Category: Justice (Page 1 of 3)

As a Child of Deaf Adults: Problems with Identity Politics from a Progressive Perspective

By: Brian Birnbaum

Among contemporary progressives, the space for debate over the value of identity politics is shrinking at pace with its growing popularity within political discourse. Today’s dominant progressive tastemakers seem to feel that identity politics should either be bought wholesale, or you’re not a progressive. But as a Child of Deaf Adults (CODA), a firsthand witness to deaf alienation, and even more importantly, as a progressive myself, I find it unacceptable that such particularistic, individuated, and limiting rhetoric as that employed by proponents should preclude the validity of my own political stance.

I’ve always been suspicious when new code-words and ideologies are introduced into the political sphere, as they strike me as euphemistic spins on old and often pernicious tropes. Take, for example, ‘Make America Great Again’, which was a dog whistle for returning to a time more prosperous for whites at the expense of all others. But my awakening to the deeper perils of identity politics came during the Democratic National Convention for the 2016 election, where hardliners ascended with pageantry to the podium and proselytized the masses, ostensibly for the good of the party. At their own earlier convention, the Republicans had trotted out the bereaved mothers of Benghazi, and now the DNC responded with the bereaved mothers of police brutality. The RNC had brought out the Boys in Blue to talk tough on crime, and the DNC called up Khizr and Ghazala Khan to thump the constitution and pick at its semantics. It was a lot of standard pandering to the parties’ respective bases, sometimes to mild success, other times to a fault.

But I observed a major difference – a massively important difference – between the way things were presented at the two national conventions. Nearly every individual the Democrats sent up to the stage used a variant of the same phrase: “As a black woman…”; “As a Muslim man…”; “As a Mexican immigrant…” Hearing this anaphora – and noticing it more and more after the convention, whether from a guest on CNN or a friend’s Facebook feed – I felt caught in a unique position. As a Child of Deaf Adults (CODA), not once, among the DNC’s lineup of marginalized persons (or on CNN, or on the feeds of non-deaf Facebook friends), did I hear any mention of the deaf, nor any language related to the deaf population.

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Wholesale Crimes

by Victor Wallis

In their 1979 book The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism, Noam Chomsky and the late Edward S. Herman drew a distinction between retail and wholesale acts of terrorism. Retail acts were those carried out by individuals or small groups; wholesale, those committed by vast national military forces.

Tom Engelhardt, in a recent column explaining the deeply criminal thrust of the Trump legacy, recalls to our attention a term coined in 2013 by journalist Nick Turse: terracide, meaning the total destruction of the earth-system — next to which the common crimes committed by isolated individuals pale in magnitude.

The distinction here is one of scale and not of principle, as in the classic juxtaposition of robbing a bank (“retail”) versus owning one and fleecing the entire public (“wholesale”). This point is easy enough for anyone to see, but, sadly, it has not become a matter of common awareness.

Why is it so difficult for people in the United States to perceive the criminality of the dominant priorities? This is where the political culture – aka the politics of mass deception – comes into play.

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Responding to Morally Flawed Historical Philosophers and Philosophies

Victor Fabian Abundez-Guerra and Nathan Nobis from 1000-Word Philosophy examine the difficult issue of how to deal with the objectionable moral views of past philosophers.

Many historically-influential philosophers had profoundly wrong moral views or behaved very badly. Aristotle thought women were “deformed men” and that some people were slaves “by nature.” Descartes had disturbing views about non-human animals. Hume and Kant were racists. Hegel disparaged Africans. Nietzsche despised sick people. Mill condoned colonialism. Fanon was homophobic. Frege was anti-Semitic; Heidegger was a Nazi. Schopenhauer was sexist. Rousseau abandoned his children. Wittgenstein beat his young students. Unfortunately, these examples are just a start.[1]

These philosophers are famous for their intellectual accomplishments, yet they display serious moral or intellectual flaws in their beliefs or actions. At least, some of their views were false, ultimately unjustified and, perhaps, harmful.

How should we respond to brilliant-but-flawed philosophers from the past?[2] Here we explore the issues, asking questions and offering few answers. Any insights gained here might be applicable to contemporary imperfect philosophers, scholars in other fields,[3] and people in general.

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Licensing Parents

Ryan Jenkins from 1000-Word Philosophy examines the potential worth in licensing parents.

Most people think it’s obvious that we have a right to procreate and raise children. In fact, many people think reproductive rights are among the most important rights we have. After all, reproductive rights protect some of the most intimate acts between adults and many people think that rearing children is the greatest source of meaning and fulfillment in life. It’s hard to fathom a government with the arrogance to deny its citizens these rights.

At the same time, most of us think there are some situations where the government is justified in taking away someone’s children. Cases of extreme neglect or abuse come to mind – cases where people have demonstrated that they are not fit parents. If it’s okay to take someone’s children away after the fact, could it ever be okay to deny them the right to raise children beforehand? One way of denying parents the opportunity to raise children would be to require them to procure a license to parent in the same way we require licenses to drive a car or own a handgun. Many would find this surprising, but perhaps there is a good argument for licensing parents.

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Just War Theory

Ryan Jenkins from 1000-Word Philosophy gives an account of just war theory.

War is a profoundly destructive institution, yet most of us still believe there are good wars. Authors as far back as Cicero, and in various cultural traditions,[1] have sought to answer this question: When is a war just? The just war tradition (or just war theory) is one subset of military ethics.[2] Recently, interest in just war theory was ignited by Michael Walzer’s Just and Unjust Wars (2006), published in the wake of the Vietnam War. More recently, profound challenges to “traditional” just war theory—under the banner of “revisionism”—have shaken the foundations of the ethics of war (McMahan, 2009; Rodin, 2005). This article will explore the criteria of traditional just war theory before briefly discussing the revisionist school’s recent critiques.

Jus ad Bellum: Justice in the Resort to War

Traditional just war theory concerns itself with two questions: (1) when it is just to go to war and (2) how may a war be justly fought?[3] (These two areas usually go by their Latin names: jus ad bellum and jus in bello, respectively.) This way, we can say that a war was just to declare but fought unjustly, or perhaps vice versa.[4]

When is it just to resort to war? (Notice this moral question is separate from when war is prudent or popular.) Traditionalists hold that a state must satisfy several criteria: just cause, right intention, last resort, proportionality, probability of success, and proper authority.

Theorists usually think the only just cause for declaring war is self-defense: that is, as a response to an actual aggression. Pre-emptive war—declaring war on a state because it is believed they will be a threat—is clearly a Pandora’s box. Instead, we must meet a high evidential burden in order to justify war, and a merely suspected attack is not enough.

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Racist Ideas, Justice, and Freedom: A Review and Reflection on Ibram Kendi’s ‘Stamped from the Beginning’

By: Jeremy Kingston Cynamon

We tend to think that hierarchical institutions like slavery emerge as the result of racist and hateful ideas. Ibram Kendi’s new book Stamped From the Beginning, offers an intriguing and far reaching historical challenge to that narrative. Kendi reverses the causal arrow and argues that rather than racist ideas causing discriminatory practices, racist ideas are more accurately understood as ex post justifications of those practices. In other words, hierarchical institutions emerge first – owing to self-interested economic, political, and social reasons –  and are then justified in theory by clergy, intellectuals, and other elites.[1] Perhaps Kendi’s most surprising claim is that racist ideas penetrate even the minds of liberal reformers, activists, and theorists, who are otherwise considered progressives. Here he cites W.E.B. Du Bois and Barack Obama amongst many others, ultimately suggesting that racist ideas infiltrate nearly every discourse and sphere of social life.

Kendi’s book is, as its subtitle suggests, an incisive and thoroughgoing study of the history of racist ideas in America. But it is more than that; Stamped From the Beginning is also rife with implications for political theory. It has much to say both about the ongoing discussion about distributive justice, and about how we conceptualize freedom. Its central argument, which points to the need to address deep structures of inequality, can be interpreted as particularly troublesome for liberal theories of distributive justice. This same argument also highlights some important limitations of the typical bifurcation of freedom into its positive and negative variants.[2]

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Pro-life Replies to Pro-choice Arguments

By: Hendrik van der Breggen

Below are some popular arguments for abortion choice followed by some pro-life replies. These pro-choice arguments are real (from a critic of one of my recent articles published here and here) and so are the replies (which I presented as responses).

I hope the interaction between this critic and me will encourage careful reasoning in Canada’s public discourse on abortion.

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Perspective Needed on Abortion

By: Hendrik van der Breggen

Abortion has been in Canadian news lately, thanks to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Summer Jobs Program and its “pro-choice”/ “reproductive freedom” values test (i.e., agree with the PM’s values or you don’t get funding).

Many Canadians believe (I think rightly) that this values test is deeply unfair and violates some basic Charter Freedoms, though, of course, many Canadians disagree. It is important, then, to encourage public discourse about abortion that’s respectful, thoughtful, and well informed.

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Harvey Weinstein and the Aims and Structure of Hollywood

Howl of the Day: Oct 13, 2017

Political scientist Corey Robin has an interesting take on the current Harvey Weinstein debacle. Robin observes that power relationships leave little room for morality:

In virtually every oppressive workplace regime—and other types of oppressive regimes—you see the same phenomenon. ….

Those at the bottom of the regime, these less established actresses who need the most, look up and wonder why those above them, those more established actresses who need less, don’t speak out against an injustice: The more established have power, why don’t they use it, what are they afraid of?

Those higher up the ladder, those more established actresses, look down on those at the very bottom and wonder why they don’t speak out against that injustice: They’ve got nothing to lose, what are they afraid of?

Neither is wrong; they’re both accurately reflecting and acting upon their objective situations and interests. This is one of the reasons why collective action against injustice and oppression is so difficult. It’s Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand at work (in both senses), without the happy ending: everyone pursues their individual interests as individuals; the result is a social catastrophe.

This seems true, but at the same time, focusing on the power dynamic at play as opposed to the ends for which the power is used obscures something essential about the problem.

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The Libertarian Error

By: Richard Oxenberg

I. Introduction

As Congress gears up for another round of massive tax cuts whose benefits will primarily go to the wealthiest, it might be worthwhile to consider the underlying rationale for these cuts.

In general, there are two arguments presented in justification for such cuts. The first is a utilitarian argument. The claim is that tax cuts for the wealthy will stimulate the economy and make things generally better for everyone. There are many good reasons to think that this is not true, but I am going to leave this claim aside for now as it is largely a practical question concerning how a capitalist system operates.

The more fundamental, and more philosophical, justification comes from the libertarians. The libertarian claim is that taxation for any other purpose than the defense of liberty is illegitimate, indeed, a kind of theft. According to the libertarians, the government simply has no right to impose taxes for such services as public education, aid to the poor, health care, social security, or any other service that does not involve a direct protection from those who might deprive us of liberty (e.g., criminals or foreign invaders).

This libertarian idea has gained a lot of traction in recent decades, even among many who would not identify as libertarian. It provides the ideological foundation for the hostility toward government, indeed toward democracy as a form of government, fostered by the radical right. I believe it is deeply flawed. The following is my attempt to say why.

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