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Fair Limits

Academic events

8 June 2018
13:00 - 17:00

A conversation with Holly-Lawford-Smith

Friday the 8th of June Holly Lawford-Smith is in Utrecht at the invitation of the Fair Limits project. We will be talking about a work in progress (abstract below), and we’ll have a discussion with her about feasibility constraints in political philosophy, on which she has published several papers.

Time: 1-5 pm
Location: tba (city center of Utrecht)

If you would like to join us, please send an email to Tim Meijers.


Abstract: Many Hands and Many Times
(with David Axelsen, Kai Spiekermann, & Adam Slavny)

In this paper, we argue that there’s an overlooked version of the ‘many hands’ problem, namely, the ‘many times’ problem. This is a temporal version of the many hands problem, which occurs within persons. A single individual can perform a number of actions which taken alone do not harm, and yet which when added together, do. For example, an individual may discriminate against someone (yet in a way that falls short of violating her rights), may emit a small amount of carbon, may fail to contribute to ending extreme poverty, may walk by a homeless person without giving them money, may buy a sweatshop t-shirt, may make a sexist, racist, or classist joke, may fail to ‘call out’ a sexist, racist, or classist joke, and so on, and so forth. We set out this new problem and discuss three apparently plausible solutions to it: the unification of actions across time by plans and intentions, vice and character, and psychological connectedness. We argue that none of these successfully dispel the many times problem, and defend a new way of thinking about responsibility across time which involves a discount rate on Parfit’s R-relation. We conclude that the many times problem exacerbates the existing challenge to capture responsibility for harmful outcomes like climate change, workplace sexism, unethical consumption, etc.