Philosophy Department Colloquium Spring 2023

Tom Parr (Warwick) and Andrew Williams (Universitat Pompeau Fabra) “Class, Technology, and Gender Earnings Gaps” 

Thursday, February 16, 12-1:15PM - Zoom

Tom Parr is Associate Professor in Political Theory in the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick and the Editor of the journal Law, Ethics, and Philosophy. His first book, Introducing Political Philosophy: A Policy-Driven Approach (co-authored with Will Abel, Elizabeth Kahn, and Andrew Walton) was published with Oxford University Press in 2021. Andrew Williams is ICREA Research Professor in the Department of Law at Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF) and the Editor of the journal Politics, Philosophy, and Economics (PPE). He has published extensively in moral and political philosophy and practical rationality, as well as intersecting areas in economics and political science

Abstract: In this presentation, we examine the nature and moral status of the gender earnings gap, focusing on (1) what explains this gap, (2) why to oppose this gap, and (3) how to reduce this gap. To make progress with these matters, we draw on recent research in labour economics, especially by Claudia Goldin, as well as on the tools of normative political philosophy. Part of our aim is to emphasize the empirical and philosophical complexity of these issues, as well as to highlight the importance and value of interdisciplinary scholarship in this domain.

Meeting ID: 986 3064 8949
Passcode: 525821

Emmanuela Opoku (Minnesota State University, Mankato) “Climate Change and Food Security: A Study of Women Farmers in Northeast Ghana.” 

Thursday, February 23, 4-5:15PM, AH222

Emmanuela Opoku is a Doctoral Fellow with the Department of Philosophy at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests revolve around ecofeminism, climate science, environmental and distributive justice, and human rights to provide gender analysis of climate policy, including climate finance. She earned her Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of North Texas and has also held positions at the Center for Sustainable Development Initiatives (CENSUDI) and World Vision International.

Abstract: This presentation will assess the capacity of climate policy and climate finance to forestall climate changes in the current and future impacts on food security for women and children in northeast Ghana. The presentation will focus on a) The disproportionate impacts of climate change on women and children and why these are ethical and human rights concerns b) How climate change is contributing to the humanitarian crisis in food security globally, in Ghana and in northeast Ghana in particular, and c) The inadequacies of policy and finance initiatives to provide the needed support for women.

The presentation will focus on recent research on the Adaptation Fund Project in Ghana - Increased Resilience to Climate Change in northern Ghana through the Management of Water Resources and Diversification of Livelihoods) and its terminal project evaluation report.

The presentation aims to draw attention to the ethical underpinnings of these issues. Make the plight of the women in northeast Ghana known and seek interdisciplinary collaborations in this area to affect and change policy to alleviate if not minimize the impacts of the crisis of food insecurity for the women.

Joshua Preiss (Minnesota State University, Mankato) “Global Value Chains: A Moral Cost-Benefit Analysis” 

Thursday, March 23, 4-5:15PM, AH102

Joshua Preiss is Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Program in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Minnesota State University, Mankato. His recent book, Just Work for All: The American Dream in the 21st Century, was published in 2021 by Routledge. His forthcoming work includes “Freedom and Financial Market Reform” in the Anthology of the Philosophy of Money and Finance (Oxford) “Community, Care, and Recognition in a Post-Covid World of Work” in Pandemic Relations: Re-Forging Our Moral Bonds in the Time of Covid-19 (Routledge) and “Global Value Chains: A Moral Cost-Benefit Analysis” in the Cambridge Handbook for the Economics of Global Value Chains (Cambridge).

Abstract: For much of the past four decades, policy makers across national and party lines trumpeted economic arguments for the gains from trade. They backed them up with significant reforms that, in combination with technological advances, led to dramatic rise in trade as a share of GDP and global value chains (GVCs) as a share of trade. My goal in this presentation is to highlight important moral features that are routinely absent in the economic models used to both defend the reforms that made this transformation possible and assess their impact on individual welfare. By reference to recent work on the economics of trade and inequality, I argue that individual welfare is in essential ways relational. A moral cost-benefit analysis needs to recognize the importance of status, including the ability to be recognized for the contributions of your labor, to individual welfare.

In addition, the rise of GVCs placed significant downward pressure on the bargaining power of “ordinary” workers, eroding hard fought gains from labor activism, and making the institutions that structure economic relationships far less accountable to their values and interests. This loss of freedom, I argue, explains why inequalities that result from trade, in the words of economist Dani Rodrik, “have a different feel.” The point is not to deny that the immense potential benefits from trade. Instead, I conclude the status and power of workers and the political accountability of economic institutions are essential to assessing those costs and benefits. To put global markets on a sustainable path toward free and inclusive prosperity, these factors must be central to the development and implementation of trade policy.

Bekka Williams (Minnesota State University, Mankato) “Moral Obligations to Do Something in the Past?”

Thursday, March 30, 4-5:15 PM, Zoom

Bekka Williams is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her primary areas of specialization are metaethics and egalitarian theories of distributive justice.

 Abstract: According to the ethical system defended by W.D. Ross in The Right and the Good, what we are ultimately morally obligated to do in any given case (our “all-things-considered” moral obligation) is the product of relevant pro tanto moral obligation(s). For simplicity, we can think of a pro tanto moral obligation as a consideration that is always morally relevant whenever it shows up, yet is not always morally decisive. (For illustration, consider the pro tanto obligation to keep one’s promises. My promises are morally relevant every time I make a promise, but it may be morally permissible in some cases for me to break a promise because something more important is at stake.)

On the standard picture of pro tanto moral obligation, a pro tanto moral obligation becomes an all-things-considered moral obligation in a particular case if and only if it is not overridden. In all of the cases of “overriding” that Ross discusses, the overridden pro tanto moral obligation is overridden specifically by a stronger competing pro tanto moral obligation. This at least implies, and the literature following Ross has assumed, that the only thing that can override a pro tanto moral obligation is another pro tanto moral obligation. I argue, however, for the following two related claims: (1) inability can override a pro tanto obligation; and (2) the fact that an agent cannot perform a particular action does not rule out the possibility that he still has a pro tanto obligation to perform that action. On the basis of this latter claim, I also argue that agents can have pro tanto obligations to “do something in the past.”

Meeting ID: 962 6177 2805
Passcode: 319090


Thursday, April 13, 4 - 5:15 PM, AH102
Wayne Norman (Duke University, North Carolina)

“From Business-as-Usual to Suddenly-Unacceptable: Lessons for Ethical Business Today from the “Whiteface” Marketing of Black Music by the American Recording Industry, 1956-68”

Wayne Norman is the Mike & Ruth Mackowski Professor of Ethics at Duke University. His books include Citizenship in Diverse Societies and Negotiating Nationalism; and he is currently writing three more: Business Ethics on the Fly: a Toolkit; a monograph tentatively entitled The Ethical Adversary: How to be Fair when You’re Playing to Win… in Business, Law, Politics, War, Sports, and Love; and a coffee-table book, Whiteface: Systemic Racism and Misogyny in the Marketing of Midcentury Modern American Music.

One of the most striking features of our contemporary social world is how quickly something can go from “business-as-usual” to “unacceptable” to “retrospectively unbelievable”. Current undergrads might find it surprising that it was “normal” not so long ago for students and profs to smoke during classes; and, more recently, for liberal arts colleges to demand that applicants for admission or employment identify themselves as either male or female. Were either thing to happen today, it would be considered outrageously inappropriate. This gives rise to two questions for business ethicists:

  • How is it that practices, which we will soon come to see as unacceptable, are able to hide in plain sight for so long without many critiques? And,
  • can conscientious individuals and managers get reliably “ahead of the curve”? That is, how can we identify and reform problematic practices that are still widely tolerated… without going “too far” in our reforming zeal and inviting ridicule?

We will explore the first these very general questions through the vivid presentation of a very concrete marketing practice that was employed by virtually all record labels in the 1950s and 1960s. We can call this practice the “whitefacing” of Black jazz and R&B/soul artists, and it “hid” very much in plain sight on the covers of hundreds of 12” vinyl LPs by major and minor artists alike for about a dozen years. (We will survey these LP covers throughout the presentation.) Whitefacing seems eventually to have been recognized as “unacceptable” quite suddenly around 1967-1968; despite there having been no public movement against it. There also seems to be no historical memory of this whitefacing phenomenon, even within the community of scholars of African-American popular culture. So, it now seems “retrospectively unbelievable,” even as you see it with your own eyes. We will consider some “educated speculation” about how this all could have happened, and about what this neglected case study tells us about the challenges today for those who want to be at the vanguard of ethical business within a society still beset with systemic injustices.