Forthcoming. Celebrity, Democracy, and Epistemic Power (With Alfred Archer, Ben Matheson and Machteld Geuskens) Perspectives on Politics (Pre-proof Version)
Abstract: What, if anything, is problematic about the involvement of celebrities in democratic politics? While a number of theorists have criticized celebrity involvement in politics (Meyer 2002; Mills 1957; Postman 1987) none so far have examined this issue using the tools of social epistemology, the study of the effects of social interactions, practices and institutions on knowledge and belief acquisition. This paper will draw on these resources to investigate the issue of celebrity involvement in politics, specifically as this involvement relates to democratic theory and its implications for democratic practice. We will argue that an important and underexplored form of power, which we will call epistemic power, can explain one important way in which celebrity involvement in politics is problematic. This is because unchecked uses and unwarranted allocations of epistemic power, which celebrities tend to enjoy, threaten the legitimacy of existing democracies and raise important questions regarding core commitments of deliberative, epistemic, and plebiscitary models of democratic theory. We will finish by suggesting directions that democratic theorists could pursue when attempting to address some of these problems.
2019. Admiring Animals. In Alfred Archer and Andre Grahle (Eds.) The Moral Psychology of Admiration (Lanham MA: Rowman and Littlefield) pp. 165-178.
Abstract: How can we ground the moral status of animals, or help to guide moral interactions with them? One strategy is to appeal to empathy, which has enjoyed a central place in animal ethics and is often cited as a useful alternative or supplement to rights theories. Empathy is thought to provide the means by which we perceive animals’ moral status (via their capacity for suffering) and the motivational profile that can prompt appropriate action. However, relying on empathy has also come under criticism, prompting some (including Prinz (2011) and Kasperbauer (2015)) to advise turning to other emotions such as anger, disgust, guilt, and admiration to ground moral judgment.
In this paper, I take up this advice and explore the potential for admiration to ground the moral status of animals and to promote their ethical treatment. In particular, I explore the potential of Linda Zagzebski’s exemplarist moral theory (2006, 2017) to ground the moral status of admirable animals, and Alfred Archer’s Value Promotion Account (Forthcoming) of admiration’s motivational profile to support the moral treatment of animals. I argue that Zagzebski’s view does offer important resources for grounding ethical concern for animals. In exploring this potential, I also raise some issues concerning our understanding of admiration and suggest a modification to Archer’s Value Promotion Account.
2019. Pacifism as Re-appropriated Violence. In Jorg Kustermans, Tom Sauer, Dominiek Lootens and Barbara Segaert (eds.) Pacifism’s Appeal, Palgrave MacMillan, pp.41-60.
Abstract: In this paper, I introduce a novel conception of pacifism. This conception arises out of considering two key insights drawn from Cheyney Ryan’s work. The first concerns his characterization of the ‘pacifist impulse’ as a felt rejection of killing rather than the impassioned outcome of rational argument. The second insight draws on Ryan’s analysis of contemporary Western attitudes to war and methods of fighting, as reflecting a condition of alienated war. I expand on this claim to argue that our alienated condition extends beyond the case of war and that most forms of modern violence are most appropriately described as alienated. I argue that recognition of these two points reveals an important problem for pacifism as initially characterized, though also reveals resources for reconceptualising pacifism. Thus, I aim to develop a version of pacifism that is suited to the alienated nature of contemporary violence. In so doing, I develop Ryan’s characterization of the pacifist impulse by appealing to the notion of fellow-creature feeling and examine the consequences of our alienated condition for acting on the pacifist impulse. This examination highlights the limitations of an ahistorical approach to pacifism and proposes an alternative that marries the attitudinal understanding of pacifism with an awareness of the material and institutional requirements for its effectiveness. Building on the Marxist-Hegelian notion of alienation and re-appropriation, I describe this proposed alternative view of pacifism as re-appropriated violence.
2018. Political Disagreement and Conceptions of Violence Tijdschrift voor Filosofie, 80(4): 721-747.
Abstract: Reflecting on peace is intimately connected to how one conceptualizes violence. Moreover, thinking about violence is closely tied to how one conceives of socio-political life and the fundamental problems or threats that it faces. Political disagreement then, translates into disparate notions of violence and of peace. In light of this, some theorists, including Johan Galtung, advocate adoption of a singular, extended definition of violence that can accommodate this divide, paired with a corresponding two-part understanding of peace. In this paper, I argue there are reasons to be wary of this strategy, and to doubt the success of Galtung’s efforts. Specifically, I problematize the methods that obscure substantive disagreement concerning violence and that ultimately limit our ability to conceptualize forms of peace. I then demonstrate the depths such disagreement can reach and thus illustrate both the limitations of existing extended notions of violence (such as Galtung’s) as well as the correspondingly divergent ideals of peace. I end by sketching an alternative account of violence that aims to avoid these flaws and thus offer grounds for a novel understanding of peace.
2018 The Feminist Case Against Pornography: A Review and Re-evaluation
Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy (published online July 2018 – Open Access)
Abstract: Despite sustained feminist criticism, the production and consumption of pornography does not show signs of waning. Here, I offer a critical review of the existing feminist anti-pornography debate, arguing that it has largely failed to provide suitable grounds for a stable and comprehensive critique, instead often indirectly providing theoretical resources for pornography to re-invent itself. This is a product, in my view, of a misguided focus on the pornographic object. Feminist critics are better served, I argue, by redirecting their critical gaze towards the consumers of pornography, and, in particular, to the attitudes such consumption reflects. To that end, I introduce an alternative, attitudinal approach that enables criticism of pornography as a reflection of sexist attitudes, as well as for its role in concealing these attitudes.
2018 Rehabilitating Self-Sacrifice: Feminist Care Ethics and Political Resistance (with Alfred Archer)
International Journal of Philosophical Studies, 26(3): 456-477 (Open Access) DOI: 10.1080/09672559.2018.1489648
Abstract: How should feminists view acts of self-sacrifice performed by women? According to a long-standing critique of care ethics such acts ought to be viewed with scepticism. Care ethics, it is claimed, celebrates acts of self-sacrifice on the part of carers and in doing so encourages women to choose caring for others over their own self-development. In doing so care ethics frustrates attempts to liberate women from the oppression of patriarchy. Care ethicists have responded to this critique by noting limits on the level, form, or scope of self-sacrifice that work to restrict its role in their theories. While we do not here take issue with the initial feminist critiques of self-sacrifice, we suspect that the strategies offered by Care Ethicists in response are flawed in an important way. Specifically, these responses give too little credit to the positive roles that self-sacrifice can play in fighting patriarchal oppression. As a result, in attempting to restrict an oppressive norm, these responses risk foreclosing on valuable means of resistance. Our aim is to explore these positive roles for self-sacrifice and revisit the question of how to incorporate this value in feminist care ethics. We do this by via exploring the communicative, transformative, and illustrative roles of self-sacrifice in resistance action. In so doing, we aim to offer a richer understanding of self-sacrifice and thereby rehabilitate its standing with feminists.
2016 Are Feminism and Competition Compatible?
Hypatia, Vol. 31 No. 1 (Winter 2016) pp. 204-220. DOI: 10.1111/hypa.12222
Abstract: Contemporary feminist interest in the persistent underrepresentation of women in top professions suggests an implicit approval of the competition required to achieve these posts. Competition, however, seems to be in tension with feminist opposition to domination and oppression. This paper outlines the dimensions of this tension and examines three attempts to resolve the incompatibility. The first two try to separate the undesirable elements of competition from the positive by way of the competitiveness/competition and the challenge/scarcity distinctions. I argue that these distinctions fail to alleviate worries about competition, particularly in the context of the professions. Meanwhile the third reconciliatory attempt offers a pragmatic argument for compatibilism based on the value of women’s participation in the professions (and their associated competitions). While this pragmatic argument has some merit, I argue it significantly overestimates the amount of competition acceptable for feminist participation. The end result is that, within the context of the professions, competition remains fundamentally in tension with feminism.
2015 What is Violence?
in Women and Violence: The Agency of Victims and Perpetrators, eds. Herjeet Marway and Heather Widdows, Palgrave MacMillan 2015, pp 216-231.
Abstract: The aim of this chapter is to uncover a specifically political conception of violence which will capture our interest in violence as it relates to a fundamental problem for society. The chapter will first analyze (and reject) several existing definitions of violence in terms of whether they successfully describe a fundamental problem, then propose a new conception of violence that directs our attention towards problematic attitudes rather than types of actions. This new conception allows us to consider the relationship between women, violence and agency from a new perspective, drawing our attention to forms of violence that are generally overlooked on the standard, narrow conception, and redefining the ways in which women may be both subject to, and participants in, violence. Secondly, the chapter will explore how adopting this definition allows us to reconceive the relationship between women and violence, via two test cases. Specifically, it will demonstrate how the conception of violence as an attitude allows us to describe pornography as violence, followed by some exploratory remarks on the implications of this view for feminist philosophy more generally.
2015 Kermit and Leadership: Believing in the Dream
in Jim Henson and Philosophy. Ed. Timothy Dale and Joseph Foy, Rowman and Littlefield, 2015, pp 27-34.
Abstract: Kermit is the leader of the Muppets. However, Kermit’s leadership differs from traditional models. First, Kermit’s leadership derives not from his possessing special qualities or skills; rather, the Muppets come, stay, and work together because they each believe in Kermit’s dream. Second, when problems emerge and the Muppets turn to Kermit for a solution, he professes both ignorance about what to do and discomfort with everyone’s depending on him. This forces the Muppets to turn to each other, reaffirm their shared dream, and jointly work to resolve the situation. In this way, Kermit’s unique leadership enables the supportive and creative relations the Muppets have with each other
Review of The Ethics of Armed Humanitarian Intervention. Ed. Don E. Scheid, CUP, in Philosophical Quarterly. Advance Access published April 30, 2015, doi: 10.1093/pq/pqv038
Review of How We Fight: Ethics in War. Eds. Helen Frowe and Gerald Lang, OUP, in Philosophical Quarterly. Advance Access published September 21, 2015. doi: 10.1093/pq/pqv098.
Papers in Progress
Anonymity is gaining recognition as a useful and important tool for feminists, in particular, for feminist academics. It is widely accepted, for example, as part of a structural solution to the problem of implicit bias in peer review. Anonymously publishing work however, could provide further benefits – providing the freedom to write about unpopular or unpublishable topics, avoiding the damaging practice of comparing individuals and perpetuating harmful hierarchies, and helping to counter the push for self-commodification. However, there are a number of problems with promoting anonymity. First, anonymity could hamper efforts to monitor representation and work to mask monopolisation by one group. Second, pursuing anonymity undermines the feminist project of promoting women and women’s contributions. And third, anonymity may undermine moves to recognise the situatedness of ideas and the shared nature of thought. Instead, anonymous writing could further entrench the idea of autonomous, independent thought that springs fully formed out of individual ‘genius’. I will argue the first objection describes a solvable practical problem, and the second stems from particular, and contestable, notions concerning the aims of feminism. The third objection poses a more serious problem – in response, I admit the risk but argue it may be mitigated by pairing the possibility of anonymous writing with changes in the structure of publishing.
- ‘Barriers to Engagement’ Feminist Philosophy and Exclusion Symposium, Conference by Women in Philosophy, Groningen (June 2019)
- ‘Who Decides? An Argument for Democratic Selection Criteria for Refugees’, Refugees and Minority Rights Conference, Tromsø (June 2018)
- ‘Nudging Children: Becoming Moral Agents’, with A. Archer and B. Engelen,
- Ethics of Nudging Workshop, Stirling (September 2018)
- Nudging and Moral Responsibility Workshop, Amsterdam (April 2018)
- ‘Pacifism as Re-appropriated Violence’ UCSIA Pacifism Workshop, Antwerp (December 2017)
- ‘Attacker threatens Victim: The Revisionist Myth’ Collectivism in the Morality of War, MANCEPT Workshops in Political Theory, Manchester (September 2017).
- ‘A Moral Argument for Video Games’ with N. Wildman, Video Games and Virtual Ethics, Institute of Philosophy, London (July 2017)
- ‘Academic Anonymity’ Aristotelian Society 2017 Joint Session, SWIP Panel, Edinburgh (July 2017)
- ‘Gandhi: Appeals to the heart and a life as argument’ Colloquium on Myth, Violence and Unreason in the History of Political Thought, University of York (October 2016)
- ‘Looking the Other Way: Locating the Wrongs of Pornography’, Aristotelian Society & the Mind Association Joint Session, Cardiff (July 2016)
- ‘Alienated Violence and Non-violent Resistance’,
- Edinburgh Summer School on Political Violence, Edinburgh, (June 2015)
- Centre for Ethics, Law and Public Affairs Seminar, Warwick (October 2015)
- ‘Resistance is Futile? The Problem of Resistance in a World of Alienated Violence’, Resistance, Disobedience, and Coercion Conference, Bilkent University, Turkey (May 2015)
- ‘In-Vitro meat: A Problem Dressed Up as a Solution’, An Ethical Discussion of ‘in-vitro meat’ and the Production of Flesh from Animals with ‘enhanced’ properties Conference, Rothbury, UK (September 2014)
- ‘What is Wrong with Alienated Violence?’
- Stockholm Centre for the Ethics of War and Peace Conference: The Ethics of War in the 21st Century, , Stockholm University (May 2014) (Awarded one of two Best Graduate Paper bursaries)
- Ethics, War, and Intervention, Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Birmingham (May 2014)
- ‘Competition: Woolf, Power and political change’. Newcastle Ethics, Legal and Political Philosophy Seminar (NELPP), Newcastle University (February 2013)
- ‘Feminism and Competition’. Joint Ireland/UK SWIP Conference: Politics and Women Across Philosophical Traditions, University College Dublin (November 2012)
- ‘Do we have a right to self-defense?’
- Association of Legal and Social Philosophy Conference, University of Warwick (July 2011)
- Brave New World Postgraduate Conference, University of Manchester ( June 2011)
- ‘What is Violence?’ Women, Violence and Agency Workshop, University of Birmingham (June 2011)