Animal Ethics: Is it okay to eat ants?

Cheryl Abbate authored the most recent Philosophy Phriday entry over at The Daily Ant on the subject. Here’s a preview if you haven’t already seen it:

Even though some animals have different behaviors and different neurological structures from that of humans, we, more likely than not, are the same in a way that matters. The evidence of ant sociality, communication, teaching, and memory, taken together with Barron’s and Klein’s (2016) finding that the insect brain supports a capacity for subjective experience, provides us with compelling reasons to believe that even “mere” ants are conscious and thus deserving of our moral consideration. The behavior of ants is highly complex and arguably intelligent, and it indicates that there is something that happens in ant life other than mechanical stimulus-responses similar to reflexes.

The whole post is here.

 

Milo and Tribal Politics

Jonah Goldberg, of the National Review, writes on the Milo/CPAC dust-up:

We are in a particularly tribal moment in American politics in which “the enemy of my enemy is my ally” is the most powerful argument around.

Evolutionary psychologist John Tooby recently wrote that if he could explain one scientific concept to the public, it would be the “coalitional instinct.” In our natural habitat, to be alone was to be vulnerable. If “you had no coalition, you were nakedly at the mercy of everyone else, so the instinct to belong to a coalition has urgency, pre-existing and superseding any policy-driven basis for membership,” Tooby wrote on Edge.org. “This is why group beliefs are free to be so weird.”

We overlook the hypocrisies and shortcomings within our coalition out of a desire to protect ourselves from our enemies.

. . . Countless conservatives defend Yiannopoulos (who admits he’s not a conservative) in much the same way Democrats defended the anti-Semitic “radio priest” Charles Coughlin as long as he supported the New Deal as “Christ’s Deal.” Conservatives cling to rationalizations to defend their champion. They say he “distanced” himself from the alt-right. Yiannopoulos did, cynically — only after “Daddy” (his term for Donald Trump) was elected. They credit Yiannopoulos’s claim that he can say anti-Semitic things because his grandmother was (supposedly) Jewish, and he can say racist things because he sleeps with black men.

These are the kinds of arguments a coalition accepts when it has lost its moral moorings and cares only about “winning.” Free expression was never the issue. If it were, he’d be at CPAC (and Breitbart), perhaps restating his case for ephebophilia. Apparently, conservatives still draw the line there, but not at anti-Semitism or racism. The tent, sad to say, is big enough for that.

The full piece is here.

 

On becoming the enemy

Jason Stanley writing in the Boston review:

On July 24, 1939, a few months before my father turned seven, he boarded a plane at Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport. After arriving in Southampton, England, he and his mother, Ilse Stanley, joined many others on the New York City–bound SS Deutschland. As I write this I look at a picture of him sitting at dinner with his mother on that ship. He is smiling but also shrinking into his chair. He had been in hiding since November 8, 1938, Kristallnacht, when he witnessed the burning of the synagogue where his grandfather, Magnus Davidsohn, had been the chief cantor for twenty-seven years.

Davidson had been close with the parents of Ernst vom Rath, the German diplomat who was assassinated in Paris by a Jewish man furious about the treatment of the Jewish people in Germany. On the evening of Kristallnacht, my great-grandfather and his wife visited with their friends, who assured them that they did not blame the Jews for their son’s murder.

Despite the good intentions of my great-grandparents’ friends, though, what Joseph Goebbels called the “righteous indignation” of the German people led to an orgy of violence directed at the synagogues of Germany. After that point, Jews were no longer safe on the streets of Berlin. The Nazis used the pretext of vom Rath’s death to permanently exclude the Jewish people from the German people. From then on, “us” did not include us. After Kristallnacht, we had been removed permanently from public view, thereby masking our fate from our fellow Germans.

Kristallnacht is often represented as a radical break with what came before. In fact it was not. Since 1936 many thousands of Jewish citizens of Germany had been taken to secret prisons, such as Sachsenhausen, under the pretext of treason against the German people. As my grandmother, Ilse, recounts in her 1957 memoir The Unforgotten, few even in the Jewish community realized what was really occurring. The open anti-Semitic provocations became ever more intense during these periods, with the clear intention of goading some German citizen of Jewish faith to act out in despair and violence. Vom Rath’s murder became that excuse for violent reprisal, an incident that would be used to permanently remove Germans of Jewish faith from public spaces and ultimately to exile or death.

Read the rest of the piece here.

A comment in support of pro-life inclusion at the Women’s March on Washington

A few news organizations reported over the last couple of days that pro-life organizations have been excluded from official partnership with the Women’s March on Washington (e.g., here’s a piece from The Atlantic which includes interviews from folks on both sides of the issue). One pro-life group, New Wave Feminists, was recognized as a partner by the march, but then later removed.

Now, I’m not an organizer of the march, so this isn’t my decision to make. I’m not even going to the march in D.C. (though I’ll be at my local march the same day, and I encourage those who can participate to do so). Moreover, the pro-life position is at odds with the policy platform those who did organize put together. That platform reads:

We believe in Reproductive Freedom. We do not accept any federal, state or local rollbacks, cuts or restrictions on our ability to access quality reproductive healthcare services, birth control, HIV/AIDS care and prevention, or medically accurate sexuality education. This means open access to safe, legal, affordable abortion and birth control for all people, regardless of income, location or education. We understand that we can only have reproductive justice when reproductive health care is accessible to all people regardless of income, location or education.

That said, I’m a pro-choice feminist, and I think excluding pro-life groups from partnership status is a mistake.  I’m grateful that some of my pro-life fellow citizens will march regardless, and I’d be glad to march alongside them.

To be clear, I think reproductive freedom is essential to women’s health and equality (and I don’t think we have to get into substantive debate about agency or the metaphysics of personhood to recognize this; banning abortion gambles with women’s lives – and that’s true even when there are meant to be exceptions for the life of the mother). I think arguments like this rely pretty straightforwardly on sexist notions (I don’t think men are some kind of depraved creatures who can only be reined in if women find within themselves to set a moral example — to live our lives in such a way as to make the potential consequences of action salient to men — and I don’t think valuing caregiving need be at odds with sexual agency nor a recognition of the value of reproductive freedom). Further, I don’t think there is intrinsic value in unity or collaboration (there’s no value added to racism, for example, when instantiated in unity with others).

But I also think that abortion is an issue on which reasonable people disagree, and in the coming years we will need reasonable people to work together given the unreasonable have taken the helm. If pro-life groups are willing to set aside that the official platform of the march directly challenges their organizing mission for the sake of working together to protect those values which we do share, then I’ll be happy to work with them. As Richard Rorty said, “Solidarity is not discovered by reflection but created.” For those of us whose conscience permits it, it’s time to be creating.

Letter to the Electors

It’s signatories include eight philosophers:

Esteemed Electors:

We, a bipartisan coalition of Americans including Electors, scholars, officials, and concerned citizens write to you in the spirit of fellowship, out of our sense of patriotism, and with great urgency.

There are times in the life of a nation when extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary measures. Now is a such time, and your courage and leadership are required.

Never in our Republic’s history has there been a President-apparent comparable to Donald Trump. His inauguration would present a grave and continual threat to the Constitution, to domestic tranquility, and to international stability:

  • He has threatened the freedom of speech by condoning violence at public events, and suggesting criminal penalties and even revocation of citizenship to punish political expression;
  • He has threatened the freedom of press by vowing to revoke First Amendment protections for journalists;
  • He has threatened the freedom of religion by proposing to bar entry to the country and force the registration of members of certain faiths;
  • He has entangled himself with foreign interests through his personal business dealings, and refused to provide records of his taxes, which could allay suspicions;
  • He has indicated a willingness to condone torture, in contravention of the Constitution and our international treaties, which carry the force of law;
  • He is uncomfortably close to the regime of Russia, which has interfered in the election;
  • He has shown reckless disregard for diplomacy, communicating impulsively, in public forums, regarding matters of national security, and allowing personal emotions to interfere with reasoned judgment, calling into question his fitness as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and the nuclear capabilities of the United States;
  • He has, unlike every previous Commander-in-Chief, never served in any public position, whether elected or appointed, civilian or military, thereby bringing no experience or proven judgment on behalf of The People, or evidence of a character suited to high office.

For these reasons, his assumption of office endangers the Constitution, the freedoms it protects, and the continued prosperity and welfare of the United States.

You, Electors, possess the power to prevent this outcome. You are not bound to cast your vote for the candidate of your party – and, as he won neither a majority nor even a plurality of the popular vote, there can be no question of undermining the will of The People.

The Constitution empowers Electors to exercise judgment and choice. If your role were only ceremonial, our Founders would not have required the states to elect you, or that you cast ballots by your own hand. State laws notwithstanding, you are free to vote your conscience. You have a mandate, like all officials, to protect and defend the Constitution. And you have the right and responsibility to investigate those who stand for this office, and to deliberate before casting your vote.

We place country before party in imploring you, our fellow Americans, to investigate and deliberate. We stand with you as you exercise your conscience and give profound consideration to the consequences of your vote. We affirm your right and your duty to do so free from intimidation, and urge you to cast your ballot for a person with the temperament, integrity and commitment to Constitutional principles necessary in a President.

In doing so, know that you enjoy the support of millions of Americans.

Thank you for your service to our country.

In better news: Philosophers Against Malaria has raised more than $45,000 so far. 

Philosophers Against Malaria has been raising funds for the Against Malaria Foundation since November 28, and at the time I’m writing this, have so far collected $45,705. At a time where many of us are feeling really discouraged about the political future, it’s lovely to see such a wonderful and successful effort to make the world a little bit better.

The Against Malaria Foundation (AMF) fights malaria by distributing insecticide-treated mosquito nets. AMF has been rated a top charity by Givewell, Giving What We Can, and The Life You Can Save. The organization is widely celebrated in the Effective Altruism movement.

Delivering a net costs just $5.31. For every $3500 we raise, we can prevent one person from dying from malaria. For comparison, the UK’s National Health Service will spend up to £20,000 (over $30,000) for a single year of healthy life saved!

Malaria killed around 438,000 people in 2015. Seventy percent of these deaths are of children under five years old, making malaria one of the leading causes of child mortality in Africa. Even when non-fatal, malaria can damage children’s cognitive development.

Lower malaria rates help more children stay in school and more adults continue working, which stimulates developing economies. For every $1 spent fighting malaria, Africa’s GDP improves by at least $6.75–and by some estimates much more. Well-designed action against malaria has been shown to be hugely successful: since 2000, mortality rates have fallen by 47 percent globally and by 54 percent in the WHO African Region.

If you want to donate, head over to the fundraiser site. If you want to get your department involved, see the comments on this Daily Nous post.

The fundraiser goes until December 15th, so you still have time to participate.

CFP: Critical Philosophies of Life

Critical Philosophies of Life
March 24-25

Keynote speaker: Dr. Cynthia Willett (Emory University)

Duquesne Women in Philosophy invites philosophical papers and abstracts on the broad theme of “life.” Full papers of approximately 3000 words suitable for a 20 minute presentation will be prioritized, though long abstracts of a minimum 700 words are also welcome. Preference will be given to papers that engage with normative assumptions and traditional ways of framing the notion of ‘life’ as well as papers from perspectives in feminist, anti-racist, critical philosophies of race, disability, queer, post-colonial studies, and perspectives outside the Western tradition, such as those from Asia, Latin America, and Africa. The conference will take place March24-25 at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA.

Please send submissions prepared for blind review to dwipcontact@gmail.com by January 5th 2017.

The conference will prioritize accessibility for all. For any questions or concerns please contact us dwipcontact@gmail.com.

Notification of acceptance will be sent out by January 15th.

Possible areas include but are not limited to:

the meaning/character/history of life
the good life, living well and ways of living
philosophies of birth, death, pregnancy, illness/disease, aging/maturity
issues in bioethics
philosophies of sex, sexuality, gender, bodily difference
philosophies of biology, history of philosophy of science and medicine
biopower and biopolitics
nature, environmental, ecological, and animal philosophies
life under capitalism, colonialism, patriarchy, racism, violence
eugenics, slavery, life in prison, life-without-parol
life and the law
questions from disability studies
desire, habit, space, the temporality of life
technology, art, music, beauty, justice

**The conference and roundtable discussion are generously supported by a Hypatia: a journal of feminist philosophy through a Diversity Project Grant, the Department of Philosophy, and the Women and Gender Studies Program at Duquesne University. Please see our website for details on DWiP and a list of past conferences: http://duq.edu/d-wip