By In Applied Ethics Comments Off on Blog Symposium on Libertarianism and Land

Blog Symposium on Libertarianism and Land

Over at the Bleeding Heart Libertarians blog, we're running a symposium this week on the topic of "Libertarianism and Land," featuring essays by Eric Mack, Hillel Steiner, Fred Foldvary, Kevin Carson, and David Schmidtz.

The first essay went up this morning: "Natural Rights and Natural Stuff," by Eric Mack. The other essays will go up one per morning for the rest of the week.

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By In Academia, Applied Ethics Comments (4)

Consumers’ Obligations in Labor Disputes

Over at The Business Ethics Blog, Chris MacDonald has a very
interesting post
on ethical issues surrounding the labor dispute at the Westin
St. Francis, the site of the 2010 Pacific Division meeting of the American
Philosophical Association.  Specifically,
he asks what obligations the existence of such a dispute might impose upon
consumers.  Should consumers stay away
from businesses when unions are calling for a boycott, or are on strike?

Chris raises a number of good points in his post, and I
won’t repeat them here.  And I won’t try,
just yet, to answer the big question of what consumers have
all-things-considered reason to do in such situations in general, or in the
situation faced by the APA in particular. 
But I do want to set out a few questions that I think are worth
addressing in the course of trying to answer that larger question.  I’d be curious to hear what PEA Soupers think
about them, as well as what they think about the other issues Chris raises.


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Student Involvement in Social Ethics Courses

After teaching mostly theoretical ethics and narrowly focused applied ethics courses for a number of years, I'm now considering developing a syllabus for a course in "Social Ethics."  The standard practice in such courses, and the approach I'm considering adopting, is to pick a number of different issues of social controversy such as abortion, sweatshop labor, etc., and have the students read articles 'pro' and 'con.'  

Such a course seems to present a lot of opportunities for student involvement.  The issues are interesting to them, and the readings tend to be more accessible than, say, Kant's Groundwork.  But what's the best way to incorporate such involvement into the syllabus?  One possibility is to structure the week so that we read a 'pro' article on Monday, a 'con' article on Wednesday, and then have some kind of student discussion or debate on Friday.  Perhaps certain students can even be in charge of presenting the 'pro' and 'con' arguments on Monday and Wednesday.  

I'm curious to hear what other people have tried in a course like this.  What's worked well, and what hasn't?  I'm especially interested in the question of how to get students involved in classroom activity in a pedagogically useful way, but as a secondary matter I'd also be interested in particular topics/articles that have worked well or poorly for you in such a course.

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Not Such Crooked Timber After All?

When teaching ethics courses, I often spend some time with students going over some of the relevant social psychological literature.  Studies like the Milgram experimients, the Asch conformity experiments, and Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment are nice ways to show students, well, just how mean and stupid people can be.  It’s a nice way of showing the importance of ethical learning, but also the insufficiency of mere ethical knowledge in producing ethical behavior.

Turns out, however, that one of my favorite examples is a myth.  Kitty Genovese, we all know, was attacked three times over the course of more than a half an hour, all in an alley in the sight of 38 witnesses, none of whom did as much as lift up the phone to call for help.  A powerful indictment of humanity, and strong evidence of what psychologists have called the "bystander effect," right?


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By In Uncategorized Comments Off on Price Gouging Redux

Price Gouging Redux

Apropos our earlier conversation about price gouging, I’ve written up a full length paper on the topic.  I got quite a bit out of the our discussion in the comments section even if, presumably, I didn’t get what many of you wanted me to get out of it, viz., that price gouging is clearly immoral. 🙂

You can access the paper here.

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Readings in Political Philosophy

I’m working on putting together an anthology of readings in political philosophy.  The book is aimed for use in undergraduate courses and will have both classic (e.g. Locke, Hobbes) and contemporary (e.g. Rawls, Dworkin) sources.  It will contain about 40 readings, and these readings should generally be at a level where they can be accessible (if challenging) to non-philosophy majors (political philosophy courses, in my experience, draw a lot of ‘pre-law’ students who major in something other than philosophy).  What I hope will be distinctive about the collection is its use of ‘non-standard’ readings to illustrate, motivate, and explain certain core ideas.  ‘Non-standard’ readings could come from literature, economics, sociology, psychology, etc.


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What’s Wrong With Price Gouging?

Price gouging seems like a rotten thing to do.  There isn’t much written about it from a philosophic perspective, but most philosophers I’ve talked to think it’s a fairly nasty practice.  President Bush thinks it’s morally analagous to looting.  And it’s illegal in most states.  Here in California, for instance, if in the wake of an earthquake I were to sell bags of ice which I normally sold for $2.00 per bag for $2.20 per bag or more, I would be guilty of a criminal offense punishable by up to one year in prison and a $10,000 fine.  Yikes.


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