In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, policy makers and others have debated the question of whether or not the United States should torture in an effort to prevent terrorist attacks. In a series of controversial essays, the legal theorist Alan Dershowitz argues that, if a democratic society is going to torture, it should at least be done under the cover of law. To that end, he recommends establishing a legal mechanism by which a judge could issue torture warrants—much as (...) they do now for search warrants. In this essay, I examine Dershowitz's proposal in light of Michael Walzer's classic essay on dirty hands. Just as Walzer uses political theater as a lens for viewing the issue of political assassination, I similarly draw upon a dramatic response to Dershowitz's proposal to think through the issue of torture warrants. (shrink)
Although images are pervasive in public policy debates in bioethics, few who work in the field attend carefully to the way that images function rhetorically. If the use of images is discussed at all, it is usually to dismiss appeals to images as a form of manipulation. Yet it is possible to speak meaningfully of visual arguments. Examining the appeal to images of the embryo and fetus in debates about abortion and stem cell research, I suggest that bioethicists would be (...) well served by attending much more carefully to how images function in public policy debates. (shrink)
In this essay, Paul Lauritzen examines Richard B. Miller's liberal account of pediatric ethics by asking if the duty to promote a child's basic interests is substantial enough to secure the well-being of children. This question is raised in light of two case studies: daytime TV talk shows that broadcast interviews with sexually active children, and a medical study conducted to test the effect of growth hormone treatment on adult height in peripubertal children. In both cases, Lauritzen argues, children are (...) subjected to potential harms that are not easily explained, and therefore not easily prevented, by appeals to basic interests. (shrink)
: Successful stem cell therapies might change the natural contours of human life. If that happened, it would unsettle our ethical commitments and encourage us to see the entire natural world merely as material to be manipulated.
This essay distinguishes three types of appeals to experience in ethics, identifies problems with appealing to experience, and argues that appeals to experience must be open to critical assessment, if experientially-based arguments are to be useful. Unless competing and potentially irreconcilable experiences can be assessed and adjudicated, experientially-based arguments will be problematic. The paper recommends thinking of the appeal to experience as a kind of storytelling to be evaluated as other stories are.
Views of the self may be plotted on a set of coordinates. On the axis that runs from fragmentation to unity, Rorty and Rorty's Freud champion the decentered self while Wallwork, Taylor, and Ricoeur argue for a sovereign, unified self. On the other axis, which runs from the disengaged, inward-turning self to the engaged and "sedimented" self, Wallwork, would be positioned near Rorty, defending self-creation against the narrative identity affirmed by Taylor and Ricoeur. Despite his skepticism concerning the communitarian agenda (...) of the narrativists, Flanagan grants that the self is social and relational--a position further explored by Oliver, Stendahl, Deutsch, and Mack in "Selves, People, and Persons". (shrink)
This paper claims that recent attempts to draw on the maternal experiences of women in order to articulate an ethic of care and compassion is a new romanticism. Like earlier romantic views, it is both attractive and potentially dangerous. The paper examines the basic claims of this new romanticism in order to identify both its strengths and weaknesses. I conclude that there are at least two versions of this new romanticism, one that relies primarily on the experiences of child-bearing in (...) grounding an ethic of care and compassion, and a second that relies primarily on child-rearing. I suggest that the former version of the new romanticism is deeply flawed because such a view ought to be unacceptable to women and will be inaccessible to men. (shrink)
Given the dichotomy traditionally posited between reason and emotion, ethicists have generally downplayed or ignored the role of emotions in the moral life. In this paper I argue that the traditional dichotomy between reason and emotion should be abandoned, and that developing an account of emotions that attends to their cognitive structure can pave the way for a reassessment of the role emotions play in our efforts to live morally. I suggest that this reassessment is of particular interest to religious (...) ethicists because adopting a "constructivist" theory of emotions can help explain how a religious vision of human life and history may bring about significant moral changes in the life of the believer. I try to illustrate this point by showing how a religious conception of the nature of moral relations may have an effect on the emotion of anger. (shrink)
Philosophers have sometimes drawn a distinction between supererogation and duty. This paper considers the possibility that a religious understanding of hu- man life and history may require what would otherwise be considered praise worthy but not obligatory. The specific example here is forgiveness. The paper sketches a view of forgiveness and suggests that forgiveness is not, at least in contemporary (secular) Western thought, considered to be a moral obligation. Several reasons why this might be the case are considered as well (...) as how par- ticular Christian beliefs about God's justice and mercy may transform this situa- tion. The paper concludes that given certain religious beliefs, forgiveness may be both moral prerogative and religious duty. (shrink)