In 2018, I had two conference talks and published one article, one review and one report from a conference I helped organize. Also, I took second place in a national round of a graduate student paper competition. This post is a summary of my academic achievements in 2018.
Libertarians and socialists
My first conference talk was about a moral disagreement between libertarians and socialists. It was also a topic of my paper in the competition. I read G. A. Cohen’s “Why Not Socialism?” and Jason Brennan’s “Why Not Capitalism?“. Since I am interested in metaethics, Jason Brennan had my attention for claiming that capitalism is morally superior because it allows people to live in their very own utopia. In other words, it preserves a plurality of moral systems. Or, as Isaiah Berlin would say, negative liberty. It’s a problematic claim because if somebody believes in positive liberty or any other values more than negative liberty, he surely wouldn’t agree.
The article is in Czech language, so I won’t release it on ResearchGate or anywhere else. However, if you want to read a bit of it, here is an English abstract:
“Is Capitalism Morally Superior to Socialism? The Dispute Between Brennan and Cohen.
At first, the article presents the conflict between a libertarian J. Brennan and a socialist G. A. Cohen. Then, in three parts (empirical, ontological, and epistemological), it deals with the potential moral superiority of capitalism over socialism. The empirical section deals with the diversity of political ideologies and the interpretations of the concept of freedom. The ontological part deals with the objective existence of moral facts and the seeming impossibility to justify this existence. The epistemological section deals with the problem of their cognition. The conclusion is that we can not meaningfully speak about moral superiority because we do not have a reasonable scientific criterium for it. We cannot justify the potential objectiveness of moral facts, and we do not have a reliable instrument for their cognition.“
I took second place in the contest. The first place took a student who presented a quantitative empirical study. I was fascinated by it, and I still am. I think I will take a statistics course this
Animal and human rights
My second conference talk was about animal rights and like in case of the previous one I also wrote an article about the topic. I studied the debate in moral philosophy about the moral status of animals, and I thought it would be a great idea to write about it in the context of discussions about human rights in legal philosophy. I was thrilled that the number one Czech law journal, Právník, has decided to publish it. It’s great that the peer review is double-blind, so nobody knew that I’m still just a student. Just like the first, this article is in Czech. If you want to read a bit of it though, there is an English abstract:
“Why Only Human? The Problem with the Universality of Human Rights
The article is a contribution to the ongoing debate on human rights and their possible extension to animals. If we accept the existence of natural rights, we should also be able to justify why they belong only to human beings. However, trying to define the criterion seems problematic. The argument from marginal cases shows that the characteristics possessed only by human beings are not possessed by all human beings, and characteristics possessed by all human beings are not possessed only by human beings. However, if we try to dismiss the problem by implying as a standard criterion the humanity itself, then there is a problem involving evolutionary theory. It tells us that the evolution of modern man was not only gradual, but there were also several different human species coexisting. The fundamental problem of human rights is the necessity to draw the line not only at present but also for past times if we want to secure their universality. It is possible to expand the concept of natural rights to animals, but we would have to deal with the same problem of justification. That is because there is no disagreement in the field of empirical facts, but a disagreement in morals where no cognizable truths exist.”
Both of the articles are going to be a part of my master’s thesis, which I’m writing in Czech. However, I am not going to write anything more in Czech, because nobody reads it even if the best journals publish it. It seems like a waste of time to write any articles in a minor language.
I’ve read a book about a far-right internet subculture. It’s called “Kill All Normies: Online culture wars from 4chan and Tumblr to Trump and the alt-right” and it was written by Angela Nagle. I found the book topic quite interesting, so I’ve written a review on the book. It is mostly a summary of the book because I like when people write reviews this way. But also, there are some of my opinions on the topic and the book itself. Even though the publisher is Czech Journal of Political Science, I’ve written it in English. Therefore, you can read it on CEEOL or ResearchGate. With hindsight, I would be more critical to it.
About the conference report, I think this kind of articles is an example of the bizarreness of the Czech legal scholars. When somebody here in the Czech Republic organizes a conference, there is also somebody who writes a report about it. It mostly consists of a summary of the speakers’ names and their topics. In spite of the fact that nobody is interested in reading about a conference that has already happened, our journals are still publishing it. It was boring to write something like this.
This year, I have to write my thesis and pass a final exam to become a magister (Mgr), which is our form of a master’s degree. Then, I am going to apply to the PhD programme. I still don’t know in which field, I’m deciding between law and political science. If it were in law, I would like to write about metaethical issues regarding human rights. However, If I choose political science, I would write about the metaethical problems relating to the public justification. I want to do this kind of multidisciplinary research since I think the debates need to join instead of leading them separately. The most significant disadvantage of choosing political science over law is that I would lose my seat in the Academic Senate of the Masaryk University, where I represent the Faculty of Law. However, it has much more advantages than doing PhD in law. I will write about it after I decide.