What does Sartre have to do with cinnamon buns?

BillIrwinPortrait2011
Dr. William Irwin is a Professor of Philosophy at King’s College.

Plenty!

William Irwin, Editor of The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series, recently wrote an article for The Conversation on “How existentialism can shield us from the free market’s dark side.

Using existentialist themes of personal freedom and responsibility, Irwin makes the claim that government regulation and social agencies do not need to shield people from the darker lures of products like “diet-killing Cinnabons.”

Irwin’s article for The Conversation is based on his new book, The Free Market Existentialist: Capitalism without Consumerism in which he proposes a new philosophy that is a synthesis of existentialism, amoralism, and libertarianism.

Irwin BookIrwin begins an essential conversation for the 21st century for students, scholars, and armchair philosophers alike with clear, accessible discussions of a range of topics across philosophy including atheism, evolutionary theory, and ethics

Humorous and poignant, Irwin’s article and book, are both must-reads!


blackwell philosphy and pop cultureClick here for more on The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series.


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Racism, Rand Paul, and Red Herrings

A political storm is brewing in bluegrass country. On Tuesday, Tea Party endorsed Rand Paul, son of former presidential candidate Ron Paul, earned a smashing victory over his challenger in the Kentucky Republican primary for the U.S. Senate. But, for reasons detailed in today’s NY Times Caucus Blog, the younger Paul’s view on civil rights could eclipse his chances of victory in the general election. Continue reading “Racism, Rand Paul, and Red Herrings”

Of kidneys and prostitution

Following the arrest of Rabbi Rosenbaum, Brooklyn’s black-market organ broker, there’s been a fresh round of kidney-selling debate on the Internet and in the news.  (Kidneys even made the fake news, in a John Hodgman segment on the Daily Show.  People care about kidneys!)

At bottom, the case for a market in kidneys is simple:  it’s my kidney.  Why shouldn’t I be permitted to sell it?

I’ve been interested to note a common theme among those who worry about kidney markets.  Says Jon Stewart in the Daily Show clip, “doesn’t that just turn poor people into living organ farms for the rich?”  Says publius at Obsidian Wings, “I’m just not sure I want market logic– which is necessarily coercive on some more than others– to intrude into the realm of body parts, or selling children.”  Says Kevin Drum at Mother Jones, “Would this would be a global market?  My discomfort with the idea is doubled or tripled at the idea of luring the poor in Bangladesh or Liberia into donating kidneys.”

The concern with exposing the poor to the depredations of a kidney market interests me in part because it is reminiscent of an argument commonly made by feminists opposed to prostitution:  the labor market for sex work is more coercive to the poor than it is toward the rich, which makes problematic the apparent consent of a prostitute exchanging sex for money.  (Catharine MacKinnon makes a version of this argument in “Prostitution and Civil Rights.”)

I take it that worries about markets in kidneys and sex are instances of a general unwillingness to expose bodily integrity to market forces.  I wonder, though, if it’s so easy to draw a principled distinction between bodily integrity and other kinds of personal integrity.  Is there a good reason to be much more worried about the cost to well-being of losing a kidney than about the cost of years spent in mind-numbingly repetitive assembly-line work?

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