Dale Jamieson quotes and sayings
October 21, 1947
I think the challenge of climate change in particular is the challenge for us to create and produce new norms for a new kind of world. And that's why I think as important as the issue of climate change is, it's even more important than it seems because if we can't evolve very quickly, new norms to deal with issues like climate change, we're not going to be able to survive in the kind of world we've created. So I think, really, the whole nature of democracy, of governance, of global community and of solving the kinds of problems of the 21st Century are really at stake.
Philosophers are smart, analytical, and skeptical. For these reasons they are relatively unbiased.
I think when it comes to climate change, the single most important thing in the world is for the United States' Congress to pass an effective bill that will put a price in carbon because if it starts costing something to emit carbon, this will provide an incentive, people do act on the basis to some extent of economic incentives to emit fewer greenhouse gases.
The Paris climate conference in December, 2015 was a recognition that countries bring their climate policies to international meetings rather than create them during the negotiations.
Well, one measure of a good life, I think, is to be engaged in projects that one thinks are meaningful and worthwhile. So I would put the emphasis of a good life on activity, on the walk rather than the destination, and I think that most of the things that any of us do that are really valuable and really important are projects that we really shouldn't expect to be completed in our lifetime because if they could completed in our lifetime, they probably wouldn't be so important that we should devote our lives to them.
'The anthropocene' refers to the way we live now, in a highly globalized world, characterized by a large human population and powerful technologies that allow for "action at a distance" that aggregate apparently negligible acts into powerful forces that are transforming fundamental planetary systems. In this sense 'the anthropocene' refers to a period in which nature as an independent autonomous domain comes to an end or is under serious threat.
Acts are right in virtue of the goodness of their consequences.
If you have a flat, fixed view of state interest then it is difficult to understand why some states adopt aggressive climate change policies, even when that risks economically disadvantaging them, and other states do not even when it would be in their economic interests to do so.
Aristotle thought that humans are rational animals and Hobbes thought that we act on the basis of rational self-interest. If only! It's not that we never do these things, it's that they are hardly constituative of who and what we are.
Philosophers tend to radically underestimate the distance between abstract principles and what it might actually mean for people to act on them.
I played with English and Sociology in college but dropped out to work in the anti-war movement. I was going around denouncing the Viet Nam war as immoral but one day it dawned on me that I didn't know what that meant. I signed up for an ethics class at San Francisco State to find out the answer.
We can use economic instruments to help realize our goals but economics does not tell us what our goals should be.
Apocalypses don't happen very often. They tend to be separated by tens or even hundreds of millions of years.
I'm a subjectivist about morality.
Kantians are saddled with absolutist views, Aristotelians are accused of vagueness, and there is almost no horror to which Consequentialists are innocent of, according to some critics. While all these families of views have been victimized in these ways, Consequentialists have gotten the worst of it. I think this may have something to do with the fact that Kant and Aristotle are acknowledged to be great philosophers, and we tend to read the greats sympathetically, while Consequentialism is a family of views not rooted in the work of a single great man to whom this kind of deference is owed.
The density of human population combined with the development of powerful and largely unconstrained technology has given us the problems of the anthropocene and the serious possibility of self-caused extinction.
Most of what we think of as distinctively human has occurred in the last 10,000 years in the Holocene - a period in which the Earth was abnormally quiet.
The problem is that for almost any feature of humanity that you can name, whether it's the ability to suffer, whether it's the capacity to reason, whether it's having lives that can go better or worse, there are at least some other non-human animals that have all of these features as well. So to exclude non-human animals from the range of moral concern but to include all humans, just seems morally arbitrary.
Citizens often think of a state's interests in terms of the promotion of ideals such as democracy, a particular way of life, or other values which they endorse or see as part of their historical continuity and identity. In this domain as in others values are not fixed, and so a state's interests are dynamic and in a constant state of negotiation and construction.
We need to use economic instruments such as carbon taxes, cap and trade, tax and dividend and whatever else to help incentivize behavior that will move us to a post-carbon, post-animal agriculture world, and make our societies more resilient to the shocks that are already baked into the system. But that doesn't make climate change an "economic issue.".
One of the real dangers of our time is people's indifference to history.
Sometimes I say philosophers should be at the table because they're the only people who know that they're not going to walk away with big money to support their research or to fund their crackpot solutions.
Philosophers are often actively disinterested in what happens between the cup and the lips.
I must say that in my own mind, I think what's important is for us, as a society, to radically reduce the consumption of meat. This is more important than some fraction of us become moral saints and become vegetarians so it would be much better if we would reduce meat consumption by three quarters of each of us as an individuals would only eat one-quarter as much meat as we do now then that half of the population should become vegetarian. We should see this as a collective challenge rather than an issue about individual, moral period.
The Consequentialist trinity is typically regarded in this way: Bentham is crude, Mill's writings are full of howlers and inconsistencies, and Sidgwick was too smart to fully embrace Consequentialism. All of these great traditions in moral philosophy express strands of our moral consciousness and they should all be treated as research programs rather than as fully determinate views that can be leveled by a counterexample or by a clever argument.
Since for me moral demands necessarily flow from human psychology, I don't think we can be obliged to do something that we are not motivated in any way to do. In other words, I'm an "internalist" about morality.
Some philosophers think that the idea of a consequentialist virtue theory is strange, but the real strength of consequentialism is that it can emulate the requirements of other moral theories when it is the case that acting on those theories would improve the world.
It is probably true that the economic benefits of being in the EU are a net positive to the UK, but a large number of people do not share in these benefits and the result is increasing inequality.
Is it in the UK's interests to leave the EU? It depends on your values. The answer can't be read off of GDP statistics under various scenarios or some measures of global influence.
Some philosophers have begun writing sympathetically about predator elimination as a way of reducing animal suffering. From an environmental perspective this is somewhere between nave and potentially disastrous.
I take seriously the idea that we are African Apes who dominate the planet, but our psychology is pretty much what it was when we were living in small groups on the savanna.
Bentham spent much of his life writing constitutions and proposing legal reform in the light of his utilitarianism. The evaluation of particular acts was hardly his concern. The psychology of his day was hedonistic and he worked in that framework and passed it on to Mill, but it is clear as day that Mill was not a hedonist in the sense in which we use that term today, though he used the language of pleasure and pain to express his views.
I think that by the middle of this century people will still be eating meat , and their meat will mostly be produced in factories through synthetic processes, cell cultures, and so on.
There'll come a time when airplanes are much more efficient when it comes to producing lower levels of greenhouse gas emissions, there'll come a time when we'll be able to offset those emissions much more effectively than we do now. But alas at the moment, flying airplanes is really one of the least defensible things that we do and it's one of the things that I indulge in quite frequently, alas.
Our traditional systems of decision-making are just not up to preventing changes in fundamental earth systems that are driven by a constant barrage of individually negligible emissions of an invisible, odorless gas, by billions of people all over the world.
Philosophy is not a body of knowledge to impart to someone, that's why reading philosophy books isn't always the best way of learning philosophy. Philosophy is really more the process of rational engagement, rational reflection with a diversity of views and ideas and opinions and trying to sort of reason your way through to a more reflective position. I think if you look at it that way, philosophizing is to some extent some small way a part of almost everyone's lives although they don't recognize it as such and a lot of people are embarrassed about it.
If you look globally you see a patchwork of jurisdictions that have taken aggressive action on climate change, and a patchwork of jurisdictions that have not. These various policies reflect the politics of each jurisdiction and the values of its citizens.
It's possible that we'll screw up the climate so badly that most of us will die and a few breeding pairs will remain somewhere in the arctic. What's more likely is that we'll continue remaking the planet, driving many species to extinction, killing millions of people through the indirect effects of climate change, making life even harder for the poor and powerless than it is now, and making it a little more difficult for the global middle class to live the lives to which they have become accustomed - in other words, business as usual, only worse.
None of us are rational economic men as we're supposed to be portrayed in economic theory where mixes of passions, of desires, of moral principles, of self-deception, of altruism, of concern of others, of concerns for ourselves and an interest in our bank accounts. And social policies have to be responsive to the complexity of who we are as people or else, like the war on drugs, they're simply going to fail.
It's obvious that there are vast variety of consequentialist views, depending on what we think goodness consists in, what our notion of consequence is, and what level of human action we think the principle should be applied.
Since we're not very good at something as basic as controlling our reproduction, life is really bad for more people than ever before.
This approach displays the characteristic philosophical lust to vanquish the skeptic by arguing him out of his skepticism, without appeal to moral and political considerations or to the facts of everyday life.But more often than not, if you give the skeptic everything he wants, then he will be successful in repulsing your attacks and terrorizing your position.
Philosophers are more interested in pursuing what they see as the logical implications of their theories than they are in paying attention to the shlumpy diversity of defensible values that people actually have, and then trying to figure out how these might be negotiated in the life of an agent or community.
Much of the point of individual action is really to communicate with other people and with political leaders and to demonstrate to them that we are willing to live lives which are less dependent on fossil fuels and we'll show you that now by changing our individual life to some extent but we want you to take action, political leaders, so that we aren't living in a society in which we're dependent on poisoning the future in order to maintain present lifestyles.
Most "process" philosophy is historicist and not concerned with "deep time." Maybe Whitehead is an exception. He may be a really important philosopher for all I know. I've never been able to read him.
The idea that Bentham and Mill were maximizers is the greatest stretch of all. They were progressivists, committed to improving the societies in which they lived, not utopian maximizers.
When it comes to climate change it's all the usual barriers: greed, mendacity, ignorance, short-sightedness and so on, manifest in the extreme power of corporations, the weakness of government, and the indifference of citizens.
Is it in the interests of Britain to leave or remain in the EU? As we saw in the referendum, there are different Britains and they see their interests in different ways. For a lot of everyday blokes the EU affected their sense of identity in ways they disliked, and they were right in thinking that the EU didn't return much to them by way of economic benefits.
If you look at the works psychologists have done about individual reports of wellbeing, what happens is that if you're poor, you are not happy. But once you achieve a certain level of material satisfaction then income has very little correlation with people's reported states of happiness, things like climate matter more, things like the culture of the country in which you're raised matter more and so the things really, let's face it, like individual temperament matter more than these things.
Climate scientists think of nothing but climate and then express their concerns in terms of constructs such as global mean surface temperature. But we live in a world in which all sorts of change is happening all the time, and the only way to understand what climate change will bring is to tell stories about how it manifests in people's lives.
If I drive my car to the store, those carbon molecules that are emitted actually get into the atmosphere circulation systems and affect climate in a global basis. This is shocking, this is amazing! No one in the 18th Century would have believed that anything like this were at all possible and I don't think we have, as part of our common sense, morality, norms and values that are really responsive to those kinds of issues, to the kind of power that we now are able to exert over the future and over people who live very far from us.
Critics of Consequentialism have often assumed that hedonism must be the theory of the good, that the deontic principle must be maximizing, and that the principle should be applied to individual acts. Indeed, this version is often called "classical utilitarianism" and attributed to Bentham and sometimes even to Mill. Rather than a "classical" view it is a recent construction foisted on to the tradition.
Many environmental questions are in a deep way philosophical, despite our penchant for treating them as if they were only technological, economic, or whatever.
What most forms of Consequentialism cannot do is require us to act in such a way as to make the world worse, yet many of the objections to Consequentialism purport to show that Consequentialism requires us to make the world a stinking, bloody mess. The ubiquity of these kinds of arguments shows you just how unseriously many of the critics take Consequentialism.
We're highly adaptable and have developed some powerful systems of representation.
If you're interested in doing something about climate change as we all should be, all of us who care about future people and creatures that will inhabit this world. Then buying a Prius is a good thing but an even better thing would be to be on the streets demanding urgent action from the United States' Congress.
If we don't have historical consciousness we can't really understand problems in all their dimensions, and if we can't understand problems than we can't find solutions.
In the face of the collective action problems that are at the heart of the environmental crisis, consequentialists should seek to inculcate the "green virtues" which includes the virtue of cooperativeness. This would not bring about the best possible world but it would set us on the path of making it better.
I think, questions about what it means to respect nature become very important because just as in human society, for example, part of what it is for me to live a good life as a human being in a human society is to have respect for others around me. Now, that respect, to some extent, can be thought of as being grounded in the rights and interest of others but it also has to do with the stance that I take in the world and what it is that provides meaning and significance in my own life and I think there are similar ideas of respect for nature that apply as well.
A great deal of our math, science, philosophy, and everyday behavior presupposes that stability and equilibria are the "default" states, and everything else involves some "perturbation." This is a mental model, a conceptual frame, a tacit belief, a presupposition - whatever you want to call it.
I grew up as an only child of two parents who had dropped out of high school. They had enormous respect for education and encouraged me as a child when I had strong interests in both math and science, but we really didn't have much by way of educational role modeling in our family.
We're not good at noticing slow, steady changes in our environments, our senses are not very acute compared to those of many animals, and we're pretty awful at abstract thought, much less acting on it.
I became religious and at 14 went to a boarding school 500 miles from home to begin theological studies. By the time I started university, politics had replaced religion in the economy of my enthusiasms but I had no idea what to study. My boarding school emphasized languages which I was bad at, and deemphasized math and science which I was good at.
In this era of globalization we are witnessing struggles within individual states about what their identity and interests consist in.
Climate change is not going to be prevented. It's not even going to be mitigated to the degree a rational person would want. As a result we're going to have to live with climate change and try to reduce the extent and rate of change as much as possible. This is not an inspiring or sexy project.
The very essence of civilized culture is that we deliberately institute, in advance of the happening of various contingencies and emergencies of life, devices for detecting their approach and registering their nature, for warding off what is unfavorable or at least for protecting ourselves from its full impact.
We know the "great men" and a handful of heavily cited papers in our specialization. When there is a historical frame around a paper it's often a caricature that has become canonical.
The idea that we would raise billions of sentient animals, treat them horribly, pollute our waterways with their waste, compromise the effectiveness of our antibiotics so that they grow faster, and then slaughter them with little regard to their suffering so that we can feed off their corpses, will seem to most people unthinkably cruel and barbarous - sort of in the way that we think of medieval punishments, or Europeans today think of the death penalty.
I think the mother of all arguments against eating meat now is the climate change argument. Methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and when we eat meat we wipe away many of the good things that we do when we try to create greener and more sustainable practices in the rest of our lives. So if you add the concern for climate change with other concerns that were there. I think the case for vegetarianism is pretty overwhelming.
Even those who specialize in the history of philosophy often ignore the political and cultural context, and the natural world in which their philosophers were philosophizing. This has consequences both trivial and important. If you systematically read the last fifty years of the major journals in our discipline you would be amazed at the amount of redundancy. Most of this is unacknowledged because most of us know so little about the history of our discipline and even the subfields in which we work.
In trying to develop an impartial, expansive ethic we are trying to get ethical systems to do something which they did not evolve in order to do. This doesn't mean that it can't be done or that we shouldn't try to expand the reach of our ethical frameworks, only that there are reasons to be skeptical about its success.
I worry that even well-intentioned attempts to improve nature will make things worse even in their own terms.
Ethics is prescriptive and can change behavior, but usually only at the margins.
We live on a restless planet in a violent universe.
People will suffer and so will nature, but life is likely to go on with a great deal of loss and mourning. Human adaptability and resilience will still be alive, and so will that great need and resource of ours called love.
Environmental problems provoke challenges about what kind of world we want, how important we think it is if something is brought about by human action or by brute nature, what we think of the value of human life compared to that of other living things.
Our differences should not be exaggerated.
Philosophy isn't reading Emmanuel Kant. Philosophy is about thinking hard about what the right thing to do is in a situation and approaching that kind of question in an open-minded and open-hearted way, receptive to a broad range of considerations and interests of other people and other things.
The millennium development goals are important, both morally and economically, because much of the world's population maybe is as much as a third of the world's population hasn't yet reached the level of economic development where we begin to get a dissociation from people's economic status and their reports about personal happiness. So we really do need to do much more and much more effectively in order to give everyone the kind of basis for which they can have good vibes.
We need more science, but what we especially need is science fiction.
The most fundamental challenge of the anthropocene concerns agency. For those who lived the Enlightenment dream , agency was taken for granted. There were existential threats to agency (e.g., determinism) but philosophy mobilized to refute these threats (e.g., by defending libertarianism) or to defuse them (e.g., by showing that they were compatible with agency).
Every country now has its own domestic political debate about how to respond to climate change. This is where the action is.
The only way major change in environmental policy is going to happen, the only way, is if there is a very strong, very active popular movement that demands it and such a movement would be unparalleled because it would be a popular movement that says, "Raise our taxes so that we change our behavior.".
Progressive Consequentialsm requires us to make the world better but we are under no obligation to bring about the best possible world.
People talk about the idea of special relationships, that is, the morality only really binds people who stand in some kind of contractual relationship with each other but in fact if you take that seriously as a criteria of when we have a moral relationship then it's hard to see why we would have moral obligations to strangers for example or people who live across the sea from us but yet, every decent person believes that we do.
People who go around saying that it is wrong to fly and to eat meat are not so much making appeals to us from within our shared morality, but engaging in something more like "persuasive definition." They want us to look at the world and ourselves in a different way. Someday these prohibitions against flying and eating meat may be written into our moral psychology, but it will only be after there are viable, widely shared alternatives that are beginning to be widely adopted.
If we're interested in the continuation of the human experiment we need to focus on resilience and coping with change rather than living as if God or nature has given us a nice, orderly, calm, Babbit-like existence.
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