While philosophers tend to talk about moral responsibility in its backward-looking form, moral responsibility also comes in a future-oriented form. In this talk, I’ll focus on the forward-looking kind of responsibility and make a case for the claim that when we undertake conceptual engineering projects for moral reasons, we are taking forward-looking moral responsibility for our conceptual repertoires. To illustrate my position, in the latter part of the talk, I’ll explore the moral reasons we have to do some conceptual engineering when it comes to the concept EMPLOYMENT.
You’re welcome to join us on Zoom for approximately an hour’s worth of lecture and an hour of Q & A. (But if you miss it, the lecture portion will be posted on the CEN YouTube channel after the fact.)
There are so many cool (free!) online workshops, reading groups, and lecture series nowadays! I’ve been taking part in more of them of late, and really getting a lot out of them, so I want to take a moment to say kudos to all the organizers and participants that I’ve been learning with and from (and to give other folks a nudge to join if they are so inclined)!
Check out the following links to some of my recommendations:
Jeremy Fischer and I have once again teamed up to co-write a paper, “Creating Carnists,” which is now forthcoming in Philosophers’ Imprint!
We’re so happy to have placed our second academic collaboration in another open access journal so that money won’t be a barrier for anyone who wants to read it. I’ll paste the abstract below, and if it sparks your interest, there’s no need to wait until the final, copy-edited version is published – feel free to take a look at our penultimate draft.
Abstract: We argue that individual and institutional caregivers have a defeasible moral duty to provide dependent children with plant-based diets and related education. Notably, our three arguments for this claim do not presuppose any general duty of veganism. Instead, they are grounded in widely shared intuitions about children’s interests and caregivers’ responsibilities, as well as recent empirical research relevant to children’s moral development, autonomy development, and physical health. Together, these arguments constitute a strong cumulative case against inculcating in children the dietary practice of regularly eating meat (and other animal products)—a practice we call “carnism.”
Many students and teachers interested in sustainability advocate divestment from fossil fuels as a way to defund unsustainable energy practices, take a symbolic stand, and help train new organizers. October’s Philosophers for Sustainability forum, which I’ll be co-leading, will involve thinking through some possibilities and strategies for divestment advocacy:
What strategies are in reach for overworked academics who endorse financial activism but work in settings where most people in power are (currently) indifferent or hostile to institutional divestment? In this forum, I’ll share some ideas from a recent mini-campaign and invite discussion about organizing. We’ll also have time to discuss other sustainability advocacy projects that may feel daunting in scope or low in likelihood of success.
The forum will be held by Zoom on Friday, October 7, 11am-noon ET (eastern USA and Canada time). Email me for the link. We look forward to seeing some of you there!
Yesterday was the first session in this spring’s Conceptual Engineering Online Seminar, and the first one that I’ve ever been able to attend live – though I’ve enjoyed watching all the older ones on their YouTube channel since liberating myself from my previous employer.
Thanks to Kwame Anthony Appiah for getting the spring series off to a great start!
The seminar meets every Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. Central time until June 28th and is open to all. (Thanks to the organizers in Europe for not making it any earlier!) See the poster below for the Zoom info.
In my book, philosophy isn’t something you have, but something you do. So philosophers aren’t just thinkers. We are doers.
And there is a lot that we can do, individually and collectively, by strategically using our particular skills, knowledge, and social locations, to help move humanity toward doing a better job of sustaining all the people, other living things, and ecosystems that can be found on this amazing and beautiful planet.
If you’ve already made a habit of choosing the relatively sustainable options in your personal life, one way to level up on your sustainability activism is to join the Philosophers for Sustainability. We’ve got various advocacy teams, workshops, and resources, and we welcome all comers, from casual participants to gung-ho experts and leaders.
Right now, our biggest area of momentum is the APA 2+1 campaign, a plan to shift 1 or 2 of the 3 divisional meetings of the American Philosophical Association each year to an entirely online format, with the in-person meeting(s) rotating between divisions. Implementing this plan would dramatically cut our profession’s greenhouse gas emissions, save money, and make the meetings accessible to a wider range of philosophers.
Please consider signing and sharing the petition, if you aren’t already one of the 689 signatories so far!
Oh, wow – it is great to end the summer with a really spectacular novel. Everyone should go out and read We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (and that goes double for any budding scholars interested in philosophy of mind and/or cognitive science).
Don’t read any blurbs or reviews first, just get straight into it!
Why? There is a significant surprise reveal midway through it, and it would be a real shame if you didn’t get the chance to figure things out on your own. This sometimes funny, often thought-provoking, and consistently well-written book starts out as just a regular story about growing up in a family of flawed people, but I’ll leave it for you to decide whether we can say that it ends that way …
While I make a different set of metaphysical assumptions about the nature of concepts in each article, in both of them, I argue for the same conclusion about the scope of our moral responsibilities. Specifically, I argue that we can be morally responsible for the concepts in our repertoires and how we put them to work in our thinking. So, when the two papers are taken together, they show that on either a psychological or semantic account of concepts, we can be morally responsible for our relations to those concepts for the same reasons that we can be morally responsible for our actions and attitudes.
In celebration of Juneteenth (today, 6/19, the day on which we who continue to work toward justice celebrate the emancipation of enslaved African-Americans), the feminist philosophy journal Hypatia has put together a two-part curated collection of previously published work by Black feminist scholars and made it freely available without subscription.
I’ve always loved animals, but I don’t always see myself in other people’s vision of what it means to be an animal lover. For instance, I don’t keep pets, and lots of people would expect an animal lover to do so. However, I am a vegan, which might be (and I think should be, but often isn’t) expected of people who self-identify as animal lovers. Plus, I generally love learning about animals more than I love interacting with them, but I do find it deeply painful when I witness harm to animals, even in fiction. And I’m seriously committed to environmentalism, which many people think means choosing what is good for whole species and ecosystems, even if and when that means killing or otherwise harming various individual animals.
I suspect there are a lot of other people out there who love animals in some sense, but that maybe don’t fit into stereotypical ideas about what it means to be an animal lover.
For an awesome book that challenges all of us to rethink what it means to stand in an ethically good relationship to non-human animals, I strongly recommend Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka’s Zoopolis. They don’t frame their book in terms of being by or for animal lovers, (though their work clearly expresses love for animals, along with many more intellectual virtues). Instead, they make a powerful, extended argument that existing academic and activist work regarding animal ethics is limited in key ways that can be overcome by shifting to a political model of human/non-human animal engagement. Here’s some high praise from any philosopher: their insights and arguments really changed my mind about a lot of things!
And (bonus!) this is among the most engaging and accessible books in academic philosophy that I’ve had the pleasure to read. It is one of those unicorns that falls into both the “for fun” and “for work” categories that I often use to mentally sort books. Seriously, check it out.