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Ethics and The Self

The Phenomenology of sexual desire and the ethics of relation

Abstract: Sexual desire is one of the strongest emotions that we experience, and it perforce touches on issues foundational to our biological natures. We all know what it is to desire a person sexually, but how often has the sensation of that desire itself been analyzed? Moreover, when we are undergoing a sexual desire, how does our subtle behavior towards the desired change prior to any actual sexual or seductive actions? If we desire someone around us do we treat them differently in fully non-sexual and neutral circumstances than we do others that are not so desired? We tend to take it for granted that we should comport ourselves towards non-family/non-friend others in an equal way – or that we should at least try to do so – but is equality of comportment really open to us when sexual desire is involved? Phenomenological methodology can be of assistance here and using it we seek to answer the ethical query of whether it is possible to relate with equal treatment to those who are sexually desired and to those who are not.

Keywords: bracketing; ethics; interpersonal relations; phenomenology; sexual desire

The Phenomenology of Sexual Desire and the Ethics of Relation_Andrew Oberg

This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article to be published in the journal Cultural Studies. Full publication information forthcoming. It is a revised and expanded version of my "Wanting someone, or A Question of interpersonal equality", available below.


Wanting someone, or A Question of interpersonal equality

Abstract: We tend to take it for granted that we should treat the others around us in as equal a manner as possible. Yet we also tend to treat those for whom we feel sexual desire in a very different way from those for whom we feel no desire. This is perhaps not surprising as such feelings are amongst some of the strongest that we experience and hit some of our core biological buttons. Even knowing this though, how often has the experience of sexual desire been analyzed? Moreover, when we are in the midst of experiencing sexual desire how does our behavior actually change? Edmund Husserl’s ideas on examining conscious experience can be helpful here, and in using such we try to answer the ethical question of whether or not it is possible to really treat everyone equally irrespective of any felt desire.

Keywords: bracketing; ethics; interpersonal relations; phenomenology; sexual desire

Wanting someone, or A Question of interpersonal equality_Andrew Oberg

This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published on Philosopher, November 02, 2016. <http://philosopher.io/Wanting-Someone-or-A-Question-of-Interpersonal-Equality>.


Taiji and dolphins: Cultural relativism or moral realism?

Abstract: The decision by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) to expel its Japanese member institutions that continued to support the dolphin drive hunts that take place within Japanese waters was presented by the domestic press as an external group misunderstanding a local practice and forcing its own outside values on others. The dolphin drive hunts themselves have been defended by the Wakayama prefectural government on a number of grounds. The following considers the justifications employed for the practice in the light of WAZA and other groups’ objections and finds the strongest of these defenses to be the claim to cultural relativism. This is then analyzed against the idea of moral realism – that there are standards that exist outside of any cultural group – and it is found that whether moral realism is accurate or not there are very compelling reasons to stop the drive hunts currently taking place.

Keywords: cultural relativism; dolphin drive hunts; JAZA; mercury poisoning; moral realism; Taiji, Wakayama; WAZA

Taiji and dolphins: Cultural relativism or moral realism?_Andrew Oberg

This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in the Journal of Regional Development Studies, 19 (2016), 57-68.


Living while dying: Reflections on death’s harm, finitude, meaning, and uncertainty

Abstract: Death as a topic of philosophical investigation has been enjoying something of a resurrection in recent literature. Much of the discussion has dealt with the question of its harm, whether or not it ought to be considered an evil, and the degree to which it deprives us of a good, if indeed it does. The following covers and comments on these positions from the perspective of how we ought to regard our own personal future deaths before then extending the analysis to consider the anti-natalist challenge and finding meaning through finitude, maintaining its focus on the particular throughout. The final section explores the often unacknowledged degree of uncertainty that we live under, why we are so poor at recognizing it, and how this affects our decision-making. Some suggestions for how we may consider our approaching deaths are given based on the results of each section.

Keywords: anti-natalist; death; deprivation; finitude; harm; meaning; uncertainty

Living while dying_Andrew Oberg

This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in the Journal of International Philosophy, 5 (2016), 325-339. <和訳:「死に向かって生きる―死の害悪、有限性、意味、不確実性に関する省察」、同誌、119-131。ファイルはこちら。>


All too human?: Speciesism, racism, and sexism

Abstract: The issue of how we ought to treat the nonhuman animals in our lives is one that has been growing in importance over the past forty years. A common charge is that discriminatory behavior based only on differences of species membership is just as wrong morally as are acts of racism or sexism. Is such a charge sustainable? It is argued that such reasoning confuses real differences with false ones, may have negative ethical consequences, and could tempt us to abandon our responsibilities to the natural world. Finally, some benefits to human animal treatment that more humane nonhuman animal treatment may bring are considered.

Keywords: animal treatment; ecological responsibility; interpersonal ethics; racism; sexism; speciesism

All too human?: Speciesism, racism, and sexism_Andrew Oberg

This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in the journal Think, 15:43 (2016), 39-50.


Interpersonal violence and the groupish drive

Abstract: Violence and the threat of violence remains a major concern for people all over the planet, and while massive outbreaks of physical violence and destruction – such as those that occur in war – have received much attention in a number of fields the acts of violence that are perpetrated in personal settings have not. The following attempts to partially fill in that void through an investigation of the roots of our willingness to use interpersonal violence. The study begins by establishing definitional parameters and examining angles by which violence’s instrumentality has been considered by other researchers. Two case studies then follow in which the group-centered nature of the willingness to use interpersonal violence becomes clear: football hooliganism and the Khmer Rouge. An in-group/out-group orientation based on identity and/or belief is found to be at the core of perpetrators’ inclination to the instrumental use of violence; some final conclusions are drawn from this.

Keywords: football hooliganism; groupism (tribalism); instrumentality; Khmer Rouge; violence

Interpersonal violence and the groupish drive_Andrew Oberg

This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in the journal Surugadai University Studies, 51 (2016), 81-102. It is an edited and updated section of a larger unpublished project, provided here should there be any interested readers: Interpersonal violence and self-concept: A Virtue ethics approach_Andrew Oberg.


A realist self?

Abstract: Since the demise of the Cartesian dualist view of the self a number of possible definitions of what the self could be, if indeed it can be said to be anything, have been put forward but no consensus has yet been reached. In fact, such seems a long way off. In what follows four accounts of the self that are representative of the broad trends in the literature are analyzed for theoretical vigor and empirical accuracy in light of recent advances in cognitive studies and the findings of psychological research into behavior and decision making. The self-concepts examined are of both the anti-realist and realist varieties, with one particular realist account found to be most apposite. The account is not without its flaws, however, and as such an alternative self view is offered that builds on and adds to its strengths. Finally, some ethical implications of adopting the proffered self-concept are considered.

Keywords: anti-realist self; Hume; Kristjánsson; nonself; realist self

A realist self?_Andrew Oberg

This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in the Journal of Applied Ethics and Philosophy, 7 (2015), 24-33. It is an edited and updated section of a larger unpublished project, provided here should there be any interested readers: Interpersonal violence and self-concept: A Virtue ethics approach_Andrew Oberg.


That which ought not to ought to have been (done). What?: Would’ves, could’ves, and should’ves

Abstract: Recent advances in psychology and cognitive studies have greatly advanced our understanding of the sources and expressions of human behavior, leading to a picture that is heavily intuitive and affective. Given that much of what we do has its roots in unconscious and automatic processes, how useful is an emotion like regret? The following attempts to answer that question by first comparing regret with guilt, often used in similar ways in everyday language, and finding that although the two terms do differ in significant ways there is also some carryover between them. Having teased out a more specific way to think about regret, real world and literary examples are then used to attempt to respond to the central question of usefulness. It is argued that regret can be profitable but only in limited and uneven ways.

Keywords: Bender; guiding emotion; guilt; regret; usefulness

Would'ves, could'ves, should'ves_Andrew Oberg

This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published on Philosopher, June 09, 2015. <http://philosopher.io/That-Which-Ought-Not-to-Ought-to-Have-Been-Done-What-Would-ves-could>.


Ethical considerations for Japanese students doing short-term charity work abroad

Abstract: Students in the Department of Regional Development Studies at Toyo University regularly participate in short-term volunteer trips, traveling to developing countries and assisting with projects aimed at improving conditions for local people in one way or another. However, these students are rarely prepared beforehand for the ethical challenges that relate to the unique circumstances of limited duration charity work. A lack of consideration of these challenges can lead to negative results both for the students and for the local residents they will be working for and alongside with. Three aspects are of particular importance here: the us/them dichotomy, the helper/helped hierarchy, and the uchi/soto element of Japanese culture. Although these issues are considered from a Japanese perspective, the conclusions drawn and practical suggestions made may be more generally applicable. Finally, it is argued that we in the developed world have a moral obligation to support global poverty reduction, and that the most effective way to do so is through regular and ongoing charitable donations.

Keywords: charity; Japan; moral obligation; poverty; short-term volunteer work; Southeast Asia

Ethical considerations for Japanese students doing short-term charity work abroad_Andrew Oberg

This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in the Journal of Regional Development Studies, 18 (2015), 77-87.


Reconsidering euthanasia: For a right to be euthanized and for recognizing alternative end of life methods

Abstract: The taking of one’s own life remains a morally divisive issue, most notably in Western and Western-influenced cultures, affecting views related to euthanasia programs and causing many to reject such programs out of hand despite the enormous amount of suffering that they could help to alleviate. The following focuses on voluntary euthanasia and argues that common conceptions of the issue are in need of a clearer analysis, suggesting that voluntary euthanasia should rather be considered suicide by other means, and that when historical perspectives and our shifting contemporary attitudes are considered the modern prejudice against these practices can be seen to be poorly grounded. A legal right to euthanasia would help to establish its moral acceptance, and this as well as a greater understanding of the conditions under which suicide can be rationally considered a potential choice are also argued for.

Keywords: euthanasia; historical trends; right to die; seppuku; suicide; voluntary euthanasia

Reconsidering euthanasia_Andrew Oberg

This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in the Journal of International Philosophy, 4 (2015), 297-305.


The trolley trap, or Some (more) problems with utilitarian decision-making

Abstract: The trolley problem is a well-known thought experiment that is designed to test our moral judgments and intuitive reactions to a life-and-death situation in which we are forced to make a hard choice. Utilitarian thinkers especially have used the problem to illustrate the benefits of their system and the way that it can guide us when making decisions. In the following, that guidance is called into question and found lacking through some alternative trolley problem-based scenarios that draw attention to utilitarianism’s faults, focusing particularly on how the people involved in the trolley problem can have a drastic effect on the chosen outcome. The affective nature of our decisions and the influence our personalities exert on our actions are also considered, and it is concluded that a focus on character building has more to offer for moral behavior than utilitarian analyses do.

Keywords: cost-benefit analysis, decision-making, individual qualities, moral behavior, trolley problem, utilitarianism

The trolley trap_Andrew Oberg

This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published on Philosopher, April 19, 2014. <http://philosopher.io/Utilitarian-Blood-on-the-Tracks>.


This has got nothing to do with George

Abstract: Security cameras have become a ubiquitous part of everyday life in most major cities, yet each new camera seems to come with cries of foul play by defenders of privacy rights. Our long history with these cameras and CCTV networks does not seem to have alleviated our concerns with being watched, and as we feel ourselves losing privacy in other areas the worry generated by security cameras has remained. Our feelings of disquiet, however, are unnecessary as they stem from an erroneous view of the self. The following argues that this view of an autonomous and atomistic self is both detrimental and inaccurate.

Keywords: privacy; security cameras; the self; social programs; surveillance

This has got nothing to do with George_Andrew Oberg

This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in the journal Think, 13:37 (2014), 47-55.