I take social injustice to be injustice perpetrated on members of society by laws and public social practices. I take social justice to be the struggle to right social injustice. After explaining these ideas, I then address the question: why are so many people opposed to the very idea of social justice? I offer a number of explanations, among them, that to acknowledge that there is social injustice in one’s society often requires considerable change on one’s part.
After discussing at some length the nature of interpersonal forgiveness and its relation to punishment, the author addresses the main question of the essay: are states the sorts of entities that can forgive; and if they are, is it sometimes desirable that they forgive? The author argues that states can forgive and very often do; and that sometimes it is desirable that they do so. The essay closes by considering the complexities that arise when the state wants to forgive but (...) the victim does not, and conversely. (shrink)
In my response to Kevin Carnahan, I explain the concept of religion that I have been working with in my writings on the place of religious reasons in public political discourse. While acknowledging that religion is often privatized, my concern has been with religion as a way of life. It is religion so understood that raises the most serious issues concerning the role of religion in public discourse. In my response to Erik A. Anderson, I go beyond what I have (...) previously said about the role of religious reasons in public discourse. As an alternative to Rawlsian public reason, I argue that the essence of liberal democracy is that every citizen is to have equal political voice. I go on to consider what it is to exercise one’s equal political voice as a moral engagement. (shrink)
In his book Persons and Objects, Professor Chisholm undertakes to show the satisfactoriness of an ontology which does not admit the existence of concrete events, such as sneezings, runnings, etc. He attempts to show that if we allow the existence of states of affairs, these being everlastingly existing entities, we need not acknowledge the existence of those perishing entities which are concrete events. I n this paper I discuss the tenability of this contention, considering especially whether the reductions that Chisholm (...) offers cope satisfactorily with the phenomena of tense. I conclude that they do not. My conclusion is that, at this point in history, we do not know whether ontology can do without concrete events. (shrink)
This volume presents influential work by Nicholas Wolterstorff at the intersection between political philosophy and religion, alongside nine new essays on the nature of liberal democracy, human rights, and political authority.
In this article I review some of the more important developments in philosophy of the past fifty years with the aim of pointing out the contribution that the work of Alvin Plantinga has made to these developments. Along the way I also highlight the most important enduring themes in Plantinga’s work.
The critical comments by my fellow symposiasts on my book, Justice: Rights and Wrongs , have provided me with the opportunity to clarify parts of my argument and to correct some misunderstandings; they have also helped me see more clearly than I did before the import of some parts of my argument. In his comments, Paul Weithman points out features of the right order conception of justice that I had not noticed. They have also prodded me to clarify in what (...) way rights are trumps; and both his comments and Bernstein's have prodded me to clarify certain aspects of the theistic account of human rights that I offered. Attridge's comments lead me to see that I was perhaps over-zealous in emphasizing the objective aspects of the semantic range of dikaiosunê as used in the New Testament and downplaying the subjective aspects. And O'Donovan's comments have provided me with the opportunity to make clear that my account of rights is not an immunities account that presupposes nominalism, and to emphasize the ways in which it is not an asocial individualistic account. (shrink)
Reid's theory of perception has long been cited as a paradigmatic example of direct realism; and the term “direct” undoubtedly carries the connotation that external objects are items in “the manifold of intuition.” There are important ways in which perception, on Reid's analysis, undoubtedly is immediate and direct. Nonetheless, this paper contends that, with the exception of his account of our perception of visible fi gure, Reid's theory is not an example of direct realism, if a condition of a theory (...) of percep- tion's being a direct realist theory is that it hold that perception yields acquaintance with external objects, so that those objects are present to consciousness. The defense given in Thomas Reid and the Story of Epistemology of the no-acquaintance interpretation of Reid's theory occurred in the context of a comprehensive account of Reid's theory of perception, and was accordingly brief. This essay places that interpretation in the center of attention so as to offer a more adequate defense, developing somewhat more fully the arguments briefly presented in the book, and adding some additional considerations. (shrink)
Jeffrey Stout addresses two of the main criticisms of liberal democracy by its contemporary neotraditionalist Christian critics: that liberal democracy is destructive of social tradition, and thereby of virtue in the citizenry, and that liberal democracy is inherently secular, committed to expunging religious voices from the public arena. I judge that Stout effectively answers these charges: liberal democracy has its own tradition, it cultivates the virtues relevant to that, and it is not inherently hostile to piety. What Stout does not (...) do, I suggest, is take the next step of showing, positively, that Christianity can and should affirm the substance of liberal democratic society. This is due, in good measure, to the fact that Stout never tells us, except in off-hand comments, what he takes the substance of liberal democracy to be. And this, in turn, is due to his way of employing pragmatism: he uses pragmatism to give an account of human society generally, not of liberal democratic society. I raise some questions about the general account that pragmatism gives of human society, and thus about the account that it would give of liberal democracy. (shrink)
Before beginning my response, let me express the honour I feel in having these three friends and distinguished philosophical colleagues comment so thoughtfully on my ideas in Divine Discourse. I warmly thank them for their ‘labours’. I propose mirroring the general structure of the book itself in my response. First, I'll consider what Helm says about my delineation of the topic, second, what Quinn says about my discussion of God speaking; third, what Westphal says about my discussion of interpreting for (...) God's speech; and last, what Quinn says about my discussion of the epistemology of believing that God speaks. (shrink)
The two great philosophical figures at the culminating point of the Enlightenment are Thomas Reid in Scotland and Immanuel Kant in Germany. Reid was by far the most influential across Europe and the United States well into the nineteenth century. Since that time his fame and influence have been eclipsed by his German contemporary. This important book by one of today's leading philosophers of knowledge and religion will do much to reestablish the significance of Reid for philosophy today. Nicholas Wolterstorff (...) has produced the first systematic account of Reid's epistemology. Relating Reid's philosophy to present-day epistemological discussions, the author demonstrates how they are at once remarkably timely, relevant, and provocative. There is no other book that both uncovers the deep pattern of Reid's thought and relates it to contemporary philosophical debate. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to show that, though Levine frequently states that "Divine Discourse" is full of fundamental errors, he does little by way of proving his point. In particular, I defend the claim in "Divine Discourse" that divine speech is not a species of revelation. I rebut Levine's account of the significance of Biblical scholarship, defend my interpretation of Ricoeur and my remarks on entitlement.
In this paper I offer an interpretation of Karl Barth’s discussion of evil in volume III/3 of his Church Dogmatics. It is, I contend, an extraordinarily rich, imaginative and provocative discussion, philosophically informed, yet very different from the mainline philosophical treatments of the topic---and from the mainline theological treatments as well. I argue that though Barth’s account is certainly subject to critique at various points, especially on ontological matters, nonetheless philosophers are well advised to take seriously what he says. It (...) offers a powerful attack on many standard lines of thought. (shrink)
Nicholas Wolterstorff discusses the ethics of belief which Locke developed in Book IV of his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, where Locke finally argued his overarching aim: how we ought to govern our belief, especially on matters of religion and morality. Wolterstorff shows that this concern was instigated by the collapse, in Locke's day, of a once-unified moral and religious tradition in Europe into warring factions. His was thus a culturally and socially engaged epistemology. This view of Locke invites a new (...) interpretation of the origins of modern philosophy. He maintained that instead of following tradition we ought to let 'reason be our guide.' Accordingly, after discussing Hume's powerful attack on Locke's recommended practice, Wolterstorff argues for Locke's originality and emphasizes his contribution to the 'modernity' of post-sixteenth-century philosophy. (shrink)
In this paper I discuss an issue concerning how faith ought to be held. Traditionally there have been those who contended that faith should be held with full certainty, with great firmness. John Calvin is an example. John Locke offered both epistemological and pragmatic considerations in favor of the view that faith should be held with distinctly less than maximal firmness. He proposed a Principle of Proportionality. I assess the tenability of Locke’s proposal-while also suggesting that Calvin’s position is different (...) from whaton first reading it would appear to be. It is not straightforwardly in conflict with Locke’s position. (shrink)
In this paper I discuss the conditions under which a person is entitled to believe the gospels. And in particular, I have my eye on the Enlightenment thesis that one is not entitled to do so unless one has collected adequate evidence concerning the reliability of the writers and the content of what they said, and has adequately appraised this evidence. There is no way of answering our question, however, without asking it with respect to some interpretation of the gospels. (...) Accordingly I explain and use Hans Frei’s contention, that the gospels are identity narratives concerning Jesus of Nazareth. (shrink)