Ethics

The UK is not just suffering shit-life syndrome. We’re also suffering shit-politician syndrome.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 19/08/2018 - 7:11pm in

Will Hutton has an article in the Guardian in which he argues that the recent decline in the growth of life expectancy in the UK (and its decline in some parts) is down to what he describes as 'shit-life syndrome'. This is the state where life is reduced to an exercise in mere survival as a result of the economic and social oppression lined up against those suffering the condition. And, as he points out, those suffering are not just those on the economic and social margins of society. In the UK, as in the US, the syndrome is spreading.

The reasons for this can be debated. I engaged in such argument in my book The Courageous State. In that book I argued that we live in a world where those with power do now, when they identify a problem, run as far as they might from it and say the market will find a solution. The market won't do that. It is designed not to do so. Those suffering shit-life syndrome have, by default, little impact on the market. That's one of the reasons why they are suffering the syndrome in the first place. That is why so much of current politics has turned a blind eye to this issue.

And they get away with it. That's because the world of make belief advertising which drives the myths that underpin the media, and in turn out politics, simply pretends such a syndrome does not exist whilst at the same time perpetually reinforcing the sense of dissatisfaction that is at its core.

What cures shit-life syndrome? Let's not beat about the peripheries on this. The time for that has gone.

Decent homes would help beat shit-life syndrome.

The security of knowing you can eat would help as well.

As would knowing that there's a chance that income will cover outgoings.

The availability of affordable credit at a time of crisis would be of value.

Meaningful work would be transformational.

Access to society - which can simply mean transport and the means to partake - is also key.

Knowing the planet might survive would be of value.

Believing in a future is key.

These things are not unreasonable expectations. But we are failing to organise our society to deliver them.

That is a choice.

It's the wrong choice.

We need to transform our choices. Thes needs have to be met. Not to extend life. But to make life worth living. It's unacceptable that it is not. And the evidence that it is not for too many is now all too clear.

And whilst this goes on our politicians argue about Brexit which they know will make things worse.

We don't just suffer shit life syndrome. We're also suffering shit politician syndrome. And both are crippling.

The PWC BHS Audit failure reveals a system rotten to its very core

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/08/2018 - 4:38pm in

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Ethics

It is not every day that a classic that will be read for years to come is published. Yesterday was such a day. And the classic in question? The Financial Reporting Council's report on PWC's audit of BHS. I have read all 39 pages this morning.

It's hard to describe how shocking the report is. It's especially shocking to me as a former audit partner, and when I compare just how weak PWC's systems were when compared to the procedures my own firm used to follow to ensure audit quality control.

Let me focus on some facts, first of all. These, on hours recorded on the audit, are interesting:The focus has been given by many to the near absence of time expended by the partner and senior manager. But I am shocked by the tiny total hours: just 154.5 hours, or less than five weeks work, much if it by very junior staff, was expended on this audit. The audit fee was £355,000. The average charge per hour was, then, £2,297. That is either daylight robbery, or someone at the FRC is misreporting facts.

If the hours recorded were true then at every possible level of work this audit could not have been properly undertaken. And gross mischarging took place.

It may have been both. But let's stop the pretence that audit is not profitable in that case.

Overall, there can be no doubt that Sir Philip Green and his companies were of considerable value to PWC:

This ratio is shocking. And what is more shocking is that the audit partner headed the supply of the non-audit services. There was no pretence at a separation of duties and so any audit objectivity. The same person who could give 2 hours to the audit could, over the same period, given 15 times that amount of effort to non-audit services.

And there was basic fraud:

False statements were made.

This is shocking enough, but the gross negligence of the actual audits, outlined in some detail in the report is also incredible. The turnover of BHS was basically not audited: it was only checked as part of the group but individual accounts were also signed off, of course. This was just wrong. Nor were large parts of the cost of sales audited. And major intra-group adjustments were simply ignored. Whilst the basic question of whether a company in such obvious trouble was a going concern or not, and so able to meet its financial obligations, was simply not tested at all. Indeed, the auditor who did most of the work, who had only one year's post qualification experience and may, therefore, have had just four year's experience in all, was not even aware that a sale was planned and did not allow for it in the audit work. Her manager and the audit partner did not apparently notice that deficiency. Which was not surprising as they could hardly have looked at the file at all.

This is not just a tale of woeful incompetence, although it is that.

It's also not just a tale of fraud, although that happened.

It has to be a tale of systemic failure: I cannot believe that this was just the proverbial 'rotten apple', yet again. For such a situation to have arisen here it must have been sufficiently commonplace for no one to have noticed anything amiss in what was happening. The implication is for the firm as a whole, and not just this audit and this partner.

And what of the penalty for such utterly gross incompetence and fraud? At £6.5 million for PWC it was less than a per cent of profit. It was a cost of doing business at more than £2,000 an hour. An inconvenience if the rest of the show can stay on the road.

My suggestion is the Financial Reporting Council has also failed here. PWC should have been barred from taking on new audit work. The FRC should have ordered a review of all its major audit files. Evidence of replication of the risk should have been sought: how many other audits were signed off with just two hours of partner time, for example? It would hardly be hard to identify them, and so pick the files for review, after all. But nothing of the sort has happened. Despite such gross failure, PWC is still selling audit services today.

And the question has, then, to be asked as to why that is, and why this business model is permitted to exist?

I discussed rent-seeking in the context of CEOs yesterday. I will suggest there is rent-seeking in these firms as well. What is very apparent is that just as CEOs cannot justify their salaries these firms cannot justify their fees. But they, or rather their partners, get away with them because they can exploit the rent that their firm name permits them to charge.

There is no value added.

There may be no service at all.

There is just a fee and a veneer of service that the FRC will not disrupt and so the rent-seeking, rather than the service, goes on.

This country; our financial system, and all the people who depend on it; they all need real audit services. I suspect, very strongly, that they are not getting anything close to that service and that BHS is not atypical in any way. PWC just made the mistake of being found out.

This rotten system needs root and branch reform. Of the regulator. Of the obligations of the auditor. Of the law. On the way firms are permitted to operate. And on their accountability.

Will we get it? Or will the rents just continue to flow to those who have not earned them? What do you think?

It’s time the BBC realised that the opposite of reasonable debate is not unreasoned extremism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 03/08/2018 - 5:39pm in

Rupert Read is a Green campaigner; philosopher; former Green Party candidate and a friend of mine. We don’t always agree. But we share a lot in common, including a lot of mutual respect. So I was delighted to see him writing this in the Guardian (which I quote extensively with his permission):

Like most Greens, I typically jump at opportunities to go on air. Pretty much any opportunity: BBC national radio, BBC TV, Channel 4, Sky – I’ve done them all over the years, for good or ill. Even when, as is not infrequently the case, the deck is somewhat stacked against me, or the timing inadequate for anything more than a soundbite, or the question up for debate less than ideal.

But this Wednesday, when I was rung up by BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and asked to come on air to debate with a climate change denier, something in me broke, and rebelled. Really? I thought. This summer, of all times?

So, for almost the first time in my life, I turned it down. I told it that I will no longer be part of such charades. I said that the BBC should be ashamed of its nonsensical idea of “balance”, when the scientific debate is as settled as the “debate” about whether smoking causes cancer. By giving climate change deniers a full platform, producers make their position seem infinitely more reasonable than it is. (This contributes to the spread of misinformation and miseducation around climate change that fuels the inaction producing the long emergency we are facing.)

From a public service broadcaster, this is simply not good enough.

I entirely agree. And I share his frustration. For years I have been seeking to present balanced argument on tax in the media. It’s hardly radical to say that you expect people to pay the right amount of tax, in the right place, at the right rate and at the right time, after all. Nor is it radical to say that you want the government to do this even-handedly in the interests of fair competition. From whatever political perspective you come that, surely, makes sense.

But like Rupert, I have been put up, time and again, against people I consider extremists. That is people like the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance and the Institute for Economic Affairs, both of which organisations argue for the end of the structure of society as we know it, the destruction of democracy as we are familiar with it, and the end of those services on which the most vulnerable people in this country rely. They also promote tax havens that would destroy fair competition and undermine markets. And that has been done in the name of supposed balance. But it is not. It creates bias.

And Rupert has stood up against that bias, and for good reason. As he argues, including those with such partisan, and unreasoned views, in on-air discussion actually destroys the debate. He put it like this:

What makes it so frustrating is that there are important debates to be had around climate change. And so I told the Beeb that I would be very happy to come on and take part in a different debate. For example, we should be debating whether the Paris climate accord is going to be enough, or if we need to do more. Or discussing just how radically our society needs to change to meet the challenges of the climate crisis, and how we should rethink our activism. But I will no longer put up with the absurd notion that a straight debate about the science can be justified.

I applaud his decision.

It was the right thing to do.

The time has come for the BBC to stop giving extremists a platform on the basis of supposedly providing balance.

Will the BBC listen though? Who knows? Maybe they might if Rupert's suggestion were followed  through:

However, here’s the exciting thing. If we get more momentum behind the idea of refusing to participate, it will force a change of coverage methods by the BBC, which experts have been calling for for years. For if we all refuse to debate with the climate change deniers on public platforms, and press the BBC to catch up with the 21st century, it will be forced to change its ways, because the BBC cannot defend the practice of allowing a climate change denier to speak unopposed. If we truly want to see change on this issue, we need to be willing to let it know exactly how we feel. So, now I’m going to get on with filing my official complaint to the BBC …

I will have to think hard about that one. And the next time I am asked to go on air with the likes of Mark Littlewood from the Institute of Economic Affairs I might have to think seriously about whether to do so, or not.

The BBC is biased. It’s biased because it gives the far right a platform where none can be justified.

I'm not arguing against free speech. Nor is Rupert. What we are saying is that the balance in reasonable debate is not unreasoned extremism. And it’s time the BBC realised that. As yet they do not.

Answering the question ‘How do unearned benefits pay for themselves?’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 26/07/2018 - 4:49pm in

Someone with some political and economic experience sent me a note after they had read my blog on answering the question ‘How are you going to pay for it?’ They liked what I had said but asked:

I wonder what you would say if, hypothetically, government ran only a single program —UBI. If that was the sole govt expenditure, how could the “we will work for it” answer work?

The question is hypothetical, of course, but is none the worse for it. What it asks is how can the answer I provided work if we are not requiring people to work for the benefit they get? UBI does, of course, meet this criterion, but then so too do many other benefits. Can it fairly be said that such a policy can be justified by the claim it will be paid for by the “we will work for it” response?

Let me avoid the universal basic income v job guarantee argument when responding. Clearly this is an issue; maybe it was my correspondent’s real concern. But benefits extend beyond those of working age now and will always do so. We will always have the young, pensioners and those unable to work from infirmity.

So, can we argue that providing for those people (and by extension those provided with benefits because they cannot find work) can pay for itself by ‘working for it’? My answer is that it can. But the answer requires another question to be asked first. That is ‘What is the state for?’

That, of course, is a pretty big question. But I would suggest, in the same breath as I asked the question, that it is to protect those who live within its domain including the young, the old, the infirm for whatever reason and those unable to work, again for whatever the reason might be. In other words, one of its primary functions is to protect and provide for the vulnerable. In so doing it fulfils the moral imperative stated in every wisdom tradition that our duty is to have regard to the needs of others just as we have such regard for our own needs.

But it so happens that in providing in this way that it does something else. It actually increases the well-being of everyone. That is because the process of caring does provide work for those who want it. And, because those who have limited resources tend to spend all of their incomes, the process of caring does, in a financial sense, increase the overall level of demand in the economy. That is because redistribution is, by definition, from those with more resources, and so the capacity to save, which is an act that reduces effective demand in the economy.  That means redistributing does itself create the demand for labour and the demand for goods and services which does, in turn, ensure that those who want to work have gainful employment to undertake. In other words, redistribution, whether via a UBI or not, does actually generate the means to work which will pay for it.

And remember that the shortage in the world of the wealthy is of demand and not supply. And as Keynes pointed out long ago, this is an inherent problem with all market-based economies: they have the natural inclination to produce too little demand to use available resources (and most especially labour) to best effect. Redistribution addresses this issue of a shortage of demand then and meets the obligation of the state and that which most of us accept to care for others.

To come back to the question then. How do we answer the question, briefly, if the proposed spend is to be in benefits? It is to say, firstly, that if the questioner thinks it is not the role of government to protect the vulnerable in society by all means possible then they have clearly asked the wrong question by asking how we pay for it: they should be addressing some much more existential issues instead. But if they do agree that is the role of government then the answer is that "Redistribution provides people with the income that creates the additional demand that creates the new jobs in society that delivers the wealth, and so the taxes, that pays for the redistribution  that takes place."

In other words, redistribution does itself create the opportunity for people to work to pay for the redistribution to take place.

I expect I could find a snappier way of saying this, but I think you can discern my direction of travel and that it fits into the general model.

One final thing: it’s obviously worth noting that there are limits, which must be related to marginal propensities to save and consume. I am not suggesting these need be equalised, not least because we can only estimate them anyway. So, proxies have to be used. But we already have those: they are inequality measures. And I am not suggesting the elimination of all inequalities either; there are strong arguments to suggest that is unfair, and widely thought to be so. So the aim is to redistribute until agreed ratios on inequality are reached. I suggest Danny Dorling’s work be the guide on this.

EY, tax and reality are words that do not easily fit together

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 24/07/2018 - 5:46pm in

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Ethics

I was amused by a new report from Big 4 accountants EY on tax and the risk businesses face. Ignore for a fact that the whole thing is, of course, a sales pitch for outsourcing the whole job to EY and consider these two questions and answers:

So, 95% of tax executives think disclosure such as country-by-country reporting increases their tax risk.

And 93% think they may have to talk to their colleagues more as a result of such requirements.

Reflect on that for a moment. What both answers actually suggest is that tax functions create risk that they would rather not talk about.

They also suggest that this lack of willingness to talk exists within as well as outside the business.

So why is that? Could it be that what the tax department is doing is not connected to any known reality? And is that, maybe, why others in the business are not told about what the tax department does? Could it be that they would be shocked if they knew?

And what is the risk if those others did know? Might it be that tax departments can no longer represent what they claim to be the truth is actually the truth?

And might they, as a result, have to stop creating so much artificial risk because it would be apparent that the rest of the business could not withstand it?

EY did not, of course, pose such questions, let alone answer them. But if they were really as smart as they think they are they would. Except for one thing. They're trying to sell outsourcing of tax - i.e. removing it from the reality of the business environment altogether. And what the answers actually suggest is that the problem with tax in multinational corporations is its isolation from business reality.

That EY failed to ask the right question is unsurprising. No Big 4 firm has put more effort into blocking tax transparency than  EY, in my opinion. They have continually sought to protect the make-believe world that they wish to construct for clients wishing to minimise their tax bills through the use of the offshore and other services they sell. Building ever stronger ring fences around the tax department so that they can ignore the reality of the transactions that they report is wholly in EY's best interests.

But it is not, I suggest in their clients' interests to follow EY's logic.

And it is most certainly not in the interest of society that EY prevail.

There again, that has long been the case, It's just that now people are beginning to realise the truth in such claims.

Digital Maps of Spinoza’s Ethics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 19/07/2018 - 3:06am in

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Ethics

John Bagby, a PhD student in philosophy at Boston College, has created multiple visualizations of the argumentative structure of Spinoza’s Ethics and put them online for the philosophical community.

The visualizations allow readers to see and explore how different parts of the text are related to one another, in different ways. Here’s what the “grid by part” graph looks like as a whole:

You can click on one of the nodes, each representing a passage in the text, and see its connections with other passages:

The website includes a key the node numbers:

Which you can consult as you zoom in:

If you don’t care for the grids, there are other visualizations. Here’s a view of the “circle by part” format:

There’s even a “3D” version of the map which you can spin around and fly through. I found that one a bit unwieldy, but perhaps others more familiar with such visualizations will find it helpful.

The project was led by Mr. Bagby, supervised by associate professor of philosophy Jean-Luc Solère, with engineering by Calvin Morooney and Ben Shippee. It was funded by a couple of internal technology grants at Boston College.

It joins some similar works in the digital humanities, including, for example, a digitization of the “geometry” of Spinoza’s Ethicssome maps of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, a visualization of influence in the history of philosophy, a semantic network of the history of philosophy, and an explorable chart of philosophy based on PhilPapers’s taxonomy.

(via Greta Turnbull)

The post Digital Maps of Spinoza’s Ethics appeared first on Daily Nous.

A cheer for Amyas Morse and the role of truth and honesty in British politics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 05/07/2018 - 3:41pm in

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Ethics, Politics

I don't always cheer for former PWC partners: that I admit. But I did for Amyas Morse, who is now the Director of the National Audit Office,  yesterday.

As The Guardian, and many other papers, point out, he wrote a public letter to Esther McVey, the Work and Pensions Secretary, yesterday to make clear that a statement she had made to the Commons on a report his Office had prepared on Universal Credit were misleading. She had declined to meet him to discuss the issue. As a result he had no choice but point out the errors so that the House if Commons knew that a minister had misled it, which is normally a resigning issue. Esther McVey will get away with her apology to the House instead, such is the chaos in the government.

This, however, matters. Esther McVey did not mislead parliament. She shamelessly lied to it. And in the process she maligned NAO officials who had done their job properly. And in true Trump fashion, she thought she could lie whilst abusing civil service experts, who she was accusing of delivering fake news when it was, in fact, she who was making everything up. What is more, she thought she could get away with it, as so many ministers have done before her.

It turned out that on this occasion Morse was not having it.

Good for him.

Good for truth.

Good for democracy.

All are being deeply damaged by the deliberate actions of ministers who day after day think they can report any nonsense that they like to parliament. I hope that in future they might think twice before doing so.

Accountancy, corruption, ethics and offshore

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 03/07/2018 - 6:08pm in

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Ethics

I spent a fascinating afternoon yesterday with Prof Dan Ostas of the University of Oklahoma. We weren’t near a prairie. Instead we sat by the river in my home city of Ely and chewed the cud on various issues relating to accounting, tax and business ethics. Dan is supremely qualified to partake in such discussion. He has doctorates in both economics and law, but in both cases his studies focused on the philosophy of the subjects in question.

As the afternoon went on and we had set out our own positions so that we might understand each other better Dan asked me a fascinating question. His premise was that even if we could accept that some business people lacked ethics because they claimed (however inappropriately) a duty to profit maximise overcomes any other principle; and even if we could accept that some lawyers might take such a literal approach to the law so that they could argue (again, however inappropriately) that only the formal construction of its language guided their principles, surely we could not excuse the accountant who argues that legal form determines the appropriate construction of law on any issue, including tax, when there is not an accountant who has been trained since the 1970s who has not know that substance dominates form when it comes to accounting principles.

Let me explain what this means with an example. That example is leasing. In any lease contract an asset is hired by its legal owner to another person who makes use of that asset for their own beneficial purposes throughout the hire period. There is no reader of this blog who has not, I suspect hired an asset at some point in their life. Let’s take an example of a commonplace hire: it’s the white van to which most of use need occasional resort to move some essential item or other.

If we hire that van for a day, a weekend or even a month it’s very obvious where the risks in the transaction in which we are partaking lie. We have the  risk arising from the use of the asset whilst we hire it. That’s why we insure it during that period. But what we know is that the risk of break down, for example, is that of the care hire company, and that they have to replace it if anything goes wrong. We simply have a right to use the van. The hire company very obviously retains its ownership, and most of the risks arising from that ownership, bar our careless driving, which we insure. Let’s be unambiguous then that this cost of hire is very clearly a cost that any person, if they were running a business, would consider a straightforward business expense to go straight to the profit and loss account. And that, for the record, is how accounting requires that it be treated.

But now suppose we lease the van for three years from new. And suppose we cannot return it during that period. And we have to maintain and insure it during that time. And we even have an option to buy it outright at the end of the hire contract for a pre-agreed price. This is still a hire contract. We have not bought the van, even if we might eventually do so. It has a legal owner quite distinct from us, and we have to pay them, come what may, even if they can take the van back if we fail to do so. The near entire value and risk of ownership of that van have passed to us during the three years that we hire it. And accounting says that if this is the case then the asset is to be treated as if the person renting the van actually does own it. They must put it on their balance sheet at its full market value. Over the three years that they own it they must write its value off, down to the agreed value at the end of the contract at which they may (or may not) buy it. The full value of van is matched by a supposed loan that is also recorded on the balance sheet, to be repaid in cash over three years, or by cancellation of the contract and return of the vehicle to its legal owner at the expiry of the rental period. And the sum that will be paid in rent in excess of the depreciation charge is treated as an interest payment to the asset owner.

Now all those accounting entries for this van are a legal fiction. The reason is that the person renting the van does not own it: someone else does. But the accounts say they do own it. And the legally is not true, but in substance it is because all the major risks of ownership have passed to them. The legal owner is just a financier; that is all. The result is that the person hiring the van depreciates even though in legal terms it is not theirs and they say they pay interest when the reality is they pay rent. Accountants ignore the literal lethal truth and substitute a form of accounting that reflects the substance of what has happened and which means that whether the van was leased or hire purchased the accounting treatment should be near enough identical.

In that case every accountant knows that the legal form of contracts can be nonsense. They have to do so: it is implicit in the whole accounting framework  in which they operate.  But in that case can a tax accountant - having an identical professional qualification to the auditor who signs off sets of accounts - honestly say that it is their professional duty when advising on tax to comply only with the letter of the law, when they know that the result will not necessarily reflect the economic substance of the transactions into which they are suggesting a client enters. That was Dan’s question.

My answer was simple, and straightforward. I said the accountant could not rely on the letter of the law. Their code of professional ethics and the regulations of their own profession (because accounting standards are, in effect, self determined by the accounting profession) require them to know that by doing so they can create outcomes that clearly conflict with proper reporting. And we now know that it is the goal of tax authorities around the world to make sure that tax profits are reported where their substance arises. This means that they must be reported in the right place, at the right time, and be subject to the correct tax code so that appropriate tax might be paid in the name of the correct taxpayer who suffered or enjoyed the actual economic consequence of the transaction being reported. Anything else is clearly contrary to the principles of the OECD’s Base Erosion and Profit Shifting programme; to the multitudinous array of tax anti-avoidance legislation provisions and to the rules now implicit in targeted and general anti-avoidance principles for tax purposes, all of which seek to ensure that economic substance and not legal form is taxed. And there is no professional accountant on earth who cannot know the difference.

Having explained all this Dan then asked his follow up question. “Was it possible, then, that an accountant in Cayman, or wherever, could really with a clear conscience advise the use of a structure that did artificially relocate the place in which a transaction was recorded, or even advise the placement of an income stream in a structure when it was apparent that the structure was itself nothing more than a fig-leaf to disguise the true interests in the transaction?” And my answer was again straightforward, that of course no accountant could do this with a clear conscience: that was simply not possible.

“So’” Dan asked “are those accountants who do so greedy, stupid or wilfully corrupt?”

This was again easy to answer. A professional person does not have the defence of stupidity available to them, at least on something as glaringly obvious as this, especially if they chose to advise on it: they had a duty to be professionally competent, including knowing both the rules and ethics of their profession. So that option was off the table.

Greed, I said obviously came into it. But then, the pursuit of profit is not permitted by professional ethics if the two are in conflict, so that option was also ruled out as a defence.

And nor could the accountant say it was their own ethics that matter; it is public ethics that do because their profession is bound to act in the public interest.

And that left only wilful corruption as an explanation.

I could not offer Dan another alternative. And as he put it “Of all the people in the game somehow you’d think it was the accountants who’d get these things right, surely?” And then I drew his attention to my report written with Saila Stausholm of Copenhagen Business School on the office locations of the Big 4 firms. Each has at least 35 offices in tax haven locations.

Now you tell me: is that wilful corruption or not given that there is almost no economic substance to any of the transactions recorded in these places, and they must know that? And if it is is not, how not?

$860,000 Grant to Study Kantian Ethics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 28/06/2018 - 11:28pm in

What is the “political-theoretical background” of the central concepts of Kantian ethics? Pauline Kleingeld, professor of philosophy at the University of Groningen, was just awarded a €745,000 (approximately $860,000) grant to find out.

The grant is from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek, or NWO). Professor Kleingeld’s project, “Universal Moral Laws: A New Approach to Kant and Kantian Ethics” was one of twelve winners in NWO’s “Free Competition Humanities” program, and the only one led by a philosopher.

The project will look at the “key concepts in Kant’s universalistic ethics such as moral ‘legislation’ and ‘autonomy’, human ‘dignity’, and ‘freedom’ of the will” and “investigate the possibilities for developing a convincing modern Kantian ethics.”

There’s some further information here.

The post $860,000 Grant to Study Kantian Ethics appeared first on Daily Nous.

An Ethics Bowl Inside San Quentin State Prison

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 28/06/2018 - 12:33am in

In February, in the chapel of San Quentin State Prison, seven philosophy undergraduates from the University of California, Santa Cruz faced off against a group of prison inmates—in an ethics discussion.

The event was a project of the UC Santa Cruz Center for Public Philosophy (CPP). Philosopher Kyle Robertson, assistant director of the center, had been teaching inmates at San Quentin ethics, along with the mechanics of “ethics bowl” competitions, in which teams grapple with assessing and addressing realistic moral problems. It was the first event of its kind at the prison.

In an article about the competition, Robertson is quoted describing it as a “smashing success”:

But it was no small feat logistically… Because in the prison environment, everything runs on a tight schedule, and control of that schedule is entirely in the guards’ hands, not mine. We had to alter the format a little—for example, we made a 10-minute break in the middle of the round, because all of the inmates had to file outside for a count at that point. All inmates in the state of California are counted around 4 p.m., whether they are relaxing on the yard or competing in an Ethics Bowl.

Jonathan Ellis, associate professor of philosophy at UC Santa Cruz and founder and director of the CPP, notes that ethics bowls differ crucially from debates, as they “set the goal of truth and understanding over the goal of persuasion.”

The issues discussed at the San Quentin ethics bowl were: “Should we change a rule made by the American Psychiatric Association that states it is unethical for psychiatrists to give a professional opinion about public figures they have not examined in person?” and “Is it ethical to boycott, divest, and sanction Israel for its actions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip?”

Ellis says, “There was an integrity there that really stood out to me, in the way that both teams—but especially the San Quentin team—engaged with the questions that were posed, showing a sincere respect for the complexities of the thinking and reasoning required by the difficulty of the issues.”

You can read more about the ethics bowl here. Below is a brief video about it.

Ethics Bowl at San Quentin State Prison from Center for Public Philosophy on Vimeo.

The post An Ethics Bowl Inside San Quentin State Prison appeared first on Daily Nous.

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