Edinburgh (Workshop III)

Programme and abstracts

This will take place over three days. Venue: Open University in Scotland, 10 Drumsheugh Gardens, Edinburgh EH3 7QJ (directions).

All welcome (academics, students, interested others), but to help with catering, to be sure about room size, and in case of timings or venue changes, etc., please let us know a week in advance.)

All times are subject to change but we’ll aim to avoid starting earlier on first day or ending later on final one.

WEDNESDAY (12th July 2017)

11h30 – 12h00 Tea/coffee and orientation

12h00 – 13h30 Session 1

Ben Sachs, St Andrews, ‘Political morality as role morality’ [abstract below]

13h30 – 14h30 Lunch, provided

14h30 – 16h00 Session 2

Stephanie Collins, Manchester, ‘Which Role-bearers Constitute the State?’ (co-author Holly Lawford-Smith) [abstract below]

16h00 – 16h20 Tea/coffee

16h20 – 18h10 Session 3

Erin Taylor, Washington and Lee, ‘Social Roles and Ought Implies Can’

Evening schedule: opportunity for hotel check in, then stroll to nearby restaurant (Navadhanya, 88 Haymarket Terrace, Edinburgh, EH12 5LQ, booking is for 20h15); non-network members welcome subject to restaurant having space – let us know asap!

THURSDAY (13th July 2017)

09h30 – 09h50 Tea/coffee available

09h50 – 11h20 Session 4

Jeremy Evans, Boston College, ‘Toward a Role-Ethical Theory of Right Action’

11h20 – 11h40 Tea/coffee break

11h40 – 13h10 Session 5

Tracy Isaacs, Western, ‘Role Responsibility and Role Obligation in Oppressive Social Contexts’

13h10 – 14h10 Lunch, provided

14h10 – 15h40 Session 6

Lisa Herzog, Technische Universität, Munich, ‘Self and role – transformation agency in organizations’ [abstract below]

15h40 – 16h00 Tea/coffee break

16h00 – 17h30 Session 7

Reid Blackman, Colgate, ‘Role-Grounded Normative Reasons’ [abstract below]

Evening schedule: similar to previous day, but restaurant is David Bann’s, 56-58 St Mary’s St, Edinburgh EH1 1SX – a bit further to walk, and booking is at 19h30. Again, non-network members welcome subject to restaurant’s flexibility on the booking, so let us know asap.

FRIDAY (14th July 2017)

09h30 – 09h45 Coffee available

09h45 – 11h15 Session 8

Joseph Kisolo-Ssonko, Nottingham, ‘Race and the normative force of non-voluntary social roles’ [abstract below]

11h15 – 11h30 Coffee/tea break

11h30 – 13h00 Session 9

Sarah Stroud, McGill, ‘Beyond My Station and its Duties: Could There Be a Role Ethics?’

12h30 – 13h30 Lunch, provided

13h30 – 15h00 Session 10

Robin Zheng, Yale-NUS, ‘Responsibility for Structural Injustice: A Role-Ideal Model of Accountability’ [abstract below]

Workshop ends; taxis to station, etc.

ABSTRACTS (in order of presentation) as they become available

Ben Sachs, ‘Political Morality as Role Morality’
In my talk I begin by introducing the commonsense idea that there appears to be a legitimate question, “What is the state obligated to its people to do?”, that should constitute the focal point of a philosophical sub-discipline, which I call ‘political morality’.  I then point out that there appears to be no such philosophical sub-discipline.  I argue that we political philosophers should accept these two appearances as veridical and admit that we’ve been dropping the ball; i.e. we’ve been failing to inquire into something that demands our attention.  I also begin the task of giving it the attention it deserves.  I argue that political morality, given its apparent contours, would have to be entirely artificial.  From that conclusion I infer the further conclusion that political morality would have to apply to artificial agency; that is, it would be the morality that applies to certain individuals only insofar as they exercise artificial agency.  And from that conclusion I infer, finally, that political morality must be role morality, since inhabiting a role is the only way of exercising artificial agency.

Stephanie Collins, ‘Which Role-bearers Constitute the State?’ (co-author Holly Lawford-Smith)
We assume the ‘citizenry’ of a liberal-democratic state is a realised structure whose nodes are occupied by all and only those who are eligible to (register to) vote (within not-disproportionate cost to themselves) and who enjoy other basic civil/political liberties, within that particular state. The different nodes are different roles in the structure – e.g., nodes include ‘judge,’ ‘legislator,’ ‘civil servant,’ and ‘voter.’  Our main question is: do those in the ‘voter’ role part-constitute the state, when we’re considering the state as a collective moral agent? This paper is co-authored; one of us thinks the answer is ‘yes’ and the other thinks the answer is ‘no.’ Our aim in the paper is to analyse the role ‘voter’, with a view to articulating the considerations on both sides of our question, and leave it to the reader to decide which side has the most considerations in its favour.

Lisa Herzog, ‘Self and role – transformation agency in organizations’
When individuals enter organizations as employees, they do so in roles that come with imperatives and expectations of their own. How should they relate to these roles, especially in contexts that are morally grey-in-grey?  I argue that neither complete identification with, nor a complete rejection of, organizational roles are good strategies for keeping up one’s moral agency in such contexts. Instead, individuals need to engage in a constant process of reflection in which they weigh their moral commitments, the moral consensus of society, and the imperatives of their role – all of which are moving targets. I draw on Hirschman’s notions of exit, voice and loyalty for describing how individuals can put the results of their reflection into practice, as transformational agents that carry a commitment to basic moral norms into organizational contexts. I illustrate this approach by drawing on two case studies from the world of finance, and conclude by reflecting on how organizations can support critical processes of reflection on the part of individual role holders.

Reid Blackman, ‘Role-Grounded Normative Reasons’
According to prominent versions of constitutivism, rational agents have a constitutive function or end that entails facts about what rational agents have normative reason to do. My aim in this talk is to develop their central claim – viz. that being a certain kind of thing with constitutive ends entails facts about one’s normative reasons – in a novel direction. The position is officially neutral on whether rational agents as such have constitutive ends and, in contrast to both Humeans and those constitutivists who rely on an agent’s motivational constitution to ground ascriptions of ends, the view is externalist in its account of practical reasons: it does not take the presence of normative reasons to depend on the motivational constitution of agents. Lastly, the account offers a naturalist reduction of normative reasons, rendering the position constitutivist, externalist, and naturalist.

Joseph Kisolo-Ssonko, ‘Race and the normative force of non-voluntary social roles’
Some social roles (in the broad sense) are neither voluntarily chosen nor easily escapable and yet, arguably, they are still experienced as having normative force. This talk will have two parts. Firstly, I will look at the example of race, exploring Charles Mill’s provocative claim that there exists a ‘racial contract’ that both privileges ‘whites’ and gives them ‘civic and political duties’ distinct from those assigned to ‘non-whites’. I will claim that regardless of whether we (white or non-white) individually commit (explicitly or tacitly) to this racial contract we nevertheless find ourselves occupying these social roles. Secondly, I will suggest that the best way to understand the felt normative force of these roles is to break with Mill’s partial voluntaristic focus (his claim that at least whites voluntarily commit to this contract) and instead focus on the part such normativity plays in constructing an individual’s understanding of themselves as part of a broader collective identity.

Robin Zheng, ‘Responsibility for Structural Injustice: A Role-Ideal Model of Accountability’
Structural injustices are highly complex phenomena with multiple causes and without easy solutions. Iris Marion Young has offered the most fully-developed account to date of responsibility for such injustice, according to which everyone who causally contributed to some unjust outcome is responsible for collectively organizing to change it. This paper motivates and defends an alternative model, which satisfies four desiderata that Young’s fails to fully meet. On the Role-Ideal Model, we are each responsible for structural injustice through and in virtue of our social roles, because roles are the site where structure meets agency. The Role-Ideal Model (1) explains how individual action relates to structural change, (2) specifies why and how particular agents are expected to contribute, (3) moderates between demanding too much and too little of individual agents, and (4) provides an account of the critical responses appropriate for holding individuals accountable for structural injustice.