Machine generated contents note: Part I. The Concept of Evil: 1. Inexcusable wrongs; 2. Between good and evil; 3. Complicity in structural evils; 4. To whom (or to what?) can evils be done?; Part II. Terrorism, Torture, Genocide: 5. Counterterrorism; 6. Low-profile terrorism; 7. Conscientious torture?; 8. Ordinary torture; 9. Genocide is social death; 10. Genocide by forced impregnation; Bibliography; Filmography; Websites; Index.
Torture is like slavery (and unlike murder and genocide) in that it is not inconceivable that torture might be justifiable. But the circumstances that would make it tolerable are unrealistic in philosophically interesting ways. It is unrealistic to think we can predict when torture will be effective and containable; unwarranted to suppose that humane alternatives are impossible; disastrous to remove motivations to create alternatives; unacceptable to be satisfied with available evidence regarding suspectsâ identity, knowledge of critical detail, ability to recall (...) it, or reasons for not providing it. Most importantly, the costs of even successful interrogational torture would negate the gains sought. Or so this essay argues. (shrink)
: Although the exclusion of LGBTs from the rites and rights of marriage is arbitrary and unjust, the legal institution of marriage is itself so riddled with injustice that it would be better to create alternative forms of durable intimate partnership that do not invoke the power of the state. Card's essay develops a case for this position, taking up an injustice sufficiently serious to constitute an evil: the sheltering of domestic violence.
It has been claimed that most of the world’s preventable suffering and death are caused not by terrorism but by poverty. That claim, if true, could be hard to substantiate. For most terrorism is not publicly recognized as such, and it is far commoner than paradigms of the usual suspects suggest. Everyday lives under oppressive regimes, in racist environments, and of women, children, and elders everywhere who suffer violence in their homes offer instances of terrorisms that seldom capture public attention. (...) Or so this essay argues, through exploring two models of terrorism and the points of view highlighted by each. (shrink)
This essay reflects on issues raised by commentators regarding my book, The Atrocity Paradigm: A Theory of Evil (Oxford 2002). They are (1) Robin Schott's observation of the tension between my discussion of forgiveness and of castration fantasies; (2) Bat-Ami Bar On's questions regarding whether evil is ethical, political, or both; (3) Adam Morton's queries regarding the relative seriousness of evils and injustices; and (4) María Pía Lara's concerns regarding what is valuable in Kant's ethics.
: Social death, central to the evil of genocide (whether the genocide is homicidal or primarily cultural), distinguishes genocide from other mass murders. Loss of social vitality is loss of identity and thereby of meaning for one's existence. Seeing social death at the center of genocide takes our focus off body counts and loss of individual talents, directing us instead to mourn losses of relationships that create community and give meaning to the development of talents.
: The concept of a war on terrorism creates havoc with attempts to apply rules of war. For "terrorism" is not an agent. Nor is it clear what relationship to terrorism agents must have in order to be legitimate targets. Nor is it clear what kinds of terrorism count. Would a war on terrorism in the home be a justifiable response to domestic battering? If not, do similar objections apply to a war on public terrorism?
Simone de Beauvoir was a philosopher and writer of notable range and influence whose work is central to feminist theory, French existentialism, and contemporary moral and social philosophy. The essays in this volume examine all the major aspects of her thought, including her views on issues such as the role of biology, sexuality and sexual difference, and evil, the influence on her work of Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Husserl, and others, and the philosophical significance of her memoirs and fiction. New readers (...) and nonspecialists will find this the most convenient and accessible guide to Beauvoir currently available. Advanced students and specialists will find a conspectus of recent developments in the interpretation of Beauvoir. (shrink)
: Margaret Walker's Moral Understandings offers an "expressive-collaborative," culturally situated, practice-based picture of morality, critical of a "theoretical-juridical" picture in most prefeminist moral philosophy since Henry Sidgwick. This essay compares her approach to ethics with that of John Rawls, another exemplar of the "theoretical-juridical" model, and asks how Walker's approach would apply to several ethical issues, including interaction with (other) animals, social reform and revolution, and basic human rights.
What distinguishes evils from ordinary wrongs? Is hatred a necessarily evil? Are some evils unforgivable? Are there evils we should tolerate? What can make evils hard to recognize? Are evils inevitable? How can we best respond to and live with evils? Claudia Card offers a secular theory of evil that responds to these questions and more. Evils, according to her theory, have two fundamental components. One component is reasonably foreseeable intolerable harm -- harm that makes a life indecent and impossible (...) or that makes a death indecent. The other component is culpable wrongdoing. Atrocities, such as genocides, slavery, war rape, torture, and severe child abuse, are Card's paradigms because in them these key elements are writ large. Atrocities deserve more attention than secular philosophers have so far paid them. They are distinguished from ordinary wrongs not by the psychological states of evildoers but by the seriousness of the harm that is done. Evildoers need not be sadistic:they may simply be negligent or unscrupulous in pursuing their goals. Card's theory represents a compromise between classic utilitarian and stoic alternatives (including Kant's theory of radical evil). Utilitarians tend to reduce evils to their harms; Stoics tend to reduce evils to the wickedness of perpetrators: Card accepts neither reduction. She also responds to Nietzsche's challenges about the worth of the concept of evil, and she uses her theory to argue that evils are more important than merely unjust inequalities. She applies the theory in explorations of war rape and violence against intimates. She also takes up what Primo Levi called "the gray zone", where victims become complicit in perpetrating on others evils that threaten to engulf themselves. While most past accounts of evil have focused on perpetrators, Card begins instead from the position of the victims, but then considers more generally how to respond to -- and live with -- evils, as victims, as perpetrators, and as those who have become both. (shrink)
Gray zones, which develop wherever oppression is severe and lasting, are inhabited by victims of evil who become complicit in perpetrating on others the evils that threaten to engulf themselves. Women, who have inhabited many gray zones, present challenges for feminist theorists, who have long struggled with how resistance is possible under coercive institutions. Building on Primo Levi's reflections on the gray zone in Nazi death camps and ghettos, this essay argues that resistance is sometimes possible, although outsiders are rarely, (...) if ever, in a position to judge when. It also raises questions about the adequacy of ordinary moral concepts to mark the distinctions that would be helpful for thinking about how to respond in a gray zone. (shrink)
Cheshire Calhoun has been working to distinguish lesbian oppression from the sexist oppression of women in general, with the idea that different strategies may be needed to oppose each. On a radical feminist understanding of sexism, however, lesbian oppression is a very important part of the oppression of females generally. Women's liberation requires opposition to lesbian oppression. Or so I argue in supporting radicalesbianfeminism as a unified theory.
Martha Nussbaum's work has been characterized by a sustained critique of Stoic ethics, insofar as that ethics denies the validity and importance of our valuing things that elude our control. This essay explores the idea that the very possibility of morality, understood as social or interpersonal ethics, presupposes that we do value such things. If my argument is right, Stoic ethics is unable to recognize the validity of morality (so understood) but can at most acknowledge duties to oneself. A further (...) implication is that moral luck, so far from undermining morality as some have held, is presupposed by the very possibility of morality. (shrink)
Learning about martial sex crimes against men has made me rethink some of my ideas about rape as a weapon of war and how to respond to it. Such crimes can be as racist as they are sexist and, in the case of male victims, may be quite simply racist.
This essay examines how rape of women and girls by male soldiers works as a martial weapon. Continuities with other torture and terrorism and with civilian rape are suggested. The inadequacy of past philosophical treatments of the enslavement of war captives is briefly discussed. Social strategies are suggested for responding and a concluding fantasy offered, not entirely social, of a strategy to change the meanings of rape to undermine its use as a martial weapon.
This essay argues that current advocacy of lesbian and gay rights to legal marriage and parenthood insufficiently criticizes both marriage and motherhood as they are currently practiced and structured by Northern legal institutions. Instead we would do better not to let the State define our intimate unions and parenting would be improved if the power presently concentrated in the hands of one or two guardians were diluted and distributed through an appropriately concerned community.
In 1994, Joyce Trebilcot retired from teaching at Washington University in St. Louis, where she had founded the Women's Studies Program and had been a member of the Philosophy Department since 1970. In the Fall of 1994 I participated on a SWIP conference panel on her book Dyke Ideas (Trebilcot 1994) conference; I used that occasion also to reminisce and place her work in the context of her life as a SWIP activist. What follows is adapted from that presentation.
Lesbian Ethics, a U.S. journal of lesbian culture, has offered highly readable philosophical essays, reviews, discussions, and other nonfiction since late 1984 (twelve issues to date). It provides a forum in which the meaning of "lesbian" takes shape from self concepts formed in cooperative interaction and thus lays the ground-work for lesbians becoming publicly recognized as the foremost interpreters of lesbian identity and history.
Nel Noddings, in Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education (1984), presents and develops an ethic of care as an alternative to an ethic that treats justice as a basic concept. I argue that this care ethic is unable to give an adequate account of ethical relationships between strangers and that it is also in danger of valorizing relationships in which carers are seriously abused.
Suzanne Pharr's Homophobia: A Weapon of Sexism may be an effective tool for women committed to overcoming their own homophobia who want practical advice on recognizing and eradicating it, although as an essay in theory it does not advance the issues. The author seems unaware that Celia Kitzinger has argued recently that "homophobia" is not a helpful concept because it individualizes problems better seen as political and begs the question of the rationality of the fear. I argue that "homophobia" has (...) been misused but that freed of the medical model and understood in connection with issues of pride and shame, it can be a helpful concept. (shrink)
This review essay on Janice Raymond's A Passion for Friends, sympathetic to the author's inquiry into the institutional contexts of female friendship, criticizes as unnecessary its rejection of feminist separatism and of the "lesbian continuum" and formulates a possible connection of its account of sources of passionate friendship among women to the new research on women and violence.
Marilyn Frye's first book, The Politics of Reality: Essays in Feminist Theory, presents nine philosophical lectures: four on women's subordination, four on resistance and rebellion, one on revolution. Its approach combines a lesbian perspective with analytical philosophy of language. The major contributions of the book are its analysis of oppression, highly suggestive discussions of the roles of attention in knowledge and ignorance and in arrogance and love, a defense of political separatism not based on female supremacism, and a development of (...) the idea of lesbian epistemology. Its proposal for resisting White racism will be controversial. Its treatment of gay rights is not balanced by an acknowledgement that drag queens, like "totaled women," are products of oppression, not simply of intolerance. The most philosophically problematic aspect of the book is its analysis of coercion and of the roles of coercion in women's subordination. This creates an unresolved tension with the positive message of the second half of the book. Despite this difficulty, these essays are an outstanding contribution to contemporary feminist theory. (shrink)