Myisha Cherry and Eric Schwitzgebel recently took the philosophy discipline to task for being so white, the title of the piece was pure gold "Like the Oscars, #philosophysowhite". I really enjoyed the piece. Not because I agreed with it all but because I believe it's important to have these discussions about why our discipline is so fucking white, and so male, and (what I thought was left out "so fucking rich or middle class") because something has to change. It's embarrassing as an academic more generally as whiteness and gender disparity in the professoriate is bad, but it's even worse in philosophy. In what follows I'd like to discuss their piece, so if you haven't read it yet I suggest giving it a glance so what I say has a chance to make sense. I'll first (briefly) mention the points I liked and then I'll mention a point of contention about their construal of the white experience.
I agree that philosophy has an obsession with intelligence (and they'll mostly settle for pedigree to do the work as the placeholder if they didn't here 'so and so' say all those "smart" things at the last conference). Sounding smart (and often times looking smart) is surely driven by the ability of many white males to command the cultural apparatus of seeming smart.
"Is the methodology (detailed below) a good way to develop a theory of punishment?
Step 1: Assemble our particular judgments about punishment in cases of wrongdoing.
Step 2: Evaluate the virtuousness of the emotions that motivate these judgments.
Step 3: Search for general principles that best explain those judgments that our produced by virtuous emotions.
Step 4 Assemble these general principles to form the basis for a theory of punishment.
What do you think?"
For me, I think it's important to get clear on two related but separate questions: Why do we punish? vs. How do we punish? I won't say much about the difference between these questions yet but I think it's important to distinguish between the two before thinking about Tamler's question regarding the best way to develop a theory of punishment. So, I guess I'm saying that a good approach to developing an account of punishment is to develop answers to these questions as part of Tamler's "step 1" but I digress. More generally then, I would say yes, this approach (steps 1-4) seems to have some promise.
Now, Sommers detailed Michael Moore's attempt at cashing out this methodology. I do not think that Moore's attempt at cashing it out was successful, though that's not reason to reject the methodology. Below is the argument that Moore gives for justifying retributivist punishment followed by what I find problematic with it.
If a particular moral judgment is motivated by a virtuous emotion, then it is likely (though not certain) that the judgment is true.
The emotions that motivate our retributive judgments are virtuous
So, it is likely that our particular retributive judgments are true.
The retributive principle--offenders ought to suffer in proportion to their culpability-- offers the best explanations for the truth of our particular retributive judgments.
So, it is likely that the retributivist principle is true.
My Response (some of this I have said in my initial response to Tamler in the original thread): In premise 2 Moore's talk of emotions seems far too coarse-grained. For an emotion to be fitting (or virtuously directed) it must not only be of the right type but it must have the right amount of force. So even if anger is the appropriate or virtuous response in a particular case not any amount of anger will be virtuous. I think this point is important for his argument to move forward and it could serve to fend off some of the initial worries one may have .
On a side note (but related) I had a question: Why can't our reasons for punishment be retributivist but our motivations for selecting any particular kind of punishment be consequentialist? This gets me back to the initial 2 questions I posed as central to any theory of punishment. Maybe our retributivist emotions set the parameters of what could count as a set of deserved punishments (grounded in some principles or other) and we select the punishment which we think could produce the best consequences from the set given by our retributivist emotions (properly reflected on)?
This approach, if it makes any sense at all, would allow us to justify why we are engaged in punishment while not letting the retributivist emotions, on their own, dictate how the target of the reaction ought to be treated (specifically). Retribution looks like revenge pretty quickly and I do not think revenge should have a place in our criminal justice system. But, having recently taught an upper-level class on this topic it seems that many tend to equate retribution with revenge, or, that retribution is a form of revenge, but the two concepts seem to come apart for me.
At the end of the day I think a purely retributivist theory of punishment is problematic. I also think a purely consequentialist theory of punishment is problematic. Thus, it seems like a mixed bag might be the best sort of approach. What do you think?
In this post I'll be arguing that hypocrisy is not all that bad, and, though controversial, I'll argue that one's moral standing ought not be affected because one acts hypocritically. In fact, I'll suggest that hypocrites *might* be in the best position to give moral advice in certain cases. I'm sure many of you have heard the line "do as I say and not as I do". This is a warning that some hypocrites give before giving advice and I've heard many parents use it when giving advice to their kids (parents tend to be the biggest hypocrites). I don't believe the quote is problematic at all and I'll briefly lay out some reasons why.
It's Ethics Tuesday (just barely) and this week I'll be spewing some further nonsense on the topic of cheating*. Last week I raised a bunch of questions in response to an earlier blog post by James Rocha. Although we have yet to agree as to what cheating is (Rocha gave a nice response to some of what I said here), I'd like to move to a specific case of supposed "cheating" by New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (There seems to be no evidence that suggests Brady actually cheated but let's not let that deter us here). Rocha claims that the 4-game suspension handed down by the league was not enough. I could not disagree more! In fact, given that I do not think he cheated (at least not the type of cheating that is morally problematic) I don't think he should have been punished at all. But, let's assume that Tom Brady is guilty of telling the ball boy to keep the balls on the softer side of the PSI limit, I think everyone can agree that something like this did occur. Why think the 4-game suspension is not enough? In what follows I'll try to recapitulate some of the points Rocha makes and press on each of them, but first I will briefly discuss what it is that Brady is guilty of, if anything at all.
When I previously wrote about Tom Brady's cheating (here), I didn't see myself as putting forward a theory of sports cheating, but simply as pointing to some clear reasons why Tom Brady's cheating ought to worry us more than it appears to be. But then, Justin Caouette raised some very interesting questions (here, and also see his older post here) that challenged my view, and also made me think a bit harder on what counts as sports cheating.
Among Justin's many interesting issues, the one that challenged my view the most was fouling in basketball. I had set up intentionally breaking the rules to gain an advantage as a sufficient condition for cheating. But intentional fouling is both intentional (the word "intentional," by definition, implies that much) and purposely breaks rules (you are not supposed to foul, much less intentionally). So does that mean I'm committed to saying that intentional fouling, flopping, and almost everything John Stockton used to do when the refs were not looking are all cheating?
Given that this is my first post I would like to take this time to say thanks to Jon and the rest of the fantastic group of bloggers here at PhilPercs for allowing me to post with you all. Welcome to the jungle seemed like a fitting song to post given that it's my welcoming post to this jungle of ideas, so to speak. I'll be posting an ethics related post every Tuesday from here on out and this post is ethics related as well. In this short post I'd like to raise a few questions about the concept of cheating, and then press against some of the things that James Rocha assumed in an earlier post about a specific case of cheating. I initially planned to only raise some questions and offer a few controversial interpretations of what cheating could mean and why it might not always be immoral. However, it seems that James beat me to the topic so I think it's only fair to engage with some of the things he said as well. So, if I haven't scared you away yet and you're interested in the concept of cheating, then you should continue reading below the fold.