From the Archive: On Expertise

As I’m on holiday break, I’m relying on the archives of my other blog, The Ethics of Metropolitan Growth, to keep things moving along with this new blog. I will resume the development of new posts soon.

Today’s entry, from May 27, 2011, takes up a question that is still of concern to me, especially as i think about the meaning and the uses of this new blog: Is there such a thing as expertise in philosophy? Of what does that expertise consist?

Note that “the book” referenced in the first paragraph is my book, The Ethics of Metropolitan Growth (Continuum 2010).

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On Expertise: A Reply to King

The first published review of the book has come out, in the Spring 2011 issue of the journal Environmental Ethics. The review was written by Roger J.H. King.

It is certainly gratifying to read a sympathetic and largely positive review. King seems to understand the main intent of the book, which is to provide, as he puts it, “a propaedeutic” to ethical inquiry, that is, a kind of preparatory exercise. In other words, this is not, as he puts it, “a theoretical book.” (p.100)

The central mission of the book is to demonstrate the complexity of everyday judgments and decisions, and to encourage citizens and decision makers to uncover and analyze this complexity. (p.99)

So far, so good. This really is the mission of the book, as I understand it. It is clear, though, that King is not entirely satisfied with the book: he wishes I had taken on a different and more ambitious mission. Continue reading

From the Archive: Freedom of Choice: Behavior and Action, Part 2

Carrying on from my last archival post, here is the very next entry in my other blog, The Ethics of Metropolitan Growth, from April 21, 2010:

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Freedom of Choice: Behavior and Action, Part 2

The distinction raised in my last post comes out of a research project I’ve been pursuing for some years alongside my work in ethics of the built environment. That parallel project is more theoretical than practical, drawing from a range of sources in philosophy, biology, cognitive science, technology studies, and other fields to shed some light on the experience of being a moral agent, I hope revealing something of the character, scope and limits of agency.This theoretical project has spilled over into my more practical project before, perhaps most notably in the final chapter of The Ethics of Metropolitan Growth (p.134), where I consider the limits of ethics in light of the problem of “impure agency” (following Walker 1993, p.241).  The two projects have also begun to intertwine in academic journal articles I’ve written, one of which is forthcoming in Ethics and the Environment, in which I ask, “Did Americans Choose Sprawl?”

Here’s how I summarize the paper in the abstract: Continue reading

From the Archive: Behavior and Action, Part 1

Continuing my reflections on the role of the empirical sciences in understanding human moral experience, I’ve dug into the archives. As a down-payment on further exploration of the idea, I thought I would re-post an entry from my other blog, The Ethics of Metropolitan Growth, from April 10, 2010.

This is part one of two; I’ll re-post the second part on Monday.

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Behavior and Action

I’ve been attending a conference in Atlanta called Emerging Issues Along Urban/Rural Interfaces 3.

Organized by the Auburn Center for Forest Sustainability with support from an office of the USDA Forest Service, among others, the conference brought together ecologists, foresters, social scientists, and others (including two philosophers) to explore various dimensions of environmental change at the advancing edges of metropolitan regions.

From the first day of the conference, I noted a curious duality in discussions of human conduct, both past and present conduct that has led to environmental change and future conduct many at the conference would like to see from people.  In short, conference participants would sometimes talk about action, sometimes about behavior,  and sometimes about both at the same time.

They are not at all the same thing. Continue reading