Noam Chomsky’s New York Review of Books essay was published fifty years ago today (Feb 23 1967) and is a seminal criticism of much of the response to the Vietnam war by academics at the time. Among other things he argues that intellectuals have special obligations have over and above their obligations as citizens:
For a privileged minority, Western democracy provides the leisure, the facilities, and the training to seek the truth lying hidden behind the veil of distortion and misrepresentation, ideology and class interest, through which the events of current history are presented to us. The responsibilities of intellectuals, then, are much deeper than… the “responsibility of people,” given the unique privileges that intellectuals enjoy.
An event in London to commemorating the anniversary on Saturday (Feb 25) is sold out but will be live streamed, and will feature a video-link contribution by the author. The essay itself is freely available from the NYRB website.
This is the first in the reading-group series. Contributions welcome (from members of the network or beyond) in the comments. The post itself gives an overview of the article.
Hardimon, Michael O. (1994) Role Obligations. Journal of Philosophy. 91(7): 333-363.
This is a modern classic for anyone working on the ethics of roles, and is often cited in discussions of special obligations and the like. The writing is beautifully clear, and this a good place for us to start if only because one of Hardimon’s ambitions is to bring the topic of roles in from the wings of normative philosophy and onto centre-stage where many of us agree it belongs.
His other main ambition is to get clear on what is and isn’t right about what he calls the ‘standard view’ of role obligations, which he summarizes in three claims (p. 337):
- Role obligations are of two kinds, ‘contractual’ and ‘non-contractual’;
- Contractual role obligations are acquired by signing on for the roles from which they derive;
- Non-contractual role obligations are extremely problematic, if they exist at all.
A new special issue of The Journal of Value Inquiry is dedicated to Virtue Ethics and Role Ethics (Volume 50, Issue 4, December 2016). The issue is edited by Richard Paul Hamilton (Notre Dame, Australia) and includes what look to be some very welcome discussions.
Here is the list of contents. The short introduction (full text via link below) provides useful context plus paper summaries.
- Introduction: My Role and Its Virtues (Richard Paul Hamilton)
- A Virtue Ethical Theory of Role Ethics (Christine Swanton)
- Robust Role-Obligation: How Do Roles Make a Moral Difference? (Tim Dare)
- The Ethical Importance of Roles (Anne Baril)
- The Wholehearted Professional (Richard Paul Hamilton)
- Academic Virtues: Site Specific and Under Threat (Michael P. Levine & Damian Cox)
- Virtue Ethics and Public Policy: Upholding Medical Virtue in Therapeutic Relationships as a Case Study (Justin Oakley)
- A Defence of the Aristotelian Virtue of Magnificence (Nafsika Athanassoulis)
- Role Modeling in an Early Confucian Context (Cheryl Cottine)
Reid Blackman, a member of this network, is a Featured Philosopher this week on PEA Soup. He has a guest post on roles, called ‘Roles ground reasons, so internalism is false‘. He argues exactly that. There is a lively exchange in the comments section, much of it (unsurprisingly) highly pertinent to this network, but in particular the metaethical implications of recognizing role-based reasons for action.