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141. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 14 > Issue: 2
Matthew Tedesco Thomson’s Samaritanism Constraint
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Judith Jarvis Thomson concludes “A Defense of Abortion” with a discussion of samaritanism. Whereas her rights-based arguments demonstrate the moral permissibility of virtually all abortions, this new consideration of samaritanism provides grounds for morally objecting to certain abortions that are otherwise morally pemissible given strictly rights-based considerations. I argue, first, that this samaritanism constraint on the moral permissibility of abortion involves an appeal to virtue-theoretical considerations. I then show why this hybridization of rights-based considerations and virtue-theoretical considerations has advantages over responses to the moral status of abortion that are either exclusively rights-based, or else exclusively virtue-theoretical. I conclude by offering some thoughts on how to utilize this hybrid strategy outside of Thomson’s particular context, as well as why we might generally favor such a strategy in our moral reasoning.
142. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
Karin Edvardsson Björnberg Utopian Goals: Four Objections and a Cautious Defense
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The normative criterion of attainability, or non-utopianism, is often referred to in discussions of goal-setting rationality. Goals should be realistic, it is argued, since it is unreasonable to adopt goals that cannot be achieved and that are of no use in the selection of means toward their realization. However, despite the proposed requirement of attainability, utopian or semi-utopian goals are often adopted in political contexts, the Swedish Vision Zero for trafflc safety being one example. This paper develops and analyzes four objections that can be raised against the use of utopian goals and to support the normative criterion of attainability: that utopian goals are (1) too imprecise and (2) too far-reaching to guide action effectively, (3) counterproductive, and (4) morally objectionable. A tentative defense of utopian goal-setting is built on the counter-arguments that can be put forward to weaken each of the four objections.
143. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
J. Caleb Clanton Religion in the Public Square?: A Critical Response to Cornel West
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This paper examines Cornel West’s attempt to offer an alternative to the dominant liberal view concerning the proper role of religion in the democratic public square. Whereas mainstream liberals seek strategies to keep religion and public life separate, West seeks to dissolve the apparent tension between religion and democratic citizenship by reconstructing religion pragmatically such that it can be rendered compatible with democracy. I argue that West’s proposal fails to be a viable alternative precisely because the “prophetic pragmatism” underwriting his view is unethical to the extent that it relies upon manipulative relationships with traditional religious believers in African-American churches.
144. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
John K. Alexander Eliminating the Harm We Cause: A Defense of Singer and Agent-Causation Responsibility
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Peter Singer places a stringent requirement on us to come to the aid of those who are suffering, as long as we do not have to give up something of comparable worth. I consider some criticisms of this view here, while arguing in defense of Singer’s conclusion. I presume here that it is morally impermissible to create unnecessary and avoidable harm to innocent people. I argue that if we have an adequate understanding of agent causation and moral responsibility then we can meet these objections. I refer to this as ‘agent-causation responsibility.’ I argue that through our intentional inaction we do cause unnecessary and avoidable suffering to continue and that we are therefore morally required to work towards eliminating it.
145. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
James M. King Lying: An Everyday Tragedy
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The following essay involves a discussion of four theories about lying and their application to a specific circumstance, the Nazi-Jew situation, as found in Kant, Aquinas, Pruss, and Guervin. By examining their thoughts on this particular situation, we may draw out, by the use of “right reason,” ways to handle everyday situations that causes us to face the tragic choice between two goods that lying presents. The argument is that, if approached in a certain way, the tragic choice lying presents may be avoided.
146. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
J. Aaron Simmons Is Continental Philosophy Just Catholicism for Atheists?: On the Political Relevance of Kenosis
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There is much within contemporary continental philosophy that might give the indication that it is really just disguised Christian theology. However, in line with Hent de Vries and in contrast to Dominique Janicaud, I contend that there are reasons for taking continental God-talk seriously on purely philosophical grounds. On this basis, I then go on to advocate a specific form of God-talk-that dealing with kenosis-as being deeply relevant to contemporary politics because of the way in which it provides an argument for democracy as the political system best opened to the critical function of charity.
147. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
Barbara LaBossiere Tort Liability in the United States and Its Threat to Class Action Justice
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Class action lawsuits and the justice that they are supposed to enforce have become of great concem to legislators in recent years. The traditional ruIes of tort liability cannot completely support the court decisions that have been reached. The rulings, however, are clearly in the interest of giving victims the justice that they are due. Legal scholars, such as Jules Coleman, claim that the conflicts between tort liability and class action justice cannot be reconciled in our legal system. I propose an avenue of analysis whereby the principles of justice that support tort law are preserved as needed for modem issues, yet at the same time address the genuine public policy concems in these class actions.
148. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
Lloyd Steffen Gandhi’s Nonviolent Resistance: A Justified Use of Force?
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Just war theory has been criticized since it so often is employed by governments and political leadership to justify uses of violent force for nationalistic, political self-serving or otherwise non-moral reasons. This paper acknowledges that reality but argues that just war thinking exemplifies a nonabsolutist mode of moral thinking that actually sets a high bar for morally justifying any use of force. The paper argues that just war thinking must be based on the presumption that force ordinarily ought not be used to settle conflicts. To make the point the author examines Gandhi’s satyagraha, which Gandhi understood as a use of nonviolent force. The paper demonstrates how Gandhi implicitly appealed to the various criteria of just war in thinking about satyagraha. The author concludes that just war theory is not an enemy of peace.
149. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
William Long A Philosophical Exploration of Forgiveness
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Forgiveness at its deepest level is a remarkable individual and interpersonal achievement that can restore one’s identity and reconstitute one’s relationship with another. Exemplars of forgiveness can transcend the particular and contribute to constructive inter-group relations and the creation of a new national narrative of reconciliation. Existing decisional or emotional explanations for forgiveness do not fully account for the transformative experience of the most radical forms of forgiveness. Exploring personal identity from Eastern and Western philosophical perspectives can help us locate a new understanding of this form of forgiveness. Some of those who forgive deeply do so by transitioning from one cognitive-emotional state to another radically different one. This reappraisal is mediated by the experience of the nonessential nature of the self and the other, and this realization, in turn, allows for a profound transformation in personal identity and interpersonal relations.
150. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
Joris van Gorkom Immanuel Kant on Racial Identity
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Immanuel Kant enshrined the modem notion of race. Many commentators prefer to ignore this aspect of Kant’s thinking, considering it to be out-dated, merely a remnant of eighteenth century philosophy or bad science. This article will examine Kant’s racial theory within the context of his wider work, and mainly so with regard to the teleological principle. Kant often presents his new notion of race and racial differences in relation to teleology, i.e., he used races as an example for understanding the teleological principle. The aim of this article is to understand the relationship between Kant’s racial theory and his teleology, which is essential for comprehending his cosmopolitanism. Instead of merely discarding the racist remarks in Kant’s work as marginal and distracting from his central argument, the article will show that Kant’s teleology is a means for him to exclude non-white races from a positive, moral development of a culture.
151. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
Bart Engelen, Thomas Nys Tolerance: A Virtue?: Toward a Broad and Descriptive Definition of Tolerance
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This article focuses on the difficult issue of what exactly goes on when an individual tolerates something. It focuses on the problem of why an individual would ever choose to allow for some practice that he deerns unacceptable while having the power to do something about it. After distinguishing between different attitudes (tolerant as well as intolerant), this article argues that individuals can have various reasons for deciding to tolerate what they deern wrong. As such, we defend a broad conception of tolerance, which goes against the grain of recent literature in which tolerance is generally understood as a virtue.
152. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
H. E. Baber The Experience Machine Deconstructed
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Nozick’s Experience Machine thought experiment is generally taken to make a compelling, if not conclusive, case against philosophical hedonism. I argue that it does not and, indeed, that regardless of the results, it cannot provide any reason to accept or reject either hedonism or any other philosophical account of wellbeing since it presupposes preferentism, the desire-satisfaction account ofwellbeing. Preferentists cannot take any comfort from the results of such thought experiments because they assume preferentism and therefore cannot establish it. Neither can anyone else, since only a preferentistshould accept the terms of the thought experiment.
153. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
George Teschner Terrorism, Singularity, and the Phenomenology of Understanding
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This paper discusses international terrorism and the diagnosis of terrorism that is found in Baudrillard, Habermas, and Derrida. The paper suggests a way of responding to terrorism based upon Gadanler’s understanding of Bildung. Terrorism is analyzed as arising out of an encounter between singularities that are experienced as otherness and alterity. Gadamer’s distinction between the humanities and the natural and social sciences reveals two fundamentally different epistemological orientations. Philosophical understanding is essentially hermeneutic and treats the phenomenon of terrorism symbolicaIly, in contrast to the fact-oriented positivistic sciences.
154. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 15 > Issue: 1
David Gandolfo The Ethical Threshold: Democratic Supranational Governance as a Necessary Condition for Non-Neocolonial Globalization
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For the economic and political processes being brought about in the name of the current wave of globalization to be ethical, they must avoid recapitulating the processes of the previous wave of globalization: colonialism. The paper discusses the logic of colonialism and a minimum requirement that the current globalization would have to fulfill in order to finally and definitively overcome the colonial structures inherited from the previous globalization: it must be democratic. It is argued that supranational democratic structures are, thus, key to definitively overcoming colonialism, and a necessary condition fornon-neocolonial globalization; without such structures, globalization is neocolonial and, therefore, unethical.
155. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Clayton Crockett Inspiration, Sublimation and Speech: A Response to Ralph Ellis
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Ralph Ellis discusses inspiration in important philosophical and psychological ways, and this response to his essay both appreciates and amplifies his discussion and its conclusions by framing them in terms of sublimation and speech, using insights from the work of Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, and Gilles Deleuze. Inspiration is not derived from another plane of existence, but refers to tbe creation of human meaning and value. Inspiration as a form of sublimation conceives sublimation as a process of substitution that avoids elevating a phenomenon from a lower material to a higher spiritual level, and speech can be seen as a complex form of inspiration that forms along what Deleuze calls a plateau. Speech as inspiration is both physiological breath and productive of cognitive and emotional significance. I conclude with abrief consideration of inspiration as speech in Cormac McCarthey’s novel The Road.
156. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Edward J. Grippe Gandhi’s Satyagraha as a Corrective to Religions and Scientific Fundamentalism
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This paper argues that Ellis’ analysis of Fundamentalism as narcissistically disturbed can apply to the very scientific disciplines he relies upon to make his argument. Citing Elizabeth Lloyd’s critique of methodological objectivity, I draw a parallel between the overstated belief that humans can defy finitude through certainty gained via scientific objectivity and Ellis’ charge that the religious faithful deny human limits in their delusional certainty in an afterlife. I link scientism and religious fundamentalism in their apodictic assertions and their instrumentalism. I argue that Ellis’ insight into the narcissistic nature of fundanlentalism is, by being successful, a challenge to his project in so far as it rests on a scientific fundamentalism. Finally, I offer resolution by appealing to Gandhi’s notion of satyagraha or conflict resolution through mutual recognition of the core veridical insights embedded in opposing viewpoints.
157. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Andrew Fiala God, Reason, and Ethics: Love and the Good Samaritan
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This paper examines the relation between ethics and religion in light of Ralph Ellis’ critique of religious fundamentalism. It argues against the recent revival of Divine Command ethics. It claims that love is in fact a central value and experience for the ethical life. But it maintains that Ralph Ellis’ humanistic approach to love is preferable to a religious approach. This argument is articulated with reference to theodicy and the problem of evil. The paper concludes that the condition of finitude such as described by Ellis provides us with sufficient reason to be a Good Samaritan: since we can relate directly to the suffering of our neighbors. The paper also argues that traditional versions of the Christian religion provide no reason to care about our neighbors other than divine command.
158. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Charles W. Harvey Narcissism, Fundamentalism and Cosmological Ingratitude
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In this essay I describe how primary and secondary narcissism are the underlying and motivating psychological states for fundamentalist religious belief. I describe the psychodynamics that produce such a belief state and I make the case that the "fundamentalist personality" is best understood as a form of barely sublimated pathological narcissism. Given the brutality of the human condition, it is understandable why this psychological-metaphysical option is an enticing one, but I follow Ralph Ellis in the conclusion that the consequences of such belief systems produce much more harm than benefit for individuals and humanity at Iarge.
159. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
J. Jeremy Wisnewski Mourning My Future Death: Finitude, Love and Self-Deception
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My aim in this paper is to offer some critical remarks about the possibility of honestly confronting finitude through the experience of tbe value of the other. I suggest that there is reason to think that an honest confrontation with finitude cannot be so accomplished, and that, moreover, there can be no ‘compensation’ for the fact of finitude. Finally, I suggest that the rhetoric of ‘authenticity’ might not be the most fruitful way of talking about confronting our death.
160. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 15 > Issue: 2
Bill Faw Non-Drive-Reductive Hedonism and the Physiological Psychology of Inspiration
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Major strands of the history of scientific psychology proposed less mechanistic explanations of behavior than the “series of billiard ball reactions” that Ellis ascribes to them. I tease apart psychological systems based on hedonism and those based on stimulus-response mechanisms-and then tease apart basic hedonism and drive-reduction hedonism, to layout psychological and neuroscientific foundations for the active, dynamic, cognitive, emotive, and "spiritual" dynamics of human nature which Ellis calls us to affirm. I trace these distinctions through the drive-reduction psychoanalysis of Freud, the drive-reduction behaviorism of Hull, and the non-drive-reductive hedonistic system of Skinner. Then I trace the recent neuroscience of reward and punishment circuits and putative narcissistic and altruistic circuits, to conclude that Behaviorism and Neuroscience support broad hedonistic but major non-drive-reduction motivational systems. I affirm Ellis’ contention that emotions are basically “active”, although with some caveats and questions.