I here criticize the use of science-fiction examples in ethics, chiefly, though not solely, by defenders of abortion. We have no reliable intuitions concerning such examples—certainly nothing strong enough to set against the strong intuition that infanticide is virtually always wrong.
Many of us want to say that there is an absolute—or at least a virtually absolute—prohibition on torturing people. But we live in a world in which firm moral restraints of all sorts are hard to defend. Neither contemporary conventional morality, nor any of the available moral theories, provides adequate support for the deliverances of the “wisdom of repugnance” in this area. Nor do they support casuistry capable of distinguishing torture from (sometimes legitimate) forms of rough treatment. I here make (...) some suggestions concerningthe improvement of this situation. (shrink)
The newest addition to the Point/Counterpoint Series, Abortion: Three Perspectives features a debate between four noted philosophers - Michael Tooley, Celia Wolf-Devine, Philip E. Devine, and Alison M. Jaggar - with three different perspectives on abortion: the "liberal" pro-choice approach, the "communitarian" pro-life approach, and the "gender justice" approach. Each of the authors takes a controversial position, and all push their philosophical opinions to their logical limits. All of the views presented are radical, both in the sense of exploring fundamental (...) assumptions and in the sense of diverging from mainstream opinion in America. They do not rely on religious authority; therefore their arguments address all citizens regardless of their religious beliefs. The first "liberal" pro-choice approach is Michael Tooley's. After examining, analyzing, and challenging the most important arguments for a right to life before birth, he holds that abortion is always morally permissible in itself. He argues that it is unreasonable to claim that human embryos/fetuses either have or develop a right to life before birth. Celia Wolf-Devine and Philip E. Devine, however, take a "communitarian" pro-life position, arguing that the human organism is a person from the point at which it first came to be. They also argue that, because its creators are responsible for its existence, the prospective parents have a moral obligation to care for its life. Finally, Alison Jaggar explores abortion in light of political philosophy and social justice. She argues that women everywhere have a human right to abortion, that abortion rights are necessary for gender equality, and that the availability of abortion is indispensable for pubic health and social development. As philosophers, the authors have special skills in critical analysis and thinking systematically about values. Because they do not rely on religious authority, their arguments address all citizens regardless of their religious beliefs. By drawing examples from real life, employing logic, philosophy, and empirical data, and addressing views of abortion from across other disciplines, the authors present a well-informed and up-to-date discussion. Advanced courses in ethics, contemporary moral problems, sex and gender, and bioethics will find this text useful and relevant. (shrink)
I defend the coherence of Theistic Evolutionism, though I do not present any direct argument for either theism or (broadly Darwinian) evolution. I distinguish between evolution as a scientific theory, however well established, and evolutionism as a religion or ideology. I argue that the confusion between the two senses of evolutionism is bad for both biology and religion, and conclude by suggesting that, in Irving Kristol's words, 'our goal should be to have biology and evolution taught in a way that (...) points to what we don't know as well as what we know'. (shrink)
The denial of moral absolutes rests, I think, on a seductive but fallacious argument, which I shall attempt both to expound and to refute here. Human beings are highly complex creatures living in a highly complex world. Every human being is different from every other, every interaction or relationship between or among human beings is unique. Hence also every occasion for moral choice is also unique, and all those action kinds - be theyadultery, murder, rape, theft, ortorture on which moralists (...) are accustomed to pass judgment include an enormous variety of differing transactions, which ideally ought to be evaluated one by one. Moreover, each proposed action has a variety of different aspects: intention, foreseen consequence, conventional meaning, and symbolic significance for example, which bear on moral choice in a wide variety of ways. Moral rules are therefore rules of thumb, open to exceptions whenever persuasive arguments for making them are provided. (shrink)
It is commonplace that negative duties are more stringent than positive duties. it is also commonplace that this distinction requires defense, in particular against those who regard it as a mere apology for the privileges of the wealthy and secure. i conclude, though real, the distinction between negative and positive duties is not as deep as some philosophers have supposed--that it makes best sense in terms of a deeper distinction between the intended and the foreseen consequences of our actions.
This paper examines interpretations of the doctrine that "exists" is not a predicate (existence is not a property). None, it is concluded, is both true and a refutation of St. Anselm's "ontological" argument for the existence of God.