Journal of Controversial Ideas

(ISSN: 2694-5991) Open Access Journal
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Controversial Ideas, Volume 2, Issue 2 (October 2022)
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1 University of Oxford, Corpus Christi College
2 University of Milan, Department of Philosophy
3 Princeton University, University Centre for Human Values
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Controversial Ideas 2022, 2(2), 7; doi: 10.35995/jci02020007
Received: 24 Oct 2022 / Revised: 27 Oct 2022 / Accepted: 25 Oct 2022 / Published: 31 Oct 2022
1 Bowling Green State University;
This article was initially published under the pseudonym of K.Whittaker.
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Controversial Ideas 2022, 2(2), 5; doi: 10.35995/jci02020005
Received: 29 May 2022 / Revised: 23 Oct 2022 / Accepted: 7 Oct 2022 / Published: 31 Oct 2022
Rebecca Tuvel provoked a firestorm by arguing that since we should accept trans* self-identification, we should accept transracial identification as well. This paper defends Tuvel’s conditional claim (if trans* acceptance, then transracial acceptance) but draws a different conclusion. I argue that reasoning similar to Tuvel’s establishes that people who identify as something other than human, and people who identify as physically disabled though their bodies aren’t impaired, plausibly also deserve recognition. This reductio ad absurdum of her reasoning should lead us to doubt whether we must embrace trans* self-identification as fully as self-described trans* allies claim that we must. This shouldn’t be construed to mean that trans* people, or members of any of these other groups, deserve anything less than respectful treatment and compassion as moral persons. Full article
1 School of Psychological Sciences and Sagol School of Neuroscience, Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel,
2 School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia,
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Controversial Ideas 2022, 2(2), 6; doi: 10.35995/jci02020006
Received: 7 Jul 2021 / Revised: 15 Jun 2022 / Accepted: 11 Jul 2022 / Published: 31 Oct 2022
Heated debates are taking place over the question: Who is a woman? Many of these are over inclusion criteria for policies that seek to promote equality, safety and/or privacy for girls and women by excluding boys and men. Science cannot resolve these debates, but its concepts and data can offer useful insights and information for policy makers who have to make principled and workable policy decisions about inclusion criteria. To assist policy makers in this difficult task, we begin by reviewing three key concepts that are often misunderstood and conflated: sex, gender, and gender identity. We then review key issues that policy makers should consider: the purpose(s) of the specific policy and whether it relates to sex, gender, and/or gender identity, and the distributions of benefits and costs for all stakeholders. As these considerations sometimes point to a conflict of interests, we end with some suggestions for how such conflicts might be ameliorated. Although we do not offer solutions to these difficult policy decisions, we hope that this article will help reduce misunderstandings, and facilitate open discussion and good decision making in this contentious policy context. Full article
1 Centre interuniversitaire de recherche sur la science et la technologie (CIRST), Université du Québec à Montréal;
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Controversial Ideas 2022, 2(2), 4; doi: 10.35995/jci02020004
Received: 29 May 2021 / Revised: 14 Apr 2022 / Accepted: 5 Jul 2022 / Published: 31 Oct 2022
In the fall of 2018, The US National Science Foundation (NSF) implemented a new policy on sexual harassment. A few months later, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), took a further step in the fight against harassment by announcing that researchers accused of harassment, but not yet found guilty, could nonetheless be excluded from the lists of potential reviewers of submitted projects. We also observe a recent tendency to call for the retraction of published peer-reviewed results on the basis that their conclusions are considered to go against the moral convictions of some social groups, though the lack of validity of the results has not been proven. It is certainly a legitimate question to ask whether these kinds of policies and moral critiques, which directly link the practice of science to the moral behavior of the scientists in the larger society, do not initiate a profound transformation in the relations between science and society by adding to the usually implicit norms governing the scientific community a new form of moralization of the scientists themselves. We analyze these recent events in terms of a new process of moralization of science and ask whether these new rules of conduct may lead to doing better or more robust science. Full article
1 Wellbeing Research Centre, University of Oxford and the Happier Lives Institute;
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Controversial Ideas 2022, 2(2), 2; doi: 10.35995/jci02020002
Received: 18 Feb 2021 / Revised: 24 Oct 2022 / Accepted: 9 Sep 2022 / Published: 31 Oct 2022
Here are two commonly held moral views. First, we must save strangers’ lives, at least if we can do so easily: you would be required to rescue a child drowning in a pond even if it will ruin your expensive suit. Second, it is wrong to eat meat because of the suffering caused to animals in factory farms. Many accept both simultaneously—Peter Singer is the pre-eminent example. I point out that these two beliefs are in a sharp and seemingly unrecognised tension and may even be incompatible. It seems universally accepted that doing or allowing a harm is permissible—and may even be required—when it is the lesser evil. I argue that, if meat eating is wrong on animal suffering grounds then, once we consider how much suffering might occur, it starts to seem plausible that saving strangers would be the greater evil than not rescuing them and is, therefore, not required after all. Given the uncertainties and subjective assessments here, reasonable people could substantially disagree. The surprising result is that a moral principle widely considered to be obviously true—we must rescue others—is not, on further reflection, obviously true and would be defensibly rejected by some. Some potential implications are discussed. Full article
1 Philosophy Department, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
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Controversial Ideas 2022, 2(2), 1; doi: 10.35995/jci02020001
Received: 20 Aug 2022 / Revised: 24 Oct 2022 / Accepted: 1 Oct 2022 / Published: 31 Oct 2022
This is an opinion piece about the struggle of controversial ideas to be heard. It is occasioned by the rejection, by a dozen publications, of another opinion piece. The rejected article appears as an appendix at the end. In what precedes it, I discuss why it is much more difficult for controversial ideas to receive a platform. Full article
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Controversial Ideas 2022, 2(2), 3; doi: 10.35995/jci02020003
Received: 10 Jul 2021 / Revised: 10 Sep 2022 / Accepted: 15 Sep 2022 / Published: 31 Oct 2022
Many “pro-life” or anti-abortion advocates are Christians who believe that (1) there exists an all-powerful, all-knowing, and morally perfect god who created our universe; (2) restricting abortion ought to be a top social and political priority; and (3) embryos and fetuses that die all go to hell or they all go to heaven. This paper seeks to establish that Christian pro-life advocates with these beliefs face the Afterlife Dilemma. On the one hand, if all embryos and fetuses that die go to hell, they need to abandon their belief in the morally perfect god of traditional Christianity. On the other hand, if all embryos and fetuses that die go to heaven, a plausible triage principle suggests that they must abandon their view that restricting abortions ought to be a top priority. Either way, this popular Christian pro-life view is untenable. The Afterlife Dilemma implies that many pro-life Christians must abandon some aspect of their current beliefs about God, the afterlife, or the comparative moral importance of abortion. Full article