Jeff McMahan Accepts White’s Chair of Moral Philosophy

mcmahan[1]Jeff McMahan recently accepted the White’s Chair of Moral Philosophy at Oxford.

Previously held by John Broome, James Griffin, Bernard Williams, and R.M. Hare, this is arguably the most prestigious position in moral philosophy. McMahan was offered the chair earlier in the year and recently decided to accept.

.

More:

Advertisements

Is it us or is it them?

ImageThe US-German friendship is stable, right? Or is it? How much is a friend allowed to know and how much of this knowledge is a friend allowed to gain without the other person’s knowledge? Apparently, friendship does not equal friendship and some people have more rights than others. What I am referring to here is obviously the NSA scandal. So much has been said about it already, that I actually did not want to write about it anymore. However, the recent development with regards to the German Chancellor Angela Merkel do make me really angry. I am not angry about the NSA spying on Mrs. Merkel in particular. I do not think it is correct to spy out your own citizens without a good reason, let alone people in other countries. I am angry, because Mrs. Merkel did not say much when the NSA scandal broke several month ago, hence showing that she essentially was in accord with the NSA and saw no fault with the action, but she is bitterly complaining now. But is there a difference in the NSA spying on her or spying on random citizens? Politically there is a difference, and I am well aware of that. Continue reading “Is it us or is it them?”

Call for Papers: Journal of Religious Ethics

“Empress Theodora and Her Court” (Basilica of San Vitale)
The Journal of Religious Ethics is seeking manuscripts for a projected focus issue on feminist moral philosophy and religious ethics. Here’s the invitation from the editors:

We are interested in articles that address historical, methodological, and practical issues related to the intersection of feminist moral philosophy and the field of religious ethics. Our goal is to foster broader conversations about feminism’s influence on religious ethics, and, in particular, to break down artificial disciplinary boundaries that often stifle robust conversations. We encourage a diversity of perspectives from philosophers and religious studies scholars.

Submission deadline: May 1, 2013

Tradition and Politics

Detail from James Gillray's 'New Morality'. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

‘Without a tradition, everything is impermanence and flux.’ Thus writes David Brooks in a New York Times piece giving advice to the rebellious and dissatisfied youth of today. If you are one of these youth, Brooks’ advice is that your rebellion should be grounded in a past tradition:

‘If I could offer advice to a young rebel, it would be to rummage the past for a body of thought that helps you understand and address the shortcomings you see. Give yourself a label. If your college hasn’t provided you with a good knowledge of countercultural viewpoints — ranging from Thoreau to Maritain — then your college has failed you and you should try to remedy that ignorance.’

Continue reading “Tradition and Politics”

The Moral Status of a War

 

As the last of the United States’ armed forces withdraw from their prolonged engagement in Iraq, an observer can pause to reflect and consider the moral status of this conflict. Two recent experiences – incredibly trivial though they may be – inform my analysis. Firstly, I happened to chance upon In the Valley of Elah (a 2007 film whose story aims to highlight some of the terrible psychological effects that can result from throwing young individuals into such a conflict) the other day, and I found it quite compelling. Secondly, in a recent philosophy seminar that I was overseeing, a student attempted to raise the war in Iraq as an example that might offer support for a more general point about the validity of a consequentialist justification in moral reasoning; at the time I didn’t have any knowledge of the numbers involved, so I couldn’t say much about the nature of the example as regards a strictly consequentialist calculation. Due to my role, I felt compelled to stay silent at the time, and it left me frustrated.

 

I shall elaborate upon this second instance first. The war in Iraq was mentioned because – so the student asserted – America’s action was a reaction to 9/11, Continue reading “The Moral Status of a War”

Eugenics in America

Elaine Riddick is just one of 60,000 Americans who fell foul of a shocking policy of eugenics operative in the United States for the majority of the last century. On June 22 Ms. Riddick will tell, to a task force specially assembled for victims such as her, the story of how in 1968 she was sterilised at the hands of US government at the age of 14.

Ms. Riddick was raped and impregnated when she was 13 years-old by a neighbour in her hometown of Winfall, North Carolina. She was singled out by a social worker to be “feeble-minded”, and after giving birth through Caesarian section, with putative “consent” from her fearful and illiterate grandmother, who signed with an ‘X’ the necessary forms, was subjected to tubal ligation, permanently preventing her from producing any future children. These actions were carried out under a eugenicist movement in the US, beginning in 1907, ending in 1979, and sanctioned by laws in 32 states. (Full report on BBC News website).

The policy of sterilisation reportedly targeted women deemed to be sexual deviants, homosexual men, people on welfare, people who were mentally ill or suffered from epilepsy, criminals, and delinquents. The idea placed emphasis on the attempt to preclude the necessity of supporting those who most likely would be able to support neither themselves nor the rest of society by removing altogether the means for their creation. Speaking to the BBC, Professor Paul Lombardo of Georgia State University, editor of a book on the history of eugenics in America, said:

We have in this country have always been extremely sensitive to notions of public stories of inappropriate sexuality

We exercise that most dramatically when it comes to times in which we think we’re spending individual tax money to support people who violate those social norms. It’s our puritanical background, running up against our sense of individualism.

Continue reading “Eugenics in America”

Ethics and the Law

The study of ethics within the vocational professions has undergone somewhat of a renaissance in recent years.  Several professions now, such as medicine, nursing, business, social work and education, include the study of ethics within their curriculum.  With this in mind, it is perhaps surprising that the study of legal ethics in first degrees, within England and Wales, is still not compulsory.  In contrast, many common law jurisdictions (notably the US, Australia and Canada) now require law students to study legal ethics, as part of a first degree.

However, this is beginning to change.  Writing today in The Guardian Neil Rose, a legal journalist and editor, highlights the growing recognition, within the legal profession, that more needs to be done to ensure Continue reading “Ethics and the Law”