39 found
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  1. Counterspeech.Bianca Cepollaro, Maxime Lepoutre & Robert Mark Simpson - 2022 - Philosophy Compass 18 (1):e12890.
    Counterspeech is communication that tries to counteract potential harm brought about by other speech. Theoretical interest in counterspeech partly derives from a libertarian ideal – as captured in the claim that the solution to bad speech is more speech – and partly from a recognition that well-meaning attempts to counteract harm through speech can easily misfire or backfire. Here we survey recent work on the question of what makes counterspeech effective at remedying or preventing harm, in those cases where it (...)
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  2. No Platforming.Robert Mark Simpson & Amia Srinivasan - 2018 - In Jennifer Lackey (ed.), Academic Freedom. Oxford University Press. pp. 186-209.
    This paper explains how the practice of ‘no platforming’ can be reconciled with a liberal politics. While opponents say that no platforming flouts ideals of open public discourse, and defenders see it as a justifiable harm-prevention measure, both sides mistakenly treat the debate like a run-of-the-mill free speech conflict, rather than an issue of academic freedom specifically. Content-based restrictions on speech in universities are ubiquitous. And this is no affront to a liberal conception of academic freedom, whose purpose isn’t just (...)
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  3. Permissivism and the Arbitrariness Objection.Robert Mark Simpson - 2017 - Episteme 14 (4):519-538.
    Permissivism says that for some propositions and bodies of evidence, there is more than one rationally permissible doxastic attitude that can be taken towards that proposition given the evidence. Some critics of this view argue that it condones, as rationally acceptable, sets of attitudes that manifest an untenable kind of arbitrariness. I begin by providing a new and more detailed explication of what this alleged arbitrariness consists in. I then explain why Miriam Schoenfield’s prima facie promising attempt to answer the (...)
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  4. The Relation between Academic Freedom and Free Speech.Robert Mark Simpson - 2020 - Ethics 130 (3):287-319.
    The standard view of academic freedom and free speech is that they play complementary roles in universities. Academic freedom protects academic discourse, while other public discourse in universities is protected by free speech. Here I challenge this view, broadly, on the grounds that free speech in universities sometimes undermines academic practices. One defense of the standard view, in the face of this worry, says that campus free speech actually furthers the university’s academic aims. Another says that universities have a secondary (...)
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  5. Indoctrination Anxiety and the Etiology of Belief.Joshua DiPaolo & Robert Mark Simpson - 2016 - Synthese 193 (10):3079-3098.
    People sometimes try to call others’ beliefs into question by pointing out the contingent causal origins of those beliefs. The significance of such ‘Etiological Challenges’ is a topic that has started attracting attention in epistemology. Current work on this topic aims to show that Etiological Challenges are, at most, only indirectly epistemically significant, insofar as they bring other generic epistemic considerations to the agent’s attention. Against this approach, we argue that Etiological Challenges are epistemically significant in a more direct and (...)
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  6. The Ethics of Quitting Social Media.Robert Mark Simpson - 2023 - In Carissa Véliz (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Digital Ethics. Oxford University Press.
    There are prima facie ethical reasons and prudential reasons for people to avoid or withdraw from social media platforms. But in response to pushes for people to quit social media, a number of authors have argued that there is something ethically questionable about quitting social media: that it involves — typically, if not necessarily — an objectionable expression of privilege on the part of the quitter. In this paper I contextualise privilege-based objections to quitting social media and explain the underlying (...)
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  7. Reconciling Regulation with Scientific Autonomy in Dual-Use Research.Nicholas G. Evans, Michael J. Selgelid & Robert Mark Simpson - 2022 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 47 (1):72-94.
    In debates over the regulation of communication related to dual-use research, the risks that such communication creates must be weighed against against the value of scientific autonomy. The censorship of such communication seems justifiable in certain cases, given the potentially catastrophic applications of some dual-use research. This conclusion however, gives rise to another kind of danger: that regulators will use overly simplistic cost-benefit analysis to rationalize excessive regulation of scientific research. In response to this, we show how institutional design principles (...)
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  8. Dignity, Harm, and Hate Speech.Robert Mark Simpson - 2013 - Law and Philosophy 32 (6):701-728.
    This paper examines two recent contributions to the hate speech literature – by Steven Heyman and Jeremy Waldron – which seek a justification for the legal restriction of hate speech in an account of the way that hate speech infringes against people’s dignity. These analyses look beyond the first-order hurts and disadvantages suffered by the immediate targets of hate speech, and consider the prospect of hate speech sustaining complex social structures whose wide-scale operations lower the social status of members of (...)
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  9. Epistemic Peerhood and the Epistemology of Disagreement.Robert Mark Simpson - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 164 (2):561-577.
    In disagreements about trivial matters, it often seems appropriate for disputing parties to adopt a ‘middle ground’ view about the disputed matter. But in disputes about more substantial controversies (e.g. in ethics, religion, or politics) this sort of doxastic conduct can seem viciously acquiescent. How should we distinguish between the two kinds of cases, and thereby account for our divergent intuitions about how we ought to respond to them? One possibility is to say that ceding ground in a trivial dispute (...)
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  10. The Conversational Character of Oppression.Robert Mark Simpson - 2021 - Australasian Philosophical Review 5 (2):160-169.
    McGowan argues that everyday verbal bigotry makes a key contribution to the harms of discriminatory inequality, via a mechanism that she calls sneaky norm enactment. Part of her account involves showing that the characteristic of conversational interaction that facilitates sneaky norm enactment is in fact a generic one, which obtains in a wide range of activities, namely, the property of having conventions of appropriateness. I argue that her account will be better-able to show that everyday verbal bigotry is a key (...)
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  11. Un-Ringing the Bell: McGowan on Oppressive Speech and The Asymmetric Pliability of Conversations.Robert Mark Simpson - 2013 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 91 (3):555-575.
    In recent work Mary Kate McGowan presents an account of oppressive speech inspired by David Lewis's analysis of conversational kinematics. Speech can effect identity-based oppression, she argues, by altering 'the conversational score', which is to say, roughly, that it can introduce presuppositions and expectations into a conversation, and thus determine what sort of subsequent conversational 'moves' are apt, correct, felicitous, etc., in a manner that oppresses members of a certain group (e.g. because the suppositions and expectations derogate or demean members (...)
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  12. ‘Lost, Enfeebled, and Deprived of Its Vital Effect’: Mill’s Exaggerated View of the Relation Between Conflict and Vitality.Robert Mark Simpson - 2021 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 95 (1):97-114.
    Mill thinks our attitudes should be held in a way that’s active and ‘alive’. He believes attitudes that lack these qualities—those held dogmatically, or in unreflective conformity—are inimical to our well-being. This claim then serves as a premiss in his argument for overarching principles of liberty. He argues that attitudinal vitality, in the relevant sense, relies upon people experiencing attitudinal conflict, and that this necessitates a prioritization of personal liberties. I argue that, pace Mill, contestation isn’t required for attitudinal vitality. (...)
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  13. Language and Legitimation.Robert Mark Simpson - 2021 - In Rebecca Mason (ed.), Hermeneutical Injustice. Routledge.
    The verb to legitimate is often used in political discourse in a way that is prima facie perplexing. To wit, it is often said that an actor legitimates a practice which is officially prohibited in the relevant context – for example, that a worker telling sexist jokes legitimates sex discrimination in the workplace. In order to clarify the meaning of statements like this, and show how they can sometimes be true and informative, we need an explanation of how something that (...)
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  14. Epistemic Permissivism and Reasonable Pluralism.R. Rowland & Robert Mark Simpson - 2021 - In Michael Hannon & Jeroen de Ridder (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Political Epistemology. New York: Routledge. pp. 112-122.
    There is an intuitive difference in how we think about pluralism and attitudinal diversity in epistemological contexts versus political contexts. In an epistemological context, it seems problematically arbitrary to hold a particular belief on some issue, while also thinking it perfectly reasonable to hold a totally different belief on the same issue given the same evidence. By contrast, though, it doesn’t seem problematically arbitrary to have a particular set of political commitments, while at the same time thinking it perfectly reasonable (...)
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  15. Climate Change, Cooperation, and Moral Bioenhancement.Toby Handfield, Pei-hua Huang & Robert Mark Simpson - 2016 - Journal of Medical Ethics 42 (2):742-747.
    The human faculty of moral judgment is not well suited to address problems, like climate change, that are global in scope and remote in time. Advocates of ‘moral bioenhancement’ have proposed that we should investigate the use of medical technologies to make human beings more trusting and altruistic, and hence more willing to cooperate in efforts to mitigate the impacts of climate change. We survey recent accounts of the proximate and ultimate causes of human cooperation in order to assess the (...)
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  16. Moral Antitheodicy: Prospects and Problems.Robert Mark Simpson - 2008 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 65 (3):153-169.
    Proponents of the view which I call ‘moral antitheodicy’ call for the theistic discourse of theodicy to be abandoned, because, they claim, all theodicies involve some form of moral impropriety. Three arguments in support of this view are examined: the argument from insensitivity, the argument from detachment, and the argument from harmful consequences. After discussing the merits of each argument individually, I attempt to show that they all must presuppose what they are intended to establish, namely, that the set of (...)
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  17. Should We Unbundle Free Speech and Press Freedom?Robert Mark Simpson & Damien Storey - 2024 - In Carl Fox & Joe Saunders (eds.), Routledge Handbook of Philosophy and Media Ethics. Routledge. pp. 69-80.
    This paper presents an account of the ethical and conceptual relationship between free speech and press freedom. Many authors have argued that, despite there being some common ground between them, these two liberties should be treated as properly distinct, both theoretically and practically. The core of the argument, for this “unbundling” approach, is that conflating free speech and press freedom makes it too easy for reasonable democratic regulations on press freedom to be portrayed, by their opponents, as part of a (...)
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  18. Tolerating Hate in the Name of Democracy.Amanda Greene & Robert Mark Simpson - 2017 - Modern Law Review 80 (4):746-65.
    This article offers a comprehensive and critical analysis of Eric Heinze’s book Hate Speech and Democratic Citizenship (Oxford University Press, 2016). Heinze’s project is to formulate and defend a more theoretically complex version of the idea (also defended by people like Ronald Dworkin and James Weinstein) that general legal prohibitions on hate speech in public discourse compromises the state’s democratic legitimacy. We offer a detailed synopsis of Heinze’s view, highlighting some of its distinctive qualities and strengths. We then develop a (...)
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  19. Heckling, Free Speech, and Freedom of Association.Emily McTernan & Robert Mark Simpson - 2023 - Mind 133 (529):117-142.
    People sometimes use speech to interfere with other people’s speech, as in the case of a heckler sabotaging a lecture with constant interjections. Some people claim that such interference infringes upon free speech. Against this view, we argue that where competing speakers in a public forum both have an interest in speaking, free speech principles should not automatically give priority to the ‘official’ speaker. Given the ideals underlying free speech, heckling speech sometimes deserves priority. But what can we say, then, (...)
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  20. Norms of Inquiry, Student-Led Learning, and Epistemic Paternalism.Robert Mark Simpson - 2021 - In Jonathan Matheson & Kirk Lougheed (eds.), Epistemic Autonomy. New York, NY: Routledge. pp. 95-112.
    Should we implement epistemically paternalistic measures outside of the narrow range of cases, like legal trials, in which their benefits and justifiability seem clear-cut? In this chapter I draw on theories of student-led pedagogy, and Jane Friedman’s work on norms of inquiry, to argue against this prospect. The key contention in the chapter is that facts about an inquirer’s interests and temperament have a bearing on whether it is better for her to, at any given moment, pursue epistemic goods via (...)
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  21. Disagreement and Free Speech.Sebastien Bishop & Robert Mark Simpson - forthcoming - In Maria Baghramian, J. Adam Carter & Rach Cosker-Rowland (eds.), Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Disagreement. Routledge.
    This chapter examines two ways in which liberal thinkers have appealed to claims about disagreement in order to defend a principle of free speech. One argument, from Mill, says that free speech is a necessary condition for healthy disagreement, and that healthy disagreement is conducive to human flourishing. The other argument says that in a community of people who disagree about questions of value, free speech is a necessary condition of legitimate democratic government. We argue that both of these arguments, (...)
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  22. Political Correctness Gone Viral.Waleed Aly & Robert Mark Simpson - 2019 - In Joe Saunders & Carl Fox (eds.), Media Ethics, Free Speech, and the Requirements of Democracy. Routledge. pp. 125-143.
    Communicative practices in online and social media sometimes seem to amplify political conflict, and result in significant harms to people who become the targets of collective outrage. Many complaints that have been made about political correctness in the past, we argue, amount to little more than a veiled expression of resentment over the increasing influence enjoyed by progressive activists. But some complaints about political correctness take on a different complexion, in light of the technologically-driven changes to our communicative practices and (...)
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  23. Law as Counterspeech.Anjalee de Silva & Robert Mark Simpson - 2023 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 26 (4):493-510.
    A growing body of work in free speech theory is interested in the nature of counterspeech, i.e. speech that aims to counteract the effects of harmful speech. Counterspeech is usually defined in opposition to legal responses to harmful speech, which try to prevent such speech from occurring in the first place. In this paper we challenge this way of carving up the conceptual terrain. Instead, we argue that our main classificatory division, in theorising responses to harmful speech, should be between (...)
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  24. ‘Won’t Somebody Please Think of the Children?’ Hate Speech, Harm, and Childhood.Robert Mark Simpson - 2019 - Law and Philosophy 38 (1):79-108.
    Some authors claim that hate speech plays a key role in perpetuating unjust social hierarchy. One prima facie plausible hypothesis about how this occurs is that hate speech has a pernicious influence on the attitudes of children. Here I argue that this hypothesis has an important part to play in the formulation of an especially robust case for general legal prohibitions on hate speech. If our account of the mechanism via which hate speech effects its harms is built around claims (...)
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  25. Search Engines, Free Speech Coverage, and the Limits of Analogical Reasoning.Heather Whitney & Robert Mark Simpson - 2018 - In Susan J. Brison & Katharine Gelber (eds.), Free Speech in the Digital Age. Oup Usa. pp. 33-41.
    This paper investigates whether search engines and other new modes of online communication should be covered by free speech principles. It criticizes the analogical reason-ing that contemporary American courts and scholars have used to liken search engines to newspapers, and to extend free speech coverage to them based on that likeness. There are dissimilarities between search engines and newspapers that undermine the key analogy, and also rival analogies that can be drawn which don’t recommend free speech protection for search engines. (...)
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  26. Defining 'Speech': Subtraction, Addition, and Division.Robert Mark Simpson - 2016 - Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence 29 (2):457-494.
    In free speech theory ‘speech’ has to be defined as a special term of art. I argue that much free speech discourse comes with a tacit commitment to a ‘Subtractive Approach’ to defining speech. As an initial default, all communicative acts are assumed to qualify as speech, before exceptions are made to ‘subtract’ those acts that don’t warrant the special legal protections owed to ‘speech’. I examine how different versions of the Subtractive Approach operate, and criticise them in terms of (...)
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  27. Minimalism, Determinacy, and Human Rights.Robert Mark Simpson - 2021 - Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence 34 (1):149-169.
    Many theorists understand human rights as only aiming to secure a minimally decent existence, rather than a positively good or flourishing life. Some of the theoretical considerations that support this minimalist view have been mapped out in the philosophical literature. The aim of this paper is to explain how a relatively neglected theoretical desideratum – namely, determinacy – can be invoked in arguing for human rights minimalism. Most of us want a theory of human rights whose demands can be realized, (...)
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  28. Life in Overabundance: Agar on Life-Extension and the Fear of Death.Aveek Bhattacharya & Robert Mark Simpson - 2014 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 17 (2):223-236.
    In Humanity’s End: Why We Should Reject Radical Enhancement, Nicholas Agar presents a novel argument against the prospect of radical life-extension. Agar’s argument hinges on the claim that extended lifespans will result in people’s lives being dominated by the fear of death. Here we examine this claim and the surrounding issues in Agar’s discussion. We argue, firstly, that Agar’s view rests on empirically dubious assumptions about human rationality and attitudes to risk, and secondly, that even if those assumptions are granted, (...)
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  29. The Big Shill.Robert Mark Simpson & Eliot Michaelson - 2020 - Ratio 33 (4):269-280.
    Shills are people who endorse products and companies for pay, while pretending that their endorsements are ingenuous. Here we argue that there is something objectionable about shilling that is not reducible to its bad consequences, the lack of epistemic conscientiousness it often relies upon, or to the shill’s insincerity. Indeed, we take it as a premise of our inquiry that shilling can sometimes be sincere, and that its wrongfulness is not mitigated by the shill’s sincerity, in cases where the shill (...)
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  30. No-Platforming, Liberalism, and Students (an interview with Robert Simpson).Alex Davies & Robert Mark Simpson - 2018
    This is the English (and extended version) of an interview originally published in Estonian in October 2018. In the interview, Simpson summarizes a particular way of defending the practice of no-platforming. The varying appeal of different defences of the practice in different socio-historical contexts (i.e. the UK/US versus a post-Soviet country such as Estonia) is discussed also.
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  31. Nanotechnologically Enhanced Combat Systems: The Downside of Invulnerability.Robert Mark Simpson & Robert Sparrow - 2014 - In Bert Gordijn & Anthony Mark Cutter (eds.), In Pursuit of Nanoethics. Dordrecht: Springer. pp. 89-103.
    In this paper we examine the ethical implications of emerging Nanotechnologically Enhanced Combat Systems (or 'NECS'). Through a combination of materials innovation and biotechnology, NECS are aimed at making combatants much less vulnerable to munitions that pose a lethal threat to soldiers protected by conventional armor. We argue that increasing technological disparities between forces armed with NECS and those without will exacerbate the ethical problems of asymmetric warfare. This will place pressure on the just war principles of jus in bello, (...)
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  32. Regulating Offense, Nurturing Offense.Robert Mark Simpson - 2018 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 17 (3):235-256.
    Joel Feinberg’s Offense to Others is the most comprehensive contemporary work on the significance of offense in a liberal legal system. Feinberg argues that being offended can impair a person’s liberty, much like a nuisance, and that it is therefore legitimate in principle to regulate conduct because of its offensiveness. In this article, I discuss some overlooked considerations that give us reason to resist Feinberg’s conclusion, even while granting this premise. My key claim is that the regulation of offense can (...)
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  33. Dehumanization: its Operations and its Origins.Robert Mark Simpson - 2016 - Journal of Law and Biosciences 3 (1):178-184.
    Gail Murrow and Richard Murrow offer a novel account of dehumanization, by synthesizing data which suggest that where subject S has a dehumanized view of group G, S‘s neural mechanisms of empathy show a dampened response to the suffering of members of G, and S‘s judgments about the humanity of members of G are largely non-conscious. Here I examine Murrow and Murrow‘s suggestions about how identity-based hate speech bears responsibility for dehumanization in the first place. I identify a distinction between (...)
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  34. Intellectual Agency and Responsibility for Belief in Free Speech Theory.Robert Mark Simpson - 2013 - Legal Theory 19 (3):307-330.
    The idea that human beings are intellectually self-governing plays two roles in free-speech theory. First, this idea is frequently called upon as part of the justification for free speech. Second, it plays a role in guiding the translation of free-speech principles into legal policy by underwriting the ascriptive framework through which responsibility for certain kinds of speech harms can be ascribed. After mapping out these relations, I ask what becomes of them once we acknowledge certain very general and profound limitations (...)
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  35. Super Soldiers and Technological Asymmetry.Robert Mark Simpson - 2015 - In Jai Galliott & Mianna Lotz (eds.), Super Soldiers: The Ethical, Legal and Social Implications. Ashgate. pp. 81-91.
    In this chapter I argue that emerging soldier enhancement technologies have the potential to transform the ethical character of the relationship between combatants, in conflicts between ‘Superpower’ militaries, with the ability to deploy such technologies, and technologically disadvantaged ‘Underdog’ militaries. The reasons for this relate to Paul Kahn’s claims about the paradox of riskless warfare. When an Underdog poses no threat to a Superpower, the standard just war theoretic justifications for the Superpower’s combatants using lethal violence against their opponents breaks (...)
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  36.  20
    Erratum to: ‘Lost, Enfeebled, and Deprived of Its Vital Effect’: Mill’s Exaggerated View of the Relation Between Conflict and Vitality.Robert Mark Simpson - 2022 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 98 (1):1-1.
    No categories
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  37. Review of Rowan Cruft, S. Matthew Liao, and Massimo Renzo (Eds.), Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights. [REVIEW]Robert Mark Simpson - 2019 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 16 (4):517-520.
    This is a review of a long, comprehensive, and mostly very good collection of philosophical essays on human rights. I briefly summarise the main ideas put forward in some of the essays that I most admired in the collection. While the collection includes essays from proponents of a wide range of theoretical and methodological perspectives, I suggest in my review that the collection's overall function is to serve as a kind of demonstrative rejoinder to those philosophers, like Raz, who argue (...)
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  38. Review of Seana Shiffrin, "Speech Matters: On Lying, Morality, and the Law". [REVIEW]Robert Mark Simpson - 2015 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2015.
    In this review I critically digest the main themes of Shiffrin's arguments, with a focus on the question of whether her "thinker-based" theory of free speech has different, or more ambivalent, practical implications for free speech policy than she allows.
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  39. Moral Renegades. [REVIEW]Robert Mark Simpson - 2016 - The New Rambler Review 2016.
    This piece is a side-by-side review of two books: Strangers Drowning, by Larissa MacFarquhar, and Doing Good Better, by William MacAskill. Both books are concerned with the question of whether we should try to live as morally good a life as possible. MacAskill thinks the answer is 'yes', and his book is an overview of how the Effective Altruist movement approaches the problem of how to achieve a morally optimal life. MacFarquhar's book is a more descriptive account of the lives (...)
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