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Shane Epting, Ph.D.

Philosopher of the City

Shane Epting is an assistant professor of philosophy at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. He researches ethical urban sustainability, focusing on competing interests between stakeholder groups.

Recent works:

The Morality of Urban Mobility: Technology and Philosophy of the City 

Cities’ transportation systems affect people, nonhuman life, urban artifacts, and could impact future generations, increasing tensions through what appear to be conflicting interests at times. Ethically addressing these concerns requires dealing with the problem of moral prioritization. Shane Epting illustrates how “moral ordering” benefits this issue. Examining these matters provides conceptual advantages for thinking through the ethical dimensions of urban mobility in an everchanging world. Along with these insights, this book reveals how exploring transportation philosophically deepens our understanding of what it means to move about the city.

In discussing the morality of urban mobility, this book confronts a question that is otherwise as inescapable as it is difficult. For beyond the more obvious technological and logistical concerns, urban mobility indeed is fundamentally and ultimately a question of justice. Who gets to move within the city? And how? How can we develop a culture, indeed the moral basis, for ensuring that infrastructures, institutions, policies, as well as technologies all work together in granting everyone, including non-humans, a place to dwell and flourish in the city? Shane Epting helps us face these questions rigorously, courageously, and honestly.

— Remmon E. Barbaza, associate professor of philosophy, Ateneo de Manila University

Saving Cities: A Taxonomy of Urban Technologies

This book makes the case that several urban technologies contribute to wicked problems such as climate change and vast social and economic inequalities. Such situations often create unfavorable conditions for mental life in cities. These conditions force us to expand the taxonomy of technology to include new designations: “wicked” and “saving” technologies. Epting holds that the latter can support worthwhile goals such as socially just urban sustainability. Along with fleshing out this view, he provides concrete examples of saving technologies, which include cohousing initiatives, ariel cable cars, participatory budgeting, and car-free zones/cities.


The Ethics of Agribusiness: Justice and Global Food in Focus

This book offers an original perspective on food supply chains. It argues that the ability to trade food on a global scale could be intrinsically good aside from any instrumental value that people gain from it.

While the author’s argument seems to counter wholesale anti-agribusiness views, it is consistent with the larger goals of food-justice movements. The author examines the structures of food supply chains, revealing the kinds of harm they help produce. They include slavery, abusive labor, geopolitical exploitation, ecological degradation, and public health impacts. Although the book argues that food supply chains can be collectively beneficial, eliminating their immoral features must hold steady as a continuous enterprise. Securing this outcome means that we go beyond critique. The final chapter advocates for the sustainable food label to address issues of food justice and food sovereignty.

The Ethics of Agribusiness will interest researchers and advanced students working in food ethics, environmental ethics, and agricultural ethics.

This book applies the concept of moral ordering to urban affairs. It demonstrates how multi-stakeholder engagement can enhance the quality of city life while supporting ambitions such as ethical urban sustainability and human flourishing. 

While there is a history of philosophers viewing cities as technologies, cities’ encompassing nature inherently limits them. Urban sustainability matters often affect marginalized and vulnerable people, the public, nonhuman species, future generations, and urban artifacts. Problems can arise when stakeholders’ interests and needs appear at odds. The author argues in favor of the concept of moral ordering, a process designed to address issues involving different stakeholder groups such as municipal officials and residents. By employing moral ordering, a view comes into focus, revealing that the attention that each group receives reflects their place in the process, providing the necessary degree of moral respect. Finally, the author shows how moral ordering can lead to urban enlightenment. He examines real-world applications of moral ordering, such as New York City’s Participatory Budgeting Project, to make the case that municipalities can begin to bolster municipal-community relations in ways that promote urban enlightenment. 

Urban Enlightenment will appeal to researchers and advanced students working in philosophy of the city, applied ethics, philosophy of technology, urban planning, environmental studies, and political science.

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