A Journal of Philosophy, Applied to the Real World

Volume 1 Number 1. June 2013


Introducing the Journal of Practical Ethics
Journal of Practical Ethics 1(1): 1-2
The Journal of Practical Ethics is a new open access, interdisciplinary journal in applied moral philosophy and related areas of philosophy, including political and legal philosophy. It is supported by the Uehiro Foundation on Ethics and Education and we are most grateful to the Foundation for making the journal possible. Areas to be covered will include medical ethics, environmental ethics, business ethics, professional ethics, the ethics of personal life and others.
Associative Duties and the Ethics of Killing in War
Journal of Practical Ethics 1(1): 3-48
This paper advances a novel account of part of what justifies killing in war, grounded in the duties we owe to our loved ones to protect them from the severe harms with which war threatens them. It discusses the foundations of associative duties, then identifies the sorts of relationships, and the specific duties that they ground, which can be relevant to the ethics of war. It explains how those associative duties can justify killing in theory—in particular how they can justify overriding the rights to life of some of those who must be killed to win a war. It then shows how these duties can be operationalised in practice: first, showing how soldiers who fight on behalf of their community can act on reasons that apply to the members of that community; second, showing that the argument from associative duties does not prove too much—in particular, that it does not license the intentional killing of noncombatants in war.
Biotechnology, Justice and Health
Journal of Practical Ethics 1(1): 49-61
New biotechnologies have the potential to both dramatically improve human well-being and dramatically widen inequalities in well-being. This paper addresses a question that lies squarely on the fault line of these two claims: When as a matter of justice are societies obligated to include a new biotechnology in a national healthcare system? This question is approached from the standpoint of a twin aim theory of justice, in which social structures, including nation-states, have double-barreled theoretical objectives with regard to human well-being. The first aim is to achieve a sufficient level of well-being in each of six core dimensions. In the special case of healthcare systems, this aim is focally but not exclusively attentive to achieving health sufficiency as one of the core dimensions. The second aim is to combat the emergence and persistence of densely woven patterns of systematic disadvantage that tend to undermine the achievement of a sufficient level of health and the other core elements of well-being of some persons and groups. Judgments about entitlements to health related resources, including new biotechnologies, are made in light of a threshold notion of health sufficiency. What is enough or sufficient health? The answer that is defended here is that sufficient health is enough health for a decent human life, understood as enough health to live a full life course without preventable, significant functional disability or decrement in health, or treatable pain or suffering. When a state must include a new biotechnology in its national healthcare system is also influenced by ancillary concerns about the connection between health and other core dimensions of well-being. What counts as a significant functional impairment or health decrement is thus explicated, in part, in relation to the theory’s sufficiency aim for the other essential dimensions of well-being, and thus for a decent life, overall. Those elements of health that play a critical role in the experience of sufficient reasoning, affiliation, security, respect and self determination are especially important; any loss of health function or capacity that threatens the individual’s prospects for sufficiency in these other dimensions, including the relational egalitiarian concerns they entail, constitutes a significant functional impairment. Within national borders, individuals are thus entitled to those health-related goods and services that are essential for a sufficiency of each of the dimensions of well-being; with regard to self determination and respect, what is sufficient by way of guaranteed access to specific goods and services is going to depend on the implications of such access for where an individual stands in relation to her co-nationals. The content of any entitlement to health-related goods and services is also necessarily dynamic. What can be done for health and the other core dimensions of well-being as a function of technological innovation and diffusion is in constant flux. The paper concludes by considering the implications of this analysis for the conditions under which states are obligated to include access in their healthcare systems to one biotechnology, deep brain stimulation.
Situationism and Agency
Journal of Practical Ethics 1(1): 62-83
Research in psychology indicates that situations powerfully impact human behavior. Often, it seems, features of situations drive our behavior even when we remain unaware of these features or their influence. One response to this research is pessimism about human agency: human agents have little conscious control over their own behavior, and little insight into why they do what they do. In this paper we review classic and more recent studies indicating “the power of the situation,” and argue for a more optimistic response. In our view, though psychological research indicates situational influence, it also indicates that knowledge about the impact of situations on behavior can boost agents’ power to counteract harmful situational effects.