The Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy is a peer-reviewed online journal in moral, social, political, and legal philosophy. The journal welcomes submissions of articles in any of these and related fields of research. The journal is interested in work in the history of ethics that bears directly on topics of contemporary interest, but does not consider articles of purely historical interest.The Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy aspires to be the leading venue for the best new work in the fields that it covers, and applies a correspondingly high editorial standard.

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The Globethics.net library contains articles of Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy as of vol. 1(2005) to current.

Recent Submissions

  • Is Agent-Neutral Deontology Possible?

    HAMMERTON, Matthew (USC School of Philosophy, 2017-11-09)
    Abstract here.
  • Not Duties but Needs: Rethinking Refugeehood

    Mantel, Susanne (USC School of Philosophy, 2019-05-06)
    In the scholarly debate, refugeehood is often understood to arise from a special need for basic protection, i.e., for protection of basic needs and rights. However, the main definitions of refugeehood shift to duties when aiming to develop this view. Either, refugees are defined as all those individuals who can receive basic protection from the international community, and thus arguably ought to be protected, or refugees are defined as all those to whom a special form of protection, namely protection by admission is owed. The paper argues that either definition is incompatible with a commonsense desideratum on consistent and plausible criteria for refugeehood, since these definitions imply that refugeehood depends partly on the capacities of protecting states and on the needs of third parties. Instead, refugeehood is defined by the need for basic protection and by flight aiming to remedy this condition.
  • Against Jeffrey Howard on Entrapment

    Stanhope, Jonathan (USC School of Philosophy, 2019-06-24)
    Jeffrey Howard has recently argued that entrapment and similar phenomena are wrongful - and wrong the induced agent - because they violate a regulative obligation of respect for the first moral power (FMP, for short.) According to Howard, this obligation grounds a duty not to foreseeably increase the likelihood that another agent acts wrongly (DUTY, for short.) While I accept the existence of the more fundamental obligation, I try to show that it doesn't support DUTY. Therefore, it doesn't support the wrongfulness of entrapment and similar phenomena. I do this by offering a more nuanced account of FMP's value, and one more attuned to certain liberal thoughts about agency. I then suggest a fairly minimalist picture of what respect for FMP involves, but close in a constructive spirit by sketching an alternative argument for DUTY based on the telos of FMP.
  • Revisiting the Argument from Action Guidance

    Fox, Philip (USC School of Philosophy, 2019-06-21)
    According to objectivism about the practical 'ought', what one ought to do depends on all the facts; according to perspectivism, it depends only on epistemically available facts. This essay presents a new argument against objectivism. The first premise says that it is at least sometimes possible for a normative theory to correctly guide action. The second premise says that, if objectivism is true, this is never possible. From this it follows that objectivism is false. Perspectivism, however, turns out to be compatible with the plausible assumption about guidance.  I defend the two premises on the basis of an account of what it is for a normative theory to guide action. Central to this account is the idea that correct action-guidance involves correct practical reasoning from a normative theory to an action, which requires (among other things) that agents have the capacity to believe for the right reasons. Since objectivists about the practical 'ought' are committed to objectivism about the epistemic 'ought', it follows that agents lack this capacity and so are in principle unable to be correctly guided by a normative theory. This shows that recent attempts to reconcile objectivism with action-guidance are unsuccessful, which all assume that, if objectivism is true, it is at least sometimes possible for a normative theory to correctly guide action. 
  • New Shmagency Worries

    Leffler, Olof (USC School of Philosophy, 2019-03-21)
    Constitutivism explains norms in terms of their being constitutive of agency, actions, or certain propositional attitudes. However, the shmagency objection says that if we can be shmagents – like agents, minus the norm-explaining features of agency – we can avoid the norms, so the explanation fails. This paper extends this objection, arguing that constitutivists about practical norms suffer from it despite their recent attempts to solve it. The standard response to the objection is that it is self-defeating for agents to become shmagents. I agree, but the response ignores the possibility of shmagents who consider whether to be agents while already standing outside agency. Another response says that we ought to be agents because agency is, in some sense, normatively valuable, and if so, we can explain norms in terms of this valuable form of agency. But then the norms that our constitutions are supposed to explain are underdetermined because it is unclear how much we ought to care about this value. I conclude that the shmagency objection has yet to be answered.
  • Basically Deserved Blame and its Value

    McKenna, Michael (USC School of Philosophy, 2019-07-01)
    How should we understand basic desert as a justification for blaming? Many philosophers account for free will by reference to the sort of moral responsibility that involves a blameworthy person deserving blame in a basic sense of desert; free will just is the control condition for this sort of moral responsibility. But what precisely does basic desert come to, and what is it about blame that makes it the thing that a blameworthy person deserves? As it turns out, there are challenges in attempting to understand basic desert for blame. One concerns whether the only good in harming a person by blaming her is instrumental. If so, there may be reason to reject desert-based conceptions of blame. In this paper, I will develop an account of basically deserved blame. In doing so, I will also defend the controversial thesis that the harm involved in blaming can be good in a way that is not merely instrumental.
  • Not Duties but Needs

    Mantel, Susanne (USC School of Philosophy, 2019-05-06)
    In the scholarly debate, refugeehood is often understood to arise from a special need for basic protection, i.e., for protection of basic needs and rights. However, the main definitions of refugeehood shift to duties when aiming to develop this view. Either, refugees are defined as all those individuals who can receive basic protection from the international community, and thus arguably ought to be protected, or refugees are defined as all those to whom a special form of protection, namely protection by admission is owed. The paper argues that either definition is incompatible with a commonsense desideratum on consistent and plausible criteria for refugeehood, since these definitions imply that refugeehood depends partly on the capacities of protecting states and on the needs of third parties. Instead, refugeehood is defined by the need for basic protection and by flight aiming to remedy this condition.
  • The Invisible Hand from the Grave

    Lam, Barry (USC School of Philosophy, 2019-06-21)
    The practice of giving the wealthy perpetual control of their assets is re-emerging in an era of great wealth inequality, long after it had been banned in common law countries. The philosophical justification for such control rests on the claim that there are posthumous rights to wealth, and that such rights do not extend in problematic way to other goods, such as political suffrage. On the basis of such a claim, we give people freedom of testation, and deem them vulnerable to posthumous harm. I present a short history of legally sanctioned posthumous control of property in common law, and I argue that its philosophical justification is untenable. No principled case for posthumous rights to wealth survives scrutiny, and the large and powerful institutions that enforce such rights are morally illegitimate.
  • Dietz on Group-Based Reasons

    Jedenheim, Magnus (USC School of Philosophy, 2019-07-01)
    Suppose that groups have reasons to act. Do the members of a group “inherit” the group’s reason? Alexander Dietz has recently argued that they do so in some circumstances.  Dietz considers two principles. The first one – which I call the “Simple Principle” – claims that the members of a group always inherit the group’s reason. The second one – which I call “Dietz’s Principle,” which is the one Dietz advocates – claims that the members of a group inherit the group’s reason when they cooperate. Although Dietz thinks that the Simple Principle is intuitively appealing he argues that it has to be rejected because it has – in contrast to his own principle – counterintuitive implications. In this article, I shall try to show that Dietz’s Principle also has counterintuitive implications. Furthermore, I shall consider some revisions of Dietz’s Principle, but conclude that they are unattractive. Finally, I shall suggest that Dietz’s Principle is ad hoc.
  • The Case for Stance Dependent Value

    Sobel, David (USC School of Philosophy, 2019-03-04)
    Abstract Many philosophers maintain that neither one’s reasons for action nor well-being are ever grounded in facts about what we desire or favor. Yet our reasons to eat a flavor of ice cream we like rather than one we do not seem an obvious counter-example. I argue that there is no getting around such examples and that therefore a fully stance independent account of the grounding of our reasons is implausible. At least in matters of mere taste our “stance” plays a normative role in grounding reasons.
  • Asymmetrism and the Magnitudes of Welfare Benefits

    Forcehimes, Andrew T. (USC School of Philosophy, 2019-05-06)
    One vexing question for Desire Satisfactionism is this: At what time do you benefit from a satisfied desire? Recently Eden Lin has proposed an intriguing answer. On this proposal – Asymmetrism – when past-directed desires are satisfied, the time interval during which you benefit is the time of the desire; and, when future-directed desires are satisfied, the time interval during which you benefit is the time of the object. In this essay, I argue that Asymmetrism forces us to give implausible answers to a different question: To what extent does a given satisfied desire benefit you?
  • The Case for Stance Dependent Reasons

    Sobel, David (USC School of Philosophy, 2019-03-04)
    Abstract Many philosophers maintain that neither one’s reasons for action nor well-being are ever grounded in facts about what we desire or favor. Yet our reasons to eat a flavor of ice cream we like rather than one we do not seem an obvious counter-example. I argue that there is no getting around such examples and that therefore a fully stance independent account of the grounding of our reasons is implausible. At least in matters of mere taste our “stance” plays a normative role in grounding reasons.
  • The Meaning of a Market and the Meaning of "Meaning"

    Jonker, Julian D (USC School of Philosophy, 2019-05-06)
    Are there any viable semiotic objections to commodification? A semiotic objection holds that even if there is no independent consequentialist or deontic objection to the marketing of a good—such as that it is exploitative or causes third party harm—there remains a problem with what is said by participating in that market. Recent discussion of semiotic objections have suffered from a basic ambiguity in such talk. As Grice pointed out, there is a difference between saying that smoke on the horizon means fire, and saying that it means there will be war tomorrow. We could say that in the former case smoke indicates fire because of its causal connection with fire, while in the latter case smoke expresses a call to war because that is the non-natural meaning given to it by convention or by its place in a communicative practice. The recent defenses of semiotic objections presented by Anthony Booth, Jacob Sparks, and Mark Wells do not survive this distinction, as they either complain about non-semiotic facts that are indicated rather than expressed by markets, or they complain about semiotic features of markets, but these complaints inevitably collapse into weak consequentialist objections. But this result is not bad for anticommodificationists, as semiotic objections have dialectical disadvantages.
  • What can we learn about romantic love from Harry Frankfurt’s account of love?

    McKeever, Natasha Chloe (USC School of Philosophy, 2019-01-23)
    Harry Frankfurt has a comprehensive and, at times, compelling, account of love, which are outlined in several of his works. However, he does not think that romantic love fits the ideal of love as it ‘includes a number of vividly distracting elements, which do not belong to the essential nature of love as a mode of disinterested concern’ (Frankfurt, 2004, p. 43). In this paper, I argue that we can, nonetheless, learn some important things about romantic love from his account. Furthermore, I will suggest, conversely, that there is distinct value in romantic love, which derives from the nature of the relationship on which it is based. Frankfurt tries to take agape and reformulate it so that it can also account for love of particular people. Whilst he succeeds, to some extent, in describing parental love, he fails to accurately describe romantic love and friendship, and, moreover, overlooks what is distinctly valuable about them. Although it was not his intention to describe romantic love, by failing to include features such as reciprocity in his account of love, Frankfurt leaves no room for a kind of love that is important and valuable to many people  
  • Prioritarianism: A (Pluralist) Defence

    Agmon, Shai Shimon Yehuda; Hitchens, Matt (USC School of Philosophy, 2019-01-28)
    A well-known objection to prioritarianism, famously levelled by Mike Otsuka and Alex Voorhoeve, is that it wrongly ignores the unity of the individual in treating intra-personal cases like inter-personal cases. In this paper we accept that there should be a moral shift between these cases, but argue that this is because autonomy is a relevant consideration in intra-personal but not inter-personal cases, and one to which pluralist prioritarians ought to attend. To avoid this response, Otsuka and Voorhoeve must (and do) assume we know nothing about the subjective information of the person being chosen for. But we show that this commits them to two controversial assumptions: that welfare consists in an objective list of goods, and – if one accepts an unorthodox but plausible account of the relationship between risk aversion and rationality – that there is only a narrow range of rational risk aversions. Only prioritarians who accept both these assumptions are on the hook of Otsuka and Voorhoeve’s objection; for all others, the examples have insufficient information, and so lose their sting.
  • The Contribution of Security to Well-being

    Herington, Jonathan (USC School of Philosophy, 2019-01-22)
    Do unknown and unrealized risks of harm diminish an individual’s well-being? The traditional answer is no: that the security of prudential goods benefits an individual only instrumentally or by virtue of their subjective sense of security. Recent work has argued, however, that the security of prudential goods non-instrumentally benefits an individual regardless of whether or not they enjoy subjective security. In this paper, I critically examine three claims about the way in which unknown and unrealized risks of harm might diminish individual well-being: (i) it frustrates a desire to be secure, (ii) it frustrates the enjoyment of modally-robust goods, and (iii) it undermines the ability to make reasonable plans. Ultimately, I argue that all three of these hypotheses are mistaken, but that they deepen our understanding of the ways in which subjective security is an important constituent of individual well-being.
  • Helping Buchanan on Helping the Rebels

    Weltman, Daniel (USC School of Philosophy, 2019-03-05)
    Massimo Renzo has recently argued in this journal that Allen Buchanan’s account of the ethics of intervention is too permissive. Renzo claims that a proper understanding of political self-determination shows that it is often impermissible to intervene in order to establish a regime that leads to more self-determination for a group of people if that group was or would be opposed to the intervention. Renzo’s argument rests on an analogy between individual self-determination and group self-determination, and once we see that there are differences between the two kinds of self-determination, his argument against Buchanan fails, and thus there are more cases of permissible intervention than Renzo countenances. However, understanding these differences also reveals that Buchanan’s account is also not permissive enough. There are cases of justified intervention beyond even what Buchanan compasses.
  • Is There Value in Keeping a Promise?

    Molina, Crescente (USC School of Philosophy, 2019-03-05)
    According to a widespread view which has been famously defended by Joseph Raz, the sole fact of making a promise to φ constitutes for the promisor a complete normative reason for φing and an “exclusionary” reason to disregard from her practical deliberation at least some of the reasons that recommend something different than φing. Moreover, under this model, the reason to keep our promises is also a content-independent reason. Promises generate normative reasons qua promises: there is moral value in keeping our promises regardless of what the content of the promise is. But is there really? In this paper, I argue that a least an account like Raz’s fails to give us a convincing answer.  
  • Parental Partiality and Future Children

    Douglas, Thomas (USC School of Philosophy, 2019-03-05)
    Prospective parents are sometimes partial towards their future children, engaging in what I call ‘pre-parental partiality’. Common sense morality is as permissive of pre-parental partiality as it is of ordinary parental partiality—partiality towards one’s existing children. But I argue that pre-parental partiality is harder to justify: love-based justifications for ordinary parental partiality typically provide weaker reasons in support of pre-parental partiality than in support of parental partiality, and other candidate justifications fail to make up for this normative deficit. 
  • Culpable Ignorance and Mental Disorders

    Doucet, Matthieu (USC School of Philosophy, 2019-01-24)
    Abstract here.

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