Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

The Inheritance of Wealth: Justice, Equality, and the Right to Bequeath

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2021.02.02 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Daniel Halliday, The Inheritance of Wealth: Justice, Equality, and the Right to Bequeath, Oxford University Press, 2018, 235pp., $45.95 (hbk), ISBN 9780198803355. Reviewed by Blain Neufeld, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee A significant obstacle to the realization of the free and equal status of all citizens within democratic societies is the inheritance of wealth -- or more precisely, the intergenerational accumulation and transfer of wealth within families. The extreme wealth inequality caused by flows of inheritances can render a de jure democratic society a de facto aristocracy, wherein individuals' life-prospects are determined largely by the economic class into which they are born. Because of this, liberal egalitarian justice demands limits on inheritances. John Rawls, for instance, recommends that intergenerational bequeathments and gifts be taxed, so that individuals can acquire only limited amounts of wealth through such processes over the courses of their lifetimes.[1] Rawls's treatment of inheritance is quite... Read More

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News source: Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // News

Social Media Purge: Physical vs Economic Coercion

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After Trump and others were purged from social media, their defenders argued that this was a violation of their right to free expression. As noted in the previous essay, the 1st Amendment does not apply in this situation. But a moral argument can be made that the right of free expression should apply to businesses. This could then be used to argue that there should be a law or laws that protect this right. This would be a radical change: businesses now enjoy a broad freedom to use their power to coerce employees and customers and thus restrict their right of expression. It can be countered that employees have the freedom to quit and customers have the liberty to take their business elsewhere and thus no additional protection is needed. One reply is to point out that quitting or taking one’s business elsewhere might not be a viable option. For example, the big tech companies effectively control social media and there are currently no comparable alternatives to services such as Twitter and Facebook. A person who is banned by social media is thus silenced by economic power of these companies.  As another example, an employee who must choose between not expressing their political views outside of work and keeping their job might not be able to afford to quit—and thus they are silenced by the power of economic coercion. This seems to be a problem and one that is not just limited to the freedom of expression. As I have noted in other essays, businesses have considerable freedom in exercising power over employees and customers. To illustrate, employees can be fired at will and often have little or no right to privacy when it comes to their employer. Customers can be severely restricted in their choices (as in the case of social media) and subject to harms that are legal to inflict (or barely and rarely punished). The problem is that some people (such as Mark Zuckerberg) have far greater economic power than others and have the freedom to use it in ways that are harmful to. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

Cassandra has Moved

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   Professor Sabine Hossenfelder engages in a performance about Cassandra. Nice song, well sung, and it catches something of Cassandra's story and character. Although I am reasonably sure that Cassandra would not wear that kind of clothes. Cassandra's blog is closed. It will remain on line, but it will not be updated anymore. Ugo Bardi has moved to a new site called "The Seneca Effect."  It may be a bit more philosophical than the old Cassandra blog, but it will not be very different.  You may also follow Ugo Bardi at "The Proud Holobionts" blog, a more optimistic blog dedicated to -- you guess to what! -- holobionts! A new concept that favors collaboration over competition in the evolution of the biosphere. And don't forget Ugo Bardis' musings about history and myths at the Chimera blog, with some fictional interpretations of Cassandra's story: An Interview with Cassandra  and "The True Story of the Fall of Troy"Finally, if you like to hear Ugo Bardi rather than reading what he writes, you can find his youtube channel. It is still al little experimental, but it may grow to something interesting in the future. Thank you to all those who followed this blog for nearly ten years. It was a pleasure, but things keep moving and we have to move, too!UB   

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News source: Cassandra's Legacy

Does Parenting Style Shape Our Moral Culture?

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A moral culture is the set of beliefs and practices in a society that specifies the values and norms that (people believe) ought to be adopted by the people living in that society. There are many different moral cultures. Psychologists and sociologists frequently talk, for example, about honour-based moral cultures. These are cultures in which the moral worth of each individual is not equal. It depends on the honour of each individual. Consequently, gaining and protecting one’s honour is the focal point of the moral beliefs and practices in such a culture. Honour-based cultures are sometimes contrasted with dignity-based moral cultures, which essentially hold that all people are of equal moral worth and this equality must be respected by the society’s moral beliefs and practices. These are just illustrative examples. The concept of a moral culture is broader than that. Since a moral culture is, in essence, just a particular constellation of moral beliefs and practices, usually held together by some common underlying moral theory or paradigm, we could also talk about individualist, communitarian, and egalitarian moral cultures. As you may know, I’ve recently been writing quite a bit about the idea of moral change and moral revolution. It is an obvious historical fact that people’s moral beliefs and practices change over time. The more dramatic moral changes — the revolutions — often involve changes in the underlying moral culture. For instance, the shift from honour-based morality to dignity-based morality is often thought to be a significant one. But here’s an interesting question: does parenting style make a difference to moral culture? And can shifts in parenting style precipitate or cause moral revolutions? I recently came across a paper that addresses these questions. It was by Markus Christen, Darcia Narvaez and Eveline Gutzwiller-Helfenfinger (hereafter ‘Christen et al’) and it was called ‘Comparing and Integrating Biological and Cultural Moral Progress’.. . .

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News source: Philosophical Disquisitions

The Social Media Purge: Rights Against Business

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After Trump was banned from Twitter (and other platforms) his defenders argued that this violated his right to free speech. In addressing this matter, I need to distinguish between the legal 1st Amendment right and the broader moral right to free expression. While Americans often apply the idea of the 1st Amendment broadly, the law as written (LAW) is as follows: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” As constitutional scholars have long noted, the protection afforded by this amendment only applies to congress and it does not apply to private entities. As such, the social media companies cannot violate Trump’s 1st Amendment right. In fact, businesses enjoy great freedom when it comes to exercising their power over employees and customers. An employer can fire an employee for holding political views they dislike, for social drinking outside of work, or for smoking outside of work. Employers also have a very broad right to surveil their employees at work or when using work equipment. While the government would need a warrant to read your work email or listen in on your calls made at work, your employer can do that at will. In some cases, they can legally put cameras in bathrooms to monitor employees. As would be suspected, Republicans (and many Democrats) seem fine with this level of power over employees. In the case of customers, businesses are largely free to deny customers their goods and services—the conditions under which this can occur is often spelled out in the end user license agreement or terms of service. This legal right of businesses has generally been upheld. It must, however, be noted that there are some limits to this right of refusal. Businesses are also often allowed to exercise other powers over customers, such as. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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