The relationship between knowledge, belief, and ethics is an inaugural theme in philosophy; more recently, under the title “ethics of belief” philosophers have worked to develop the appropriate methodology for studying the nexus of epistemology, ethics, and psychology. The title “ethics of belief” comes from a 19th-century paper written by British philosopher and mathematician W.K. Clifford. Clifford argues that we are morally responsible for our beliefs because each belief that we form creates the cognitive circumstances for related beliefs to follow, (...) and we inevitably influence each other through those beliefs. This study argues that recent cognitive research supports Cliffordian insights regarding patterns of belief formation and social influence. From the confirmation offered by such research, it follows that informational accuracy holds serious ethical significance in public discourse. Although scientific and epistemological matters are not always thought to be linked to normative morality, this study builds on Clifford's initial insights to show their linkage is fundamental to inquiry itself. In turn, Clifford's ethical and epistemic outline can inform a framework grounded in “public reason” under which seemingly opposed science communication strategies are philosophically united. With public discourse on climate change as the key example, empirically informed and grounded strategies for science communication in the public sphere are considered. (shrink)
The scientific consensus regarding anthropogenic climate change is firmly established yet climate change denialism, a species of what I call pseudoskepticism, is on the rise in industrial nations most responsible for climate change. Such denialism suggests the need for a robust ethics of inquiry and public discourse. In this paper I argue: (1) that ethical obligations of inquiry extend to every voting citizen insofar as citizens are bound together as a political body. (2) It is morally condemnable for public officials (...) to put forward assertions contrary to scientific consensus when such consensus is decisive for public policy and legislation. (3) It is imperative upon educators, journalists, politicians and all those with greater access to the public forum to condemn, factually and ethically, pseudoskeptical assertions made in the public realm without equivocation. (shrink)
This article confronts growing conservative opposition to abortion based on the claim that abortion is morally equivalent to infanticide. By examining the relationship between moral skepticism and precautionary ethics the article promotes a completely permissive position on abortion from conception to birth while consistently rejecting the possibility that such a position entails permissive implications for infanticide. The article introduces and traces the implicit relationship between moral skepticism, the precautionary principle and political liberalism.
This paper argues that it is morally irresponsible for modern medical providers or health care institutions to support and advocate the integration of CAM practices (i.e. homeopathy, acupuncture, energy healing, etc.) with conventional modern medicine. The results of such practices are not reliable beyond that of placebo. As a corollary, it is argued that prescribing placebos perceived to stand outside the norm of modern medicine is morally inappropriate. Even when such treatments do no direct physical harm, they create unnecessary barriers (...) to patients' informed understanding of their health. (shrink)
Is it possible to recognize the limits of rationality, and thus to embrace moral pluralism, without embracing moral relativism? My answer is yes; nevertheless, certain anti-foundational positions, both recent and ancient, take a cynical stance toward the possibility of any critical moral judgment, and as such, must be regarded as relativistic.1 It is such cynicism, I argue, whether openly announced or unknowingly implied, that marks the distinction between relativism and pluralism.2 The danger of this cynicism is not so much that (...) it renders the categorical acceptance of a particular moral view unattainable, but that it renders categorical condemnation of any particular position (or action) impossible.3 Two .. (shrink)
This article seeks to re-conceptualize Rawlsian public reason as a critical tool against ideological propaganda. The article proposes that public reason, as a standard for public discourse, must be conceptualized beyond its mandate for comprehensive neutrality to additionally emphasize critique of ideologically driven ignorance and propaganda in the public realm. I connect uncritical hospitality to such ideological propaganda with Harry Frankfurt’s concept of bullshit. This paper proposes that philosophers have a unique moral obligation to engage bullshit critically in the public (...) sphere. The obligation for such critique, I argue, represents philosophy’s essential moral component in a society committed to the protection of free speech and deliberative democracy. (shrink)