Book: Green Light Ethics

Just Published with Oxford University Press: September, 2022

Cover Art by Rodrigo Treviño

The following is a description and table of contents for my recently published book.

Green Light Ethics: A theory of permissive consent and its moral metaphysics

This book is about permissive consent – the moral tool we use to give another person permission to do what would otherwise be forbidden. For instance, consent to enter my home gives you permission to do what would otherwise be trespass. This transformation is the very thing that philosophers count as consent – which is why we call it a normative power. It is something individuals can do, by choice, to change the moral or legal world. But what human acts or attitudes render consent? When do threats, offers, or lies undermine the transformative power of consent? To answer these questions, theorists of consent often pick out something of value in human life – like autonomy or accountability – and argue that whatever features of consent best promote those values are its true features. I critique this approach. But how else can we theorize a power so magical that it turns thefts into gifts, murder into euthanasia, and rape into lovemaking?

I think consent is not magical – but metaphysical. In this book, I ask a series of questions that treat consent – the specific type I am theorizing – as a moral mechanism with exactly the set of features that, when triggered, prevent another person’s behavior from constituting a particular type of wrongdoing. (i) The Question of Normative Power: Is there more than one change to the moral world that we call permissive consent? Which one do we seek to investigate? (ii) The Question of Dynamics: What are the metaphysical options for explaining that change to the moral world and its enabling conditions? Which option is descriptively most accurate? (iii) The Question of Wronging: What is the best description of the wrong/s that lie in the balance (that depend for their existence on the absence of this specific type of permissive consent)? Only after answering these first three questions are we poised to answer the two most popular in the philosophy of consent: (iv) The Ontological Question: What events in the world actually render consent by triggering the changes uncovered in steps i, ii, and iii? (v) The Questions of Vitiation: In what circumstances are those consent-triggering features undermined or absent from an act that otherwise would count as consent?

In answering these questions, I develop a novel theory that explains the moral features of consent in some of the most central domains of human life – but that also serves as a study in how to theorize normative power. I take my theoretical approach to be – at once – a practice of very traditional, analytic philosophy and, also – because of my mechanistic questions, combined with a set of critical feminist perspectives that I employ in the second and third steps – an approach that gives us very different answers than we have seen before.

Table of Contents:

Part I. The Moral Mechanism
1. Giving the Green Light: Methods and Mechanisms
2. Isolating the Normative Power
3. The Question of Dynamics

Part II: The Trigger and the Transformation
4. Invasive Wrongdoing
Addendum: Applications in the Domain of the Body
5. How Consent is Rendered: The Ontological Question
6. Social Convention and the Scope of Consent

Part III: The Question of Vitiation
7. Limited-Scope Analysis of Misinformation, Deception, and Permissive Consent
8. Consent under Volitional Coercion
9. Coercion and Nearby Moral Phenomena

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