMGS 2012, 18)

Yet a meeting held simultaneously in Lima, Peru that discussed geoengineering at the IPCC for the first time did not include the words “women” or “gender” anywhere in its ninety-nine-page meeting report. The report mentioned the word “justice” only once. Although it’s certainly imaginable that these sorts of omissions might be justified by the nature and intent of any one particular meeting, the omissions raise questions about whether decision-making power is already skewed (Dankelman 2002; Arora-Jonsson 2011) and the geoengineering agenda currently reflects only the visions of those who dominate it.

Geoengineering and the Domination of Nature

Path-breaking work in ecofeminism in the 1980s and 1990s found the roots of the environmental crisis in a masculinist approach to nature that favored objectification and domination of the nonhuman world (Merchant 1980; Plumwood 1994). Reductivist and mechanistic trends coupled with a Baconian view of scientific knowledge as “power over nature” led to the idea of science best serving human needs only through complete and total control of the nonhuman, transforming nature “from a teacher to a slave” (Merchant 1980, 169). The image of nature as machine, devoid of animus, ready to be molded to serve a technology-driven civilization was the outcome of a sequence of ideas from European men such as Bacon, Harvey, Descartes, Newton, and Boyle. The machine image asserted a “new confidence in control as well as the narrow and instrumental view of nature associated with a technological outlook” (Plumwood 1994, 109). Faith in the predictability of mechanistic nature reached its apogee in the claim made by Pierre Laplace that, if given the position and the velocity of every particle in the universe, an intellect vast enough could predict all future states. For such an intellect, Laplace asserted, “nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes” (Laplace 1951, 4). The quest for certainty hinged on an understanding of nature as passive, determinate, and entirely predictable.

The old mechanist’s dream of predictability still lives on in much research, from the “hard” sciences to economics, quantitative social science, and geopolitical scenario-building. Carolyn Merchant writes: “the assumption of order is… fundamental to the concept of power, and both are integral to the modern scientific worldview” (Merchant 1980, 230). A growing appreciation of nonlinear dynamics and chaotic systems means that the confidence of early mechanists has today been replaced by a more sanguine approach to the possibility of perfect prediction in certain domains. Climate science offers a powerful example of a case where, despite huge advances in observation and modeling, the ability to precisely predict and control is limited. Although scientists can predict general trends with great confidence (IPCC 2007), the ability to model the exact nature of local impacts remains constrained. The complexity of the climate system provides a distinct caution against the flight to objectivity (Bordo 1987) and the quest for certainty.

These features of climate science spill over into a dilemma about geoengineering. On the one hand, the climate is obviously a physical system subject to the influence of incoming short-wave solar radiation, the composition of the atmosphere, and numerous chemical and hydrological parameters. Mechanistic principles clearly apply. Such a system might invite the “imposition of human purposes and treatment as an instrument for the achievement of human satisfactions” (Plumwood 1994, 110). The flavor of old hopes lingers within the geoengineer’s dream. On the other hand, the nonlinearity in the system makes the exact nature of geoengineering’s outcomes uncertain, especially on local and regional scales (Pongratz et al. 2012). This uncertainty is something almost all contemporary geoengineers are careful to acknowledge, if to differing degrees. Alan Robock thinks that the “inherent risks and uncertainties” are enough to prevent SRM from “ever be[ing] implemented on a global basis” (Robock 2012, 202). Juan Moreno-Cruz and his colleagues suggest that regional inequalities “may not be as severe as is often suggested” (Moreno-Cruz et al. 2011, 649).

In the first article written by an ethicist on geoengineering, Dale Jamieson lamented the hubris in “attempts to manipulate nature in order to make it conform to our desires rather than forming our desires in response to nature” (Jamieson 1996, 331). Jamieson suggests caution with the mechanistic and manipulative metaphors that have informed technological endeavor since the scientific revolution. To the extent that those metaphors can still be found within geoengineering, Carolyn Merchant’s and Val Plumwood’s ecofeminist critiques will apply as much to the age of geoengineering as they have to earlier technological endeavors.

Hypatia Symposium – Climate Change & Complacency by MICHAEL D. DOAN

Climate Change and Complacency

hypatia_covermichael_doanMICHAEL D. DOAN
Assistant Professor, History & Philosophy Department, Eastern Michigan University


The following is an EXCERPT, click here to read the full article

Browse the entire special issue here


Climate scientists, social scientists, and environmental ethicists have issued dire warnings. Current global greenhouse gas emissions trajectories exceed the worst-case scenario envisioned in the fourth report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC2007), making it unlikely that the global average temperature will be held to a 2°C increase over preindustrial levels given present mitigation efforts. Societies are already coping with unusually frequent and intense weather events (heat waves, cold spells, “supercharged” storms), ecological disturbances (melting glaciers, rising sea levels, floods, droughts, wildfires), pressures to modify traditional agricultural practices, and compromised food and water security. Current inaction has prompted experts to consider even more dangerous scenarios involving more than 3 or 4 degrees of warming (Smith et al. 2009). These scenarios force societies to face devastating collapses of social and technical infrastructure, forced displacements and relocations of peoples, conflicts over lands and resources, and escalating losses of life.

Although climate change is undoubtedly a physical phenomenon, as the editors of this special issue emphasize, it is one built on complex social and political understandings and responses. Its origins and impacts cannot be understood without taking into account complex histories of the transformation and domination of lands and of peoples under settler colonialism and other imperialist systems of rule, propelled by capitalist imperatives of economic growth and white supremacist, heteropatriarchal social orderings. Indeed, the causes, benefits, and burdens of environmental degradation have rarely been parceled equally. Much less can climate change be understood in isolation from current patterns of socioeconomic inequality and political disempowerment that stand to be exacerbated in societies structured and expressed spatially along lines of gender, sexual orientation, class, ethnicity, race, age, and ability (Goldberg 1993, ch. 8; Anthony 1995; Pulido 2000; Westra and Lawson 2001; MacGregor 2010). As Chris Cuomo stresses, “climate change is a matter of global social justice” that is already intensifying the ecological and social vulnerabilities of large portions of the world’s population, in many cases “precisely because they uphold ecological values that have not been engulfed by global capitalism and technological modernization” (Cuomo 2011, 693, 695).

Sorting out the responsibilities to be assigned and assumed in responding to climate change is a task that calls for broad-based participation. However, delegations from nation-states have persistently failed to elaborate and execute long-term coordinated response strategies, and surveys and polls suggest worrisomely low levels of public engagement within nations such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada (Nisbet and Myers 2007; Leiserowitz 2008; Upham et al. 2009; Newport 2010; Leiserowitz et al. 2011). These motivational challenges are particularly pressing in nations that have historically been among the highest emitters of industrial greenhouse gasses, and that continue along unsustainable pathways of resource extraction, production, consumption, and waste. In spite of detailed documentation of the role of corporate campaigns in promoting skepticism by generating misunderstandings of climate change (Hoggan 2009; Jacques 2009; Oreskes and Conway 2010), reverberating through conversations on what is commonly called the “problem of inaction” or the “value-action gap” among communications specialists (Moser and Walser 2008; Moser 20092012), social psychologists (APA 2009; Gifford 2011), social scientists (Eliasoph 1998; Blühdorn 2007; Norgaard 2011; Webb 2012), and geographers (Bulkeley 2000; Swyngedouw 2010), these motivational challenges remain puzzling. As political sociologist Ingolfur Blühdorn notes, “Trying to make sense of the evident contradiction between late-modern society’s acknowledgement that radical and effective change is urgent and inescapable and its adamant resolve to sustain what is known to be unsustainable is a hugely important and difficult task” (Blühdorn 2007, 272). Meanwhile, accusations abound of widespread apathy, ignorance, denial, and—to the point of my paper—complacency. Charges of this sort signal that there is nothing benign about resting content with the status quo, passively allowing for the formation of misinformed, imprudent, and ethically suspicious policies and practices.

What exactly does it mean to be “complacent on climate change”? Getting a better handle on diverse forms of what we might think of as “motivational inertia” seems crucial to furthering the political project of reducing the harms of climate change. I take it that the unprecedented nature of the problem calls for the reinvention of concepts that help us hold ourselves and others accountable in meaningful ways. For this reason I want to help make “complacent” a weighty political charge—a charge that, along with “corrupt” and “cruel,” picks out a “vice” that we need to work on remedying.

To be clear, complacency is one of several forms of motivational inertia standing in need of philosophical attention: apathy, indifference, resignation, and despair have all been subject to neglect (although see Geras 1998; Tessman 2005, ch. 4). Although I am interested in developing an account of the specific phenomenon of complacency, I propose that philosophers should understand multiple forms of motivational inertia from within a general framework of motivational vices. Further, there is cause to view these as species of what Lisa Tessman calls “ordinary vices of domination” (Tessman 2005, 54–79). Very roughly, a person should be seen as in the grips of a motivational vice when the ways she has been constituted as a moral agent prevent her from inquiring into, understanding, and responding well to a range of complex ecological and social problems. Although the broader vision of vice I espouse is indebted to more traditional treatments of virtues and vices, it is distinguished by its focus on the relational dynamics and structural processes that foster, sustain, and enforce various forms of motivational inertia.1 For this reason, I will draw upon and extend the work of feminist ethicists, critical philosophers of race, and moral psychologists, especially those who take relational and structural approaches to understanding human motivational capacities (Campbell 19972003; Walker 2007; Downie and Llewellyn 2012) and the epistemic practices of situated agents (Mills 1997; Code 2006; Sullivan and Tuana 2007).

I proceed as follows. In section I, I take up the recent work of Chris Cuomo and Susan Sherwin on the ethical and political dimensions of climate change. I suggest that Cuomo’s discussion of the “insufficiency” problem and Sherwin’s call for a “public ethics” jointly point toward particularly promising harm-reduction strategies. In section II, I review extant philosophical treatments of complacency, before going on to argue that Nicholas Unwin’s and Jason Kawall’s accounts are inadequate to the task of sorting out what it means to be complacent on climate change. In section III, I offer a sketch for an alternative account. To anticipate: although complacency is commonly thought of in terms of feelings of “self-satisfaction,” I argue that regardless of an agent’s self-directed feelings and explicitly held beliefs, they are complacent on climate change insofar as they are caught up in patterns of behavior that express settled expectations of self-sufficiency. Examining the phenomenon of complacency through a critical-feminist lens, I chart relationships between motivational inertia, privilege, and power by considering the circumstances under which changes in behavior and lifestyle are promoted and pursued as suitable responses to complex ecological and social problems. I also put into question depictions of complacency as a product of epistemic negligence for which individuals are solely and wholly responsible, and as a vice that individuals might “overcome” on their own, resisting the temptation to reduce complacency to ignorance or denial. Recognizing the urgent need to work collaboratively toward sustainable societies, those who are eager to be “shaken out of” complacency on climate change should not expect their journeys to be easy, or to take place overnight, worthwhile though they may be.

I. Publicizing Climate Ethics

No individual can even begin to slow climate change by reducing her own personal and household greenhouse gas emissions, even if she recognizes an ethical responsibility to do so. To make matters worse, should the vast majority of individuals and households the world over manage to drastically reduce their privately controlled emissions (changing light-bulbs, recycling more, and so on), their collective efforts would still be inadequate. Cuomo dubs this the “insufficiency” problem (Cuomo 2011, 701). Her recent work highlights the “rarely emphasized fact” that “household consumption and personal transportation account for a significant but minority slice of total greenhouse gas emissions worldwide,” which means that, “Even if personal sphere reductions that can be directly controlled by individuals and households are ethically imperative, they are insufficient for adequate mitigation” (701).

Indeed, mitigating climate change is an extremely complex practical challenge that cannot be met solely through the efforts of ethically conscientious individuals acting qua individuals. It is a political challenge in addition to an ethically and practically demanding one, which is to say that citizens of industrialized nations are called upon to exercise political agency in recognition of responsibilities we share with others worldwide (Young 2011). Especially weighty claims have been pressed on citizens of Western nations that have contributed the most to producing the industrial greenhouse effect over the last century and a half, and that continue along unsustainable pathways of resource extraction, production, consumption, and waste.. When government and corporate agents in high-emitting nations persistently refuse to acknowledge their roles in causing climate change, and decline to take responsibility for addressing the problem, Cuomo suggests that for concerned citizens, “political activism, popular education, and effective coalitions may be even more important than private-sphere mitigation efforts such as reducing one’s own carbon footprint” (Cuomo 2011, 707).

Cuomo’s argument should give us pause for at least two reasons. First, many people living in the West have grown accustomed to the individualization of responsibility for addressing climate change. As sociologist Janette Webb points out, it is not only environmentalists who have been pushing the idea that changing a light, recycling more, and planting a tree are particularly effective ways of slowing climate change and of transforming into environmentally conscious citizens. The prevalence of these recommendations must be understood in the context of neoliberal micro-economic governance in nations such as the US, the UK, and Canada, where common tactics include deploying behavior-change technologies to enable the transformation of individuals into “green consumers,” while offering incentives (for example, differential government funding; investment options with energy firms) to induce the cooperation of environmentalist groups. One effect is that consumers are encouraged to develop the capacity for performing “carbon-calculus,” internalizing the long-term environmental costs of their purchasing behaviors (Webb 2012, 116; cf. Szasz 2011). By coming to make more informed decisions in “markets designed to associate satisfaction, prestige and self-worth with increasing consumption of carbon-intensive products” (Webb2012, 119), green consumers are led to see themselves as undergoing profound lifestyle changes. Meanwhile, because the demands placed on individuals’ limited cognitive resources “leave little room to ponder institutions, the nature and exercise of political power, or ways of collectively changing the distribution of power and influence in society” (Maniates 2001, 33), the basic lesson absorbed through this mode of governance is that “we have to change radically, but within the contours of the existing state of the situation… so that nothing really has to change” (Swyngedouw 2010, 219). On the basis of her case study of Scotland, Webb argues that these tactics allow “the work of governance to proceed seemingly productively” (expert behavioral knowledge is guiding public policy; some people have become carbon-calculators), while ultimately offering “limited and largely self-defeating means of transition to a sustainable society” (Webb 2012, 121).

Second, engaging in political activism, popular education, and forging effective coalitions need not mean struggling to create alternatives to unsustainable policies through suitably democratic processes. Eric Swyngedouw argues that nurturing “apocalyptic imaginaries” of the world coming to an end is “an integral and vital part of the new cultural politics of capitalism,” for which a central leitmotif is the management of popular fear (Swyngedouw 2010, 219). These imaginaries tend to be wielded as means of disavowing social conflicts and antagonisms, effectively clearing the ground for invocations of Humanity as an agent of change while silencing the dissent of marginalized, disempowered groups. Swyngedouw contends that stoking populist sentiment in this manner “forecloses (or at least attempts to do so) politicization and evacuates dissent through the formation of a particular regime of environmental governance that revolves around consensus, agreement, participatory negotiation of different interests and technocratic expert management in the context of a non-disputed management of market-based socio-economic organization” (227). Thus, he underscores the need to turn “the climate question into a question of democracy and its meaning” (229)—not just a question of whether to engage in collective action, but of how to do so, with whom, through what organizational forms, with what modes of collective decision-making, and so on.

In light of growing acknowledgment that the only responses that seem workable involve collective action, Susan Sherwin has issued a call for a new kind of ethics: a “public ethics” (Sherwin 20082012). Extending her earlier work on “relational autonomy,” Sherwin attends to the many ways in which the activities of individuals, groups, and institutions are framed and constrained by the actions of agents at other “levels of human organization,” reminding us how thoroughly intertwined are the actions of individuals and the organizations to which they belong.2 Whereas her earlier work focused on how the autonomy of members of oppressed groups tends to be limited by the reasonable options made available in specific circumstances, she now appreciates that when it comes to climate change, “even those individuals with privilege and power are caught up in patterns of behaviour that are contrary to their deepest interests” (Sherwin 2012, 27). The problem is that many of us “lack the skills and infrastructure options necessary for making choices that give proper weight to the long-term consequences of the practices in which we collectively engage, and we find ourselves continually encouraged to focus on immediate gratification” (25).3

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