For the sake of developing and evaluating public policy decisions aimed at combating terrorism, we need a precise public definition of terrorism that distinguishes terrorism from other forms of violence. Ordinary usage does not provide a basis for such a definition, and so it must be stipulative. I propose essentially pragmatic criteria for developing such a stipulative public definition. After noting that definitions previously proposed in the philosophical literature are inadequate based on these criteria, I propose an alternative, which I (...) call the 'group-target' definition and which distinguishes terrorism from other forms of violence by the distinctive principle of discrimination used by terrorists to identify legitimate targets. I argue that this definition meets the criteria for a satisfactory public definition, and suggest that based on it there is good reason to suspect the adequacy of anti-terrorism policies that rely predominantly on forceful interdiction of terrorists. (shrink)
When philosophers contribute to public debates as polarized as contemporary ones about theistic belief, it is common to encounter responses that, philosophically, are woefully misguided. While it is tempting to simply dismiss them, a closer examination of recurring responses can offer insight of philosophical significance. In this paper I exemplify the value of engaging with recurring but misguided popular objections by looking carefully at one such objection to my recent book, Is God a Delusion?
Recent defenders of the Christian doctrine of eternal damnation have appealed to what I call the “No Guarantee Doctrine” (NG)—the doctrine that not evenGod can ensure both (a) that every person who is saved freely chooses to be saved and (b) that all are saved. Thomas Talbott challenges NG on the groundsthat anyone who is truly free will have no motive to reject God and will infallibly choose salvation. In response to critics of Talbott , I argue that in order (...) toavoid Talbott ’s critique of NG, its defenders must adopt a view of human freedom in which there is a random element in choice. And if free choice involvessuch an element, then it is within God’s power to achieve a mathematical guarantee of freely chosen salvation for all. Thus, NG must be rejected. (shrink)
Thomas Talbott has argued that the following propositions are inconsistent: (1) it is God's redemptive purpose for the world (and therefore His will) to reconcile all sinners to Himself; (2) it is within God's power to achieve His redemptive purpose for the world; (3) some sinners will never be reconciled to God, and God will therefore either consign them to a place of eternal punishment, from which there will be no hope of escape, or put them out of existence altogether. (...) In this paper we explore two attempts to reconcile (1)–(3) by appealing to divine justice. We argue that both versions fail for the same reason: in order for the appeal to God's justice to effectively reconcile (1)–(3), the demands of God's retributive justice must be taken to be so exacting that they call forth a very strong doctrine of the Atonement. And such a doctrine of the Atonement removes justice as an impediment to saving all. (Published Online August 11 2004). (shrink)
Efforts to protect endangered species by regulating the use of privately owned lands are routinely resisted by appeal to the private property rights of landowners. Recently, the 'wise-use' movement has emerged as a primary representative of these landowners' claims. In addressing the issues raised by the wise-use movement and others like them, legal scholars and philosophers have typically examined the scope of private property rights and the extent to which these rights should influence public policy decisions when weighed against other (...) moral considerations. Whether from an anthropocentric standpoint or from a perspective of moral extensionism, the key question seems to be the extent to which prima facie property rights are overridden by other moral interests, not whether such rights claims can reasonably be appealed to at all in public discussions of environmental justice. I argue, however, that a morally extensionist perspective not only introduces more potential defeaters of prima facie property rights, but actually strips appeals to private property rights of their moral significance. Hence, I argue on Rawlsian grounds that appealing to private property rights in the way that the wise-use movement does is unreasonable in a pluralistic society. In so doing, I show that a Rawlsian perspective may be more congenial to the interests of moral extensionists than is typically thought. (shrink)
Both Thomas Talbott and Friedrich Schleiermacher have argued, in somewhat different ways, that in the context of Christian theism the damnation of anyone would render it impossible to extend genuine blessedness to anyone else. I examine both Schleiermacher's and Talbott's version of this argument, which I call the ‘incompatibility argument', and respond to criticisms levelled by Jerry Walls and William Lane Craig. I argue that the argument is more powerful than its critics admit, and that it poses a potentially devastating (...) challenge to what Thomas Talbott calls ‘moderately conservative theism', according to which the damned autonomously choose their own damnation by forever rejecting God's offer of salvation. (shrink)
: Because "rape" has such a powerful appraisive meaning, how one defines the term has normative significance. Those who define rape rigidly so as to exclude contemporary feminist understandings are therefore seeking to silence some moral perspectives "by definition." I argue that understanding rape as an essentially contested concept allows the concept sufficient flexibility to permit open moral discourse, while at the same time preserving a core meaning that can frame the discourse.
In arecent article, Michael Murray critiques several versions of universalism-that is, the doctrine that in the end all persons are saved. Of particular interest to Murray is Thomas Talbott’s version of universalism (called SU1 by Murray), which puts forward a strategy for ensuring universal salvation that purports to preserve the autonomy of the creatures saved. Murray argues that, on the contrary, the approach put forward in SU1 is not autonomy-preserving at all. I argue that this approach preserves the autonomy of (...) the creature at least as well as the approach posited by the traditional doctrine of hell. Since SU1 clearly does more to preserve the well-being of the creature, it follows that, on the assumption that God loves all His creatures, SU1 is preferable to the doctrine of hell. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that the some of the most popular and influential formulations of the Argument from Evil (AE) assume a moral perspective that is essentially consequentialist, and would therefore be unacceptable to deontologists. Specifically, I examine formulations of the argument offered by William Rowe and Bruce Russell, both of whom explicitly assert that their formulation of AE is theoretically neutral with respect to consequentialism, and can be read in a way that is unobjectionable to deontologists. I argue (...) that, in fact, this in not the case. Finally, I look at the implications of the consequentialist assumptions of AE for theodicies based on free will. (shrink)
In response to powerful criticisms of older arguments, contemporary defenders of the Church’s traditional stance on homosexuality have fashioned a new kind of argument based upon the special relationship God created between the sexes. In this paper we examine two recent incarnations of this kind of argument and show that both fail to demonstrate the inherent immorality of homosexual relationships, and at most demonstrate that homosexual relationships are inferior to heterosexual relationships in certain respects. At the end of the paper (...) we argue that a good God would have reason to make a certain proportion of humanity homosexual in order to unmask sexist myths. In this way homosexuality could itself strengthen, rather than weaken, the special relationship God created between the sexes. (shrink)
Both Arne Naess and Warwick Fox have argued that deep ecology, in terms of “Selfrealization,” is essentially nonmoral. I argue that the attainment of the ecological Self does not render morality in the richest sense “superfluous,” as Fox suggests. To the contrary, the achievement of the ecological Self is a precondition for being a truly moral person, both from the perspective of a robust Kantian moral frameworkand from the perspective of Aristotelian virtue ethics. The opposition between selfregard and morality is (...) a false one. The two are the same. The ecological philosophy of Naess and Fox is an environmental ethic in the grand tradition of moral philosophy. (shrink)