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John Lawless

Abstract

One common approach to autonomy begins by drawing boundaries around the agent, dividing her from external forces that limit her options, hostile agents who would harness her to their projects, and rebellious motivations embedded within her own psychology. Relational approaches to autonomy blur these boundaries, demonstrating the ways in which autonomy is possible only in mutually respectful, caring relationships. I develop a particular kind of relational approach, on which autonomy requires others’ recognition that certain choices belong to us. That is because agency involves responsibility for one’s actions. Crucially, the responsibility in question is not simply causal responsibility. Rather, to be an agent is to be the proper object of reactive attitudes like resentment or gratitude for specific actions. Whether one is responsible (in this sense) for any state of affairs depends, not simply on whether one caused that state of affairs to occur, but on whether the choice to bring this state of affairs about belonged to you. Moreover, I argue that that while some tools – specifically, violence – might bolster one’s causal powers, they simultaneously threatening the social contexts that make “choice-ownership” possible. While these tools seem apt to secure our agency, they in fact threaten to destroy it.

Series:

Barrett Emerick

Abstract

I argue that silencing (the act of preventing someone from communicating, broadly construed) can be an act of both interpersonal and institutional violence. My argument has two main steps. First, I follow others in analyzing violence as violation of integrity and show that undermining someone’s capacities as a knower can be such a violation. Second, I argue that silencing someone can violate their epistemic capacities in that way. I conclude by exploring when silencing someone might be morally justifiable, even if doing so is an act of violence.

Series:

Megan Mitchell

Abstract

In popular discourse, ‘white fragility’ is invoked to illuminate everything from the reactions of white liberal feminists on Twitter to police violence against unarmed black Americans and (when paired with its companion concept, ‘male fragility’) the election of Donald Trump. However, the precise nature of fragility remains somewhat unclear—what is it that all of these cases have in common? In this essay, I offer a unifying analysis of fragility, both white and male. I build on Robin DiAngelo’s original articulation of the concept and Whitecomb, et al.’s work on intellectual humility to argue that white and male fragility is a disposition to epistemic arrogance by whites and/or men with respect to the domains of racist and sexist oppression. Those with white and male fragility believe that they occupy a privileged epistemic position in these areas because they are white and/or male. After establishing fragility as an instance of an epistemic vice, I broaden my normative analysis by examining its impact and function. Drawing on Dotson’s work, I show that fragility is a form of epistemic violence that silences those marginalized on the basis of race and/or sex.