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APA Member Interview: Jill Delston

Jill Delston has interests in social and political philosophy, normative ethical theory, applied ethics, and ancient Greek philosophy. She is the co-editor of a textbook entitled Applied Ethics: A Multicultural Approach

What is your favorite thing that you’ve written?

This piece on nonviolent responses to terrorism and their theoretical foundations was connected to my dissertation and related to other research I’m still pursuing. I’m also enjoying working on a project dealing with contraception access and have a contract to turn it into a book.

What cause or charity do you care about most?

The environment. I’m terrified at the scale of harm being done to the environment globally and at the urgency of the problem. Whatever cause you care about, the environment plays a central role. If you’re concerned about racism, then issues arise of pollution, toxic waste disposal, and other areas of environmental racism. If you’re concerned about feminism, then because environmental degradation disproportionately hurts women, there is a clear connection between climate change and women’s rights. If you’re concerned about poverty, global warming causes more and worse natural disasters as well as the spread of infectious disease, which hurt the poor the hardest. If you’re concerned about hunger, intensive livestock farming becomes more central since eating meat creates massive inefficiencies in agriculture and energy use. Add to that the tens of thousands of square miles of forest destroyed each year, which cuts down on arable land. If you’re concerned about war and violence, then climate change has a large impact, such as the 40% reduction in rainfall in Darfur preceding the genocide there. So whatever your cause, the environment should be the main consideration. Since most causes and charities people care about are anthropocentric, it’s worthwhile to point out how addressing the environment first furthers those causes. On the other hand, I’m skeptical of offering anthropocentric reasons to protect the environment. Viewing the environment instrumentally is arguably the cause of these problems in the first place, so I don’t think that it can provide the way out. I fear arguing that it’s in the best interest of human beings to treat the environment better overlooks the more significant intrinsic values in the environment and so is a poor response to the basic harms and destruction occurring.

If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future, or anything else, what would you want to know?

There’s so much that I would want to know and ask, but whenever I teach, I find myself wondering how satisfying the true answers to serious dilemmas would actually be. I doubt that if a crystal ball said utilitarianism was correct and deontology failed anyone would say, “Oh okay. Glad we settled that.” I’d be that person at God’s Q&A with too many follow up questions.

What do you like to do outside work?

I have a wonderful husband, a delightful 2-year old, and another child on the way, so spending time with my family is a lot of fun. Also, because I have a full-time teaching position, much of the “work” I do is technically outside of work. Research is not part of my job, so I literally do it for fun, not because I have to or am expected to or am even rewarded for it.

If you could wake up tomorrow with a new talent, what would you most like it to be?

I love comedy, so it would be great to wake up tomorrow with comedic talent. Teaching would be so much easier with a tight 75-minute set twice a week. But it would have to convey the right information. And promote discussion. And develop the kinds of skills I’m trying to foster in the classroom. Yeah, I’d probably ruin it.

Find out more about Jill here.  

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This section of the APA Blog is designed to get to know our fellow philosophers a little better. We’re including profiles of APA members that spotlight what captures their interest not only inside the office, but also outside of it. We’d love for you to be a part of it, so please contact us via the interview nomination form here.

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