Welcome to our NDPR Forum on Andrew Jason Cohen’s Toleration and Freedom from Harm: Liberalism Reconceived (Routledge 2018), which was recently reviewed by Peter de Marneffe in NDPR. Please feel free to join in on the discussion, about the book, the review, or related issues. Andrew will be joining in soon.
“The Moral Neglect of Negligence” by Seana Valentine Shiffrin, with a critical précis by Ekow Yankah
We are excited to host a discussion of Seana Valentine Shiffrin‘s article “The Moral Neglect of Neglicence,” Ch. 8 of Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy Vol.3. Shiffrin’s article is available here, with kind permission from OUP. We expect the article to be available here permanently.
The discussion thread will be open May 2-4 for an initial round of questions and comments, after which Shiffrin will post a set of responses, probably by May 6 or 7. The discussion thread will then immediately open for another couple of days, after which Shiffrin will send a final round of responses.
We are thrilled to kick off the discussion with a critical précis by Ekow Yankah, below. Join us!
This post is partly a “bleg” and partly an invitation for people to give their two cents on what strikes me as a very deep and important divide among moral theorists.
Consider so-called “common-sense morality”. It consists of claims like, “It’s wrong to take someone else’s property”; “You shouldn’t handle others’ bodies without their consent”; “The job should go to the person who deserves it”; “Academic censorship is wrong because it goes against the very purposes of the university”; “It’s worse to do harm than to merely allow it to occur”; “You shouldn’t make a promise that you don’t intend to keep”; etc. It gets called “common-sense” mainly because it’s thought to capture the moral leanings of the person on the street. But it’s also fair to call it “common-sense” just because of the way it conceptually carves the world for evaluation in terms of “should”, “worse”, and so on — namely, in terms of “property”, “consent”, “job”, “point”, “do/allow”, “promise”, “intend”. These are common-sense conceptualizations because they are the conceptualizations that common-sense morality employs.
Steve Wall and I have been thinking together about what the best theory of well-being that claims that loving the (prudentially) good is itself (prudentially) good would look like. Such views have been lovingly explored by, among others, Parfit, Darwall, Kagan, and Feldman. On such a view, there are objective prudential values, for example, achievement or friendship, which either have prudential value independently from any attitudes or whose value is more easily unlocked by the relevant attitudes than options without this objective value. Typically such views maintain that being objectively good, and one in some way loving or enjoying that objective good, are each necessary conditions, and jointly sufficient, for a benefit. (NB: The view under discussion here is different from Hurka’s related version of “loving the good is itself good” as Hurka ties this thought to virtue and he is not talking about prudential value.)
For those who don’t know, Hanna Pickard has developed a very cool site, called “Responsibility Without Blame,” based on her famous article and advocacy. Her clinical and philosophical work has well-placed her to develop this project, which “provides a free and accessible e-learning for anyone interested in thinking about our ideas of responsibility and blame, and finding ways to work and relate more effectively with people with personality disorder or complex needs.”
What do we owe to others as a basic minimum? Having such an account may inform theories of global justice, basic needs, or human rights (see, e.g., this paper). Moreover, having a good account can provide a basis for empirical work on the factors that contribute to such lives (and the connection between minimally good lives and other things that matter). It can, thus, offer some guidance for those who care for others who might fall below this threshold and for policy makers working to ensure that, insofar as possible, people rise above it.
Some deny that we owe people any basic minimum. Libertarians who reject positive rights and consequentialists who think we can sacrifice some for the greater good may reject the claim that there should be a basic minimum. Moreover, there are many different ways of thinking about what ensuring people can secure a basic minimum requires in light of what else we owe people. Some believe it is better to help someone just below the threshold reach the minimum rather than someone who is further below it come closer to the threshold. Others think we should prioritize helping people further below the threshold but give some weight to helping those who rise above it (and so forth). And, some agree that everyone should be able to secure the basic minimum but also maintain that we owe people much more than this. Yet others bring other considerations into the picture; desert, luck, responsibility and so forth may well have a role to play in modifying the role a basic minimum should play in a theory of justice. But what, at a minimum, must we help people in our personal lives and as members of society secure (taking into account the other things that matter)?
Upcoming Discussion, starting May 2: “The Moral Neglect of Negligence” by Seana Valentine Shiffrin, with a critical précis by Ekow Yankah
Reminder and update: Starting May 2 (note the date change from the week of April 23), we are excited to host a discussion of Seana Valentine Shiffrin‘s article “The Moral Neglect of Neglicence,” Ch. 8 of Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy Vol.3. Shiffrin’s article is available here, with kind permission from OUP. We expect the article to be available here permanently.
We are thrilled to kick off the discussion with a critical précis by Ekow Yankah. We expect to have an excellent discussion, joined by e.g. Matt King, Claire Finkelstein, Stephen Sverdlik, and Scott Hershovitz.
The format of the discussion will be as follows: The discussion thread will be open May 2-3 for an initial round of questions and comments, after which Shiffrin will post a set of responses, probably by May 6 or 7. The discussion thread will then immediately open for another couple of days, after which Shiffrin will send a final round of responses.
We hope you’ll plan to join the discussion!