Error message

Deprecated function: The each() function is deprecated. This message will be suppressed on further calls in _menu_load_objects() (line 579 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/menu.inc).

The Professional Status of “Pro-Life” Positions on Abortion

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 14/10/2020 - 2:03am in

Should junior job seekers try to avoid outing themselves as “pro-life”?

[Sarah Leonard, “Venus Fly Womb”]

A version of this question was discussed recently at The Philosophers’ Cocoon. The worry that prompted that discussion is that the pro-life view on abortion is perceived as sexist, and so philosophers who would like to avoid having a sexist colleague will avoid hiring people who defend that view.

There are a number of questions one could unpack here: (1) What exactly are we referring to by “pro-life” views on abortion? (2) Which, if any, of these views are sexist? (3) Does sincerely defending a sexist view make one sexist? (4) Is a job candidate’s sexism sufficient grounds for not hiring them? (5) Is the charge of sexism a red herring? Might it be viewed as sufficiently objectionable by others in the profession that some anti-abortion views restrict the liberty of women, regardless of whether the position or the arguments for it are sexist? (6) What should pro-life job candidates do?

I can’t take up all of these questions in this post. But I will share some thoughts about the first two, since I know everyone wants to hear what a man has to say about sexism and abortion.*

To start with a rather obvious point, there are lots of relevant distinctions to make here. Let’s just look at one: the distinction between the question of the moral permissibility of abortion (“the moral question”) and the question of the moral permissibility of banning abortion (“the legal question”). It’s worth making this distinction because it doesn’t follow from the judgment that some act is wrong that it should be illegal and its prohibition enforced by coercion. (Nor is it the case that some act has to be immoral for it to be right to make that act illegal.)

The moral question of abortion is really complicated, and I think philosophers—especially those most familiar with philosophical work on abortion—acknowledge this, and would not jump to the conclusion that someone who argues that most abortions are immoral is sexist.

I certainly don’t think they should jump to that conclusion; whether the conclusion is warranted depends on whether the anti-abortion argument in question is sexist. If one’s argument against abortion depends on premises that hold women’s interests to not be of equal moral importance to the interests of others, that’s one way an argument may be sexist. But not all anti-abortion arguments do that. To take a simple example, classical (total) utilitarianism does not weight interests differentially based on whose they are, but nonetheless the view implies that most abortions are wrong.

Of course, whether jumps to certain conclusions should be taken is different from the matter of whether they are taken. Am I right in thinking that this is not an especially popular jump?

What about the legal question? An assumption that a philosopher is sexist in virtue of supporting legal prohibitions on most abortions seems to have somewhat more warrant than the assumption that a philosopher is sexist in virtue of holding merely that most abortions are immoral. This is because to support making abortion illegal is to support special governmental prohibitions and use of force on women in regard to choices about their own bodies and lives in highly personal, invasive, and significant ways. But how much more warrant, I don’t know.

(I want to say that it is probably better to assess the individual arguments than make an assumption based on the conclusion of the arguments, but I see the counterexamples to that—do I need to assess individual arguments for race-based slavery? can’t I reasonably assume they’re racist based on their conclusion? At the same time, it’s not certain the analogy supporting these counterexamples is apt.)

And again, whether the belief that such views are sexist is warranted, there’s the question of whether the belief that they’re sexist is widespread. I’m not quite sure what to think about that. We could find out if you shared your views on the matter. Then there’s the question of how such beliefs affect hiring and the distribution of professional opportunities, and the further question of what job candidates with anti-abortion views should do in light of this, if anything.

Discussion of these and related questions are welcome.

(Since one’s own position on abortion may influence one’s view of whether certain views of the topic are sexist or perceived as such, it may be useful to share your position when you comment on these matters.**)

* Is there anything worse than having to explain a self-deprecating joke?

** For what it’s worth, I find Elizabeth Harman’s arguments in favor of the moral permissibility of early abortion compelling, and I am generally opposed to legal prohibitions on abortion.

Note: comments on this post are moderated and may take some time to appear.

Related: Political Hostility and Willingness to Discriminate in Philosophy, The Philosophy and Politics of Early Abortion in the U.S., Philosophers On the Ethics and Politics of Abortion.

Comments Policy

The post The Professional Status of “Pro-Life” Positions on Abortion appeared first on Daily Nous.

RBG: We Are Here to Stay

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 25/09/2020 - 3:05am in

I don’t know the precise moment when Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Ruth Bader Ginsburg stepped out of her august robes and lace collar and into the pantheon of popular culture. The Notorious RBG. -- Lynn Sherr Continue reading

The post RBG: We Are Here to Stay appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

Revisiting Rosedale

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 22/06/2020 - 12:07pm in

After a clip from Rosedale, a 1976 Bill Moyers film documenting racial tension in one New York City community, went viral on social media, New York Times reporter Sarah Maslin Nir tracked down the young Black girls — now grown women — who were terrorized by a mob of white children 45 years ago. Continue reading

The post Revisiting Rosedale appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

The true story of NI autocredits

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 19/06/2020 - 4:24am in

There's yet another bizarre claim doing the rounds in Waspiland. Or, more correctly, among the hardline Back to 60 fringe of the broader women's state pension movement. I try to ignore most of the ridiculous claims made by Back to 60 campaigners, because they aren't going to listen to me and I will simply end up with a sore head and a very frayed temper. But this one is more complex - and confusing - than most, and it doesn't only affect women. So it is worth explaining. 
As always, the story starts with the unequal state pension ages of men and women. When the present state pension system was introduced in 1946, women's state pension age was set at 60, and men's was 65. To qualify for a full state pension, women had to make 39 years of NI contributions: because their state pension age was 5 years later, men had to make 44 years of contributions. 
During the inflationary 1970s, unemployment gradually rose to the highest levels since the Great Depression. Youth unemployment was particularly high, and for the first time, graduates were affected. Concerned by rising youth unemployment, in 1977 the Labour government introduced a job release scheme (JRS) for older employees, both men and women. Originally, it was limited to employees within one year of state pension age - ie 59 for women and 64 for men - and was conditional on the firm employing someone from the unemployment register to replace them. But by the mid-1980s it had been extended to all men over 60, and the conditionality had been lifted. 
The JRS paid a flat-rate allowance to people who took early retirement under the scheme. The allowance was significantly lower than the median income, but 70% higher than unemployment benefit and 40% higher than the basic state pension. It was attractive to those on low incomes, those who could supplement it with an occupational pension, and those who would otherwise lose their jobs. But there was one huge problem. It did not include NI credits. Unless they registered as unemployed, people who retired early could find themselves with a lower state pension when they reached state pension age. 
In March 1983, the Chancellor, Geoffrey Howe, announced that the JRS would be extended to men over 62 and women over 59 who wished to reduce their hours: 

I can now announce a new scheme for part-time job release. It will apply to the same categories of older people who are willing to give up at least half their standard working week, so that someone else who is without a job can be taken on for the remaining half. The allowances will be paid at half the full-time rate. The scheme will take effect from 1 October and should provide part-time job opportunities for up to 40,000 more people who are at present unemployed.

Simultaneously, Howe announced that men over 60 who were not working, including those who had taken early retirement under the JRS, would no longer have to register as unemployed in order to receive NI credits: 

Some 90,000 men between the ages of 60 and 65 now have to register at an unemployment benefit office if they wish to secure contribution credits to protect their pension rights when they reach 65. From April, they will no longer have to do this. Even if those concerned subsequently take up part-time or low-paid work on earnings which fall below the lower earnings limit for contributions, their pension entitlement will be fully safeguarded.

So the NI contributions of men aged over 60 would in effect be guaranteed by the state. 
Why did these "autocredits" only apply to men? Simple. Women could take their state pensions from 60, whereas men had to wait until 65. And men also needed 44 years of NI contributions to qualify for a full state pension, whereas women only needed 39. So only men were suffering from loss of pension rights due to retiring in their early 60s. 
It could be argued that women suffered a similar loss of state pension rights if they retired between 55 and 59. But the JRS scheme did not encourage them to do so. The autocredits were introduced because government policy at that time specifically encouraged men - but not women - to take early retirement some years before their state pension age.  It could also be argued that it was harder for women to make enough NI contributions, because they tended to have long breaks from work, work part-time and be paid less than men. However, none of this was considered at the time. And as we shall see, it became irrelevant as far as women born in the 1950s are concerned. 
In 1995, legislation was passed to raise women's state pension age gradually to that of men, starting in 2010 and completing in 2020. As a consequence of this legislation, women would have to make the same NI contributions as men. Clearly, therefore, if men in their early 60s received automated NI credits, so too should women affected by the state pension age rises. In a letter sent to Myfanwy Opeldus in 2002, the DWP indicated an intention to extend autocredits to women: 

At the moment, we award National Insurance credits to men between the ages of 60 and 65 who don't work and don't pay National Insurance contributions. We do this to protect their basic State Pension entitlement. We will make similar arrangements for women from 2010, when their State Pension age begins to rise.

In 2007, the Labour Government cut the number of years of NI contributions required for a full state pension to 30 for both men and women. The change would take effect from 2010. As a result, it became much less likely that men retiring in their early 60s from 2010 onwards would not have a full NI contribution record. So, in 2009, the Labour government used a statutory instrument to phase out autocredits from 2010 onwards. 
An explanatory memorandum issued with the statutory instrument sets this decision in the context of the 1995 legislation equalising state pension ages. Autocredits had become a concession to men to soften the impact of continuing discrimination against them during the 25 years it would take to complete equalisation. They enabled men to stop work in their early 60s without suffering a state pension penalty:

7.33. Since 1983, National Insurance credits have been automatically available to men to make up any deficiencies in their record in the five tax years before the year in which they reach state pension age. “Autocredits” were introduced alongside changes that meant that men were no longer required to be available for work as a condition for receiving benefit once they reached age 60 (ie. the age at which women become eligible for the state pension). Autocredits protect a man’s basic state pension position during these five years if he is not working and paying National Insurance or entitled to credits for other reasons such as registered unemployed, sick, or a carer.

But autocredits did not give men an early state pension, as some have claimed. If men stopped work in their early 60s, they either had to live on their occupational pensions or, if they were poor, claim the means-tested Pension Credit. Women of the same age were, of course, receiving state pensions.
The memorandum goes on to acknowledge that the original intention had been to extend autocredits to women as their state pension age rose. It notes that under the original legislation, the number of years of NI contributions that women would have to make to qualify for a full state pension would have increased in line with their state pension age:

7.34. When the Government published its plans for state pension age equalisation in 1993, the intention then was that as women’s pension age increased gradually to 65, autocredits would become available to them on the same basis as for men. This was in part to compensate for the increase in the number of years women would otherwise have to pay National Insurance contributions for in order to qualify for a full basic pension. 

And it then explains the reasons for the decision to phase out autocredits: 

7.35. This approach has since been reviewed, for two reasons. Firstly, the qualifying age for Pension Credit (the income-related benefit currently payable to men and women at 60 without jobseeking conditions attached) is set to increase to 65 by 2020 in line with female state pension age. Men claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance will no longer have the option of switching to Pension Credit in the run-up to state pension age and will continue to receive a credit through receipt of those benefits instead. Without the proposed change, autocredits would increasingly apply mainly to people who could afford not to work or claim benefit. Secondly, the reduction in the number of qualifying years needed for a full basic pension to 30 and the improvements in the crediting arrangements for carers under the measures introduced by the Pensions Act 2007 will mean that the need for autocredits to protect state pension entitlement will be significantly reduced. (Those who would have benefited from autocredits had they been available will still have the option of paying voluntary National Insurance contributions to make up “missing years”.) 

In short, as sex discrimination in state pension ages was progressively eliminated from 2010 onwards, the concessions made to men to soften the impact of that discrimination would be gradually withdrawn, rather than extended to women as well. Once state pension ages were equalised, both men and women aged 60-64 who were not working would have to rely on the working-age benefits system rather than any form of state pension provision. Those who qualified for working-age benefits would receive the NI credits associated with those benefits. 
Autocredits were to be phased out gradually between 2010 and 2020. As women's state pension age rose, the age at which men became eligible for autocredits would also rise, thus ensuring that men only received autocredits for the period during which women of their age were receiving state pensions but they were not:

7.36. This instrument amends the Credits Regulations to provide that autocredits will be available to men only for the tax years in which they have reached what would be pension age for a woman of the same age, up to and including the last tax year before the one in which they reach age 65. Men born on 6 October 1954 or later, who will reach both female pension age and their own state pension age in the same tax year, will not qualify for the credits. 

The timetable was accelerated in 2011 in line with the timetable for women's state pension age rises. Autocredits were eliminated completely in November 2018, when women's state pension age reached 65. 
However, the taper was considerably simpler than that for womens' state pension age rises:

 (for comparison, you can find the timetable for women's state pension age rises under the 1995 Pensions Act here and the accelerated timetable under the 2011 Pensions Act here)
Because of this, some men will have received autocredits for short periods before women of their age reached state pension age. But we don't even know how many men received autocredits between 2010 and 2018, let alone how many of those received autocredits while women of their age were still working. All we have is a Freedom of Information response that tells us that between 1983 and 2018, as some 4.6m men may have qualified for autocredits. However, many of those men didn't need autocredits to qualify for a full state pension, either because they had already made enough NI contributions or because they were still working and paying NI. And some of the men died before reaching state pension age. So the truth is we have no idea how many men benefited from NI autocredits. It may not be very many. 
But of one thing we can be certain. Whether or not they benefited from NI autocredits, all of those 4.6m men were victims of statutory sex discrimination. They lived at a time when women of their age had earlier state pension ages than they did. Now, that discrimination has been eliminated, and with it the concessions such as autocredits that aimed to made it bearable. They are no longer needed by men, and they were never needed by women. What is needed now, as I have explained before, is reform of working-age benefits to make them less harsh and more suitable for both men and women as they approach retirement. 
 Related reading:
Releasing Jobs for the Young? Early retirement and youth unemployment in the United Kingdom - IFSSocial Security (Age of Retirement) Bill - HansardRegulation 32 of the State Pension Regulations 2015 (SI No 173) - National Insurance Manual- DWP

Supreme Court Rules Civil Rights Law Protects LGBT Workers, Echoing Philosophers’ Brief

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 16/06/2020 - 1:32am in

The United States Supreme Court issued a ruling this morning in the case of Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, holding that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects gay and transgender employees from workplace discrimination.

In the 6-3 ruling, written by Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, the court says:

Today, we must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender. The answer is clear. An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.

The ruling includes reasoning similar to that offered in the “Brief of Philosophy Professors as Amici Curiae in Support of the Employees” (discussed here), co-authored by philosopher Robin Dembroff (Yale) and law professor Issa Kohler-Hausmann (Yale), and signed by 80 philosophers. In that brief, they wrote:

The concept of “sex” is inextricably tied to the categories of same-sex attraction and gender nonconformity. Both categories are partially defined by sex and cannot logically be applied to any individual without reference to that individual’s sex. It is simply not possible to identify an individual as being attracted to the same sex without knowing or presuming that person’s sex. Likewise, it is not possible to identify someone as gender nonconforming (including being transgender) without reference to that person’s known or presumed sex and the associated social meanings. It follows that discrimination on the basis of same-sex attraction or gender nonconformity is inherently discrimination “because of sex.” 

You can read the Court’s decision here.


The post Supreme Court Rules Civil Rights Law Protects LGBT Workers, Echoing Philosophers’ Brief appeared first on Daily Nous.

Free Speech at Oxford (updated with an important correction)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 05/05/2020 - 9:26pm in

Flying around social media yesterday were cheers that Oxford University had issued a “Statement on the Importance of Free Speech” in response to a motion from the Oxford Student Union allegedly to “ban ‘ableist, classist and misogynist’ reading lists”.

Here’s Richard Dawkins on Twitter, for example:

I checked out the widely circulated Oxford Blue article linked to in Dawkins’ and others’ tweets, as well as the Oxford Student article first reporting on the Student Union motion. Though there were a few snippets here and there, neither article included or linked to the whole text of the motion, or even a substantial block of it.

And what of the “Statement on the Importance of Free Speech” that Oxford University “released”, according to the May 3rd Oxford Blue article? Fortunately, the authors of the article included the entire text of that statement. However, it appears to be the exact same text already posted last year on at least a couple of Oxford sites and released at least as early as May, 2017. It’s not clear what actually happened here. Perhaps the university simply referred the journalists at Oxford Blue to this pre-existing statement. [Update: according to the reporter, yes, this is what happened.]

Oxford Blue also reports that “the university” (they don’t specify who) said, “I can confirm that the University has no plans to censor reading materials assigned by our academics.”

Censor reading materials? Is that what the students were calling for? Not exactly.

Jenny Saville, “Stare III” (detail)

A fellow twitterer answered my request for the actual motion, and from the looks of it, the students were basically aiming for four things:

  1. For Oxford University to add gender identity, disability status, and socio-economic status as protected classes to its policy on acts of hatred and hate speech, which currently only concerns race, religion, and sexual orientation (as it is modeled on Part III of the UK’s Public Order Act of 1986, which concerns “acts intended or likely to stir up” hatred or violence).
  2. For Oxford University to not require students to take any courses whose content would “amount to” criminal hate speech, were the policy amended as in 1.
  3. For Oxford University to require faculty to consider the impact of “including prejudicial articles” on the well-being of protected groups as they finalize their reading lists and to include content warnings if appropriate for any of the readings.
  4. For two Oxford University Student Union officers—the Vice-President for Access and Academic Affairs and the Vice-President for Welfare and Equal Opportunities—to “condemn… the use of hateful material” in required courses. [Note: initially this was reported with the mistaken assumption that these vice presidential positions were administrative positions of the university. Rather, they are student union positions.]

What to make of these demands? The first thing to note is that none of this is censorship. So, for “the university” to say that it has “no plans to censor reading materials” is not, strictly speaking, to reject the student union motion. The closest we get to censorship in the motion is in the condemnation called for in #4, above. That isn’t technically censorship, but it may have similar effects (I don’t know, as I don’t know anything about those particular offices or whether Oxford faculty care about whether they condemn their reading selections). [Note: in light of the correction of #4, above, I think it is safe to say that #4 does not come close to constituting censorship.] #2 might strike some as censorship but it seems “pro-freedom” to me, for if its effect would be to give students more choice—here, not to take a course they otherwise would have been required to.

(In one line in the original document, the students complain about the lack of “criminalization” of certain forms of biased speech, but what they end up calling for from Oxford isn’t the criminalization of speech.)

The extent to which these demands are anti-free speech turns in part on what material is actually covered by it. I don’t know enough about the legal context to know exactly what kinds of texts would be picked out by “intended or likely to stir up” hatred. Are historical documents and older writings ever included here? Has the assignment of a hateful text for the purposes of study ever been the target of the Public Order of 1986 or university policies based on it? Readers, help us out.

Here’s the actual text of the motion (courtesy of Eric Sheng):

As you can see, the students named one example of a text they think would fall under their expanded hate speech proposal: “Procreative Beneficence: Why We Should Select the Best Children” by Julian Savulescu, which appeared in Bioethics in 2001. In this article, Savulescu argues that prospective parents “should select the child, of the possible children they could have, who is expected to have the best life, or at least as good a life as the others, based on the relevant, available information,” which they took to be objectionably ableist.

I don’t think the students did themselves any favors with this choice of example, in which Savulescu distinguishes between identifying conditions, such as poor memory, that tend to make people’s lives worse (a claim he endorses) and saying that people with those conditions are less deserving of respect or are less valuable (a claim he rejects). Regardless of whether one thinks Savulescu’s argument is any good, this article is certainly neither intended to, nor likely to stir up, hatred against disabled persons. The students are just mistaken that it is an example of hate speech.

Suppose, though, that they weren’t mistaken. Even if it were hate speech, note that the students are not calling for Oxford to ban Savulescu’s essay. Rather, they are arguing that students be given the option to take a course in which it is assigned, and that students be warned about its content. One way to put this is that they’re arguing for “informed consent” for encountering hate speech.

Unfortunately, they are also asking for administrators* [students actually; see the correction to #4, above] to condemn the assigning of the reading. Though I tend to favor “more speech” approaches to allegedly objectionable speech, without measures to separate the authority’s expressive actions from its coercive ones (a la Brettschneider), this is an overreach. [Note: in light of the correction of #4, above, which makes clear that it is students, not administrators, being asked to condemn the readings, I retract this criticism.]

So what to think about all of this? Here are three takeaways (feel free to add your own):

(a) The students care about the welfare of the vulnerable among them and are pointing out what they take to be a problem of arbitrariness in law and policy (that there are protections on the basis of, say, race and religion but not gender and class).

(b) The students are arguing for a more-freedom, more-information, and more-speech approach to solving this problem, rather than censorship.

(c) The students seem to have an overly inclusive conception of what counts as hate speech.

I think (a) is good, (b) is a mixed bag owing to the vague call for official condemnations and  [see the correction to #4, above] the confused language of “criminalization”, and (c) is not terrible but not good, either.

The problem with (c) is not really the legal point, but rather an apparent tendency towards a kind of “affirming the consequent”. Here’s an example. We might expect an atheist to criticize the ontological argument for the existence of God, but someone who criticizes the ontological argument for the existence of God is not necessarily an atheist. That is, it doesn’t follow from one’s making an argument an atheist would make that one is an atheist—it depends on the argument (among other things). Similarly, it doesn’t follow from one’s making an argument a racist or sexist or classist would make that one is a racist or sexist or classist—it depends on the argument (among other things). For example, we might expect a racist to argue against affirmative action, but it doesn’t follow that one is a racist in virtue of arguing against affirmative action.

It isn’t surprising that students are susceptible to this mistaken reasoning. For one thing, they’re still learning how to think carefully. For another, it’s not always a mistake to reason this way, and in some contexts (or for people with certain backgrounds) it could be a reasonable heuristic to employ.

Ironically, this kind of reasoning might have been in play in the widely shared descriptions and attitudes expressed about this story, which framed the students as censors. We might think that someone who favors censorship might express the same kinds of concerns the Oxford Student Union did in their motion. But it would be a mistake to conclude, as many seemed to do, that because they expressed such concerns, the students were calling for censorship. They weren’t.

I suppose an additional takeaway would be that, as with some other disputes over speech, the combatants may have more in common than they realize.


The post Free Speech at Oxford (updated with an important correction) appeared first on Daily Nous.

Aus Race Laws In Spotlight After Paris Attacks

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 13/01/2015 - 10:55am in

Discrimination Action Against Coles Online

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 06/11/2014 - 9:55am in