PANEL 3: PHILOSOPHICAL INTERVENTIONS: JUSTICE, MORALITY AND ETHICS  

Lecture Theatre 5, 10:30-12:00
Chair: Feifei Cai

 

Exploring Moral Perception as a Discourse Ethic
Elliott Hartman, PhD Candidate, University of Canberra

According to the theory of moral perception moral judgements are made on a perceptual basis. It is argued that our moral judgements are informed by a faculty of moral perception that is attuned to moral properties. Proponents of moral perception have largely been devoted to the task of demonstrating the theory’s fundamental claims of the existence of moral properties as well as the faculty of moral perception. Rather than following this path, this paper will pursue an aspect of morality which has largely been overlooked by the literature, namely the relationship between individual moral judgement and the development of cultural moral norms and values. To this end this paper turns to Jürgen Habermas’ theory of communicative action (Habermas, 1981), as a theoretical framework which may assist moral perception to broaden its scope to include the cultural and social aspects of morality. Communicative action is a process of collective rationality which provides a model for how cultural norms are instituted through the participation of individuals within a discourse. One of the primary applications of the principles of communicative action has been to the formation of moral norms and values with Habermas’ discourse ethics. This paper will discuss the various challenges and benefits that incorporating elements of communicative action will have for moral perception. In doing so this paper will contribute to the field by laying the groundwork for a possible avenue of development that may lead to a theory of moral perception that is able to represent a richer understanding of moral experience.

Elliott Hartman is a PhD candidate with the University of Canberra. He completed his Honours degree in 2017 and in 2016 he graduated with a Bachelor of Writing. Elliott’s thesis in moral philosophy is seeking to understand how moral judgments are made. The particular area of interest he has investigated is the theory of moral perception which argues that moral judgments are made on a perceptual basis.

 


 

The Silence within the Iliad: An Examination of the Concept of Justice in Relation to the Trade of Briseis
Ivana M. Devcic, Honours Student, University of New South Wales, Sydney

This paper seeks to examine the concept of justice in relation to the trade of Briseis in The Iliad. It will, firstly, consider the contribution of stories — and The Iliad in particular — to human culture, and their ability to communicate abstract concepts such as justice, truth, and ethics. It will then go on to introduce the Iliad story for the reader, by giving contextual information and explaining the significance of the work; the essay will then discuss the initial trade of Briseis for Chryseis, by examining the dehumanisation of slave women, the function of an ‘honour prize’ (Tîmê), and the timeless goal of glory (Kleos). Lastly, this essay will explore the return of Briseis and the harm of rape. As a result, it will also address the notion of forgiveness. Finally, this essay will comment on the silencing of women such as Briseis, the relevance of both her abuse and the story for contemporary audiences, and, finally, the ultimate lesson of justice in the Iliad.

Ivana Devcic completed an Arts degree and, accordingly has proceeded to pursue an Honours project in Classical Literature, Justice, and Philosophy. With an interdisciplinary location somewhere on the periphery between Criminology, Sociology, and English Literary Studies, Ivana is likely to follow wherever the research trail leads her.

 


 

Can Affection Support Moral Obligations Regarding Animals?
Olusegun Steven Samuel, PhD Candidate, University of New South Wales, Sydney

In this article, I examine the plausibility of deciding on obligation based on affections. I focus mainly on the perspective that a moral agent has a considered moral ground to put her wellbeing interests and those of her loved ones before anything else. Such is the case when one puts her children before a stranger. I examine this proposal in the context of environmental debates, trying to understand whether we can universalise this perspective, particularly when one feels strong affections for nonhuman animals over other humans. I discuss key characteristics of affections and argue that it is utterly unreasonable to say that an agent should promote the wellbeing interests of others and at the same time say she ought not to promote what is in her wellbeing-interests. I show the dilemma of basing obligation and moral status on affections. Ultimately, the point is to demonstrate that affection is ineffectual in capturing the breadth of moral actions, for it overlooks the concerns of injustice against others. I show how we may address such limitation by proposing that: (1) one ought to pursue what is good for her insofar as such action does not harm others. (2) Sacrificing one's own good to pursue something more significant should not suppress the importance of self-love in obligation concerns. I conclude that these two strategies avoid the challenges of affection-based ethics, one that dichotomises our thinking about morality and oversimplifies that moral life consists in mutually exclusive concerns, of either caring for oneself or caring for others.

Olusegun Steven Samuel is a PhD candidate at the School of Humanities and Languages, UNSW, Sydney. Australian Commonwealth Government and UNSW, Sydney support Samuel’s research in environmental ethics through the University International Postgraduate Award (UIPA) and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Top-Up Scholarship. One of his recent co-authored papers “Afro-communal virtue ethic as a foundation for environmental sustainability in Africa and beyond” appeared in the South African Journal of Philosophy.

 


 

Historically Coded Terms and Their Use in Analytic Philosophy
Edmund Handby, PhD Candidate, Australian National University

Intuitions have come to play an increasingly prominent role in philosophical enquiry, particular in contemporary analytic philosophy (CAP), and political theory. Facets of contemporary analytic political theory assess the rigour of conceptual claims with reference to intuitive judgements, including both the measurement and definition of political concepts, such as ‘freedom’ and ‘justice’. A particular consequence of a reliance on intuitions is a diminished dependence on the history of ideas in justifying conceptual claims. If ‘freedom’ is defined and measured with reference to intuitions, its historical expression, variation, and conceptualisation throughout history is of little relevance. The consequence is a methodological and conceptual tension between CAP and the history of political thought (HPT). In this paper I address the role that intuitions have in our understanding of political concepts, and the extent to which they are independent from the history of ideas. I argue that while the use of intuitions in CAP is methodologically sound, the use of historically coded terms in making conceptual claims requires recognition of HPT in making such a claim. I rely on the Kripkean notion of the ‘chain of communication’ to prescribe an obligation to consider HPT, akin to that of the obligation to consider precedent in judicial reasoning. I conclude by exploring how theorists in CAP may continue to premise conceptual claims on intuitions, while still having regard for the history of ideas.

Edmund Handby is a PhD Candidate in the School of Politics and International Relations at the Australian National University. His dissertation evaluates existing models of understanding conceptual change and relies on Kripke’s causal theory of reference as an alternative to existing approaches. Edmund graduated from the ANU with a Bachelor of International Relations and is completing a Bachelor of Laws. His research interests include method in political theory, history of political thought, legal theory, and judicial behaviour.