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By In Applied Ethics, Character, Ideas, Virtue Comments (6)

The Morality of Library Fines

My local library fines its patrons ten cents per overdue book per day. They will let you continue to borrow books as long as your fine balance is less than $10. As an academic, I sort of think of library fines as a cost of doing business, and I frequently carry a balance in library fines of a few dollars. (To be clear: I mostly incur these fines on books taken out for pleasure reading. What I mean is that I don’t have a moralistic attitude about my library fines.) Since there are no interest charges or time limits, I can carry such a balance for months on end. I’m following the rules, not cheating anyone, and I have never felt bad about my habit of being a few bucks in debt to the library.

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By In Applied Ethics, Ideas, Normative Ethics Comments (8)

Sex Work is Different

This post was inspired by a story in the WaPo, the relevant detail of which is that, due to the economic hardship in Greece, some young Greek women are selling sex for the price of a sandwich they cannot otherwise afford to buy. Also, the argument I want to make may be old news; this is not a topic where I have a lot of familiarity with the literature.

There are basically two moral views about sex work, which I will define for present purposes as the exchange of money for some form of sex in short-term, one-off transactions. (So, here, sex work is prostitution.) One view is that sex work is a lot like other kinds of work, except it is mostly performed by women and, due to various kinds of sexism and discrimination, has historically been stigmatized and exploited labor. The right course is to learn to treat sex work as normal work, and enact appropriate regulation that protects the sex workers, in the same spirit one would legally protect other kinds of workers.

The other moral view, which I take to be encoded in most state laws in the US (I can’t speak for elsewhere), is that sex work is morally problematic in some deeper way. The usual thought, I believe, is that it degrades the sex worker; sex work is intrinsically undignified. The proper way to handle sex work is to proscribe it entirely, where this is practical, and in any case discourage it.   What follows is an argument in favor of this general view.

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By In Ideas, Normative Ethics, Value Theory Comments (3)

Questions about Supererogation

Supererogatory actions are those which are (1) morally meritorious or praiseworthy, but (2) not the fulfillment of a moral obligation or duty.  I was having a conversation about this with a colleague today and upon reflection, it seems to me that both clauses in the definition are vague.  This means that whether an action is supererogatory is sometimes vague, possibly for more than one reason.  I am curious if others share my intuitions/diagnosis about this.

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By In Uncategorized Comments (9)

Moral Responsibility and PAP

Does moral responsibility require the ability to do otherwise?  For example, must one have been able to refrain from an evil deed if one is to be appropriately blamed for it?  The answer turns on the truth of a familiar principle:

(PAP) If S is blameworthy for doing X, S must have been able to do otherwise than X.

The traditional view is that (PAP) is true; Frankfurt argued that it was false, with a form of example which is still widely discussed.  I’m going to argue for Frankfurt’s conclusion in a way that has nothing to do with Frankfurt-style examples.  I’d be interested in feedback.

Blaming (or punishing) someone for failing to live up to a moral standard is a special case of a more general phenomenon.  There are many cases where there is some kind of requirement, someone fails to live up to it, and negative consequences are imposed as a result.  It is instructive to look at how we view “couldn’t have done otherwise” in these other cases.

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By In News and Events Comments Off on Three Rivers Philosophy Conference 2011: Science, Knowledge and Democracy April 1-3, 2011

Three Rivers Philosophy Conference 2011: Science, Knowledge and Democracy April 1-3, 2011

A conference announcment / call for papers that PeaSoupers might want to know about:  see here for the official flyer.

The goal of this conference is to bring together scholars working in moral and political philosophy, social epistemology, philosophy of science, and related areas to reflect broadly on the relationships between science, knowledge, and democracy. We aim to explore questions such as the following. In what ways should we be seeking to foster democratic influences on science, and why? Can we unpack the concept of objectivity (whether in the scientific or the political domain) more fruitfully by shifting from an individual to a social level of analysis? What is the nature of “lay expertise,” and what are its implications for pursuing public participation in scientific research and policy making? Do various forms of “epistemic injustice” detract from scientific knowledge or political decision making? What are the implications of political theory for thinking about how to democratize science and to integrate scientific knowledge into policy making? Does governmental involvement in and funding of scientific research pose special challenges to traditional epistemic and moral justifications for democracy?

 

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By In Moral Psychology Comments Off on Templeton Foundation’s Big Question Series: “Does Moral Action Depend on Reasoning?”

Templeton Foundation’s Big Question Series: “Does Moral Action Depend on Reasoning?”

    PeaSoupers may be interested to read a series of essays sponsored by the Templeton Foundation on the question, "Does Moral Action Depend on Reasoning?"  Al Mele, Joshua Greene, and Christine Korsgaard contribute, as well as several other philosophy-ish intellectuals, neuroscientists, etc. 

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By In Applied Ethics, Normative Ethics Comments (30)

The Ethics of Santa

Many people
teach their small children the myth of Santa Claus:  that a magical being who lives at the North
Pole brings presents on Christmas Eve. 
Secondary aspects of the myth are that whether one receives presents is
a function of one’s behavior, and that you can communicate with Santa about
your preferences.  Not only parents, but
retail establishments and (I have recently discovered) public schools collude
in perpetuating this myth among children of a certain age.

 

Perpetuating
the Santa myth has at least these moral reasons against it:

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