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Justin Caouette
University of Calgary
I am a doctoral candidate in Philosophy at the University of Calgary.
Interests: My primary research interests are in moral philosophy, free will, applied ethics, and moral psychology. Within these subfields my interests include: (i) moral responsibility, (ii) the nature of authenticity and the role it plays in being responsible, (iii) the relationship between being responsible and holding responsible, (iv) the role that different psychological disorders should play in mitigating moral culpability, (v) the relations that hold between various normative judgments and fitting emotional responses on the one hand and different conceptions of free will on the other, and (vi) the ethics of human enhancement technologies in sport, for use in our punishment practices, and to aid research and work practices.
Recent Activity
I, too, am curious what comes next. One concern I have had about the gradual decline of blogging is the negative impact it will have for those who do not stay in the discipline. Blogging is a way for others to engage who may not be doing philosophy full-time anymore. One thing I always thought about on the market is that "at least I'll get my philoosphical-fill via the blogs if this all doesn't work out". Sadly, I don't think that's a viable option anymore.
First, I don't think a Trump win will automatically change the party but I think it provides the best chance. A close second in my view is not voting for her so she SQUEAKS by. That could have an impact as well, and given the short term harms the Trump presidency would have, I think the latter option is best. But SURELY I can appeal to these possible outcomes, right? After all the basis of your whole argument is future outcomes if Trump becomes president. Sure, it's no guarantee but I would grant it for the sake of argument. But, if you think that is not an acceptable inference I'd be curious to hear you justify why having Trump would create more harm than Clinton. That seems to be an analogous inference. How can you measure the harm of his speech acts VS her almost certain harms of killing people over seas? Trump has never killed anyone overseas so Im not sure you can use THAT against him. This is a major problem I have with purely consequential arguments in the first place. My appeal to consequences is no good but yours is perfectly fine. It smells fishy to me, but maybe that's the chowdah I just finished. Maybe I wasn't clear because my goal in voting 3rd party or for a write-in candidate wasn't to actually have that candidate win. The goal would be to show thew party that I am fed up with the establishment options they provided me and won't stand for it. From there my inference was that THAT could and probably WOULD have an impact. Again, I don't see how that is any worse of an inference than (1) (2) or (4). I'm not seeing the connection to the trolley problem. We have far too much info for both sides of the track and you must also weigh in that info when deciding. As I stated originally, I'm just not convinced the long term affects of us allowing her to steamroll trump are better than Trump getting in. In the short term, I'd grant that Trump is probably going to make us worse off. But in the long term I'm pretty sure a Hillary run-away win will have dire consequences for any candidate to emerge from the party that is radical enough to put forward the changes our country DESPERATELY needs. I guess I'd have to hear more on the long-term harms Trump wil cause vs Hillary. I've yet to hear justification for why Trump is necessarily worse in the long run and given that your argument hinges on overall harms I think more needs to be said there. Especially since I have given at least some reason to think Hillary getting in won't allow for much change in the democratic political landscape in future elections and the current system is screwed which is bad for most of us as well. Also, it seems Hilary approved CIA Drone strikes from her cell phone? She seems pretty cold-blooded. I can't with good conscious promote her, I'll leave that to you all and hope she wins by one electoral vote. Lastly, I agree with the last sentence of your comment. You're speaking to the quire here regarding Kant. But, I think your appeal to prudence is the wrong virtue to appeal to in this case. Instead, I think we need patience and courage. Instead of focusing on the next 4 years we should be focused on the next 16. Real change takes time and if the masses vote for her out of fear of Trump, we don't stand a chance to get real political change in office for a very long time. And that, in my view, would be a much greater tragedy than 4 years of Drumf. We survived BUSH we can survive this clown, if that's what it takes to get real change, then so be it!
Nice post! I'm curious though, you set up the argument as if we can only vote for Trump or Clinton, but, we can vote 3rd party or write someone in. Why do you believe voting in this way is morally problematic? I don't think it is, especially when one buys into the claims you make in your last para (which I do). You say: "Holding Democrats more accountable is prudentially better than electing Republicans who do not hear us at all. The Republican vision for the United States is to ignore all forms of structural violence since those forms of structural violence are part of the tradition they wish to conserve." Well, I don't think we are holding them accountable if we let her win in a landslide. If some of us go third party this will serve to send a clear message to the party that we want some serious changes to better represent our values. Also, you make no mention of Clinton's ATROCIOUS record overseas and her war mongering. Why shouldn't these be taken into consideration as well in your calculation? A further missing component from your calculation is long-term affects. If Clinton was to barely get in or Trump got in this would cause the democratic party to make SWEEPING CHANGES, and, if Trump is as bad as we think he is then we'll have a more representative candidate in 2020 to come into office and finally advocate for policies well want. If Clinton gets in what motivation does the party have to make changes? Given that change is unlikely if we ALL vote for Clinton this leads to more harm then good over the long haul because 4 years of shit with Trump would at least lead to DRASTIC party changes that will have longer lasting affects and better consequences in the long run. Anyway, I don't buy most moral claims that weigh things as such because we are not in an epistemic position to weigh things that may or may not occur. #virtueforlife
My pleasure, Eric! Your piece was provocative and thought provoking and really spoke to me.
Thanks for sharing that post, Alan. I really enjoyed it!
By Justin Caouette Myisha Cherry and Eric Schwitzgebel recently took the philosophy discipline to task for being so white, the title of the piece was pure gold "Like the Oscars, #philosophysowhite". I really enjoyed the piece. Not because I agreed with it all but because I believe it's important to... Continue reading
Posted Mar 8, 2016 at Philosophical Percolations
I should mention that I do not agree with (4) either. I'm not sure that actual suffering needs to be part of a just punishment and this speaks to the "how we punish question" where I think many of us would appeal to mostly consequentialist considerations other than say, the amount of time we think someone should be punished.If one thinks one should suffer then this seems eerily close to revenge.
By Justin Caouette A while back over at Flickers of Freedom, Tamler Sommers posed a series of interesting questions regarding punishment. I'd like to take up some of those questions here. Sommers asks: "Is the methodology (detailed below) a good way to develop a theory of punishment? Step 1: Assemble... Continue reading
Posted Feb 23, 2016 at Philosophical Percolations
Thanks so much James! Your comments are very helpful for me moving forward. This is why I like blogging so much. It forces me to get some ideas written which is the first step in writing a proper paper. If only I didn't have my dissertation to finish this summer ;) I'm not much of a consequentialist, though admittedly I do sound like one at times. I'm more of a virtue ethicist that appeals to Kantian principles for purposes of moral development, but that's for another post. I agree that there are many facets to hypocrisy and that it's important to distinguish between them all in order to show why it might not be such a bad thing. Wallace does a decent job of doing this in his paper, though in the end he concludes that many of them share the same problematic feature. I particularly liked #4 and almost scratched this post in favor of writing about that. Maybe I'll post on moral standing in the future. I particularly like conversational models of moral responsibility (Michael Mckenna's version is quite nice) and such models focus on one's standing to blame. So more work needs to be done on cashing out what standing amounts to and how one gains or loses such standing. I think this is where Wallace and I would part ways. Anyway, thanks again for your thoughts on this. The points you make and questions you raise are all helpful in helping me to turn this into more than a blog post. Cheers!
By Justin Caouette In this post I'll be arguing that hypocrisy is not all that bad, and, though controversial, I'll argue that one's moral standing ought not be affected because one acts hypocritically. In fact, I'll suggest that hypocrites *might* be in the best position to give moral advice in... Continue reading
Posted Jun 9, 2015 at Philosophical Percolations
LOL @ James. Thanks for being our social media mogul! If you need a hand on twitter lemme know. FWIW, I see twitter as more a news feed than anything else. I share articles related to my work interests and follow others who share my interests. My feed is quite beneficial to my research. It took me about 6 months to find the right mix of scholars to include in my feed but it's been great. It's also a great way to share work and get folks reading what I'm working on. After all, we're not just writing for ourselves, or are we? Thanks again!
By Justin Caouette It's Ethics Tuesday (just barely) and this week I'll be spewing some further nonsense on the topic of cheating*. Last week I raised a bunch of questions in response to an earlier blog post by James Rocha. Although we have yet to agree as to what cheating... Continue reading
Posted Jun 2, 2015 at Philosophical Percolations
I share your thoughts that deception seems to be the key missing element. I focused on that in the second article (and a bit in the first) that James linked to in the beginning of his piece. Here's an interesting element that falls out of this view: folks who know they have fouled someone but the ref misses the call. Are they cheating if they do not tell the ref? This analysis suggests that they are, and I think I'm okay with that.
By Justin Caouette Given that this is my first post I would like to take this time to say thanks to Jon and the rest of the fantastic group of bloggers here at PhilPercs for allowing me to post with you all. Welcome to the jungle seemed like a fitting... Continue reading
Posted May 27, 2015 at Philosophical Percolations
I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who commented and asked questions over the course of my stint as FA in January. It was an honor and your comments and questions have helped me very much. I had planned on posting a couple more times to close out the... Continue reading
Posted Feb 1, 2015 at Flickers of Freedom
Mental illness affects how we perceive the actions of others and with good reason. Consider two scenarios. In scenario 1 a person crashes into you because they had a non-epileptic seizure while driving. The seizure was due to an undiagnosed anxiety disorder (the person never had a seizure prior to... Continue reading
Posted Jan 25, 2015 at Flickers of Freedom
In the last post I suggested that moral responsibility may not come in degrees and based on the discussion that ensued it seems that we are pretty torn on whether or not it does. In this post I would like to focus on a different question: are psychopaths morally responsible... Continue reading
Posted Jan 19, 2015 at Flickers of Freedom
Many have assumed either implicitly or explicitly that moral responsibility comes in degrees, but why? For me, it seems quite natural to say that I am either morally responsible or I am not. I either meet the conditions of one's particular view, or I do not. Oddly, this has been... Continue reading
Posted Jan 14, 2015 at Flickers of Freedom
We have all forgiven someone before. In fact, forgiveness can often serve as a key ingredient in our most cherished interpersonal relationships. Many of us who work on free will related topics have thought long and hard about questions concerning blame. Questions like: When is it appropriate to blame? Who... Continue reading
Posted Jan 10, 2015 at Flickers of Freedom
Many philosophers (1) have spent substantial time wrestling with, expanding on, and arguing against the central ideas put forth in P.F. Strawson's seminal piece "Freedom and Resentment", and with good reason. In that essay, Stawson lays out many concerns that are worthy of deep reflection. In this post I would... Continue reading
Posted Jan 7, 2015 at Flickers of Freedom
It appears that deontic judgments—judgments of moral obligation, moral right, and moral wrong—presuppose control; specifically, they presuppose one’s having free will. To see this consider an example: Consider Leroy, a man paralyzed from the waist down, seemingly all alone, enjoying some sun at the edge of the lake in his wheelchair. He notices a young man drowning in the lake. Because of his condition it seems plausible to say that he is not obligated to jump in and save the drowning man. He is not obligated to do so because he cannot do so, he lacks the requisite control. If he had the ability and the opportunity to save him (he miraculously regained feeling in his legs minutes before the accident and he was in a position to save) we would say that he was obligated to save him. Therefore, it seems plausible to link obligations to abilities and opportunities[1]. Thus we can follow Ish Haji in adopting a central principle OIC, as our control principle for moral obligation: OIC: S ought to do A only if S can do A. In this post I'd like to discuss issues surrounding the incompatibility of determinism and ought judgments[2], particularly from the free will skeptics point of view. Free will skeptics claim that free will is incompatible with determinism. Many also conclude that moral responsibility, at least in the basic-desert sense, is incompatible with determinism because the control required to be morally responsible is imperiled by the truth of their skeptical position. But, one variety of skeptic (optimistic skeptics) claim that a robust sense of morality (among other things) remains intact. Thus, even a hard incompatibilist like Derk Pereboom becomes a compatibilist with regards to determinism (and indeterminism) and a robust moral system. Here’s a quote from Pereboom: “Morality, meaning, and value remain intact even if we are not morally responsible....” (2001) Thus, judgments like "S ought not to have done A" can be endorsed by the skeptic while consistently embracing their FW and MR skepticism. So I ask you all, are you buying this? Can such judgments be true in the wake of free will skepticism? I’m not convinced. Given that Pereboom has taken this question on (again) in his new book (2014 OUP) I thought I'd focus on his response. But first, to get the conversation going consider this claim derived from the ought-implies-can principle (OIC): If S ought not do have done A, then S could have refrained from doing A. Pereboom himself gets the sense that free will skeptics will have a difficult time denying this claim (see here). As Pereboom points out, compatibilists like Ish Haji (1998; 2012) and Dana Nelkin (2011) seem to have a similar sense. Thus, given that determinism rules out the ability to do otherwise (for many at least) it also seems to threaten ‘ought’ judgments given that such judgments seem to entail an ability to do otherwise as well. So, to save ‘ought’ judgments from determinism (and indeterminism) Pereboom (2014) follows C.D. Broad (1952) in separating different senses of ‘ought’. Pereboom focuses on a distinction between deliberative ‘ought’ claims which he calls the ‘ought’ of specific agent demand such as “Eduardo ought not hit his mother” on the one hand, and another sense of ‘ought’ which he dubs the ‘ought’ of axiological recommendation such as “Lebron ought to win the lottery”. This latter sense of ‘ought’ is not at odds with determinism because according to Pereboom it does not imply ‘can’ whereas the former ‘ought’, the ‘ought’ of specific agent demand does imply can. Pereboom concludes that if we had to settle for the ‘ought’ of axiological recommendation our system of morality would still be robust, it wouldn’t be that big a deal. We could still endorse OIC if we understood the ‘ought’ invoked in OIC as the ‘ought’ of axiological recommendation. Do you agree? Would it be a big deal to lose the ‘ought’ of specific agent demand? Is it legitimate to understand the ‘ought’ in OIC as the ‘ought’ of axiological recommendation? I look forward to hearing what you all think. I have reservations about Pereboom’s attempt to save ‘ought’ claims, I’ll discuss a few. Continue reading
Posted Jan 3, 2015 at Flickers of Freedom
Happy New Year folks! First things first, I’d like to thank Thomas for this great opportunity! I think I am the first graduate student to be a featured author here at Flickers and I am very appreciative. I will be utilizing my time here to forward some of my arguments... Continue reading
Posted Jan 1, 2015 at Flickers of Freedom
Hi Marcus, Thought provoking post (as is often the case with your posts but I digress). I did want to bring up a few worries though. First, the analogy with sports and draft position isn't a good one. The players are being interviewed every time they are on the field. In philosophy, it's not like that. So, even though a combine workout can weigh in favor or against a prospect it is usually only an all things being equal metric. The performance on the field is what does the most work for the prospects (Even Jemarcus Russell had a 10-1 season and some excellent come from behind wins against Alabama, etc.). Second, isn't looking over one's dossier, and "counting their pubs" overly focusing on one aspect of our jobs as philosophers. Teaching is surely important and an in person interview is much better at gauging how the person will perform in the classroom. It's a lot bettr than simply looking at teaching evals (IMHO). Lastly, doesn't the choice to not have interviews bias against those who do damn well at them. Or am I missing something? Here is a few things to consider, in my case anyway. I'm from Calgary, an under the radar program. I can help my chances with an interview given that I think one of my stronger traits is my ability to work a classroom and show my enthusiasm for the discipline. I think I can write just fine but given that my program is MUCH shorter than those in the states (4 years with much of that time spent on 3 intense examinations and a year of course work) my dossier will not be as impressive when compared to the 7-8 year PhD from the states, or someone like yourself who has been publishing for years since graduating. So, it seems that in not interviewing, folks like me are at a disadvantage. And, given that the name of my institution may already work against me this seems, well, shitty. Now, this is not to say that the past shouldn't matter at all only that moving away from the interview all-together works against folks like me. I did have a couple of questions for you, Marcus. Isn't reviewing one's work (rather than an in person interview) just a different way of "spotting talent"? Also, the suggested approach creates systematic obstacles for folks who have what it takes to be a good pro if only they were given a chance. I'm thinking here of folks who have to work while in grad school which makes publishing nearly impossible. Those folks would never get a job if we were to focus ONLY on past success. Am I off to worry about such cases under your suggestion of no interviews?
Given that I'll be entering the job market for the first time this fall I have been reading and discussing different approaches to having success. Today I read an article that struck me as a bad approach to achieving such success. As I was taking a break from dissertation writing... Continue reading
Posted Jun 21, 2014 at The Philosophers' Cocoon
I find myself in a bit of a bind and was seeking some advice from my fellow cocooners on how to resolve it. I recently submitted to two conferences and the conferences will be held on different dates. Because of this I seem to be in the clear regarding my... Continue reading
Posted Aug 26, 2013 at The Philosophers' Cocoon