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ABSTRACTS: 2004 Graduate Student Philosophy Conference

Modified Speciesim and A Humean Argument Against It
Author: Monica Gerrek, University of Kansas
Commentator: Chris Kaposy, SUNY – Stony Brook

In Animal Liberation and elsewhere, Peter Singer argues that most animals deserve the same moral consideration as human beings. That we actually favor the interests of our own species above those of members of other species is what he calls “speciesism”, a position he takes to be morally similar to both racism and sexism. Although I agree with Singer that our treatment of most animals is in desperate need of revision, I disagree that the problem is with speciesism as he defines it. What I propose in this paper is a view whereby the concern is not with bias towards the interests of the members of one’s own species and against those of the members of other species; rather, the concern is with bias in favor of the interests of the members of one species of non-human animals and against the interests of the members of another species of non-human animals. That is, I will show how the differences in our attitudes towards, and thus corresponding treatment of, those animals that we exploit and those that we do not are arbitrary and inconsistent. Further, given that there is no good reason for such arbitrariness and inconsistency and given that unexploited animals are morally entitled to the ways that we treat them, we must change our attitudes and behaviors towards exploited animals.

“Proventing” Terrorism: A Human Needs Approach
Author: Michelle Maiese, University of Colorado – Boulder
Commentator: TBA

In section one of the paper, I argue against what I take to be a “power political” approach to terrorism. This view recommends coercion, punishment, and other uses of authoritative power as means to address terrorist activity. I suggest that this approach not only is ineffective in the short-term, but also fails to address the underlying causes that motivate terrorist activity. In an attempt to get clear about what I take to be the central terrorist motives, I outline the accounts of Virginia Held, Loren Lomasky, and Annette Baier in section two. Following Baier, I suggest that we view terrorism as a form of violent protest. Moreover, I maintain that terrorism is most adequately described not simply as an act of war or as a crime, but rather as a symptom of deep-rooted social conflict.

Relying on John Burton’s theory of conflict “provention,” I argue in section three that the drive towards violent protest/terrorist activity should be understood in terms of unmet and frustrated human needs. This includes needs for identity, recognition, security, and autonomy that cannot be stifled by way of coercion, law, and authoritative force. In fact, coercive tactics may make these frustrations more intense. Thus, rather than attempting to coerce or control people or groups, we must deal with the social conditions that tend to give rise to terrorism and work to fulfill human needs. This suggests a “proventive” approach whereby we work to create a just international environment in which terrorism is less likely to occur.

Living With the Crocodiles
Author: Audra King, University of Colorado – Boulder
Commentator: TBA

Deliberative democracy is a model of political society grounded in the fundamental values of freedom, equality and inclusion. Insofar as a deliberative democratic decision is legitimate, it must not exclude anyone from the deliberation based merely on their social position and such. The model of deliberative democracy I wish to advocate is one which calls for equality grounded in a capabilities account. In order to have inclusion in the sense necessary to make a democratic decision valid, the society in which one lives should be one that promotes the development of the capacities to deliberate, which include self-respect, autonomy and mutual respect among citizens. Although the types of oppression that affect the legitimacy of democratic decisions are numerous, I want to focus on one aspect society must attend to in order to allow each citizen to have a voice in deliberation. Specifically, I am to show how hate speech of a certain form disallows many from participating in the deliberation. In excluding large groups of individuals from their ability to partake in and influence the democratic decision-making process, racist hate speech contributes to the illegitimacy of deliberation. Not only does it drastically diminish an individual’s ability to develop her self-respect and autonomy, it also hinders the development of mutual respect among citizens. Insofar as speech is morally subordinating, targeted at a historically oppressed group, and is “hateful, degrading, and persecutory,” it should be the job of the law to regulate its access into society.

Reclaiming the Aesthetic Imagination for the Task of Thinking: A Philosophical Approach to Communicative Praxis and Appreciation of the Fine Arts
Author: Basem Amin, University of Montana
Commentator: TBA

The problem of our age is that it finds itself within the economy of exchange. It is not problematic that we engage in the process of exchanging goods and services. What is a problem, however, is the sacrifice of our humanity for the material perception that we are well in the world. In the most troubling of times, our everyday thinking becomes a representative listing of the rules of exchange. Thinking, indeed, has become laborious for it calculates the most efficient means of utility that serves one’s marketplace identity.

Today, we do not think, but merely behave, in accordance with the normative means of existence. Perhaps the most frightening condition lies in our comfort with our scripted lives for in being comfortable, we become relaxed. Such relaxation conceals a frenzied departure from thinking: “Man is in flight from thinking.”

In this essay, I shall attempt to reveal the possibility of thinking well. First, I shall turn to critical theory in looking at Max Horkheimer & Theodor W. Adorno’s essay, “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception” to address the problem of the commercialization of art as entertainment. Then, by way of art, I shall discuss how thinking well experiences a conversation that discloses a world within the fine arts. Finally, by engaging communicative praxis as experienced in conversation, I shall explain how an accomplished appreciation for the fine arts may lead toward the possibility of living well.

Dworkin's Theory of Justified Paternalism
Author: Mark Engleson, Univeristy of Texas – Austin
Commentator: TBA

This paper is a critical examination of Gerald Dworkin’s article, “Paternalism.” I explicate Dworkin’s theory, and defend his categories of paternalism, but suggest that there are a number of mistakes in the examples he uses to differentiate the various categories of paternalism. In doing so, I consider a number of topics in applied ethics: homosexuality, children and women’s labor, women in combat, motorcycle helmet laws and medical paternalism. I argue that prohibitions on homosexuality and women’s labor are more appropriately considered cases of moralism. I consider the relationship between secular and religious values, and how this relates to paternalism and moralism. In particular, I argue strongly against Dworkin’s famous example of Odysseus and the sirens as a paradigmatic case of justified paternalism. I suggest that Dworkin errs in his understanding of the relationship between paternalism and authority. I make this argument by comparing the Odysseus scenario with the case of a patient having surgery. I also consider paternalism against the broader background of social contract theory. I look at two particular versions of the social contract theory, Lockean and Rousseauan. I argue that social contract theory, at least in these forms, leaves no conceptual space for paternalism. I also suggest that, given predominant liberal value pluralism, paternalism is extremely difficult to justify, because it depends on assumptions about the good.

Intuition and Equivalence
Author: Moon Duchin, University of Chicago
Commentator: TBA

The eighteenth-century monk-mathematician Girolamo Saccheri and the modern-day bioethicist Leon Kass both appeal to “repugnance” to persuade readers against accepting a controversial principle. Here, repugnance should be understood to be a shared intuition, or nearly-universal strong belief. The results for Saccheri were demonstrably wrong, and Kass, like many contemporary philosophers, must be left to contend with some of the undesirable properties of this sort of intuition.

I will show by appealing to mathematical examples that intuition does not transfer between logically equivalent statements. This undermines several of its frequent uses in analytic philosophy. The remainder of the paper is devoted to exploring instances of current philosophical arguments, spanning a range of subfields, that are susceptible in different ways to the problems I identify.

Kant and the Problem of Conflicting Duties
Author: Heather Fieldhouse, Michigan State University
Commentator: Lauren Fleming, Georgetown University

Any deontologist will have to deal with the problem of conflicting duties. Kant, however, gives this important issue a surprisingly brief, and ultimately incomplete, treatment. I offer an interpretation of Kant's claim that there can be no conflicts of duty, only conflicts in the "grounds of obligation." I agree with Richard McCarty that conflicts in the ground s of obligation fall into four categories: civil obedience conflicting with grounds of obligation other than promise-keeping, promise-keeping conflicting with grounds of obligation other than civil obedience, civil obedience conflicting with promise-keeping, and conflicting promises or obedience to conflicting authorities. I argue that all four cases can be resolved by appeal to the categorical imperative.

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