We are in the midst of a global ecological crisis. And yet, like Nero, we fiddle while Rome burns. Global warming is happening. Human population is growing. Land and water supplies are used and depleted at an ever-expanding rate. Species and habitats are destroyed and biodiversity is lost. Pollution and toxic waste pile up. Despite several decades of acute awareness of these ecological problems, we have made little progress toward sustainable solutions.This points us to a somewhat paradoxical feature of political (...) action that I will call the problem of Nero's Fiddle.1 We are in the midst of a crisis of millennial proportions and yet we waste time and pursue our own self-interests, fiddling while Rome burns.2 What .. (shrink)
The most substantial source for thinking about forgiveness is Christian ethics. Some Christians offer forgiveness even for atrocities in the absence of repentance and reparations. The paper critically examines Christian idealism about forgiveness, while looking beyond Christianity toward a humanistic approach that acknowledges the tragic conflict between forgiveness and justice. Christian forgiveness is part of a radical revaluation of values regarding the goods of this world, personal identity, and temporality. Humanistic approaches, as found in Kant and the Greeks, do not (...) embrace this radical revaluation of values. But it remains useful to consider the benefits of forgiveness, even for those who are not willing to commit to such a radical revaluation. (shrink)
This paper addresses recent examples of militant atheism. It considers the theistic reply that describes atheism as deriving from a “God-shaped hole” in the human soul. The paper will argue that American pragmatism offers a middle path that avoids militant atheism without suffering from this problem. The paper describes this middle path and considers the problem that is seen in Rorty’s recent work: how the pragmatist can remain critical of religious fundamentalism without succumbing to a militant version of atheism. The (...) solution proposed is tolerant acceptance of religion along with melioristic criticism developed within shared norms of inquiry. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
There are good reasons to beware of arguments that allow for exceptions to principles about the proper limit of violence. Justifications of such exceptions occur in recent discussions of torture and terrorism. One of the reasons to be skeptical of these arguments is that when political agents make exceptions to moral principles, these exceptions can become precedents that serve to normalize immoral behavior. This aspect of political reality is ignored in contemporary attempts to justify torture and terrorism. The present paper (...) explains why torture and terrorism are wrong despite recent attempts to justify them. It draws distinctions between torture and terrorism, while examining these practices in the context of the war on terrorism. (shrink)
This article focuses on Emerson’s emphasis on the limits of language. This emphasis is important because for Emerson self-expression in language is an essential part of the process of becoming self-reliant. Emerson thus shows us the way in which language often prevents us from becoming self-reliant. Emerson performatively shows the limits of language in an effort to inspire his audience to develop self-reliance in speaking for themselves. The article locates Emerson’s emphasis on the limits of language within the context of (...) nineteenth-century thought. His approach is contrasted with German Idealists such as Fichte and Hegel and Romantic poets such as Wordsworth. Moreover, the article emphasizes similarities between Emerson and Europeans such as Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. (shrink)
Hegel did not have an adequate appreciation of linguistic diversity. This lapse is linked to Hegel’s Eurocentric view of history and culture. Hegel’s view of language is considered within the context of Leibniz’s hope for a universal philosophical language, the metacritique of Kant, and Fichte’s linguistic nationalism. Hegel overcomes the sort of nationalism found in Fichte. And Hegel aspires toward the universal while recognizing the importance of concrete historical language. However, he does not achieve the sort of appreciation of linguistic (...) diversity we find in Humboldt. The paper concludes that Humboldt can thus be used to critique Hegel’s Eurocentrism without anachronism. (shrink)
This article considers the virtue of tolerance as it is found in Epictetus and MarcusAurelius. It defines the virtue of tolerance and links it to the Stoic idea of proper control of the passions in pursuit of both self-sufficiency and justice. It argues that Stoic tolerance is neither complete in difference nor a species of relativism. Finally, it discusses connections between the moral virtue of Stoic tolerance and the idea of political toleration found in modern liberalism.
This essay discusses one source of toleration: a modest recognition of the limits of our ability to imagine the situation of the other. It further connects this with both respect for the autonomy of the other and the moral need to engage the other in dialogue. The conclusion is that toleration is important in light of the ubiquity of failures of the moral imagination. It considers several examples of the failure of the moral imagination, including a discussion of the Hindu (...) practice of sati or widow burning. (shrink)
This essay does not argue for any specific conception of time as ethically superior or significant, but argues that the conception of time we choose from among possible such conceptions has ethical consequences.
Political philosophy is a paradoxical attempt to bring reason to bear upon a subject matter that is irrational. This problem has been side-stepped by many contemporary political thinkers. Political theorists like Iris Young, Michael Sandel, Jean Elshtain, Robert Bork, and Richard Peterson acknowledge that contemporary political life, with its lack of democratic participation and its undemocratic, bureaucratic institutions, is undergoing a legitimation crisis. These theorists offer philosophical analyses of this crisis in order to arrive at its rational resolution. This approach (...) forgets, however, that there can be no rational resolutions within the political realm. Politicalphilosophy alone cannot resolve the legitimation crisis. This is especially so because the contemporary legitimation crisis arises, in part, from a lack of rationality on the part of both agents and institutions. Yet, we cannot fully give up on the enterprise of political philosophy. To do so would be to acquiesce to irrationality and the lack of legitimation found in contemporary political life. This paper argues that political philosophers, at their best, must adopt a deliberately ironic disposition: while demanding rational analyses of political life, they must acknowledge that rational analysis may itself be ineffectual in political life. (shrink)