Archive for August 5th, 2010


Geoengineering Article

August 5, 2010

My article with Lisa Dilling, “Geoengineering, Ocean Fertilization, and the Problem of Permissible Pollution” is now out in Science, Technology and Human Values. Check it out:

Many geoengineering projects have been proposed to address climate change, including both solar radiation management and carbon removal techniques. Some of these methods would introduce additional compounds into the atmosphere or the ocean. This poses a difficult conundrum: Is it permissible to remediate one pollutant by introducing a second pollutant into a system that has already been damaged, threatened, or altered? We frame this conundrum as the “Problem of Permissible Pollution.” In this paper, we explore this problem by taking up ocean fertilization and advancing an argument that rests on three moral claims. We first observe that pollution is, in many respects, a context-dependent matter. This observation leads us to argue for a “justifiability criterion.” Second, we suggest that remediating actions must take into account the antecedent conditions that have given rise to their consideration. We call this second observation the “antecedent conditions criterion.” Finally, we observe that ocean fertilization, and other related geoengineering technologies, propose not strictly to clean up carbon emissions, but actually to move the universe to some future, unknown state. Given the introduced criteria, we impose a “future-state constraint”.” We conclude that ocean fertilization is not an acceptable solution for mitigating climate change. In attempting to shift the universe to a future state (a) geoengineering sidelines consideration of the antecedent conditions that have given rise to it –conditions, we note, that in many cases involve unjustified carbon emissions –and (b) it must appeal to an impossibly large set of affected parties.


Morris Judd

August 5, 2010

This article was forwarded to me by a friend. It’s about McCarthyism at CU Boulder in the 1950s. Pretty fascinating stuff, particularly since it involves the philosophy department.

“In 1952, the university of Colorado fired Morris Judd, an instructor in the Department of Philosophy, for failing to answer President Robert Stearns’s question, “Are you or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?”  Seeking to pacify a public alarmed by Senator Joseph McCarthy’s charge that communist professors were subverting American universities, CU disregarded the lessons of the 1920s, when the KKK had attempted to rid the university of Catholics, Blacks, and Jews, and initiated a purge of students, staff, and faculty….”

Fair enough. Pretty interesting lede, actually. Now this:

“To this day at the University of Colorado, the curriculum, particularly in philosophy, can be read as the triumph of the Stearns gang.  Analytic philosophy holds center stage, no doubt because of its value-neutral stance, having displaced courses in social and political theory.  Faculty scholarship has changed as well.  In virtually every discipline, explicit argumentation has given way to “thick” description and “new” narrative, overt to covert (or unconscious) agendas.  The baneful effects of this change are especially apparent in my own specialties, English and composition:  students are now trained to feel rather than to think.  The obligation to defend a thesis is foreign to them.  It is my contention that their intellectual irresponsibility is both cause and effect of political irresponsibility, and that worse is to come unless our professors and pastors and politicos remember how to nail their own theses on authority’s door.”

Say what? Analytic philosophy does hold center stage, but it’s not clear that it’s because of its value-neutral stance. For instance, we play host to one of the largest annual conferences in ethics, broadly conceived, which is generally speaking not value-neutral. That’s happening today and through the rest of the weekend.

We also have a fair bit of social and political theory going on, though perhaps not of the sort that relies heavily on Marx.

Finally, explicit argumentation hasn’t actually given way to “thick” description and “new” narrative in philosophy. Check out our paper abstracts for RoME. Not a lot of description in those papers. Pretty bare-bones argumentation.