Drew Johnson

Fellow’s Talk: Drew Johnson on Moral and Political Judgment

2021–22 UCHI Fellow's Talks. Entrenchment and Disagreement in Morality and Politics: Reason, Passion, and the Point of Moral and Political Discourse. Phd Candidate, Philosophy, Drew Johnson. With a response by Prakash Kashwan. October 13, 2021, 4:00pm, Homer Babbidge Library, 4-209

Entrenchment and Disagreement in Morality and Politics: Reason, Passion, and the Point of Moral and Political Discourse

Drew Johnson (Ph.D. Candidate, Philosophy, UConn)

with a response by Prakash Kashwan (Political Science, UConn)

Wednesday, October 13, 2021, 4:00pm. Homer Babbidge Library, 4-209.

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The event will also be livestreamed.

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Disagreement in moral and political matters is particularly widespread and often resists easy resolution. Recent work by social epistemologists and psychologists has offered useful tools for analyzing disagreement and polarization both online and in person, by describing how general cognitive biases and heuristics, as well as the affective dimension of normative judgments, make certain moral and political beliefs resistant to rational revision through reasonable discourse. This talk discusses the affective and social aspects of moral and political judgment, how they contribute to explanations of deep disagreement and polarization, and their implications for the possibility of moral and political knowledge.

Drew Johnson is a Philosophy PhD candidate at the University of Connecticut. His dissertation project, “A Hybrid Theory of Ethical Thought and Discourse,” examines the nature and function of ethical thought and discourse. Drew has published on skepticism, deep disagreement and intellectual humility, and on self-knowledge (including co-authored work with Dorit Bar-On). During the Summer of 2019, he was the recipient of the Ruth Millikan Graduate Research Fellowship, awarded by the UConn Philosophy Department. Drew is currently a Dissertation Scholar at the University of Connecticut Humanities Institute.

Prakash Kashwan is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Co-Director of the Research Program on Economic and Social Rights, Human Rights Institute, University of Connecticut, Storrs. He is the author of the widely reviewed and acclaimed book Democracy in the Woods: Environmental Conservation and Social Justice in India, Tanzania, and Mexico (Oxford University Press, 2017) and a Co-Editor of the journal Environmental Politics. He also serves on the editorial advisory boards of Earth Systems Governance, Progress in Development Studies, Sage Open, and Humanities & Social Sciences Communications. Dr. Kashwan is a member of the global expert group for Scoping of Transformative Change Assessment by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), a member of the Academic Working Group (AWG) on International Governance of Climate Engineering (2016–18), a Senior Research Fellow of the Earth System Governance (ESG) Project, a member of the Climate Social Science Network (CSSN) established by Brown University, and an external faculty affiliate of the Ostrom Workshop. Dr. Kashwan is also the vice chair of the Environmental Studies Section of the International Studies Association (ISA). In addition to nearly two dozen scholarly publications, his research has been cited in national and international media, including the New York Times, Deutsche Welle, Huffington Post, NPR, Scientific American, and Down to Earth. Dr. Kashwan has written several influential commentaries for popular venues, such as the Conversation, the Guardian, Al-Jazeera, and the Washington Post.

If you require accommodation, including live transcription, to attend this event, please contact us at uchi@uconn.edu or by phone (860) 486-9057.

You Should . . . Read: Carol Adams and Virginia Messina’s Protest Kitchen (2018) (Drew Johnson, Philosophy, UConn)

Protest Kitchen book coverIn the midst of a global pandemic, with its attendant periods of isolation and restrictions on social gatherings, many have been spending more time in the kitchen than usual. In the midst of racially motivated violence, police brutality, and the push towards a public reckoning with America’s racist history, many have been seeking new and potentially transformative modes of political engagement. In the midst of an on-going climate crisis and the failure of governments to make the necessary choices to save the planet and fight environmental injustice, many of us may find it easy to feel disheartened and powerless.

A unique combination of cookbook and manifesto, Adams and Messina’s Protest Kitchen: Fight Injustice, Save the Planet, and Fuel Your Resistance One Meal at a Time (Conari Press, 2018) argues that “how you eat is a form of protest” (p. 5). Boiled down to its essentials, Adams and Messina’s main claim is that adopting a vegan diet can be a way to protest racism, patriarchy, climate change, food injustice, and to promote compassion and integrity. They make this argument by tracing the conceptual and historically rooted connections between the centrality of animal products in the “all-American diet,” on the one hand, and regressive politics, climate change, environmental racism, and misogyny, on the other. For instance, they argue that the very concept of animality, defined in contrast to and as inferior to that of humanity, provides tools for social oppression: “There has always been a human/animal binary to racist, misogynist, and ableist logic. In the political sphere, animality functions as a tool for democratic exclusion. Oppression elevates some humans as deserving equal protection and equal participation as citizens and lowers others, by making them “other” and suggesting they are more like animals” (p. 97). Adams and Messina’s provocative suggestion: challenge the underlying humanity/animality binary upon which such oppression is speciously “justified.” Thus, far from ignoring the human political and social crises of our time, as the “you-only-think-about-the-animals” vegan stereotype might suggest, Adams and Messina contend that animal oppression is essentially linked to human oppression. This is what I find most compelling about Protest Kitchen: that it provides a unifying analysis of the most pressing national and global issues of our time, through the lens of our (that is, us humans’) relations to the other animals.

Although the core ecofeminist argument in Protest Kitchen is not new (see, for example, Adams’ The Sexual Politics of Meat), the book is distinctive in the way it is interspersed with no-nonsense, practical tips for engaging in activism, a variety of simple recipes for reducing meat consumption, and a primer on plant-based nutrition. While the book takes on serious topics, it is garnished with a dash of playfulness that cuts through the heaviness; for instance, with the inclusion of recipes such as the “imPeach Crumble,” and the “‘Stop the Wall’ Taco Salad Bowl with Fire and Fury Salsa.” If nothing else, the book promises to be food for thought, while sparking some thought about food.

Drew Johnson
Ph.D. Candidate

Who is Drew Johnson? Drew Johnson is a Ph.D. student (ABD) in the philosophy department at the University of Connecticut. His research focuses on metaethics and epistemology. His dissertation proposes a theory of ethical thought and discourse that explains the distinctive action-guiding, affective, and expressive dimensions of ethical claims and judgments, while also recognizing the important semantic, logical, and epistemological continuities that exist between ethics and other factual domains. In epistemology, Drew’s research focuses on the rational standing of our most firmly held commitments, i.e., our “hinge” commitments upon which all rational evaluation turns.