Racism in an Elevator

I went stark raving mad after seeing this video posted in a module of my Ethics course at Felician University covering multicultural counseling. Irfan and I have long talks about how upside down things are not only in the media, but in the social sciences where the truth of what one has to say appears to relate more to the color of their skin than what the person actually says.

The effect of the type of “reasoning” engaged in not only in the two paragraphs below, but in the video as well as the article on “white privilege” (just click on the link to see that article) was going to send me to the psych ward on suspicion of homicidal ideation if I did not speak up. So, I felt it best to do so in the interests of everyone’s safety. I didn’t have a lot of time to write this response so it’s rough, but it makes the points I wanted to make in essence. I think Irfan will follow-up with more to say. Continue reading

Public reason as solving a fundamental disagreement problem

One strand in the “public reason” approach to political justification, stated in a very general form, might go something like this: in the context of disagreement about which shared, public norms to codify and enforce, when actual consensus is not present, the obvious or evident nature of important, relevant objective reasons, the recognition of which would rationally tend to lead to consensus (this situation constituting a certain kind of hypothetical consensus) suffices to make for permission to enforce.  One way to characterize this general approach is by saying that there is a “disagreement problem” specific to the relevant context that is “solved” by taking steps toward consensus (with enough truth in it) on the matter as against simply seeking the truth. Here is a specific proposal along these lines, a first shot in the right direction with this kind of approach, to play with and evaluate: Continue reading

Justice as Fairness

I’m wondering what readers think of this case:

A judge has sided with a New Jersey teenager accused of cheating on the ACT exams, saying a clause test-takers must sign giving up their rights to sue the testing company is “unconscionable” and “void as against public policy.”

The ruling from Somerset County Judge Michael Rogers means Readington Township teenager Brendan Clare can seek damages from ACT Inc., the company that runs the test and threatened to invalidate his scores. It also opens the door for teenagers across the country to attempt to sue the testing company citing Rogers’ ruling.

A somewhat more informative article from Inside Higher Ed.

The contract in question strikes me as substantively unfair, but I wonder about the use of unconscionability to void it. For purposes of this post, set aside the possibility of fraud, and focus just on the issue of unconscionability. It seems to me that the use of unconscionability here raises the following problem. Continue reading

Drivin’ and Cryin’: Bumps on the Road to Pot Legalization

I’m all in favor of the decriminalization of marijuana, indeed for the eventual legalization of recreational pot use, but the closer we come to achieving that goal, the greater the number of practical quasi-dilemmas we’ll have to face that we’d never had to consider before. These quasi-dilemmas may not be conclusive considerations against full legalization, but they can’t be minimized, either.

It’s common for advocates of legalization to compare pot with alcohol: if we accept recreational alcohol consumption, why not accept recreational consumption of pot? In many ways (it’s plausibly argued), alcohol is worse than pot. If we overlook the problems with alcohol and allow recreational alcohol consumption anyway, it seems inconsistent to fixate on the similar problems with pot in order to ban the recreational use of pot. Continue reading

Psychotherapy and Chronic Pain: An Interview with Alison Bowles

Here’s an online interview with my wife (and PoT blogger) Alison Bowles, conducted by Raymond Barrett of the Telehealth Certification Institute in Canandaigua, New York. Alison is a psychotherapist in private practice with an on-ground presence in Manhattan, and a developing online practice.

The interview focuses on an under-discussed issue in therapy–therapy with people suffering from chronic pain. We hear so much about the “opioid crisis” that we forget that it’s overshadowedby a long shot–by a chronic pain crisis. There’s also a dangerous trend in mental health of pretending that chronic pain conditions can be managed and resolved by the magic of mindfulness and meditation. Though many studies suggest that such claims are nonsense, that hasn’t stopped the mindfulness gurus from making them: Continue reading

Calls for Papers: ISME, NASSP

Given the interests of PoT readers and bloggers, I thought I’d call attention to this CFP, for what promises to be a knock-out conference at Notre Dame this summer:

https://ethicscenter.nd.edu/research/conference-to-what-end/

MacIntyre is a former mentor and Lear is a personal hero of mine, so I’m hoping to pull something together for this conference, and would love to see some PoT people there as well. Continue reading

A Dilemma for Reasonable Acceptability?

Estlund’s Democratic Authority makes much of the idea of acceptability requirements for political justification. Acceptability requirements come in different versions, and one respect in which those versions can differ is what they are requirements for. They might be requirements for laws, policies, procedures, constitutional structures, the kinds of reasons that citizens or certain officials can give in certain public fora, and so on; they might also require acceptability as a condition for justification quite broadly, for political or legal authority more narrowly, or for political legitimacy — i.e., the moral permissibility of a government’s enforcement of its laws by coercive or punitive means. For Estlund, as for many, the most important application of acceptability requirements is to legitimacy, since coercion raises peculiarly urgent questions of justification. The rough idea of an acceptability requirement on legitimacy is that laws backed by coercion must be acceptable to the citizens that they purport to govern, and must be acceptable to them despite their deep moral, religious, and philosophical disagreements.

Discussing the views of Joshua Cohen, Estlund writes:

For Cohen the fundamental tenet of a deliberative account of democratic legitimacy is the principle that coercive political arrangements and decisions are morally illegitimate unless they can be justified in terms that can be accepted by citizens with the wide range of reasonable moral, religious, and philosophical views likely to emerge in any free society. (Democratic Authority, 91)

Earlier in the book, Estlund cites Rawls describing what he calls the “liberal principle of legitimacy”:
Continue reading

Acceptability: reason-giving vs. reasons

I have some questions about Estlund’s account of acceptability conditions on reasons (in public reasoning).  Here is the first one.

(1) Acceptability conditions make sense as conditions on the reasons that it is appropriate or permitted to give to each other (aside from whether they are good or true).  However, I think Estlund means for these conditions to apply to what reasons are appropriate even in private reasoning (when one is reasoning about when the state is permitted to coerce its citizens).  But why would the former imply the latter? Why should standards governing giving reasons to others speak to the appropriateness of a reason (distinct from its goodness or truth) in any kind of good reasoning? This seems almost like a category mistake of some kind.   Continue reading