Friday, January 16, 2015

What is Seana Valentine Shiffrin reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Seana Valentine Shiffrin, author of Speech Matters: On Lying, Morality, and the Law.

Her entry begins:
I just finished Alice Goffman’s On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City and Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams. On the Run is a fascinating ethnography of a predominantly African-American neighborhood in Philadelphia in which Goffman lived for about six years as a student. Goffman, now a professor of sociology at University of Wisconsin-Madison, focuses on the daily trials of its young male residents. Many of the men she befriends have had early legal troubles, often as children, some of which are quite minor, that transmogrify into disproportionately life-defining events that seem almost impossible to move beyond. Missed court dates, unpaid court fees, being out past an early curfew, or riding in the wrong car with the wrong drug-possessing passenger may...[read on]
About Speech Matters, from the publisher:
To understand one another as individuals and to fulfill the moral duties that require such understanding, we must communicate with each other. We must also maintain protected channels that render reliable communication possible, a demand that, Seana Shiffrin argues, yields a prohibition against lying and requires protection for free speech. This book makes a distinctive philosophical argument for the wrong of the lie and provides an original account of its difference from the wrong of deception.

Drawing on legal as well as philosophical arguments, the book defends a series of notable claims—that you may not lie about everything to the “murderer at the door,” that you have reasons to keep promises offered under duress, that lies are not protected by free speech, that police subvert their mission when they lie to suspects, and that scholars undermine their goals when they lie to research subjects.

Many philosophers start to craft moral exceptions to demands for sincerity and fidelity when they confront wrongdoers, the pressures of non-ideal circumstances, or the achievement of morally substantial ends. But Shiffrin consistently resists this sort of exceptionalism, arguing that maintaining a strong basis for trust and reliable communication through practices of sincerity, fidelity, and respecting free speech is an essential aspect of ensuring the conditions for moral progress, including our rehabilitation of and moral reconciliation with wrongdoers.
Learn more about Speech Matters at the Princeton University Press website.

Writers Read: Seana Valentine Shiffrin.

--Marshal Zeringue