Responding to Elizabeth Rottenberg's invitation to consider good signs, I first raise a question about “good” and “too good” signs by referring to a letter of Louis Althusser's that describes the risk that “too good” signs will be misread. I then turn to the distinction Rottenberg makes between deconstructive signs and Immanuel Kant's historical signs. Borrowing an image from Jacques Derrida's The Animal That Therefore I Am (2008), I suggest that we think of the task of abolition of the death (...) penalty as requiring a particular kind of strangulation of Kantian discourse, a strangulation that would reach the center of its nervous system and disarm its powers without putting it to death. Finally, I turn to a recent initiative by a Belgian nongovernmental organization (Groupe d'action dans l'interet des animaux or Global Action in the Interest of Animals [GAIA]) in their campaign to abolish the practice of castrating piglets without anesthetic, reading it as an example of a strategy that mobilizes the discourse of rights while at the same time undermining the sovereign power that sustains it. This provides an image of the sort of stranglehold with a certain lightness of touch that, I argue, Derrida's work on the death penalty prescribes as the task for unconditional abolition. (shrink)
In this essay Olivia Newman critically examines two opposing rights claims: the liberal claim that children have a right to become liberal choosers and the fundamentalist claim that children have a right to not become liberal choosers. These positions reflect differing views regarding the value of critically choosing, rather than simply accepting, a way of life. Given their assumptions regarding preference formation, both of these rights appear untenable in light of recent scholarship in psychology: we can neither select a (...) way of life independent of our social milieu, as liberals often imply, nor can we predict how different experiences will affect our preferences, as fundamentalists assume. Nevertheless, each position points to important concerns. Children have a substantive right of exit from constraining social milieus, as liberals purport, as well as a right to respect in public institutions, as fundamentalists insist. When liberals and fundamentalists assert these more modest rights claims, educators can and should strive to satisfy both. (shrink)
The first part of this book (“Social Waste and Non-Commodity Waste, and the Individual Circuit of Capital”) will probably be of most interest to readers of this journal. The author argues that Marx’s formula for individual circuits of capital does not allow a fully adequate comprehension of capitalism. Marx discusses the initial money capital invested (M), the commodity inputs purchased with investment capital (C), the production process (P), the new commodities produced (C’), and the money appropriated from sales of those (...) commodities (M’). Custers insists that two other elements must be included: the non-commodity waste produced in the course of commodity production, and the social waste that results when commodities have “negative use-values” (this occurs when their use inflicts net harm on society). He takes the pollution generated in the course of producing nuclear energy as the main example of non-commodity waste, while nuclear weapons provide the paradigmatic illustration of social waste. Custers adds symbols for these two phenomena (-W and =W, respectively) to Marx’s M-C-P-C’-M formula. The discussion of the profound environmental costs of each and every stage in the production of nuclear energy warrants special mention due to its clarity and comprehensiveness. Representatives of the nuclear industry and their allies are becoming increasingly emboldened to propose nuclear energy as the solution to global warming. Many of us suspect this is an insane idea. But it is important to know precisely why this.. (shrink)
In this article, I urge that mainstream discussions of abortion are dissatisfying in large part because they proceed in polite abstraction from the distinctive circumstances and meanings of gestation. Such discussions, in fact, apply to abortion conceptual tools that were designed on the premiss that people are physically demarcated, even as gestation is marked by a thorough-going intertwinement. We cannot fully appreciate what is normatively at stake with legally forcing continued gestation, or again how to discuss moral responsibilities to continue (...) gestating, until we appreciate in their own terms the goods and evils distinctive of gestational connection. To underscore the need to explore further the meanings of gestation, I provide two examples of the difference it might make to legal and moral discussions of abortion if we appreciate more fully that gestation is an intimacy. (shrink)
A timely and penetrating investigation, this book seeks to transform moral philosophy. In the face of continuing disagreement about which general moral principles are correct, there has been a resurgence of interest in the idea that correct moral judgements can be only about particular cases. This view--moral particularism--forecasts a revolution in ordinary moral practice that has until now consisted largely of appeals to general moral principles. Moral particularism also opposes the primary aim of most contemporary normative moral theory that attempts (...) to show that either one general principle, or a set of general principles, is superior to all its rivals. (shrink)
: Many have asked how and why feminist theory makes a distinctive contribution to bioethics. In this essay, I outline two ways in which feminist reflection can enrich bioethical studies. First, feminist theory may expose certain themes of androcentric reasoning that can affect, in sometimes crude but often subtle ways, the substantive analysis of topics in bioethics; second, it can unearth the gendered nature of certain basic philosophical concepts that form the working tools of ethical theory.
I develop two different epistemic roles for emotion and desire. Caring for moral ends and people plays a pivotal though contingent role in ensuring reliable awareness of morally salient details; possession of various emotions and motives is a necessary condition for autonomous understanding of moral concepts themselves. Those who believe such connections compromise the "objective" status of morality tend to assume rather than argue for the bifurcated conception of reason and affect this essay challenges.
In this paper, I urge that the very real lessons Carol Gilligan's work in moral psychology offer to moral philosophy can best be appreciated if we take seriously the gap between the two disciplines. The care and justice perspectives Gilligan explores are psychological orientations, and orientations are defined as much by matters of emphasis, selectivity of interpretation, and gestalt as they are by propositional commitment. As such, I argue, their contribution to moral theory is best seen as stances from which (...) to do theory, rather than as constituting ready-made theories themselves. In pursuing this train of thought, I examine how Gilligan's work has developed over time and how, in the end, we should understand the juxtaposition between the two orientations. (shrink)
: Originally presented during Ethic Rounds at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, this commentary on the case of a patient treated for life-threatening cancer explores the responsibilities of health care providers when addressing the patient's desire to adopt a child.
In Australia, the twin discoveries that resulted in Dolly the Sheep and the isolation of human embryonic stem cells in the 1990s prompted the then Minister for Health to request that the Australian Health Ethics Committee (AHEC) examine the issue of cloning and stem-cell science more closely. It is the AHEC’s job to report—in an ad hoc manner at the Minister’s request—on “any issues deemed to be pertinent to the Australian community.” Cloning and stem-cell science were big news worldwide, and (...) the Australian Government needed to be seen to act on it. What happened next was partly a reflection of the cultural values of the Australian community, and partly an expression of the social context of the use of .. (shrink)
In this essay, I provide evidence that a new generation of prochoice advocates wishes to move away from defending abortion rights via the view that fetal life has little or no value (for example, as Mary Anne Warren does in her “On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion”) and toward a more complex view of abortion rights. This newer view simultaneously grants that fetuses are more than simply “clumps of cells,” that they are, to some extent, entities that possess (...) some degree of value, and also that women still have the right to decide whether they wish to continue a pregnancy (for example, as can be found in the writings of Rosalind Hursthouse, Judith Jarvis Thomson, and Margaret Olivia Little). Prima facie, this may sound like an impossible task—an instance of “having your cake and eating it too”—but I will show throughout my paper that, and how, such a task can indeed be accomplished. (shrink)
Though much progress has been made on inclusion of non-pregnant women in research, thoughtful discussion about including pregnant women has lagged behind. We outline resulting knowledge gaps and their costs and then highlight four reasons why ethically we are obliged to confront the challenges of including pregnant women in clinical research. These are: the need for effective treatment for women during pregnancy, fetal safety, harm from the reticence to prescribe potentially beneficial medication, and the broader issues of justice and access (...) to benefits of research participation. Going forward requires shifting the burden of justification from inclusion to exclusion and developing an adequate ethical framework that specifies suitable justifications for excluding pregnant women from research. (shrink)