cover image Arguing for a Better World: How Philosophy Can Help Us Fight for Social Justice

Arguing for a Better World: How Philosophy Can Help Us Fight for Social Justice

Arianne Shahvisi. Penguin, $20 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-0-14313-683-5

In this incisive debut, Shahvisi, a senior ethics lecturer at the Brighton and Sussex medical school, contends that philosophy “can help us to uncover and confront” ideology that underlies various forms of disempowerment and oppression. Shahvisi points to a capitalist system that forces most people “to sell our labour and exchange the money we earn”—a burden that isn’t equitably borne, as forces such as racism and ableism create a hierarchy of exploitation. While many of these forces are too deeply entrenched for individuals to spur meaningful reform, it’s still worth taking action, she notes, drawing on Kant’s concept of the categorical imperative, which suggests moral actions are those which could function beneficially if turned into universal rules. Further, she argues, real change is possible on a personal level: though an individual can’t reverse climate change, for example, it’s possible to “minimise our interpersonal contribution to racism and sexism.” More broadly, Shahvisi asserts that while global threats are often met with responses that “focus on scolding others,” what’s needed are “genuinely inclusive” movements that “make space for learning” while still holding people accountable. Firmly grounded in the philosophical spirit of critical inquiry, this entry masterfully explores nuance without losing sight of its practical stance (“We have to ask how the material world would have to change for Black lives to matter”). This is a fascinating, pragmatic resource for those who want to make a difference but don’t know where to start. (July)