Essays in Philosophy
Latest articles in this journal
Essays in Philosophy, Volume 21, pp 46-75; doi:10.5840/eip2020211/24
It is normal to think that philosophers’ first dedication is to the truth. Publishers and writers consider ideas and papers according to criteria such as originality, eloquence, interestingness, soundness, and plausibility. I suggest that moral consequence should play a greater role in our choices to publish when serious harm is at stake. One’s credence in a particular idea should be weighed against the potential consequences of the publication of one’s ideas both if one turns out to be right and if one turns out to be wrong. This activist approach to philosophical writing combines moral concern with epistemic humility.
Essays in Philosophy, Volume 21, pp 109-119; doi:10.5840/eip2020211/27
By drawing on a selection of interviews from the website Engaged Philosophy, this paper highlights the work of philosopher-activists within their classrooms and communities. These philosophers have stepped out of the ivory towers and work directly with media, community and political groups, people in prison; or they encourage their students to engage in activist projects. The variety of approaches presented here shows the many ways philosophically inspired activism can give voice to those who are marginalized, shine a light on injustices, expose the root of social problems, and empower others to seek solutions. This work shows the relevance of philosophy to practical problems and the powerful effects it can have in the world.
Essays in Philosophy, Volume 21, pp 120-123; doi:10.5840/eip2020211/28
Essays in Philosophy, Volume 21, pp 92-108; doi:10.5840/eip2020211/26
Against the medical and social models of disability are two newer proposals. Elizabeth Barnes’ Minority Body proposes that it is the bodies which are advocated for and included in the disability rights movement which are rightfully called “disabled.” Savulescu and Kahane’s Welfarist approach proposes that disability is intrinsically tied to the effects of bodily states on welfare. They put the need for a consistent and relatively simple normative theory above accounting for standard case judgements about who is and is not disabled or looking at all to membership of the disabled community. I argue that Barnes’ theory offers the best response to issues with the dominant models of disability. Further, I argue that the Welfarist theory operates in a space removed from the wishes and lived experiences of disabled people – separating ‘disability’ from activism entirely – to its detriment. Doing so compromises its explanatory power, over-generalizes the concept and prevents the insertion of meaningful boundaries. Barnes’ ‘solidarity thesis’ soundly conceptualizes disability whilst making room for activist voices. The centering of activist projects makes it stronger.
Essays in Philosophy, Volume 21, pp 6-28; doi:10.5840/eip2020211/22
Can philosophers be good activists? This essay defines activism for the philosopher and then provides a normative conception of a good philosopher-activist that is grounded in rational integrity and sound rational deliberation. I argue that because philosophers have been trained in reasoning and argumentation, they can contribute these skills to an activist movement. An activist with rational integrity exhibits five skills or virtues: they are honest, rational, logical, deliberative, and respectful. Conversely, bad philosopher-activists display five vices: they are dishonest, manipulative, obfuscating, thoughtless, and insulting. Next, I argue that rhetorical and reasoning skills are only part of what define good activism, and describe the soft skills needed for effective activism. Philosophical training sometimes works against the development of these soft skills, but they are critical to the success of the philosopher-activist. I conclude by describing activism within the context of academic life and argue that philosophers who engage in activism can do so in an intellectually responsible way.
Essays in Philosophy, Volume 21, pp 1-5; doi:10.5840/eip2020211/21
Essays in Philosophy, Volume 21, pp 76-91; doi:10.5840/eip2020211/25
In this essay, I offer an overview of the “Ethics Across Campus and the Curriculum Program” developed at Dickinson College over the past two years as part of a broader initiative to promote civic education and engagement. The essay proceeds in three parts. First, I explain the decision to adopt the language of “ethical reasoning” in our program and how I understand this work as supporting student activism. Second, I describe the faculty study group developed to incorporate ethical reasoning into already existing courses across the college. Third, I focus on how our college has incorporated ethical reasoning into new student orientation and first year student leadership retreats. Finally, I conclude with work on the horizon and a surprising result that has emerged from doing this work.
Essays in Philosophy, Volume 21, pp 130-134; doi:10.5840/eip2020211/210
Essays in Philosophy, Volume 21, pp 29-45; doi:10.5840/eip2020211/23
This essay defends the Pragmatist’s call to activism in higher education, understanding it as a necessary development of good democratic inquiry. Some criticisms of activism have merit, but I distinguish crass or uncritical activism from judicious activism. I then argue that judicious activism in higher education and in philosophy is not only defensible, but both called for implicitly in the task of democratic education as well as an aspect of what John Dewey has articulated as the supreme intellectual obligation, namely to ensure that inquiry is put to use for the benefit of life.
Essays in Philosophy, Volume 21, pp 135-140; doi:10.5840/eip2020211/211