Friday, 26 March 2021

Why Are Moral Philosophers So Bad At Global Justice?

There is a dismaying intellectual sloppiness to how moral philosophers as an intellectual community approach issues of global justice. They are not only ignorant about basic, important, and easily checked empirical facts, but also complacent about their ignorance. For example, they disdain to acknowledge the expertise of those scientists (especially economists) whose conclusions or methods they find counterintuitive or disagreeable, and prefer to develop their own theories or seek out those self-professed experts who say things more in line with their preconceptions about how the world works. The result resembles the self-sustaining but fundamentally worthless epistemic communities organised around the rejection of vaccination or climate change. Philosophers are willing to write long articles and whole books explaining their views about how unfair the world is, and to read and respond to each others' complaints, but they have little to offer to the reality based community. 

This shit matters. Bad global justice theorising reinforces anti-intellectual and conspiratorial myths about how the world works that would keep whole countries and hundreds of millions of people mired in poverty. On the one hand - fortunately - few people in positions of influence take this drivel seriously. On the other hand this is still a missed opportunity to have engaged philosophers' supposedly superior reasoning skills and expertise on value questions about issues affecting billions of people. Moreover, it pollutes the political conversation by training our students and anyone else who will listen to be stupid about global justice and by giving intellectual cover to populist 'common sense' opposition to free trade and other sensible pro-poor policies.

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

The Abject Intellectual Failure of Libertarianism

Libertarianism does not make sense. It cannot keep its promises. It has nothing helpful to say on the questions of the day. As political philosophy it is an intellectual failure like Marxism or Flat-Eartherism - something that might once reasonably have seemed worth pursuing but whose persistence in public let alone academic conversation has become an embarrassment. The only mildly interesting thing about libertarianism anymore is why anyone still takes it seriously.