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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.

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The Globethics library contains vol. 1(2005) to current.

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  • Agnosticism and Pluralism about Justice

    Adam Gjesdal (USC School of Philosophy, 2023-11-27)
    Political liberalism views a public policy as justified when reasonable citizens subject to it have sufficient reasons to endorse it. But this endorsement condition does not specify how reasonable citizens in democracies are to exercise their equal say in deciding which policies to support prior to enactment. Citizens may regard many policy options as reasonable but only one as truly just. The dominant view among political liberals, which I call agnosticism, takes no stand on how citizens ought to rank these reasonable alternatives to determine which to support. Agnostics see all criteria for comparing reasonable policies as on a par, whether they be theories of justice or coin flips. I show how Quong’s (2011) analysis of reasonableness leads to agnosticism. I then develop the pluralist alternative, which holds that citizens should support the reasonable policy they regard as most just. What I call pluralism sees multiple conceptions of justice as correct, or “most reasonable.” I show that pluralism offers a compelling alternative to agnosticism in that it can both make sense of an individual citizen’s duty to support what they regard as just policy and respect the fact that citizens reasonably disagree about what the most just policy is.
  • Against Deference to Authority

    Quigley, Travis (USC School of Philosophy, 2023-11-27)
    Joseph Raz’s service conception of law remains one of the best known theories of political authority. Setting aside ongoing debates about the nature of authority, I locate a problem in the basic justificatory structure of the service conception. I show that the service justification of the state does not yield the conclusion that the law generates exclusionary reasons, which are meant to be the key hallmark of authority. An automatic but defeasible habit of obeying the state is likely to lead to better outcomes than exclusionary deference to the state. Given the instrumental justification of the service conception, this means that exclusionary reasons to defer do not obtain. Habituation and automaticity have been developed in other contexts and are here extended to the context of political authority. The possibility of habitual obedience undercuts Raz's theory while suggesting a new approach to the question of political authority
  • The Case for Voting to Change the Outcomes Is Weaker Than It May Seem: A Reply to Zach Barnett

    Liron, Amir; Enoch, David (USC School of Philosophy, 2023-11-27)
    Because you are highly unlikely to cast the deciding vote in the next elections, it is often said that you don’t have a reason to vote in order to change the outcomes. In a recent paper, however, Zach Barnett forcefully argues that this is a mistake. He shows how it follows, from rather conservative assumptions, that in many real-life cases the expected social value of voting is higher than its cost. Barnett is successful, we believe, in showing that the commonly held belief – that voters do not have a reason to vote in order to change the outcomes – is way too hasty. However, Barnett is – we argue in this paper – too quick on one key premise, and once this is noticed, it becomes unclear how often Barnett’s reasoning can point to a justification of voting to change the outcomes. Barnett’s reasoning, we conclude, may apply to significantly less real-life scenarios than he suggests.
  • Fairness and Chance in Diachronic Lotteries: A Response to Vong

    Feldblyum Le Blevennec, Marie (USC School of Philosophy, 2023-11-27)
    In this paper, I show that Gerard Vong’s account of diachronic lotteries is vulnerable to John Broome’s objection that lottery winners have a justified complaint if their winning is ignored in a subsequent lottery for a specific benefit. Against Broome, Vong maintains that lottery winners do not have a justified complaint if their winning is ignored in a subsequent lottery. However, Vong’s argument is unconvincing because the counterexample at its core ignores crucial differences between various reasons to complain. An agent can have legitimate claim-based reasons to complain, yet not actually complain because those claim-based reasons are outweighed by other kinds of reasons. This means that to remain plausible, accounts of diachronic lotteries must take Broome’s objection more seriously than Vong does. I conclude by proposing a modification to Vong’s Dual Structure account of lotteries that can accommodate the intuition animating Broome’s objection, while remaining diachronic.
  • Backsliding and Bad Faith: Aspiration, Disavowal, and (Residual) Practical Identities

    White, Justin (USC School of Philosophy, 2023-11-27)
    Disavowals such as "That's not who I am" are one way to distance ourselves from unsavory actions in order to try to mitigate our responsibility for them. Although such disclaimers can be what Frankfurt (1988) calls "shabbily insincere devices for obtaining unmerited indulgence," they can also be a way to renew our commitments to new values as part of the processes of aspiration and moral improvement described by Callard (2018) and Stohr (2019). What, then, separates backsliding aspirants from those in bad faith who seek unmerited indulgence? I propose a two-dimensional account of practical identity that allows us to distinguish the aspirant from the superficially similar cases of denial, bad faith, and self-deception. A key element to the account is how one responds to what I call residual practical identities.
  • Alienation and the Metaphysics of Normativity: On the Quality of Our Relations with the World

    Samuel, Jack (USC School of Philosophy, 2023-11-27)
    I argue that metaethicists should be concerned with two kinds of alienation that can result from theories of normativity: alienation between an agent and her reasons, and alienation between an agent and the concrete others with whom morality is principally concerned. A theory that cannot avoid alienation risks failing to make sense of central features of our experience of being agents, in whose lives normativity plays an important role. The twin threats of alienation establish two desiderata for theories of normativity; however, I argue that they are difficult to jointly satisfy.
  • Are Savior Siblings a Special Case in Procreative Ethics?

    Finneron-Burns, Elizabeth; Althorpe, Caleb (USC School of Philosophy, 2023-11-27)
    In this paper we examine three categories of reasons that have been given against the creation of savior siblings (harm to the child, autonomy violations, and effects on wider society) and argue that all can be defeated. We then outline the conditions under which the practice is morally permissible and argue that these conditions are no different from those under which it is ever morally permissible to procreate. Our surprising conclusion is that savior siblings do not present a special case in procreative ethics and it is permissible to create them whenever it is permissible to create any other child.
  • The Ethics of Continuing Harm

    Chapa, Joseph (USC School of Philosophy, 2023-11-27)
    The literature on the ethics of defensive harming frequently addresses imminent threats and threats of future harm; but it rarely addresses threats of continuing harm. Real-world cases of kidnapping, slavery, and domestic abuse can include threats of continuing harm. In cases such as these, the harm the victim suffers—and therefore proportionate defensive harm—depends upon both the magnitude and the duration of the harm threatened. Because continuing harms are, by definition, less than lethal, there is a prima facie sense in which using lethal force to defend against threats of continuing harm is disproportionate. In this paper, I develop a conception of threats of continuing harm and apply that conception to individual cases of self-defense and to just war theory. Ultimately, I argue that violations of a victim’s right to freedom or autonomy can justify lethal defensive harm, but only if the harm threatened is of a sufficient duration.
  • Radical Cognitivism about Practical Reason

    Ratoff, William (USC School of Philosophy, 2023-11-27)
    Cognitivism about practical reason is the doctrine that certain aspects of practical reason are really instances of theoretical reason. For example, that intentions are beliefs or that certain norms of practical rationality just are, or reduce to, certain norms of theoretical rationality. Radical cognitivism about practical reason, in contrast, is the more heady view that practical reason just is a species of theoretical reason. It entails that what it is to be a motivational state (of any kind) is to be a belief (of some particular kind), that all practical reasoning is just a variety of theoretical reasoning, and that all practical norms are really a kind of epistemic norm. In this paper, I introduce and motivate this view, before investigating the cognitivist theory of intention and means-end practical reasoning to which such a radical cognitivist is committed. Unlike other cognitivists about practical reason, the radical cognitivist reduces all practical reasoning to theoretical reasoning and all practical norms to epistemic norms. She therefore faces unique challenges in accounting for the basic desiderata on any adequate theory of intention and means-end practical reasoning: whereas other cognitivists can appeal to sui generis practical states (desires) and norms, the radical cognitivist is restricted to the sparse resources – cognitive states and the epistemic norms that govern them – to which she has restricted herself. Here I develop and critically examine the options the radical cognitivist has for satisfying these desiderata. My conclusions are optimistic: there is a defensible formulation of the radical cognitivist’s theory of intention and means-end practical reasoning.
  • Inclusive Blameworthiness and the Wrongfulness of Causing Harm

    Tiffany, Evan (USC School of Philosophy, 2023-09-29)
    This paper takes up the question of whether the consequences of a person’s volitional actions can contribute to their blameworthiness.  On the one hand it is intuitively plausible to hold that if D1 volitionally shoots V with the intention of killing V then D1 is blameworthy for V’s death.  On the other hand, if the only difference between D1 and D2 is resultant luck, many find it counter-intuitive to hold that D1 is more blameworthy than D2.  There are three broad (non-skeptical) strategies for resolving this tension: accept resultant moral luck, deny that one can be morally responsible for outcomes, or accept that outcomes can be within the scope of things one is morally responsible for while denying that they can affect the degree of blameworthiness.  This paper aims to defend resultant moral luck against both the scoping and the internalist strategies by drawing on an “inclusive conception” of blameworthiness, according to which how much blame one deserves is a function of two independent variables: the wrongfulness of the offense and the offender’s degree of moral responsibility.  The view defended here holds that consequences affect degree of blameworthiness by affecting the wrongfulness of that for which one is being blamed.
  • Naturalising Moral Naturalism

    Isserow, Jessica (USC School of Philosophy, 2023-09-29)
    Naturalist moral realists seem to have landed themselves a raw metaethical deal. Insofar as they identify moral properties in something external to human agents, they struggle to account for the deep practical hold that moral considerations have upon us, and stand accused of failing to take morality seriously as a normative phenomenon. And insofar as their method of identifying which natural properties are the moral ones is fairly permissive, they seem to over-generate admissible moralities, classifying as permissible a range of behaviours that we regard as morally perverse. In this paper, I argue that naturalist moral realists can make progress in addressing both concerns by drawing upon a variety of empirical resources. The former problem is mitigated by paying closer attention to deep-rooted features of human sociality, and by focusing upon the ways in which moral norms themselves build upon affective response. The force of the latter challenge is diminished once we appreciate that the naturalist can distinguish good moral norms from dreadful ones on principled grounds. None of this entails that the naturalist moral realist is home and dry. However, my arguments do suggest that her opponents strongly underestimate the resources at her disposal.
  • Threshold Constitutivism and Social Kinds

    Coleman, Mary (USC School of Philosophy, 2023-09-29)
    In “Constitutivism without Normative Thresholds,” Kathryn Lindeman raises two objections to what she aptly calls Threshold Constitutivism. My aim in this short discussion is to respond to her first objection. Although I will argue that this objection fails, I will also argue that thinking through how to respond to it reminds us of something important, namely, that many of the Norm-Governed Kinds that are directly related to intentional action are social kinds, that is, kinds whose existence conditions we ourselves collectively write. Everyone, whether constitutivist or not, needs to think seriously about what those existence conditions should be.    [1]  Journal of Ethics and Social Policy 12 (3): 231-258 (2017). [2] Lindeman’s second objection depends on her view, which I do not share, that “Normative Constitutivism has ambitions to be an explanatory strategy for norms in general” (238, my emphasis).
  • Is Contrastive Consent Necessary for Secondary Permissibility?

    Graham, Peter (USC School of Philosophy, 2023-09-29)
    Theron Pummer has argued that contrastive consent is necessary for the phenomenon of "secondary permissibility". I argue that it is not, and I undermine the motivation for thinking that it is. 
  • Attributionist Group Agent Responsibility

    Piovarchy, Adam (USC School of Philosophy, 2023-09-29)
    A number of philosophers have recently argued that group agents can be morally responsible for their actions in virtue of having a certain kind of structured decision-making procedure which is responsive to reasons. However, accounts of group agent blameworthiness face some objections. One is that group agents cannot be responsible for wrongdoing because they are unable to experience certain kinds of emotional responses (Thompson, 2018). Another is that group agents who regularly commit wrongdoing due to certain structural impediments will always be excused for their wrongdoing. This paper demonstrates such problems can be avoided by adopting an Attributionist theory of group moral responsibility. On this approach, though group agents lack certain capacities, their ability to deny that certain facts provide moral reasons to act in certain ways is sufficient to mean they hold objectionable attitudes towards us, and those attitudes are sufficient to make group agents blameworthy.
  • Blaming for Harm without Scoping or Swamping

    Tiffany, Evan (USC School of Philosophy, 2023-09-29)
    This paper takes up the question of whether the consequences of a person’s volitional actions can contribute to their blameworthiness.  On the one hand it is intuitively plausible to hold that if D1 volitionally shoots V with the intention of killing V then D1 is blameworthy for V’s death.  On the other hand, if the only difference between D1 and D2 is resultant luck, many find it counter-intuitive to hold that D1 is more blameworthy than D2.  There are three broad (non-skeptical) strategies for resolving this tension: accept resultant moral luck, deny that one can be morally responsible for outcomes, or accept that outcomes can be within the scope of things one is morally responsible for while denying that they can affect the degree of blameworthiness.  This paper aims to defend resultant moral luck against both the scoping and the internalist strategies by drawing on an “inclusive conception” of blameworthiness, according to which how much blame one deserves is a function of two independent variables: the wrongfulness of the offense and the offender’s degree of moral responsibility.  The view defended here holds that consequences affect degree of blameworthiness by affecting the wrongfulness of that for which one is being blamed.
  • The Kids Aren't Alright: Expanding the Role of the State in Parenting

    Kianpour, Connor K. (USC School of Philosophy, 2023-09-29)
    I first argue that forms of regulated parenting are presumptively justified whereas private parenting is not. Then, I argue that the reasons we have to believe that regulated parenting is justified give us reasons to believe that individuals who are objectionably intolerant—that is, they subscribe to prejudicial dogmas such as racism, sexism, and homophobia to such an extent that their ability to direct caring attitudes toward, for example, Black people, women, and/or gay people is significantly impaired—ought not to rear children. Finally, I argue that if these people ought not to rear children, we have special reason to institute a scheme of parental licensing to ensure they do not.
  • How to be Morally Responsible for Another’s Free Intentional Action

    Blomberg, Olle (USC School of Philosophy, 2023-09-29)
    I argue that an agent can be morally responsible and fully (but not necessarily solely) blameworthy for another agent’s free intentional action, simply by intentionally creating the conditions for the action in a way that causes it. This means, I argue, that she can be morally responsible for the other’s action in the relevantly same way that she is responsible for her own non-basic actions. Furthermore, it means that socially mediated moral responsibility for intentional action does not require an agent to authorize another to act on her behalf, nor does it require her to threaten, coerce, or deceive the other.
  • Uncertainty and Intention

    Lennertz, Benjamin (USC School of Philosophy, 2023-09-29)
    Speakers typically use the sentence “I will go to the store” to simultaneously express an intention to go to the store and a belief that they will go to the store. This is consonant with two popular theses about intentions: first, intending to j implies believing that one will j; second, intending to j commits one to j-ing. In this paper, I argue that at least one of these theses is false. I do so by exploring what speakers express when they utter a sentence with a slightly different form, like “I will probably go to the store” in a typical situation. After laying down a framework for thinking about this sort of communication, I explore some different things speakers might express with this sentence in different situations. Most importantly, I argue that in some typical situations speakers express either ordinary intentions but not beliefs or partial intentions that don’t commit them to performing the intended action. Either way, at least one of the popular theses is false.
  • Institutional Corruption: The Teleological and Nonnormative Account

    Schulz, Armin (USC School of Philosophy, 2023-09-29)
    While corruption has long been recognized as a major social problem, only relatively recently has the importance of a specific institutional form of corruption been noted. However, despite the fact that institutional corruption has come to be seen as very important, it remains a challenge to specify exactly what makes something a case of institutional corruption. To overcome this challenge, this paper argues that institutional corruption is the result of an individual or collective agent acting in ways that prevent a social institution from partially or fully fulfilling its function. In turn, the function of a social institution is spelled out in line with what is shown to be the most compelling account of social functionalism in the literature: Presentist Social Functionalism. Presentist Social Functionalism sees the function of a social institution as those of its features that increase its expected reproductive or survival success in the current socio-cultural environment. This theory of institutional corruption is shown to have a number of highly desirable features: it is general, fully spelled out, situated in a wider functionalist approach towards the social sciences, and does justice to the complexity of institutional corruption.
  • Who Do You Speak For? And How? Online Abuse as Collective Subordinating Speech Acts

    Barnes, Michael Randall (USC School of Philosophy, 2023-08-24)
    A lot of subordinating speech has moved online, which raises several questions for philosophers. Can current accounts of oppressive speech adequately capture digital hate? How does the anonymity of online harassers contribute to the force of their speech? This paper examines online abuse and argues that standard accounts of licensing and accommodation are not up to the task of explaining the authority of online hate speech, as speaker authority often depends on the community in more ways than these accounts suggests. Instead I argue that online abusive speech is best understood as collective subordinating speech acts, as their authority is drawn from an ad hoc collective. I argue that anonymity and shared language offer online abusers a path to a type of group-authority that explains the harm their speech is capable of. I close by suggesting that similar considerations are in play for IRL subordinating speech, and that online abuse helps to reveal key features of subordinating speech across mediums that are under-emphasized in the existing literature.

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