What responsibility do individuals bear for structural injustice? Iris Marion Young has offered the most fully developed account to date, the Social Connections Model. She argues that we all bear responsibility because we each causally contribute to structural processes that produce injustice. My aim in this article is to motivate and defend an alternative account that improves on Young’s model by addressing five fundamental challenges faced by any such theory. The core idea of what I call the “Role-Ideal Model” is (...) that we are each responsible for structural injustice through and in virtue of our social roles, i.e. our roles as parents, colleagues, employers, citizens, etc., because roles are the site where structure meets agency. In short, the Role-Ideal Model explains how individual action contributes to structural change, justifies demands for action from each particular agent, specifies what kinds of acts should be undertaken, moderates between demanding too much and too little of individual agents, and provides an account of the critical responses appropriate for holding individuals accountable for structural injustice. (shrink)
Sally Haslanger has recently argued that philosophical focus on implicit bias is overly individualist, since social inequalities are best explained in terms of social structures rather than the actions and attitudes of individuals. I argue that questions of individual responsibility and implicit bias, properly understood, do constitute an important part of addressing structural injustice, and I propose an alternative conception of social structure according to which implicit biases are themselves best understood as a special type of structure.
Moral agency is limited, imperfect, and structurally constrained. This is evident in the many ways we all unwittingly participate in widespread injustice through our everyday actions, which I call ‘structural wrongs’. To do justice to these facts, I argue that we should distinguish between summative and formative moral criticism. While summative criticism functions to conclusively assess an agent's performance relative to some benchmark, formative criticism aims only to improve performance in an ongoing way. I show that the negative sanctions associated (...) with summative responses are only justifiably imposed under certain conditions when persons exercise their agency wrongly — conditions that do not always hold for structural wrongs. Yet even in such cases we can still use formative responses, which are warranted whenever agents fall short of moral ideals. Expanding our repertoire of moral criticism to include both summative and formative responses enables us to better appreciate both the powers and limitations of our agency, and the complexity of moral life. (shrink)
Iris Marion Young’s influential Social Connections Model of responsibility offers a compelling approach to theorizing structural injustice. However, the precise nature of the kind of responsibility modelled by the SCM, along with its relationship to the liability model, has remained unclear. I offer a reading of Young that takes the difference between the liability model and the SCM to be an instance of a more longstanding distinction in the literature on moral responsibility: attributability vs. accountability. I show that interpreting the (...) SCM as a conception of accountability resolves a number of objections, while also highlighting the SCM’s distinctive stance on the relationship between ethics and politics. (shrink)
Feminist philosophers have challenged a wide range of gender injustices in professional philosophy. However, the problem of precarity, that is, the increasing numbers of contingent faculty who cannot find permanent employment, has received scarcely any attention. What explains this oversight? In this article, I argue, first, that academics are held in the grips of an ideology that diverts attention away from the structural conditions of precarity, and second, that the gendered dimensions of such an ideology have been overlooked. To do (...) so, I identify two myths: the myth of meritocracy and the myth of work as its own reward. I demonstrate that these myths—and the two-tier system itself—manifest an unmistakably gendered logic, such that gender and precarity are mutually reinforcing and co-constitutive. I conclude that feminist philosophers have particular reason to organize against the casualization of academic work. (shrink)
People disagree about the causes of social inequality and how to most effectively intervene in them. These may seem like empirical questions for social scientists, not philosophers. However, causal explanation itself depends on broadly normative commitments. From this it follows that (moral) philosophers have an important role to play in determining those causal explanations. I examine the case of causal explanations of poverty to demonstrate these claims. In short, philosophers who work to reshape our moral expectations also work, on the (...) back end, to restructure acceptable causal explanations—and hence solutions—for social inequality. Empirical and normative inquiry, then, are a two-way street. (shrink)
I defend an account of moral responsibility for implicit bias that is sensitive to both normative and pragmatic constraints: an acceptable theory of moral responsibility must not only do justice to our moral experience and agency, but also issue directives that are psychologically effective in bringing about positive changes in judgment and behavior. I begin by offering a conceptual genealogy of two different concepts of moral responsibility that arise from two distinct sources of philosophical concerns. We are morally responsible for (...) our actions in first sense only when those actions reflect our identities as moral agents—that is, when they are attributable to us as manifestations of our character, attitudes, ends, commitments, or values. On the other hand, we are responsible in the second sense when it is appropriate for others to enforce certain demands and expectations on those actions—in other words, to hold us accountable for them. I argue that we may sometimes lack attributability for actions caused by implicit bias, but that even then we are still accountable for them. Next, I expand beyond individual actions at a particular time to patterns of action across time, to consider what we can reasonably be expected to do when it comes to avoiding and eliminating implicit bias in our selves. By thinking of these expectations as grounded in imperfect duties, I show, we can expand our moral repertoire to include non-appraising critical moral responses, in addition to appraisal-based responses such as blame and punishment. Finally, I move beyond the actions of individuals to address the question of responsibility for eliminating the social conditions that breed implicit biases in the first place. I argue that accountability requires us not only to conform to a system of demands and expectations, but also to collectively organize to reform the system itself. By elaborating these multiple dimensions of moral responsibility—attributability versus accountability, particular versus patterns of action, individual versus collective—I demonstrate that the project of developing better practices of moral responsibility is continuous with, and thus contributes to, larger struggles for social equality and justice. (shrink)
David Shoemaker's highly innovative and intricately argued new book brings much of his previous work together with substantial original material to form a detailed and cohesive treatment of responsibility. The book is engaging, crisp, and admirably clear. It is marvelously ambitious in its strategy and framework, engagement with multiple literatures, and decidedly novel approach to Strawsonian theory. Moral philosophers, psychologists, clinicians and practitioners, and anyone who has ever wondered about "marginal agents"—people with dementia, autism, depression, OCD, and psychopathy—will find much (...) to entice them in this thorough and accessible treatise.Shoemaker's starting point—the phenomenon he aims to... (shrink)
Most discussions of racial fetish center on the question of whether it is caused by negative racial stereotypes. In this paper I adopt a different strategy, one that begins with the experiences of those targeted by racial fetish rather than those who possess it; that is, I shift focus away from the origins of racial fetishes to their effects as a social phenomenon in a racially stratified world. I examine the case of preferences for Asian women, also known as ‘yellow (...) fever’, to argue against the claim that racial fetishes are unobjectionable if they are merely based on personal or aesthetic preference rather than racial stereotypes. I contend that even if this were so, yellow fever would still be morally objectionable because of the disproportionate psychological burdens it places on Asian and Asian-American women, along with the role it plays in a pernicious system of racial social meanings. (shrink)
This chapter distinguishes between two concepts of moral responsibility. We are responsible for our actions in the first sense only when those actions reflect our identities as moral agents, i.e. when they are attributable to us. We are responsible in the second sense when it is appropriate for others to enforce certain expectations and demands on those actions, i.e. to hold us accountable for them. This distinction allows for an account of moral responsibility for implicit bias, defended here, on which (...) people may lack attributability for actions caused by implicit bias but are still accountable for them. What this amounts to is leaving aside appraisal-based forms of moral criticism such as blame and punishment in favor of non-appraising forms of accountability. This account not only does more justice to our moral experience and agency, but will also lead to more effective practices for combating the harms of implicit bias. (shrink)
In this article we wonder how a person can discharge the political responsibility for supporting and benefiting from unjust social structures. Firstly, we introduce the concept of structural injustice and defend it against three possible objections: ‘explanatory nationalism’, a diachronic interpretation of the benefits of industry-led growth, being part of a social structure does not automatically mean being responsible for its negative consequences. Then, we hold that both Iris Marion Young’s ‘social connection model’ and RobinZheng’s ‘role-ideal model’ (...) provide clear indications on how to unload responsibility for supporting/participating in unjust social structures, but fail to explain how to get rid of responsibility for unjust enrichment. We maintain that both models should be complemented with a global redistributive scheme that allows to disgorge the benefits that are unfairly obtained in the global economic system, besides undertaking collective transformative actions and assuming ideal-role responsibilities. (shrink)
Asian romantic preference is not wrong because it does not infringe on someone’s moral right. Nor is it unjust in some other way. It is not intrinsically bad because it is neither false nor does it consist of the love of evil or hatred of the good. It is not clear if it is instrumentally bad because it is not clear whether it is good for Asian women and, if it is, whether the good for them is outweighed by the (...) bad for others. People have many preferences when it comes to marriage, dating, and sex. Consider heterosexual men’s preferences for women who are thin, feminine, normal height, symmetrical, and so on. The preference to marry, date, or have sex with Asian women is morally similar to these preferences. (shrink)
Though John Stuart Mill's long employment by the East India Company did not limit him to drafting despatches on relations with the princely states, that activity must form the centrepiece of any satisfactory study of his Indian career. As yet the activity has scarcely been glimpsed. It produced, on average, about a draft a week, which he listed in his own hand. He subsequently struck out items that he sought to disown in consequence of substantial revisions made by the Company's (...) directors or the Board of Control. He also listed items that achieved publication as parliamentary papers and they amount to about ten per cent of his drafts. The two lists, published in the most recent volume of his Collected Works, reveal, at the least, the ‘political’ despatches from which he did not seek to dissociate himself. The despatches were not entirely his work and authorship in the conventional sense may not be assumed. They were the product of an elaborate process, in which many hands were engaged. At worst, they were his work in much the same way that an Act of Parliament is the work of the Crown Solicitor who drafts the bill. At best they were his as are the drafts of a civil servant who believes in policy statements that he prepares for his political masters. The greatest English philosopher and social scientist of the nineteenth century was, in his daily occupation, an employee. His Company was charged with initiating policies for the Indian states and they were subject to the control of a minister of the Crown. (shrink)
One way of understanding the reduplicative formula ‘Christ is, qua God, omniscient, but qua man, limited in knowledge’ is to take the occurrences of the ‘ qua ’ locution as picking out different parts of Christ: a divine part and a human part. But this view of Christ as a composite being runs into paradox when combined with the orthodox understanding of the Incarnation, according to which Christ is identical to the second person of the Trinity. In response, we have (...) to choose between modifying the orthodox understanding, adopting a philosophically and theologically contentious perdurantist account of persistence through time, or rejecting altogether the idea of the composite Christ. (shrink)
Photographs, paintings, rigid sculptures: all these provide examples of static images. It is true that they change—photographs fade, paintings darken and sculptures crumble—but what change they undergo is irrelevant to their representational content. A static image is one that represents by virtue of properties which remain largely unchanged throughout its existence. Because of this defining feature, according to a long tradition in aesthetics, a static image can only represent an instantaneous moment, or to be more exact the state of affairs (...) obtaining at that moment'. It cannot represent movement and the passage of time. This traditional view mirrors a much older one in metaphysics: that change is to be conceived of as a series of instantaneous states and hence that an interval of time is composed of extensionless moments. The metaphysical view has been involved in more controversy than its aesthetic counterpart. Aristotle identified it as one of the premises of Zeno's arrow paradox and Augustine employed it in his proof of the unreality of time. (shrink)
Alex Byrne’s article, “Are Women Adult Human Females?”, asks a question that Byrne treats as nearly rhetorical. Byrne’s answer is, ‘clearly, yes’. Moreover, Byrne claims, 'woman' is a biological category that does not admit of any interpretation as (also) a social category. It is important to respond to Byrne’s argument, but mostly because it is paradigmatic of a wider phenomenon. The slogan “women are adult human females” is a political slogan championed by anti-trans activists, appearing on billboards, pamphlets, and anti-trans (...) online forums. In this paper, I respond to Byrne’s argument, revealing significant problems with its background assumptions, content, and methodology. (shrink)
Nietzsche's thinking on justice and punishment explores the motives and forces which lie behind moral concepts and social institutions. His dialogue with several writers of his time is discussed here. Eugen Dühring had argued that a natural feeling of ressentiment against those who have harmed us is the source of the concept of injustice, so that punishment, even in its most impersonal form, is always a form of revenge. In attacking this theory, Nietzsche developed his own powerful critique of moral (...) concepts such as responsibility and guilt. He borrowed his ‘historical’ approach to moral concepts from Paul Ree, who suggested that the utilitarian function of punishment had been obscured by its practice, which appears to be directly linked with moral guilt. Nietzsche responds that punishment has quite different purposes and meanings at different times, so that any single explanation or justification is inadequate. In this way, he rejects the pre-suppositions common to the retributivists and utilitarians of his time. (shrink)
Alan Carter's recent review in Mind of my Ethics of the Global Environment combines praise of biocentric consequentialism with criticisms that it could advocate both minimal satisfaction of human needs and the extinction of ‘inessential species’ for the sake of generating extra people; Carter also maintains that as a monistic theory it is predictably inadequate to cover the full range of ethical issues, since only a pluralistic theory has this capacity. In this reply, I explain how the counter-intuitive implications of (...) biocentric consequentialism suggested by Carter are not implications, and argue that since pluralistic theories either generate contradictions or collapse into monistic theories, the superiority of pluralistic theories is far from predictable. Thus Carter's criticisms fail to undermine biocentric consequentialism as a normative theory applicable to the generality of ethical issues. (shrink)
In this paper, I address two connected issues that arise when one considers a rational agent facing a decision problem. One is whether or not the agent may find that the dictates of rationality are such that they cannot all be followed. For example, one may ask whether or not the requirements on the agent's actions imposed by rationality can conflict in an irreconcilable way, making it impossible to satisfy all of them. Put differently, one may ask whether or not (...) any apparent conflict of this type must in fact be capable of rational resolution. I shall say that an agent who is in a position in which the requirements of rationality cannot all be satisfied faces a feasibility dilemma, and I shall characterize certain conceptions of rationality that differ according to whether or not they admit such a possibility. A second issue concerns the number of options that may be deemed rational in a decision problem. Is rationality sufficiently determinate that it always dictates precisely one choice, or may there be more than one rationally permissible option? Is there anything about rationality itself that guarantees that any of the possible options could rationally be chosen? I shall call this issue – whether the concept of rationality itself places any limits on the number of options that may be deemed rational in a given problem – the numbers problem. (shrink)
For as long as realists and instrumentalists have disagreed, partisans of both sides have pointed in argument to the actions and sayings of scientists. Realists in particular have often drawn comfort from the literal understanding given even to very theoretical propositions by many of those who are paid to deploy them. The scientists' realism, according to the realist, is not an idle commitment: a literal understanding of past and present theories and concepts underwrites their employment in the construction of new (...) theories. The theme of this book is philosophy and technology, and here's the connection: new theories point out—and explain— new phenomena. So realism, claim the realists, is at the heart of science's achievement of what Bacon, that early philosopher of technology, identified as science's aim: new knowledge offering new powers. (shrink)
We want to know what gender is. But metaphysical approaches to this question solely have focused on the binary gender kinds men and women. By overlooking those who identify outside of the binary–the group I call ‘genderqueer’–we are left without tools for understanding these new and quickly growing gender identifications. This metaphysical gap in turn creates a conceptual lacuna that contributes to systematic misunderstanding of genderqueer persons. In this paper, I argue that to better understand genderqueer identities, we must recognize (...) a new type of gender kind: critical gender kinds, or kinds whose members collectively destabilize one or more pieces of dominant gender ideology. After developing a model of critical gender kinds, I suggest that genderqueer is best modeled as a critical gender kind that destabilizes the ‘binary axis’, or the piece of dominant gender ideology that says that the only possible genders are the binary, discrete, exclusive, and exhaustive kinds men and women. (shrink)
Gender classifications often are controversial. These controversies typically focus on whether gender classifications align with facts about gender kind membership: Could someone really be nonbinary? Is Chris Mosier really a man? I think this is a bad approach. Consider the possibility of ontological oppression, which arises when social kinds operating in a context unjustly constrain the behaviors, concepts, or affect of certain groups. Gender kinds operating in dominant contexts, I argue, oppress trans and nonbinary persons in this way: they marginalize (...) trans men and women, and exclude nonbinary persons. As a result, facts about membership in dominant gender kinds should not settle gender classification practices. (shrink)
Postmodernism and Education responds to the interest in postmodernism as a way of understanding social, cultural and economic trends. Robin Usher and Richard Edwards explore the impact which postmodernism has had upon the theory and practice of education, using a broad analysis of postmodernism and an in-depth introduction to key writers in the field, including Lacan, Derrida, Foucault and Lyotard. In examining the impact which this thinking has had upon contemporary theory and practice of education, Usher and Edwards concentrate (...) particularly upon how postmodernist ideas challenge existing concepts, structures and hierarchies. (shrink)
In this paper, we defend two main claims. The first is a moderate claim: we have a negative duty to not use binary gender-specific pronouns he or she to refer to genderqueer individuals. We defend this with an argument by analogy. It was gravely wrong for Mark Latham to refer to Catherine McGregor, a transgender woman, using the pronoun he; we argue that such cases of misgendering are morally analogous to referring to Angel Haze, who identifies as genderqueer, as he (...) or she. The second is a radical claim: we have a negative duty to not use any gender-specific pronouns to refer to anyone, regardless of their gender identity. We offer three arguments in favor of this claim (which appeal to concerns about inegalitarianism and risk, invasions of privacy, and reinforcing essentialist ideologies). We also show why the radical claim is compatible with the moderate claim. Before concluding, we examine common concerns about incorporating either they or a neologism such as ze as a third-person singular gender-neutral pronoun. These concerns, we argue, do not provide sufficient reason to reject either the moderate or radical claim. (shrink)
Ordinary discourse is filled with discussions about ‘sexual orientation’. This discourse might suggest a common understanding of what sexual orientation is. But even a cursory search turns up vastly differing, conflicting, and sometimes ethically troubling characterizations of sexual orientation. The conceptual jumble surrounding sexual orientation suggests that the topic is overripe for philosophical exploration. This paper lays the groundwork for such an exploration. In it, I offer an account of sexual orientation – called ‘Bidimensional Dispositionalism’ – according to which sexual (...) orientation concerns what sex[es] and gender[s] of persons one is disposed to sexually engage, and makes no reference to one’s own sex and gender. (shrink)
Patriarchy and white supremacy are unjust social systems, constituted by causal structures that produce systemic gender injustice and racial injustice. Intersectional theory highlights that these forms of injustice often are inseparable, as in instances of misogynoir. What does this mean for our understanding of unjust systems? Recent work in feminist theory suggests that intersectional insights undermine the idea that there are multiple unjust systems. In this paper, I hope to show that this is not the case. I’ll suggest that intersectional (...) injustice is best explained by the overlap of unjust systems, or when unjust systems are co-constituted by the same causal structures. I’ll then argue that, despite their overlap, unjust systems can be individuated in terms of their essential ideologies. These distinct ideologies reveal unjust systems like patriarchy and white supremacy to be distinct goal-oriented processes that can be simultaneously manifested by the same causal structures. (shrink)
As I shall be taking issue with Michael Durrant for the bulk of this paper, it is appropriate, as well as a good way to start, to register my endorsement of his arguments in chapter 4 of The Logical Status of God l for the conclusion that sentences about God are typically used to express propositions, and that acts of thanksgiving and petition to God presuppose that some such propositions are true. The present paper is therefore a continuation of Mr (...) Durrant's attempt to locate the status of the term ‘God’ in propositions expressed by sentences of the form ‘God is F’. (shrink)
"The doctrine of materialism is one of the perennial and most controversial ideas in the arts and sciences. Throughout history it has aroused strong passions, and in the Sixteenth and Twentieth centuries was a doctrine over which people were persecuted and killed. Yet it has been equally aligned with empirical, enlightened and tolerant thinking. This book explores the fascinating and important philosophy of materialism in an engaging and thought-provoking way. Opening with an overview of the ideas of some of the (...) most important materialists, including Lucretius, Epicurus, Hobbes and Hume up to Darwin and Marx, Brown and Ladyman show how materialism's origins were twofold: it was an early form of scientific explanation but also an intellectual outlook, or belief-system, about the world in general. They then explain how materialism's beginnings as imaginative vision of the true nature of things faced a major challenge from modern physics, in the form of quantum theory and the general theory of relativity. This posed major questions for materialism: how could it be reconciled with unobservable entities and new discoveries about the nature of space and time? As the authors show, out of this challenge materialism did not die but re-emerged - as the new doctrine of physicalism. Drawing on colourful examples throughout - from modern physics, the nature of the mind, and atheism - the authors argue that whilst materialism may not have all the answers, its humanism and staunch belief in observation, evidence and experiment remains our best hope in a fragmented and hyper-specialised world"--. (shrink)
Characteristic of metaphysics are general questions of existence, such as ‘Are there numbers?’ This kind of question is the target of Carnap's argument for deflationism, to the effect that general existential questions, if taken at face value, are meaningless. This paper considers deflationism in a theological context, and argues that the question ‘Does God exist?’ can appropriately be grouped with the ‘metaphysical’ questions attacked by Carnap. Deflationism thus has the surprising consequence that the correct approach to theism is that of (...) radical theology. The paper attempts to show why Carnap's argument fails, and why, nevertheless, enough remains of it for us to conclude that God cannot be outside time and space. (shrink)
The central doctrine of traditional Christianity, the doctrine of the Incarnation, is that the Second Person of the Trinity lived a human existence on Earth as Jesus Christ for a finite period. In the words of the Nicene Creed, the Son is him who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.
Transgender often is understood either as an identity, or else as the full spectrum of gender nonconformity. In this essay, I advocate for recentering transgender on the experience of costly and willful gender deviance.
In the ongoing debate concerning the nature of human racial categories, there is a trend to reject the biological reality of race in favour of the view that races are social constructs. At work here is the assumption that biological reality and social constructivism are incompatible. I oppose the trend and the assumption by arguing that cladism, in conjunction with current work in human evolution, provides a new way to define race biologically. Defining race in this way makes sense when (...) compared to the developments in other areas of systematic biology, where shared history has largely replaced morphological similarity as the foundation of a natural biological classification. Surprisingly, it turns out that cladistic races and social constructivism are compatible. I discuss a number of lessons about the way human biological races have been conceptualized. (shrink)
Race was once thought to be a real biological kind. Today the dominant view is that objective biological races don't exist. I challenge the trend to reject the biological reality of race by arguing that cladism (a school of classification that individuates taxa by appeal to common ancestry) provides a new way to define race biologically. I also reconcile the proposed biological conception with constructivist theories about race. Most constructivists assume that biological realism and social constructivism are incompatible views about (...) race; I argue that the two conceptions can be compatible. (shrink)
In this article, Dembroff argues that the category nonbinary should not be understood in terms of presentation or psychological states, but instead in terms of how its members are politically situated with respect to the binary expectations of Western gender ideology.
Let us take, as a starting assumption, the Benthamic understanding of the point of law: We should make laws that will increase the overall happiness of the people whose lives are affected by them. But how should we go about doing that? And more particularly, what role, if any, should our held desires play in the task of ascertaining the content of our happiness? And when, if ever, should we defer to the desires of the affected masses, and when should (...) we not, in determining what will or will not promote happiness? The classical, or “hedonic,” utilitarians of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries suggested a number of answers to these related questions, of which I will mention two. (shrink)
The legend of Robin Hood exemplifies a distinct concern of justice neglected by theorists: the distributive results of systemic injustices. Robin Hood’s redistributive activities are justified by the principle that the distributive results of systemic injustices are unjust and should be corrected. This principle has relevance beyond the legend: since current inequalities in the US are results of systemic injustices, the US has good reason to take from the rich and give to the poor.
The question that I propose to consider is the ghost in modern philosophy. Its step has been heard more distinctly at some times than at others. But it has never rattled its chains so loudly as during the recent popularity of Existentialism. The question is: How is man related to the universe? All philosophers who pride themselves on being modern reject the ancient answer to the question. The most emancipated modern philosophers refuse to hear the question. Nevertheless some answer to (...) this question is presupposed by all philosophy. (shrink)