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CRÉ/Parr Joint Conference 2019

March 12, 2019

CRÉ/Parr Joint Conference 2019

The Centre de recherche en éthique (Center for Research on Ethics), Montreal, and the Parr Center for Ethics, Chapel Hill, are pleased to join forces for this day-long conference.

Conference Program

8:45-9 am         Arrival and light breakfast

9-9:05               Welcome

Sarah Stroud, Director of the Parr Center for Ethics

9:05-10:05        Charles Côté-Bouchard (CRÉ), “Doxastic Partiality as a Manifestation (and not a Requirement) of Friendship”

10:15-11:15      Izzy Brassfield (UNC), “Understanding Conscience and its Role in Moral Deliberation”

11:25-12:25      Raffaele Rodogno (CRÉ/University of Aarhus), “Well-Being: Subjective, Objective, or Both?”

12:30-2 pm      Lunch (catered)

2-3                   Ian Cruise (UNC), “Consent, Promising, and Publicity”

3:15-4:15          Rob Willison (UNC), “The Ethics of Irony”

4:30-5:30          Katharina Nieswandt (CRÉ/Concordia University), “Beyond Frontier Town: Do Early Modern Theories of Property Apply to Capitalist Economies?”

Speakers for 2019 are:

Izzy Brassfield, “Understanding Conscience and its Role in Moral Deliberation”The term ‘conscience’ is sometimes used in a way that makes it synonymous with an agent’s moral deliberation on how she ought to act. This is especially clear when the question “should I follow my conscience?” is taken to mean “should I do what I think is right?” To be sure, conscience plays a role in such moral deliberation. But it is more properly thought of as a distinct phenomenon that contributes to an agent’s moral deliberation than as the whole of that deliberative process. Clarifying what this distinct phenomenon is, how it works, and what it tells us allows us to ask more perspicuous questions about the value of having and following one’s conscience. To this end, I argue that we should understand conscience as a mental process that attaches ‘to-be-done-ness’ or ‘not-to-be-done-ness’ to actions that an agent is considering performing in a particular situation. It does this by comparing the action in question to the agent’s set of internalized norms. The dictates of conscience, then, are one piece of information available to inform the agent’s deliberation about how to act in the situation faced. Unlike deliberation, the operation of conscience is spontaneous, inevitable, and quick. Thus, one value of conscience, I argue, is to alert an agent that some action is required or forbidden by her internalized norms when she may otherwise have failed to see this. This awareness may additionally prompt further moral deliberation about how she ought to act.

Charles Côté-Bouchard, “Doxastic Partiality as a Manifestation (and not a Requirement) of Friendship”Loving relationships affect not only what do, feel, and want, but also what we believe. Friends, romantic lovers, and loving parents tend to be doxastically partial to one another. We tend to believe in ways that cast people in a better light when they are significant others than when they are mere strangers. According to partialists like Simon Keller, Sarah Stroud, and Allan Hazlett, this is not only something that we do, as a matter of descriptive fact, but something that we ought to do qua significant others. It is a normative requirement, demand, or norm of loving relationships like friendship that we be doxastically partial, to some extent, to our significant others. Moreover, according to partialists, meeting this doxastic requirement often means violating truth-related or knowledge-related, epistemicnorms, which require that we respond to the facts in an unbiased way in order to avoid false belief and to know the truth. But since good relationships are part of a good life, we sometimes have most reasons to be doxastically partial towards significant others, and thus to be epistemically irrational and unjustified.

I do two main things in this paper. First, I reject some of the most prominent replies to partialism. They either do not do justice to the partialists’ insights, overestimate the role of epistemic rationality in friendship, or tweak the epistemic domain in an implausible way. Second, I develop an alternative response to partialism, which avoids these pitfalls. I label it the manifestation view of doxastic partiality in caring relationships like friendship. On that view, doxastic partiality towards significant others is not a deontic requirement, norm, or demand of loving relationships, but rather a common manifestation, symptom, indicator, sign of such relationships. Conversely, doxastic impartialitytowards someone is a common indicator, sign, or manifestation of a defective loving relationship. When we resent friends for not believing us, we resent them not because of their doxastic impartiality itself, but because of what that impartiality reveals. The manifestation view, I argue, can do justice to the partialists’ insights while maintaining a plausible conception of both friendship and the epistemic domain.

Ian Cruise, “Consent, Promising, and Publicity”The ethics of consent is a hot topic both in contemporary moral philosophy and in the broader culture. One of the most prominent contemporary moral philosophers working on the ethics of consent is Tom Dougherty. In the first part of this paper, I outline his account of morally valid consent and argue that it falls victim to a number of counterexamples. I then offer a diagnosis of what his account is missing—a publicity requirement—and develop an account of consent that accommodates this requirement. This account takes inspiration from Hume’s account of promising. I uncover the basic structure of Hume’s account of promising and show how it can be extended to make sense of consent. The result is a distinctively Humean account of consent.

Katharina Nieswandt, “Beyond Frontier Town: Do Early Modern Theories of Property Apply to Capitalist Economies?”The theories of Locke, Hume and Kant dominate contemporary philosophical discourse on property rights. This is particularly true of applied ethics, where they are used to settle issues from biotech patents to managerial obligations. Within these theories, however, the usual criticisms of private property aren’t even as much as intelligible.

Locke, Hume and Kant, I attempt to show, develop claims about property on an imaginary situation that I call “Frontier Town.” They and contemporary authors then apply these claims to capitalist economies. There are two problems with this application, I argue. First, we’ll be considering the wrong kind of property: In Frontier Town, there are only means of life. Critics, however, object to private property in concentrated means of production because they associate only this kind of property with systemic exploitation and an oppressive social order. Second, the two economies differ in important respects, so that very different claims about desert, fairness and empirical consequences will be plausible for each. This second problem, I attempt to show, is a consequence of the first. I conclude that Frontier Town theories are likely to obfuscate rather than illuminate property issues in capitalist economies.

Raffaele Rodogno, “Well-Being: Subjective, Objective, or Both?”Within those everyday practices that well-being animates, such as friendship and parenting, well-being has features that appear to be both objective and subjective. Sometimes we wish that our children and friends cared (more) about those things that are actually good for them; we do take some modes of life and activities to be better than others (for them). Yet, we are suspicious of claims about what is good for a person that altogether ignore the person’s responses. On the current philosophical approach, we struggle to account for this duality because our theories of well-being understand subjectivity and objectivity in exclusive terms. True enough, subjectivists will typically try to accommodate objectivist intuitions and vice versa. This type of theoretical accommodation, however, does not account for the role that “subjectivist” and “objectivist” concerns play in the everyday practices mentioned above, or so I will argue. The problem arises because, as they are constructed, our theories abstract away from the practical questions and the epistemic constraints that characterize these practices and their subjects.

Rob Willison, “The Ethics of Irony”Of all the traditional figures of speech, irony is the most notorious. In one of the most influential pieces of literary criticism of the second half of the 20th century, David Foster Wallace (1997) argued that irony had become “an agent of great despair and stasis in U.S. culture,” and in the decades since, the anxiety has only heightened. In the New York Times, Christie Wampole (2012) blamed the widespread use of irony for “a vacuity and vapidity of the individual and collective psyche,” and in The Boston Globe (Almond 2016), the popularity of ironic news outlets like The Daily Showand Last Week Tonight has been blamed for the rise of Donald Trump as a major American political figure. But despite its great contemporary currency, irony’s moral disrepute is nothing new. In the 3rd century BCE, Theophrastus described the ironist as a person who “never can be got to do anything, or to commit himself in speech so that he is forced to take sides in an active discussion…irony has become a social vice.”

In this talk, I attempt first to make sense of, and then to evaluate these long-standing ethical charges against irony. Do the linguistic and psychological mechanisms that underlie irony production and processing somehow lend themselves to ethically questionable communicative practices? Can irony be used for good as well as ill, and, if so, are these healthy uses of irony somehow effected in spite of its underlying mechanisms?


March 12, 2019
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