Philosophy 1B03 – Society, Law and Society
PHILOS 1B03 Lecture 1: Introduction
January 7 2013
Men are social animals – choose to be with others ▯Aristotle
Nature has made us want to live with others, much like animals such as dogs and bees
However, difference is that the way in which we interact does not come naturally –
government, taxes etc
Social Political Philosophy is a discipline concerned with the best way of arranging our
collective lives – dictated by man rather than intrinsic motivation.
Concerned with the best way to arrange collective lives.
Normative purpose: establishes a position of what OUGHT to be the case (ie right or wrong)
Problematic: maybe there isn’t a best way, only opinions about it. Who is to say there is a
best way of doing something? How do we decide? Democratic system may not be intrinsically
better than an autocratic system. No truth of the matter; what is better for some may not be better
Relativism: (CR Cultural Relativism)
There are no independent standards by which we can evaluate normative claims: Only
cultural practices – different moral codes throughout different cultures exist. Examples of cultural
relativity include polygamy, euthanasia, tobacco/marijuana use, homosexuality.
Cultural practices are merely one among many
Radical relativism: truth may only be truth for one person rather than others.
Appeal of Relativsm:
Explain widespread disagreement over moral and social practise
Seems to promote attitude of respect and tolerance for other cultures
Seems to be only alternative to strict objectivism/absolutism (only one right thing to do in
political institution or moral code)
If truth is relative, no need to condemn others for their difference of truth. Cannot criticise
their way of doing things as “wrong” or “right,” promotes attitude of tolerance. Problems of Relativism (CounterConsiderations)
Why should we believe that cultural relativism is true? Is that enough of a reason to think
that there are no objective truths, that CR recognizes that different cultures have different beliefs?
Does not determine nor negate any absolute truths
Difficult to legitimately criticize the beliefs of other (or your own) culture. Says that its
wrong for us but not others, can we not say it is right/wrong for all? What basis for criticism?
Calls moral progress to doubt – say that attitudes are better in modern society than they were
in the past. However, if we are true relativists, we can only say they are different, what criteria do
we use to call them better?
Connection between relativism and tolerance is questionable: “we ought to be tolerant of other
cultures” is a moral claim
• If this claim is objective, then relativism is wrong
• If this claim is relative, then relativism does not support an attitude of tolerance – cognitive
Therefore, Link between tolerance and relativism is weaker than what some may think.
Normativity in Social Political (SP) Philosophy
How can we defend the claim that a particular arrangement of our collective lives is best?
Appeal to a conception of human nature/flourishing. Traditional way to defend philosophical claim
is to appeal to human nature.
Problem: what is human nature? Also, may promote one aspect while causing detriment to
Difference of conception of human nature. Depending on the person, their human nature
may be different.
Flourishing of some may be detrimental to others.
Therefore ▯ Human nature is an ambiguous subject. Even harder to define than the best
arrangement of collective lives
It may be sufficient to make minimal assumptions about what human beings value and use
that as a basis. Two socially relevant concepts that human beings value are:
justice and liberty. These principles are the basis of Social Political Philosophy: most people want to live in a
free society where they are given what they are due. Promote individual liberty and justice.
It is difficult for individuals in society to construct a fair consensus about the parameters
which define freedom and justice. Also, disagreement regarding which social arrangement will
optimize these parameters.
Also, how to find a balance? Maximal liberty may hinder justice, and viceversa.
PHILOS 1B03 Lecture 2 – On Liberty Analysis
January 9 2013
Social Political Philosophy is concerned with the best way to arrange our collective lives
• Types of political institutions
• Problems that arise when human beings live with one another
• SPP is a fundamentally normative discipline
Problematic: how do we determine which arrangement will appeal to human nature, when
human nature itself is an ambiguous term? Who ought to be flourishing in society, and who
shouldn’t? Obviously, not everybody can flourish over one philosophical arrangement. Human
nature isn’t fundamentally conducive to this arrangement – if humans are selfish and prefer to be
alone then human nature would not appeal to arrangement of humans.
Minimal assumptions about human values: Liberty and Justice.
John Stewart Mill: Liberty (18061873)
• Wrote on utilitarianism, systematic thinker, wrote lots on logic
• “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a
civilized community...” • Harm Principle: Only reason to justify the prevention of one’s liberty is to protect others
from harm. Even preventing liberty of one for the selfbenefit of the one having liberty taken
• Respect for liberty must be nearly absolute – only legitimate grounds for restricting liberty is
to prevent harm from coming to another
Why should individual liberty be respected? Is it intrinsically valuable, or because it brings about
Why does harm to others provide a legitimate reason for restricting a person’s liberty? Why is it
necessary? Why is it sufficient? It is something we all buy in to and respect, but why is it strong
enough to revoke one’s liberty? Why can’t there be reasons other than protection of others? Why is
the Harm Principle more fundamental than liberty?
“I regard utility as the ultimate appeal on all ethical questions; but it must be utility in the largest
sense, grounded on the permanent interests of man as a progressive being”
Utility and Utilitarianism
Utility in dialog ue means usefulness, but not to Mill.
Utility: Property which attaches to anything which contributes to pleasure and the privation of pain.
Disutility: The property which attaches to anything that promotes pain and deprives us of pleasure.
• Utility/disutility is not restricted to physical pleasure
An action which tends to maximize overall utility or minimize overall disutility is right – greatest
good for the greatest number. Tends to disapprove of individual privilege and exemption.
• Mill talks about what OUGHT to be the case, but he still sees it as a development.
• He does not want to avoid certain pains, but instead build a tolerance
• He was very concerned about the persecution or harm to a minority to bring utility to all –
NOT what he intends to invoke. According to Mill, utility is the only thing that is intrinsically good, everything else is related to
utility. This view grounds Mill’ overall ethical views.
Liberty and Utility – Problems and Tensions
Is there a tension between Mill’s utilitarianism and his views on liberty?
• On Liberty: Mill wrights never to restrict liberty unless to prevent harm
o What if restricting liberty maximizes utility?
• On Liberty: Do not harm others
o What if harming another maximizes utility? Would Utilitarianism not demand that
we do whatever maximizes utility for the greatest number?
• Restricting liberty could maximize utility
o Make wearing bike helmets mandatory. Only provides direct benefit to the wearer,
while restricting their liberty to wear what they like while biking.
Therefore: utilitarianism can implement principles of tyranny, where great harm could come to a
minority. Seems unethical/without justice.
Higher and Lower Pleasures
Although all pleasures are good, they are not equally good.
o Lower pleasures: pleasures of sensation (eat, drink, sleep, sex) Motivational Reflexes
o Higher pleasures: pleasures of the intellect. (philosophy, literature, music, art)
Higher pleasures are superior, and should be appealed to first.
Higher pleasures are pleasures of the intellect, and must be cultivated. Are
not naturally present.
• Mill believes that anybody who has experiences two different pleasures; they will
comparatively prefer the higher pleasure.
Liberty and the Higher Pleasure
You cannot force someone to experience higher pleasure o It is ultimately up to the individual to cultivate a taste for the higher pleasures.
Respecting individual liberty gibes everyone the opportunity to cultivate a taste for these pleasures.
Everyone enjoys lower pleasures, very few experience the higher pleasures
One of the higher pleasures which humans ought to develop is the pleasure of thinking about and
living our own lives
o Liberty is essential for selfdevelopment: individuality is when you are in control of
what happens to you – decision making and life planning.
Note: Maybe limitations on liberty could promote a balance of higher and lower pleasures among
society, thus maximizing utility?
PHILOS 1B03 – Lecture 4: Defining Liberty
January 12 2013
But What IS Liberty??
Two main philosophical types:
• Negative Liberty: Absence of external constraint. (Freedom FROM) Freedom from
coercion or forceful action.
• Positive Liberty: Presence of opportunities for choice. (Freedom TO)
Increasing the amount of one type of liberties tends to decrease the amount of the other.
BOTH are desirable: free from constraint and free to choice. However, to maximize one is to
decrease the other.
Example: Speed limits in residential areas – Negative Liberty is decreased because you are less free
from speeding. Positive Liberty is increased because children may play in the streets and be happy
Example: Gun Control – Negative Liberty is restricted when gun control is increased, yet arguably
by NOT increasing Gun Control, Positive Liberty is restricted by hindering a person’s ability to grow and develop in a safe environment – may live in fear (eliminates opportunity to live, for some
Mill and Liberty
Mill is concerned about negative liberty – isn’t this odd?
• Cultivation of Higher Pleasures seems to require opportunity (Promotion of Positive
Liberty). However, Mill is most concerned with maximizing Negative Liberty in light of this
• Requires opportunity, wealth, education, Positive Liberty
• What about equality?
From a utilitarian point of view, interest of a peasant must equate interest in a lord – no one’s
interests should be privileged: EQUALITY
• However, a society in which Mill maximizes Negative Liberty awakens inequality
• Freedom of expression, but if never educated, nothing to say?
• Although everyone would be free from the same things, people from different
socioeconomic situations would not possess the same Positive Liberty – not everyone is
offered the same opportunities – THIS is where inequality arises.
Idle No More – Aboriginal Movement
Aboriginal people have, in modern society, been given equitable rights. However, one right
that they still lack, especially in reservations, is (in terms of Negative Liberty) property rights.
Indigenous rights movement focuses on rights which give Positive Liberty, to act in accordance to
their choice – also, sovereignty.
Unresticted negative liberty will produce inequality
• Nevertheless, this kind of liberty is essential if society is to improve and progress • Allow SOME people a chance to flourish – the intellectual, artistic, business oriented
• Elitist, sacrifices utilitarianism in order to push the prodigious forwards.
• Mill argues that this benefits everyone – although the elite are disproportionately
better off than the ordinary, the standards of society will be set higher.
Tyranny of the Majority
The majority imposes its views on the minority. This can be a problem in the democratic political
realm or in the social realm (public opinion). Therefore, the opinion of the masses can pose a threat
to individual liberty in two main ways:
• Freedom of expression
oThe majority should not stifle the expression of minority views. Often opposes
popular views of the majority
• If those views are true, we will never find out if we don’t let the minority
• If these views are false, majority loses opportunity to defend and strengthen
oTherefore: winwin for the majority to address the minority to strengthen public
• Freedom of action
o Majority should not restrict the lifestyle choices of the minority (as long as it does
not harm others). Social consequences of majority opinion could deter the minority
from adopting alternate lifestyles.
o Honest dialogue must be promoted rather than STIFFLED or ridiculed.
What attitude should the majority take to minority opinions/actions?
• The majority ought to engage with the opinions/actions of the minority.
• Relativism – what I believe is true for me and what you believe is true for you: no
truth, just different beliefs. But sometimes, we say “you’re wrong and this is why!” and a dialogue ensues. Out of this engagement comes a truer opinion. THIS is what
Mill wants – Don’t just tolerate other views, engage them.
PHILOS 1B03 thLecture 3: The Theory of Justice
January 16 2013
Mill feels that unrestricted negative liberty will produce inequality but is essential if society
is to improve and progress – cultivation of higher pleasures, even though some may not get the
opportunity to do so.
John Rawls (1921 – 2002) deals with the topic of justice in The Theory of Justice.
What is Justice?
The concept of giving people what they are due:
• Retributive Justice: Punishment for wrongs done unto others
• Compensatory Justice: Compensation for wrongs when harmed by a second party.
• Distributive Justice: Distribution of resources
o Rawls focuses on distributive justice.
How should the benefits and burdens of social living be distributed?
Social Contract: A hypothetical agreement concerning how the benefits and burdens of
social living should be distributed. Mimics the way small groups of people divide responsibilities –
what should and should not be done.
Hypothetical because it is not actually a historic event – humans didn’t ever get together and
write out the constructs of a social chain. However, if the social contract is hypothetical, what use is
• Lays out the principles which human beings should agree to. Promotes equality because it is
normative in essence.
Problems with Social Contracts
The contracts people make tend to be a function of the condition that they are in when they
make the contract. Thomas Hobbes (15881679) – State of Nature: “A war of all against all in which life is
nasty, brutish and short.” If primitive humans lay out an agreement for which they may all live
together. What would you ask for? Security above all else – tends to be conservative rather than
liberal in nature. How human beings would live if there were no political institutions
(hypothetically). Even if we DID live like that at one point, if we lost political institution now,
WOULD we revert?
This idea is a conceptual construct – If the Original Position (OP) of nature is hypothjetical,
how do we pick and justify it? Do we use anthropology or is it out of scientific boundaries due to its
It is selected on moral grounds and justified intuitively – Rawls presents the OP and you
have to decide for yourself whether it is a good starting position for creating a social contract.
**Social contracts give us the ability to critique our social political institutions**
For the social contract to be fair, the original position of each of the participants must be
equal. How do we ensure that all of the participants in the original position are equal? IE the social
contract would not be fair if one of the participants holds the life of the other in his hands. Solution:
Veil of Ignorance
Imagine that each of parties to the social contract has a representative that works out the
agreement with other representatives. These representatives are ideal – they have no ulterior
motives, simply want the best situation for you. They know:
• General facts about human life
• That people have different interests, beliefs etc.
• Known that society is under conditions of moderate scarcity
BUT: They don’t know any particulars about the person they represent – race, gender, age,
wealth, skills, religion, etc.
Result: The situation they strive to achieve would be a society that optimize principles that
benefit everyone equally (fair). Equality will be incredibly important.
Rawls comes up with two central principles:
PHILOS 1B03: Lecture 4 – Theory of Justice Contd.
January 21 2013 Liberty and Justice – general approaches to socialpolitical philosophy – next week, analyze
Social Contract: A hypothetical agreement concerning how the benefits and burdens of
social living ought to be distributed. Value – gives us a baseline with which to critique the
infrastructure of society.
Problems with this approach: contracts people make tend to be a function of the condition
that they are in when they make the contract – precontractual state. Therefore, outside
conceptions of the original condition must be properly outlined. If one party had advantage over
the other party, then the agreement is not purely fair.
Thomas Hobbes defines the original position as the State of Nature, a war of all against all
in which life is nasty, brutish and short. The original position dictates the final social contract
with which we end. Therefore, a social contract should emphasize security of the person above
all else, when regarding the original position as a state of nature.
What if the original position is different? What if we already live in a utopic environment? Which
contract is perfect for a different particular society? Therefore, the social contract can not
necessarily be generalized.
The Original Position is what makes the Social Contract feasible. But, then what makes the
OP feasible? At some point you just have to say “Lets assume that this is that for the sake of
argument.” Rawls uses this OP intuitively, he argues that this OP is justified intuitively on moral
grounds, and argues “would this not be the original position of society? Wouldn’t this be a good
Veil of Ignorance: Hypothetical situation; imagine that each of the parties to the social
contract has a representative that works out the agreement with other representatives. They are
ideal; they have no interests of their own, other than giving those whom they represent the best
situational society possible. However, they do not know any particulars about the person they
represent; no age, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, size of head/perm,
physicality, race, class etc. Instead, they recognize society where scarcity is present, and they
understand basic human needs. Therefore, which principles would be picked and prioritized by
Therefore, the representatives would emphasize equality for all, and choose principles that
benefit everybody equally (fairly)
Imagine an Original Position where intelligence is valued above all else. Therefore,
wouldn’t this social contract favor the intelligent over the less intelligent? Some merit over
an intelligencebased social structure (sapiocracy).
Principles: According to Rawls the representatives would agree to the following principles: 1) Equal Liberty Principle (ELP)
2) The Difference Principle (TDP)
Equal Liberty Principle: Each person is to have equal right to the most extensive system of total
basic liberties compatible with the same amount of liberty for everyone else. Political liberty,
speech, assembly, religion etc. This seems as if it dwells on negative liberty, but it has two
• Basic rights and liberties cannot be traded off for other social benefits (You cannot sell off
your rights – being a slave for food and money). We should never remove liberties to benefit
society in any way other than to protect it from imminent catastrophe.
• Political liberties should be open to all in a substantial sense. Nobody should be disqualified
from holding office due to race, sex, religion etc. Not only legally, but socially: women
should have as much of a chance of holding office as anybody else with the same
capabilities. In other words, inequality based on merit is the only kind acceptable in this sort
of situation. This perspective emphasizes positive liberty.
Does the ELP handle conflicts between basic liberties? It simply states that everyone should have
the maximum amount of basic liberties. The maximal liberty is sought
The Difference Principle: Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged such that:
i) They are sorted from the greatest advantage to the least advantaged.
ii) They are attached to offices and positions which are open to all under conditions of
fair equality of opportunity.
Using equality as a baseline, this principle stipulates that the most desired liberties are prioritized
first in order to greatest benefit society. Inequality grounded upon equal opportunity?
Gives the greatest advantage possible for those who get the least favorable outcome, ONLY under
the condition that everyone is eligible to earn the most favorable situational outcome.
Rawls focuses on what’s best for the individual in this case, rather than the societal whole.
The ELP is more fundamental than the TDP
o ELP: Inequality is not permissible with regard to basic rights and liberties
o TDP: Inequality is permitted with other social goods, under certain conditions.
Injustice occurs when institutions violate one or both of these principles. Affirmative Action (AA): A social practise used to address historicallybased inequality. For
instance, Malefemale gender balance in Mac Eng (3547/574).
Types of Affirmative Action:
• Formal equality of opportunity
o Women can have as much of a right to be doctors and engineers as men
o Permissible in context of Rawls’ theory
• Aggressive equality of opportunity
o Sensitivity training and external monitoring to ensure people are free from
o Permitted if it does not restrict liberty
• Compensation Support
o People who are disadvantaged due to their conditions are subsequently compensated.
o Permitted if disadvantage is not based on merit
• Soft quotas
o Extra consideration for a specific type of person in order to promote equality (to, say,
boost female presence in engineering)
o Not permitted – promotes discrimination
• Hard quotas
o Saying that the spots open to capacity MUST be completely equal distribution (to
say that exactly half of Mac Eng should be female)
o Not permitted – promotes discrimination
Lecture 5: Civil Disobedience and the Law
January 23 2013
Breaking the Law: Why do people disobey the law?
• Immediate personal gain
• They think the law is unjust
• They think that a just law has been misapplied.
Plato (424328 BCE) believes that respect for the law must be absolute: The law must ALWAYS
be follow, even if they are unjust or misapplied.
Socrates (469399 before nothing #atheist) wrote nothing: his teachings were written by
people who learnt by example or demonstration from him. Socrates was ugly, poor and didn’t bathe
often; BUT he was popular and his ideas were revelled. He said that he had nothing special about
his ideas; he simply knew that he did not know all the answers. He was executed for not
worshipping conventional Gods, Plato’s Crito outlines a discussion with Socrates two nights before
Crito tried to break Socrates out of prison, but Socrates replied, “Only if you can convince
me that breaking me out of prison is the right thing to do.” This is odd because Socrates believes
that he has been unjustly sentenced to death.
Why Socrates Should Escape
If Socrates were not to escape (Reasons that appeal to Consequence):
• Crito will lose a valuable friend
• Crito’s reputation will be tarnished – failure to rescue his friend
• Socrates’ enemies will be pleased
• Socrates’ sons will be orphans
Moral Ground Rules:
1) Socrates will only be swayed by argument, rather than emotion, fear, obedience, pressure. This is
because all else but argument eliminate the need to think critically, which Socrates opposes.
2) The only type of argument that Socrates will accept is one that shows escaping is the right thing
to do, rather than the outcome or consequences of his escape. Believes that escape must intrinsically
be the right thing to do – the outcome or consequences to not justify the action
Socrates offers 3 arguments as to why he should not escape, each pertaining to a different principle:
• Principle of NonMaleficence: We ought not to inflict harm on another
o Premise 1: If Socrates escapes from prison, he will harm the city by undermining its
o Premise 2: A person should not inflict harm o Consequence: Socrates should not escape
Socrates is not referring to the city as the infrastructure or the buildings, but
he refers to the people of the city. “Men maketh the city, not buildings or
empty ships” Socrates means to say that he harms the people of the city by
taking undermining the authority and the law, the code which allows people
to live together.
o Is this a good argument?
Perhaps principle is not genuine
Perhaps principle is misapplied to this case – there is a difference between
harming someone with violence and harming the collective through social
Perhaps breaking the law does not ultimately harm society – Although the
laws become undermined, if the city ultimately benefits from it, then is
breaking the law justified? What if society improves and everybody is
• Fidelity Argument
o We should abide by agreements entered into without deceit or compulsion
o Premise 1: The fact that Socrates remained in city and did not challenge laws
constitutes an agreement to abide by its laws – Individual agreement w/ the state
o Premise 2: We ought to abide by our agreements
o Premise 3: If Socrates escapes from prison, he will break the law
o Consequence: Socrates should not escape from prison
o Is this a good argument?
It may not be fair – maybe challenging law imposes too much of a burden on
a citizen. It is hard to leave a society if you cannot change the law –
especially for the better.
• Principal of Filial Piety
o We ought to obey our parents and guardians. Analogical argument – state takes the
place of a parent over the individual
o Premise 1: The relationship between a state and a citizen is similar to the relationship
between a parents and a child
o Premise 2: A child ought to obey his/her parents
o Consequence: A citizen ought to obey the state Lecture 6: Civil Disobedience Continued
January 28 2013
Plato: we are never justified in breaking a law; the law is absolute, even if the law itself is unjust.
Authority of the law is absolute. This position is justified by appealing to three principles:
i) Principle of NonMaleficence – not do harm unto others
ii) Principle of Fidelity – agreement with the state
iii) Principle of Filial Piety – respect for parents, analogical argument
Most people have respect for the law and its authority, but few will say NEVER to break an unjust
or misapplied law. What then, is wrong with these arguments?
“Taking Rights Seriously”
What does it mean for a government to take rights seriously? Is there more to it than merely not
violating our rights?
Dworkin: If government truly does acknowledge rights, it must tolerate acts of civil disobedience.
Moral versus Legal “right”
The moral/immoral distinction is not the same as the legal/illegal distinction. Some actions are
immoral but not illegal; some actions are illegal but not immoral.
Sometimes the law seems to be at odds with morality
In these situations, a Constitution or Charter should come into play.
Having Rights vs. Doing what is Right
If A has a right to do X, then it is wrong to prevent A from doing X – Law and Authority
If A is doing what is right, then they are doing what they ought to do – Morality and Ethics
Does what is Right Doesn’t do what is right
Has a Right A: Giving a speech that calls on B: Posting racist/sexist comments on
people to donate money to starving Youtube
Does not have C: Illegal protests against D:Robbing a bank
a Right segregation (precivil rights)
When someone does A they are rewarded and praised. When someone does D, they are reviled and
punished. How do we treat B and C?
• In cases of B we usually let rights trump ethics – there are no legal consequences to this kind
of unethical behavior. Although you have a right to act unethically, you are subject to non legal consequences implemented by society. Dworkin: Is this enough to say that the
government takes rights seriously? If the government allows for B, then it must also allow
for C in cases of civil disobedience, in an appropriate manner.
How should the government handle cases of Civil Disobedience? Recognize difference between
breaking the law for unethical and ethical behavior
• Balance Model
o Individual rights need to be balanced against social consequences. Assumes that
there are competing sets of rights: that of the individual and those held by society at
o Is this a good model? No: it strips the notion of individual rights of any real meaning
o Individual rights must do two things: maintain respect for human dignity, embody
• Special Costs Model
o Once a right has been clearly defined, the only way to restrict this right if there is a
special cost to not restricting it.
o Rights can only be restricted if:
1) Values protected by original right are not at stake in this case
2) If marginal cases are permitted and granting right affects competing rights
3) If marginal cases are permitted and produces costs to society are beyond cost of
Lecture 7: EcoSabotage – What is it, and is it justifiable?
January 30 2013
What can we do when the state passes unjust laws?
1) Do nothing, stay out of the way
2) Try to change laws with regular political methods
3) Use nonregular political methods to try and change the laws – civil or militant disobedience
Violent Ecological Protest
Ecosabotage: Violence against property (not directly against people).
Organized Ecological Sabotage: Earth First, Earth Liberation Front, Sea Shepherd.
The public, nonviolent and conscientious breach of law undertaken with the aim of bringing about
a change in laws or government policies It must satisfy the following conditions:
• Conscientiousness: Actions stems from genuine moral conviction. People who engage in CD
do not do so for immediate personal gain, but rather the good of all society.
• Communication: Action sends a message which aims to do the following:
o Communicate disapproval of law/policy
o Attract public attention
• Publicity: Acts of CD are neither covert nor secretive.
• NonViolent: Acts of CD should not harm anyone.
Does conscientiousness apply to Militant Disobedience (MD)?
NonViolence: It may seem that CD and MD are sharply distinguished by their use of violence.
Perhaps the difference is more one of degree than of kind.
Communication: CD aims to express disapproval of existing law/policy and persuade others in the
hopes that this will instigate a change. Does MD do this?
It does the first but not the second. Relies on coercion rather than persuasion.
Publicity: In contrast to CD, MD tends to be covert (plans and identities are kept secret) However,
there do seem to be cases of MD which are very public
Matin Ecosabotage and CD
In principle, consequentialism can justify ecological sabotage, but those who advocate this
practise have not succeeded in doing so.
The violent disobedience of a particular law will likely, in the long run, lead to a better or
more just society than compliance or nonviolent disobedience. Have advocates succeeded in
showing that this is the case with ecosabotage? N he sed, nooooooooooooooooooo
Factor 1 (Factor to Justify Acts)
Community and ecosaboteurs share same goals
Many ecosabotage advocates are Deep Ecologists: Because most people do not share this view,
Saboteurs and community do not share same goals. Is this a good argument?
Ecosabotage more likely to bring about change than legal alternatives or civil disobedience – most
efficient way – but, is it? Have ecosaboteurs shown so?
This claim has not been adequately supported – mostly anecdotal evidence Factor 3+4
Ecosabotage is more likely than alternatives to have positive rather than negative consequences
This claim must be justified on a casebycase basis – To date, it has not been adequately supported.
Lecture 8: The Problem of the Grudge Informer
February 4 2013
Civil Disobedience and the Law: Concerns unjust laws in a generally good political system.
Sometimes a good system passes crappy laws, in which we may protest these through civilized
means. This is how democratic states handle civil disobedience, as per Dworkin and Plato.
Lon Fuller (19021978): However, what if the political system itself is unjust?
Historical Case: Woman denounced husband for making derogatory remarks about hitler. Man was
arrested, tried and sentenced to death, commuted to military service on Eastern front. Survived the
war and in 1951 took his former wife to court. Were the woman’s actions criminal?
• Highly unethical, although criminality in these actions can be ambiguous.
• She was obeying the laws of the land, albeit unjust laws. She defended herself on grounds
that she was in compliance with the contemporary law, rather than breaking the law (as was
• The Court, however, disagreed
o The woman violated the law against illegally depriving a person of their freedom
o The AntiSedition Statutes (The code which she accused her husband of breaking)
were not genuine laws
o When the woman used the Nazi party to seize her husband, the court saw it as no
better than hiring thugs to kidnap him ▯illegally depriving him of his freedom.
o What makes a statute into a valid law?
Legal Positivism: A valid law is one passed by a legitimate authority in
accordance with accepted social practises. ▯ would not find the woman’s
actions criminal, because the statute was in accordance with social practises
and passed by a legitimate authority (nazi party)
Natural Law Theorist: A valid law must also be just. ▯ woman’s actions
would be criminal, because AntiSedition Statutes were unjust, cannot shield
the woman from the just 1871 law. ▯subtle rejection of relativism.
Problem of Grudge Informer
As a Minister of Justice in a country, whose previous regime was held by an unjust political
party, you hear about grudge informers. Grudge informers reported their enemies to the authorities
to work off grudges. Their enemies did indeed break the statutes of the previous regime, which were
implemented at the time and resulted in capital offence. Knew that this would result in the imprisonment and execution of their enemies, and the GIs would benefit as a result. What should be
done with the GIs?
• Were the statutes passed by the previous regime indeed valid laws?
• Were the Grudge Informants actions criminal?
Even though the people they reported indeed broke the contemporary laws, the problem with the
actions of the GI’s is that they reported others for PERSONAL BENEFIT, to eliminate their
enemies and work off a grudge. Although unethical, is it criminally punishable?
A positivist may question whether the previous laws were valid – this approach would be
politically unpopular: people responsible for the deaths of others would walk away scotfree
Lecture 9: Freedom of Speech/Expression (used interchangeably)
February 6 2013
Mills: Can only be restricted if it causes harm to another person
Rawls: Covered under Equal Liberty Principle: Everyone should have the same amount to
maximize that liberty for everyone.
University Speech Codes
A university is an institute of higher learning. Goal = advancement of knowledge
A university is a community. Goal = harmony among members.
Even unpopular views should be expressed and respected for the advancement of knowledge.
However, since university is also a community, speech must also serve to improve the harmonious
function of the university.
Potential Conflict: Speech insofar as learning versus not being “appropriate”
McMaster University – Code of Conduct
Minor Offence: Engaging in harassing, intimidating or offensive language
Major Offence: Engaging in verbal or nonverbal intimidating, offensive, threatening or disruptive
communication or actions towards an individual or group. McMaster Senate Statement on Academic Freedom – even abhorrent speech should not be
censored; unpopular and abhorrent ideas tend to be offensive, however, censoring this behavior
jeopardizes the integrity of the university.
Stanford University Speech Code
• Concerned verbal or symbolic harassment intended to stigmatize individuals or minorities
• Harassment = Behavior commonly understood to convey direct and visceral hatred or
contempt for human beings on the basis of their sex, race, etc.
Charles Lawrence debate:
Lawrence argues in favor of speech codes. Goals:
i) Show that speech codes are consistent with First Amendment
ii) Show that speech codes are desirable.
Reasonable restrictions on speech are permitted. Lawrence thinks that speech codes are consistent
with the First Amendment. He uses some examples:
Brown vs/ Board of Education
Segregated schools are inherently unequal because they convey the idea that Black children
are an untouchable caste and this violates the constitutional right of equal citizenship
Racist speech conveys a similar idea and should also be banned.
Chaplinsky vs. New Hampshire
“Fighting words” are not protected by the Constitution
Since racist speech is an example of fighting words, it should not be protected.
Civil Rights Act of 1964
Sexual harassment which creates a hostile or abusive work environment violates the ban on
Since racist speech also creates a hostile or abusive work environment, it should be banned ▯
Even if Speech Codes (SC) are legal, they may not be desirable. Why might they?
- Racist speech inflicts a real psychic harm on its victims
- RS prevents minorities from receiving an equal educational opportunity to that of the
- Does not promote the discussion or exchange of ideas.
Lecture 10: Spthch Codes (Antiside)
February 11 2013 Lawrence favors speech code, show that speech codes are consistent with First Amendment, shows
that speech codes are desirable.
Skokie vs Nazi Party of America – supreme court ruled that Nazis could hold marches and display
the Swastika in Jewish villages. Thus, speech codes do not stand much of a chance.
RS inflicts psychic harm on its victims, RS prevents minorities from receiving an equal educational
opportunity to that of the majority. RS does not promote the discussion or exchange of ideas.
Canadian Charter says it is unallowable to incite hatred against any group, therefore hate speech
laws are constitutional\
Dworkin: If A has a right do to x, then it is wrong to prevent A from doing x. If A is doing what is
right, then they are doing what they ought to do. Having Rights vs. Doing What is Right.
- Would agree that hate speech is unethical.
JS Mill: Ultimate standard of ethics is that which regards overall utility. Greatest good for the
greatest number, an action which respects individual liberty to allow pursuit of human happiness is
Mill on Liberty:
• Respect for liberty must be nearly absolute. Only legitimate grounds for restricting liberty is
to prevent harm from coming to one another
• Individual must be protected from State power,
• Individual must be protected against the opinion of the majority. Thus you can express your
views even if they are unpopular views.
Suppression of Opinions:
• A suppressed opinion cold be true, false, or partly true/partly false. In virtually all situations
it is better to let the opinion be expressed rather than suppress it.
o True opinions: should not suppress true opinions with which we disagree
Suppressing opinion denies us opportunity to exchange error for truth
Suppressing opinion reinforces (false) view that we + our opinions are
infallible. Higher Pleasure
o False opinions: should not be suppressed
Shut the person who is wrong off from exchanging error for truth
Suppressing opinion reinforces our view that we are infallible.
Every time we expose the falsity of an opinion, we provide additional
evidence for the truth of our own opinions – challenge of argument.
o Partly true and partly false: Reasons for not suppressing true and false opinions also apply to these cases
The acquisition of knowledge is a dialectical process – free exchange of ideas
is needed amongst people who are intellectually honest.
Harmful Speech: Mill thinks that liberty can be restricted in order to prevent harm from coming to
another. What if an expressed opinion is harmful?
John Arthur – Sticks and Stones
• A genuine harm is an experience that thwarts a person’s future objectives and options. Not
every hurt is a harm (blisters, bug bites, etc.). If we are going to use harm to restrict liberty,
we need a very high threshold for what constitutes as a harm?
Cumulative vs Individual Harm: Actions which are not harmful on their own, can be harmful when
a lot of people do them, racism, sexism, etc. One person walking across the lawn is harmless, but if
1000 people do that it ruins the lawn.
Perhaps the real harm of hate speech is cumulative: effect on self esteem as well as causing
discrimination and violence. Offensive speech could undermine selfrespect, because this is a harm,
should this speech be banned?
Problem: Offensive speech on its own is unlikely to undermine selfesteem.
Offensive speech could lead to violence and discrimination – since V+D are harms, should the
speech be banned, if there is a causal relationship?
Problem: Prove it. Prove that hate speech CAUSED the violence. People
Gerald Gunther (19272002)
Lecture 11: Sex and Sexuality
February 13 2013
Deontological Ethics – Immanual Kant (17241804) Aristotle and Kant 2 greatest philosophers who
ever lived, according to our bro Stephan Rodde
Deontology: Ethical theory concerned with duties and rights.
Conditions for moral action:
o Right Intention: You must intend to do the right thing
o Right Motives: You must do it for the right reason According to Kant, consequences are completely irrelevant for an action to be ethical
Hypothetical situation: Three men have the opportunity to commit adultery. All three men decide
not to do it
1 : Decides not to do it because he is worried he will be caught.
2 : Doesn’t do it because he loves his wife and doesn’t want to cause her pain.
3 : Doesn’t do it because he recognizes that adultery is wrong.
st nd nd
Kant believes that the 1 and 2 man are not acting morally. The 2 man does not do the action
because he fears the consequences of his actions. Implies if that he didn’t love his wife it would be
okay to cheat.
If they 1 must be motivated by respect for the moral law.
But what makes an action the right thing to do, and how do you determine/prove it so?
Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or the person of another, always as an
end and never as a means only.
Humanity – rational and autonomous entities.
Rational: Formulates goals and determines morally acceptable ways of achieving them
Autonomous: Formulates principles that govern his/her own life
Ends and Mere Means
Treating someone as an end is treating them with dignity and respect.
Treating someone as a mere means – treating them as no more than an instrument to achieving your
• Treating someone as mere means is not equal to treating them as means. Circumstances of
consequence don’t matter – Kant believes that you can never use someone as a MERE
means even if the result is good
Duty to Yourself: It is possible to treat yourself as a mere means to an end.
Pure Sexual Desire: Sex that involves treating another person as a mere means to an end is
unethical. Even sex between consenting adults can be unethical.
Kant believes there is a solution – Monogamous Heterosexual Marriage
Slavery: A’s will is subordinated to B’s will
Marriage: A’s will is subordinated to B’s will and B’s will is subordinated to A’s will. A’s will is
indirectly subordinated to A’s own will. Lecture 14: Sex + Sexuality
February 25 2013
Categorical Imperative – What makes an action right or wrong
Kant addresses right intent: Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or that of
another, always as an end and never as a mere means.
• Treat with dignity and respect
• Acknowledge that they have their own values and wants, principles, goals and objectives.
Do not objectify others for your own gain.
This contradicts consequentialist ethics, which may justify treating others as objects if it maximizes
overall utility. Kant does not care how much utility is maximized; no one should be treated as a
Sexuality: Sex that involves treating another person as a mere means to an end is unethical – even
sex between consenting adults can be unethical. Motives of moral relationships are degraded when
a person becomes an object of appetite to another.
ORGANA SEXUALIA: A coveted butterfly, often resembling that of
a human vagina. Known for releasing exotic pheromones and being a
symbol of sexual fertility in Ancient Greece.
Duties to Ourselves: It is possible to treat ourselves as a mere means to an end.
• Sexual Perversion (Crimes of the Flesh): Masturbation, Homosexuality, Bestiality
Natural Function Argument
P1: The natural purpose (biological function) of the sex organs is procreation
P2: It is morally wrong to impede/frustrate the natural purpose of the organs of