Here are some of my papers. Any comments are welcome.
Pre-Published Version: The Prospects for Sufficientarianism
Published Version (subscription only): http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0953820811000392
Principles of sufficiency are widely discussed in debates about distributive ethics. However, critics have argued that sufficiency principles are vulnerable to important objections. This paper seeks to clarify the main claims of sufficiency principles and to examine whether they have something distinctive and plausible to offer. The paper argues that sufficiency principles must claim that we have weighty reasons to secure enough and that once enough is secured the nature of our reasons to secure further benefits shifts. Having characterized sufficientarianism in this way, the paper shows that the main objections to the view can be avoided; that we can examine the plausibility of sufficiency principles by appealing to certain reasons that support a shift; and that we should be optimistic about the prospects for sufficientarianism because many of our strongest reasons seem to be of this sort. This shift, I claim, is the overlooked grain of truth in sufficientarianism.
One intuitively plausible and widely discussed interpretation of the ideal of equality of opportunity is Rawls’ principle of Fair Equality of Opportunity, which states that those with the same native talent and ambition should have similar prospects for success. This intuitive principle has been subject to certain criticisms, most notably from Richard Arneson who claims that Rawls’s own justification, which appeals to the special importance of self-realization, is inconsistent with Rawls’ aim to develop a theory of just that eschews social evaluation of conceptions of the good.
In this paper I argue that theories, like Rawls’, that give priority to the achievement of individual autonomy, are committed to a principle of sufficient opportunity. Thus, our primary focus when designing educational institutions should be on sufficiency and not equality. I then show that recognition of the importance of sufficiency within theories like Rawls’ has at least three attractive implications. Firstly, it enables defenders of Fair Equality of Opportunity to overcome Richard Arneson’s powerful objections. Secondly, it suggests a revised version of the principle of Fair Equality of Opportunity that is more plausible. Thirdly, it has attractive practical implications for educational provision.
This paper is concerned with the principles that guide decisions about the custodial arrangements of children. In particular this paper is concerned with so-called dual-interest views of how these decisions should be made, which hold that both the adult’s and the child’s interests are relevant. An implication of the most important of these views is that the child’s interests can be sacrificed for the sake of the adult’s interests in at least some cases. While this is plausible in some cases it is clearly implausible in others where the child’s most important interests are sacrificed for the sake of an adult’s trivial interests. To show that their view is plausible proponents of the dual-interest view must defend a threshold specifying the child’s interests that cannot be sacrificed for the sake of the adult’s interests. In this paper I aim to make good this deficit in the dual-interest view and articulate and defend a threshold which specifies the notion of a good enough parent.
One important line of questioning for philosophers is to ask what the point of certain principles, concepts, values or practices is. This line of questioning helps us to work out whether something of putative importance is fundamentally important or only important insofar as it serves some other requirement. This, in turn, helps us to do a number of other important tasks, including evaluating the validity of the tasks we pursue and the validity of our approach to it. When we know what the point of something is we better understand how and whether to approach it. Just as fishing for fun and fishing for a living should be carried out differently, if the point of an ideal like equality is to preserve a certain kind of social relationship, and not some pattern of distribution, then we have reasons to reconsider the things we do in the name of equality, what policies an appeal to equality can support and whether we really care about equality or something else. In this paper I explore, rather than challenge, the point of political philosophy and I show how this affects how political philosophers ought to approach, what I take to be, their central pre-occupation: defending and objecting to certain principles.
Questions regarding the value of the family and the norms that ought to regulate child-rearing are interesting and difficult and the answers to these questions can yield very radical conclusions. Practically speaking, rather a lot turns on these answers, including whether we should rear-children in orphanages and abolish the family and whether we should re-distribute children at birth to those parents who will do the best job. If the family is not very valuable, or if what is valuable about it can be obtained from some other sources, then, when other values conflict, we ought to abolish the family. Some writers have sought to defend the family, and family-friendly policies, by appealing to the distinctive or unique contribution family life makes to adult flourishing value. Whether the arguments above succeed depends partly on the claim that parenting is uniquely valuable and partly on the claim that it is uniquely valuable in the right way. In this paper I wish to explore whether, and if so to what extent, the value of being a parent is unique and whether the fact of uniqueness has the implications that it has been thought to have
How to Answer Philosophy Questions presentation handout, first delivered to the Philosophy Society, University of Warwick, 4th May 2011.
Some tips and advice for those writing answers to philosophy questions either in an examination or essay.