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The Republican Death Calculation

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As this is being written, 1 in 500 Americans have died of COVID. Some states, especially my adopted state of Florida, are facing a health care crisis as hospital ICUs fill up with COVID patients. The fact that most of these unfortunate people are unvaccinated shows the sad fact that this was an easily avoidable crisis. Getting a safe and effective vaccination would have protected these people and following the health protocols, such as wearing a mask, would also have helped. While these people chose to remain unvaccinated, Republican politicians have been instrumental in enabling COVID to continue to plague America. Opposing mask and vaccine mandates is the default position in the Republican party. This is exemplified by the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis. Rather than simply not imposing statewide mask or vaccine mandates, he has actively used the coercive power of the state to prevent local governments and school boards from having their own mandates. To be fair, he has encouraged people to get vaccinated as he has. But he has started courting the anti-vax part of his base. While DeSantis has spoked of “medical authoritarianism” and he and other Republicans speak about freedom, this seems to be a bad faith “argument.” After all, DeSantis and his fellows have been busing using the coercive power of the state to ban critical race theory from public schools and to impose various “trans bans.” The impositions are aimed at imaginary harms and impose on meaningful freedoms—such as freedom of expression. While I do agree that people do have the basic right of bodily autonomy, this right (like all rights) is limited by the principle of harm. The “freedom” to refuse a safe and effective vaccination during a pandemic is not a legitimate freedom and can be compared to the “freedom” to decline to have operating brakes on your car: you become a danger to yourself and others. DeSantis and the other Republicans do seem to recognize the harm of the pandemic, as noted above. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

Discounting Illicit Benefits

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In 'The Means and the Good' (Analysis, forthcoming) Matthew Oliver argues that pluralist consequentialists can accommodate intuitions against using others as a means, on the model of how they can accommodate intuitions about desert:Just as it is bad for Emily to benefit from a stolen manuscript, it is bad for anyone to benefit from the use of another’s body or resources as a means. We can call this impersonal badness an impersonal-use-cost. As with a stolen manuscript, good results that are produced by using another person’s body or resources are heavily offset by an accompanying impersonal-use-cost.By, in effect, discounting illicit benefits, we get the result that killing one to save five does more harm than good.  But we also get the result that killing one to prevent five others from each killing one to save five likewise does more harm than good.  (I think the most natural way to understand this is not to regard the second-order killing as in itself extra bad; the killing is just as intrinsically bad as any other death, the problem is instead that any good that would follow from it -- including the prevention of other wrongful killings -- gets massively discounted.)It's a clever and interesting view!  But it seems really vulnerable to my argument against constraints, namely, that it unacceptably devalues the lives of the innocent victims who might be rescued.  Once an innocent person has been killed in an (even wrongful) attempt to save five, it really matters whether those five are ultimately saved or not!  So we shouldn't discount the value of their lives, no matter the illicit nature of the agent's act (however bad it may have been, that harm has already been done).  Otherwise, we would violate the moral datum that One Killing to Prevent Five >> Six Killings (Failed Prevention).My reframing of the view in terms of "discounting illicit benefits" brings out the problem most starkly.  But I. . .

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News source: Philosophy, et cetera

Critical Philosophy of Race

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[New Entry by Linda Alcoff on September 15, 2021.] The field that has come to be known as the Critical Philosophy of Race is an amalgamation of philosophical work on race that largely emerged in the late 20th century, though it draws from earlier work. It departs from previous approaches to the question of race that dominated the modern period up until the era of civil rights. Rather than focusing on the legitimacy of the concept of race as a way to characterize human differences, Critical Philosophy of Race approaches...

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News source: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Federal Vaccine Mandate

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The Biden regime has mandated that all employees working for employers with over 100 workers must either be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing. All employees at health care facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid must be fully vaccinated. This does raise some moral issues. While some employers had already implemented their own vaccination and testing requirements, this changes the situation. It is one thing for an employer to impose requirements on their employees and another for the federal government to use its coercive power to compel employers to compel their employees to get vaccinated or tested. Since I have already written about the ethics of employers requiring vaccination, I will focus on the ethics of the state requiring employers to require vaccination or testing. I will leave the legality of the mandate to the lawyers. Determining the ethics of the mandate is a matter of sorting out the legitimate limits of the coercive power of the state. That is, what the state has the moral right (or perhaps even obligation) to use its power to acc0mplish. The evaluation should be done in a consistent and principled manner, as opposed to (for example) deciding based on what one happens to mad about at a given moment. Aside from the anarchists, most political theorists agree that a basic function of the state is to protect its citizens from harm. For those who value liberty, the actions taken in support of security need to be weighed against the cost of the imposition. While there are many ways to approach this, a basic utilitarian approach is generally a sensible starting point. In the case of Biden’s mandate, the idea would be to weigh its harms and costs against its benefits in protecting citizens. This approach is obviously nothing new. To illustrate, after 9/11 and after almost every terrorist incident since then, the United States has purported to act to increase security against terrorism. These always come with the cost of increased. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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