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Social Philosophy Today

Volume 21, 2005
Human Rights, Religion, and Democracy

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Displaying: 1-20 of 22 documents

1. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 21
John Rowan Preface
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2. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 21
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part i: human rights
3. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 21
Gary B. Herbert On the Misconceived Genealogy of Human Rights
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The general practice of tracing the concept of human rights back to its presumed philosophical origins in the concepts of natural law and/or natural right, and invoking those concepts to give the idea of human rights its moral direction and philosophical substance, is dramatically mistaken. Interpreting human rights as the philosophical progeny of these earlier traditions allows the uglier aspects of natural rights and natural law, which the concept of human rights was intended to remedy, to serve as the defining characteristics of human rights.
4. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 21
Theresa Waynand Tobin The Non-Modularity of Moral Knowledge: Implications for the Universality of Human Rights
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Many contemporary human rights theorists argue that we can establish the normative universality of human rights despite extensive cultural and moral diversity by appealing to the notion of overlapping consensus. In this paper I argue that proposals to ground the universality of human rights in overlapping consensus on the list of rights are unsuccessful. I consider an example from Islamic comprehensive doctrine in order to demonstrate that apparent consensus on the list of rights may not in fact constitute meaningful agreement and may not be sufficient to ground the universality of human rights. I conclude with some general suggestions for establishing the universality of human rights. Instead of presuming the universality of human rights based on apparent overlapping consensus we need to construct universality through actual dialogue both within and between communities.
5. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 21
Jeremy Bendik-Keymer Common Humanity and Human Rights
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Many people, often students, appear apathetic because they do not know how to support human rights. In this paper, I explore a question that is part of a larger project helping people think through moral life in the age of human rights. What are appropriate contexts for invoking human rights? I begin with two assumptions: (1) Our sense of common humanity is the source of human rights. (2) There are situations where it seems we should disregard human rights out of common humanity. Reflecting on two examples, I argue there is a class of harms where one should disregard human rights because one intends to be humane. I call this class “harms that exceed right” (HER). I isolate two kinds of such harm: (1) harms against relationship and (2) harms against personhood. I conclude with a general point: human rights application should bear in mind an “adverbial consideration.” How we invoke human rights matters, and human rights should be invoked humanely.
part ii: religion
6. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 21
Frank Cunningham The Conflicting Truths of Religion and Democracy
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This paper suggests that the truths of religion and democracy are, respectively, theocracy and moral relativism. Religion tends toward theocracy, the thesis that religiously influenced political norms should trump secular norms. Democracy tends toward moral relativism, the thesis that society lacks agreed upon standards by which the varying and conflicting moral views therein may be adjudicated. The conflict between religion and democracy is thus unavoidable: theocracy insists that any conflict with democracy be decided in favor of the religious principles in question; and the moral relativism engendered by democracy cannot be tolerated by religion. The recommendation is to act in accordance with principles that will ease the conflict by strengthening tendencies counter to the two, namely the principle of chaos (which mitigates the effects of religion) and the principle of order (which serves to mitigate the effects of democracy).
7. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 21
Glen Pettigrove Rights, Reasons, and Religious Conflict: Habermas and Scanlon on the Role of Religion in Public Debate
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The role of religious commitments in John Rawls’s version of political liberalism has drawn frequent criticism. Some of the critics have complained that it fails to respect those with deep religious commitments by excluding explicitly religious reasons from debate about fundamental issues of justice. Others criticize the exclusion of religious reasons on the ground that it is unnecessary. Political liberalism, they argue, can accommodate appeals to religious reasons. For critics of both stripes, Jürgen Habermas and Thomas Scanlon should seem a welcome alternative. They offer ways of justifying claims of justice and of legitimating political arrangements that do not appear to exclude religious reasons at the outset but still yield liberal polities. In this paper, I argue that Habermas’s and Scanlon’s theoretical frameworks are not only open to religious reasons, they require the inclusion of religious reasons in deliberations about the just ordering of public life. I then explain why such an arrangement is desirable. I close with a look at the limits of Habermas’s and Scanlon’s ability to accommodate religiousreasons in public deliberation, suggesting that their improvements on Rawls are smaller than they at first appear.
8. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 21
Eugene Rice Buddhist Compassion as a Foundation for Human Rights
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The basic philosophical question underlying the Asian values debates is whether human rights represent a universal moral concern applicable to humans in every culture or whether they are simply another form of Western imperialism. While most of the philosophical work on this issue has focused on Confucian and Marxist elements, there is a growing interest in tackling the topic from a Buddhist perspective. This paper evaluates Jay Garfield’s attempt to reconcile Buddhist ethics with Western-style human rights. Garfield endeavors to situate rights in a character-based normative theory of ethics grounded in the Buddhist sentiment ofcompassion. After locating Garfield’s account within the general confines of Buddhism, the paper assesses the resulting nature of the rights themselves. Unfortunately, Garfield’s version of rights does not retain the protective character of individual rights, the unique feature which largely explains their ever-increasing employment in the ethical, legal, and political discourse of modern societies.
part iii: democracy and society
9. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 21
Alistair M. MacLeod The Right to Vote, Democracy, and the Electoral System
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Under the first-past-the-post electoral system that is still deeply entrenched in such democracies as Canada and the United States, it is not at all uncommon in a provincial, state, or federal election for there to be a striking lack of correspondence between the share of the seats a political party is able to win and its share of the popular vote. From the standpoint of the democratic ideal what is morally unacceptable about this system is that the right to vote it confers on members of the electorate is not a defensible instantiation of the fundamental right citizens have to participate on terms of equality in the collective decision-making processes that help to determine their options in life. Three common attempts by defenders of the system to shield it from this objection are considered and rejected.
10. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 21
Brian M. Stern Immigration Restriction in a Liberal Democracy
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This paper analyzes the case for justifiable immigration restriction in a liberal democratic state. A number of candidates for such justifications have been put forth, but many of them depend for their plausibility on the confirmation of highly disputed empirical evidence. Others are more philosophical in nature, and so are less dependent on, and vulnerable to defeat from, empirical study. These justifications are the focus of this paper. It is first briefly established that justifications for immigration restriction in a liberal democracy must be consistent with the fundamental democratic values of liberty and equality. Two arguments for immigrationrestriction that seem to be founded on these values are then considered, and it is argued that they fail to adequately respect these values that provide their initial appeal.
11. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 21
Joseph Betz Proportionality, Just War Theory, and America’s 2003–2004 War Against Iraq
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Just war theory requires that a nation at war respect proportionality both before it goes to war, jus ad bellum, and in the way it fights a war, jus in bello. To respect proportionality is to know or estimate on good evidence that the whole war and the tactics used in the war will not generate more evil and harm and costs than they will generate good and help and benefits. This paper argues that the 2003–2004 U.S. war on Iraq fails on both counts. It considers, in regard to jus ad bellum, the evils, harms, and costs that the war forces on the Iraqi military and civilians, the American military, and American and non-Iraqi civilians. It considers, under jus in bello, the evils, harms, and costs that the war forces on Iraqi civilians. On the proportionality standards for a just war, this war is a miserable failure.
12. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 21
Ben Dixon Achieving Moral Progress Despite Moral Regress
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Moral progress and some of the conditions under which groups can make it is the focus of this paper. More specifically, I address a problem arising from the use of pluralistic criteria for determining moral progress. Pluralistic criteria can allow for judgments that moral progress has taken place where there is causally related moral regression. Indeed, an otherwise well-argued pluralistic theory put forward by Michelle Moody-Adams allows for such conflicting judgments. I argue, however, that the way in which Moody-Adams handles these conflicts can be made less counterintuitive. Ultimately, I limit the types of moral progress that arise in instances of value conflict. To demonstrate the attractiveness of my revision, I apply it to the content of a symposium on moral progress built around a John Lachs essay.
13. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 21
Jeffrey Paris Rethinking the End of Modernity: Empire, Hyper-Capitalism, and Cyberpunk Dystopias
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This essay is comprised of two unusual pairings—Immanuel Wallerstein with Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri; and Don DeLillo with William Gibson—and a thesis: We live, today, in a period of transition between modernity and postmodernity that is best characterized as what I call hyper-capitalism. The end of modernity, as described both by Wallerstein’s world-systems theory and by the “postmodern” political philosophy of the authors of Empire, does not lead us into postmodernity proper, but into a period of geopolitical chaos. This chaos may be best understood, not only by closing the gap between these variegated social theorists, but also via the dystopic cyberpunk fiction of DeLillo’s Cosmopolis and Gibson’s Pattern Recognition.
part iv: feminist perspectives
14. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 21
Lisa H. Schwartzman Neutrality, Choice, and Contexts of Oppression: Examining Feminist Perfectionism
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In her recent book, Perfectionism and Contemporary Feminist Values, Kimberly Yuracko argues that perfectionism is a promising theory for feminists, and she suggests that “what really motivates and drives feminists’ arguments is not a neutral commitment to freedom or equality but a perfectionist commitment to a particular, albeit inchoate, vision of human flourishing.” In my paper, I explore the connections between feminism, perfectionism, and critiques of liberal neutrality by focusing critical attention on Yuracko’s arguments. After summarizing Yuracko’s position, I contend that she wrongly portrays feminists as criticizing the “choices” of individual women, rather than attacking the structures of power in which these choices are situated. By misconstruing feminist arguments in this way, Yuracko suggests that feminists are endorsing a form of liberal neutrality, rather than offering a critique of such neutrality in favor of a more radical analysis.In the second half of my paper, I develop an alternative analysis, which I call “equality as non-domination,” which I think more accurately describes many of the feminist arguments Yuracko considers. I compare my alternative account to both liberal neutrality and to Yuracko’s perfectionism. Because feminism is centrally concerned with criticizing social structures of domination and unjust hierarchy, I conclude that it cannot be understood as falling squarely on either side of the neutrality/perfectionism debate.
15. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 21
Sally J. Scholz Human Rights, Radical Feminism, and Rape in War
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This paper looks at some prominent discussions of rape in war as a violation of human rights within Radical Feminism. I begin with a brief overview of United Nations declarations and actions on the subject of rape in war. I then look at some radical feminist accounts of rape in war as a violation of human rights with particular emphasis on the discussions of Susan Brownmiller and Catharine MacKinnon. I conclude the paper with a critical analysis of these radical feminist accounts and show how our human rights talk must distinguish between types of rape in war situations or risk silencing the individual victims.
16. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 21
Rebecca Whisnant Rethinking Nonviolence: Intimate Abuse and the Needs of Survivors
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The paper considers nonviolence, not merely as a set of tactics for demonstrations and protests, but as a broad ethical ideal governing attitudes as well as conduct. I argue that the meanings of nonviolence—its relationship to personal and political honor and integrity—may differ with one’s level of privilege and social authorization to employ violence. Furthermore, the moral and attitudinal commitments prominent in some strands of nonviolence theory are in some ways at odds with the needs of survivors of violent abuse—particularly of the kinds typically committed by men against women and children in intimate contexts. There isthus an apparent tension between some of the commitments of nonviolence theory and our obligation to demonstrate solidarity with survivors. Recognizing and resolving this apparent tension is a necessary further step in the development of nonviolence theory.
17. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 21
Mary Briody Mahowald Our Bodies Ourselves: Disability and Standpoint Theory
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The term “disability” may be used narrowly or broadly to identify conditions that impede an individual’s ability to function or flourish. I argue that a broad definition is both epistemologically and ethically preferable to a narrow one. Only if we recognize that all human beings embody disabilities as well as abilities is justice and respect for the autonomy of those who fit the narrow definition possible. A liability of the broad definition, however, is its risk of masking differences that need to be addressed explicitly if justice is to be maximized. To address this liability, I propose “standpoint theory,” a strategy supported by classical pragmatists and feminist authors who recognize the inevitable myopia of all of us. I conclude with an application of standpoint theory to a specific disability: cognitive impairment.
part v: nassp book award
18. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 21
Sharon Anderson-Gold Memory, Identity, and Cultural Authority
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19. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 21
Jeremy Bendik-Keymer Courtrooms As Disabling Remembering Positions
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20. Social Philosophy Today: Volume > 21
Johann A. Klaassen Models of Memory and the Logic of Domination
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