The author's main practical aim is to defend liberal doctrines to which he is committed against certain fashionable criticisms. An elucidation of human needs is offered. The key claim is that human needs entail human rights. It is argued that the account proposed fits Marx's conception of human needs, and that, therefore, Marx was implicitly committed to a theory of human rights. It is then argued that John Stuart Mill was also, though implicitly, committed to a theory of human needs. (...) These conceptual and moral affinities help to explain why, in recent years, the two political traditions of which Marx and Mill were principal architects, have tended to converge in theory and in practice. The main shift in moral viewpoint has, however, been a movement by Marxists toward the sort of liberalism defended by Mill. (shrink)
A traditional interpretation holds that Kant's political theory simply constitutes an account of the constraints which reason places on the state's authority to regulate external action. Alexander Kaufman argues that this traditional interpretation succeeds neither as a faithful reading of Kant's texts nor as a plausible, philosophically sound reconstruction of a `Kantian' political theory. Rather, he argues that Kant's political theory articulates a positive conception of the state's role.
"Peter Iver Kaufman is admirably and ideally qualified to undertake this project of reading More on politics in the light of Augustine on politics. In vigorous, well-paced prose, he tackles an important and original subject." —_Marcia L. Colish, Frederick B. Artz Professor of History, emerita, Oberlin College_ _“Incorrectly Political_ will attract readers not only because it is written with the author's characteristic flair and liveliness, but also because of his established capacity to bridge centuries of Western thought and history. (...) Written at the dawn of the new century, this book acquires deep resonance from the events unfolding around the world, circumstances to which Augustine’s and More's complex thoughts on political possibility still speak. If ever a study of such hoary figures from the Christian past deserved the label 'timely,' it is surely this one.” —_Kevin Madigan, Harvard University Divinity School_ Augustine in the fourth and fifth centuries and Thomas More in the sixteenth were familiar with the deceits and illusions that enabled even the most vile rulers to shore up their dignity and that gave repressive regimes an inviolability of sorts. Both men knew the politics of their times, both were involved in politics, and both were at one time politically ambitious. Augustine needed and made good use of government's powers of coercion and damage control in his struggle against the Donatists. The clear advantages of political protection and correction preoccupied More in his battle against Martin Luther. Both later changed their minds and believed, finally, the political imagination, based as it is on a desire for power, always and inevitably leads to devastation and suffering. Peter Iver Kaufman explains how and why we have failed to appreciate Augustine's and More's profound political pessimism, reintroducing readers to two of the Christian tradition's most enigmatic yet influential figures. Each had been disturbed by the reach of his own political ambitions—as by those of contemporaries. Each knew that government was useful—yet always deceitful. And each wrote a classic—widely read to this day, Augustine's _City of God_ and More's _Utopia,_as well as abundant correspondence and polemical tracts to explain why government on earth might be used, though never meaningfully improved. (shrink)
I think that Alzheimer's disease and all neurological disabilities of this kind, degenerative conditions, are of the most intense intellectual interest and importance … because these people are taking us to places we would rather not think about and what these people have to say—to the degree that they can say anything at all—should teach us something about what a person is, what human identity is.What could it mean in general to say that possible ways to be a person can (...) from time to time come into being or disappear?What can we learn about the experience of dementia and about ways of being human when a poet describes her forgetting? My mother, the poet Shirley Kaufman, died in 2016 at the age of 93. She had... (shrink)
Because of his preoccupation with the formal aspects of music and literature, Theodor W. Adorno is often regarded as the most aesthetically oriented thinker of the Frankfurt School theorists. It is Adorno’s perceived commitment to aestheticism—the study of art for art’s sake and the study of art as a source of sensuous pleasure, rather than as a vehicle for culturally constructed morality or meaning—that many scholars have criticized as hostile to genuine, concrete, substantive political, social, and ethical engagement with the (...) arts. _Adorno and Ethics_—the first issue of _New German Critique_ to be published by Duke University Press—takes issue with Adorno’s critics. These essays reconsider Adorno’s unique brand of aestheticism, revealing a “politics of aestheticism” and exploring the political and ethical dimensions of his writings. One contributor links the ethical turn taken in Adorno criticism with related developments in American poetry and poetics. Another examines Adorno’s aphorism “Gold Assay” for the ways in which it anticipates one of his seminal works, _The Jargon of Authenticity_. Focusing on Auschwitz and the testimony of its survivors, one contributor explores the impact of the Holocaust on modern philosophy and reason, a relationship that he argues Adorno never specified. Another contributor considers the figure of the animal in the writings of Kant, Adorno, and Lévinas, exploring what it might mean to live, as Adorno suggests, as “a good animal.” _Contributors_. J. M. Bernstein, Detlev Claussen, Samir Gandesha, Alexander García Düttmann, Christina Gerhardt, Martin Jay, Robert Kaufman, Michael Marder, Gerhard Richter. (shrink)
In Justified Killing, Whitley R. P. Kaufman argues that none of the leading theories adequately explains why it is permissible even to kill an innocent attacker in self-defense, given the basic moral prohibition against killing the innocent. Kaufman suggests that such an explanation can be found in the traditional Doctrine of Double Effect, according to which self-defense is justified because the intention of the defender is to protect himself rather than harm the attacker.
This is a new interpretation and analysis of John Rawls's leading theory of distributive justice, which also considers the responding egalitarian theories of scholars such as Richard Arneson, G. A. Cohen, Ronald Dworkin, Martha Nussbaum, John Roemer, and Amartya Sen. Rawls's theory, Kaufman argues, sets out a normative ideal of justice that incorporates an account of the structure and character of relations that are appropriate for members of society viewed as free and equal moral beings. Forging an approach distinct (...) amongst contemporary theories of equality, Rawls offers an alternative to egalitarian justice methodologies that aim primarily to compensate victims for undeserved bad luck. For Rawls, the values that ground the most plausible account of egalitarianism are real equality of economic opportunity combined with the guarantee of a fair distribution of social goods. Kaufman's analysis will be of interest to scholars and advanced students of political theory and political philosophy, particularly those working on justice, and on the work of John Rawls. (shrink)
John Rawls argues that it is possible to describe a suitably defined initial situation from which to form reliable judgements about justice. In this initial situation, rational persons are deprived of information that is . It is rational, Rawls argues, for persons choosing principles of justice from this standpoint to be guided by the maximin rule. Critics, however, argue that (i) the maximin rule is not the appropriate decision rule for Rawls's choice position; (ii) the maximin argument relies upon an (...) imprecise account of the satisfactory minimum to be secured under the maximin rule; or that (iii) Rawls relies upon unrealistic assumptions about diminishing marginal value. These critics, I will suggest, argue from a number of assumptions that are confused or false. The satisfactory minimum that choosers in the original position seek to achieve is not a minimum level of primary goods, nor is the satisfactory minimum sought under the maximin rule supplied by the difference principle. I will argue that the maximin argument is more robust than has generally been recognized and that this argument performs a number of important functions in clarifying the nature and implications of Rawls's argument for justice as fairness. (shrink)
The National Institutes of Health and other federal health agencies are considering establishing a national biobank to study the roles of genes and environment in human health. A preliminary public engagement study was conducted to assess public attitudes and concerns about the proposed biobank, including the expectations for return of individual research results. A total of 141 adults of different ages, incomes, genders, ethnicities, and races participated in 16 focus groups in six locations across the country. Focus group participants voiced (...) a strong desire to be able to access individual research results. Recognizing the wide range of possible research results from a large cohort study, they repeatedly and spontaneously suggested that cohort study participants be given ongoing choices as to which results they received. (shrink)
This article examines the rhetorical deployment of Darwinian natural selection by the Jewish social philosopher Horace M. Kallen, in what is now widely regarded as the first articulation of cultural pluralism, “Democracy versus the Melting-Pot”. My analysis proceeds in two steps. First, I identify specific strategies by means of which Kallen endeavored to insert his ideas more deeply into national discourse. I also trace reactions to his essay in the Jewish press, and argue that these indicate ongoing conversations concerning Kallen's (...) ideas, and they also reveal how he was reinterpreted for different reading audiences. Second, I argue that Kallen's strategy was to stress the survival value of cooperation rather than competition in natural selection, and he believed that this view supported both the natural biological inclinations of social groups and reflected American democratic values. Kallen's intervention serves as a striking example of how Darwinian natural selection was deployed to support Jewish participation in American life. (shrink)
Do people have free will, or this universal belief an illusion? If free will is more than an illusion, what kind of free will do people have? How can free will influence behavior? Can free will be studied, verified, and understood scientifically? How and why might a sense of free will have evolved? These are a few of the questions this book attempts to answer. People generally act as though they believe in their own free will: they don't feel like (...) automatons, and they don't treat one another as they might treat robots. While acknowledging many constraints and influences on behavior, people nonetheless act as if they (and their neighbors) are largely in control of many if not most of the decisions they make. Belief in free will also underpins the sense that people are responsible for their actions. Psychological explanations of behavior rarely mention free will as a factor, however. Can psychological science find room for free will? How do leading psychologists conceptualize free will, and what role do they believe free will plays in shaping behavior? In recent years a number of psychologists have tried to solve one or more of the puzzles surrounding free will. This book looks both at recent experimental and theoretical work directly related to free will and at ways leading psychologists from all branches of psychology deal with the philosophical problems long associated with the question of free will, such as the relationship between determinism and free will and the importance of consciousness in free will. It also includes commentaries by leading philosophers on what psychologists can contribute to long-running philosophical struggles with this most distinctly human belief. These essays should be of interest not only to social scientists, but to intelligent and thoughtful readers everywhere. (shrink)
Picking up where Peggy McKintosh’s “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” left off, this essay looks further into the ways that racial privilege manifests itself in the lives of white Americans. It explores some of the reasons that white privilege is hard for whites to see and it explores the question of how white people can act responsibly given the unavoidable realities of racial privilege.
Physicist Sean Carroll has developed a new theory of the fundamental nature of reality, which he calls “Poetic Naturalism,” with the stated goal of developing a theory of what is real that is consistent with the findings of natural science. Carroll claims to prove that morality cannot be seen as objectively true. This essay argues that Carroll's conclusion is not convincing; there is no good reason to reject moral objectivity within a purely naturalistic worldview.
In a well-known paper, Reginald Jackson expresses a sentiment not uncommon among readers of Locke: “Among the merits of Locke’s Essay…not even the friendliest critic would number consistency.”2 This unflattering opinion of Locke is reiterated by Maurice Mandelbaum: “Under no circumstances can [Locke] be counted among the clearest and most consistent of philosophers.”3 The now familiar story is that there are innumerable inconsistencies and internal problems contained in Locke’s Essay. In fact, it is probably safe to say that there is (...) not another canonical, well-respected, and seminal philosopher whose work is so widely thought to be swarming with inconsistencies. I, however, do not think that the common, unflattering view of Locke is accurate as a general view of the Essay. But despite my wishes to the contrary, I do believe that Locke’s chapter ‘Of Identity and Diversity’ (2.27)4 leads to (at least) one intractable problem, a problem that is the subject of this paper. (shrink)
According to the Monist Interpretation of Descartes, there is really only one corporeal substance—the entire extended plenum. Evidence for this interpretation seems to be provided by Descartes in the Synopsis of the Meditations, where he claims that all substances are incorruptible. Finite bodies, being corruptible, would then fail to be substances. On the other hand, ‘body, taken in the general sense,’ being incorruptible, would be a corporeal substance. In this paper, I defend a Pluralist Interpretation of Descartes, according to which (...) there are many corporeal substances. In particular, I show that none of the claims in the Synopsis about incorruptibility and substance entail either that finite bodies are not substances, or that the only corporeal substance is the entire plenum. (shrink)
Food issues are generally regarded as agricultural and rural issues. The urban food system is less visible than such other systems as transportation, housing, employment, or even the environment. The reasons for its low visibility include the historic process by which issues and policies came to be defined as urban; the spread of processing, refrigeration, and transportation technology together with cheap, abundant energy that rendered invisible the loss of farmland around older cities; and the continuing institutional separation of urban and (...) rural policy. Despite its low visibility, the urban food system nonetheless contributes significantly to community health and welfare; to metropolitan economies; connects to other urban systems such as housing, transportation, land use, and economic development; and impacts the urban environment. We examine existing or potential city institutions that could offer a more comprehensive look at the urban food system. These include the city department of food, the food policy council, and the city-planning department. (shrink)
The most severe economic crisis in post-revolutionary Cuba has forced the country to adopt an austere conservation program. Resource-wise measures have been instituted in the energy, transportation, housing, and agricultural sectors because of a rapid drop in Soviet aid, significant loss of trade with the Eastern Bloc, a halving of oil imports in a one-year period, and stepped-up U. S. sanctions. The economic crisis is also causing negative environmental impacts, in part because pollution abatement projects have been deferred and the (...) tourism industry is being developed to bring in hard currency. However, it is anticipated that many environmentally-sound initiatives will help Cuba through the crisis and will remain in place. (shrink)
The goal of this feature is to demonstrate that distributive justice is a flawed theory of self-defense and must be rejected, thus undercutting the argument that torture can be justified as self-defense.
“The Standard Interpretation” of Descartes on material falsity states that Descartes believed that materially false ideas (MFIs) lack “objective reality” [realitas objectiva]. The argument for the Standard Interpretation depends on a statement from the “Third Meditation” that MFIs are caused by nothing. This statement, in conjunction with a causal principle introduced by Descartes, seems to entail that MFIs lack objective reality. However, the Standard Interpretation is incorrect. First, I argue that, despite initial appearances, the manner in which Descartes understands the (...) proposition that MFIs are caused by nothing does not entail that they lack objective reality. Secondly, I argue that Descartes is committed to the objective reality of MFIs because of his quasi-scholastic explanation of MFIs. (shrink)
It is widely-accepted that Descartes is a substance dualist, i.e. that he holds that there are two and only two kinds of finite substance – mind and body. However, several scholars have argued that Descartes is a substance trialist, where the third kind of substance he admits is the substantial union of a mind and a body, the human being. In this paper, I argue against the trialist interpretation of Descartes. First, I show that the strongest evidence for trialism, based (...) on Descartes' discussion of so-called incomplete substances, is highly inconclusive. Second, I show that a kind of unity (‘unity of nature’), which is had by all and only substances, is not had by human beings. The fact that the proper parts of a human being, namely a mind and a body, are of different natures entails that what they compose has at most a ‘unity of composition’. And a thing cannot be a substance in virtue of having a unity of composition. Therefore, Cartesian human beings are not substances. (shrink)
Descartes held the doctrine that the eternal truths are freely created by God. He seems to have thought that a proper understanding of God's freedom entails such a doctrine concerning the eternal truths. In this paper, I examine Descartes' account of divine freedom. I argue that Descartes' statements about indifference, namely that indifference is the lowest grade of freedom and that indifference is the essence of God's freedom are not incompatible. I also show how Descartes arrived at his doctrine of (...) the creation of the eternal truths by consideration of the nature of God's freedom. Footnotes1 In this paper, I employ the following abbreviations:AT: Descartes, René Oeuvres de Descartes, C. Adam and P. Tannery (eds) (Paris: J. Vrin, 1996) (cited by volume and page number).CSM: Descartes, René The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, vols 1 and 2, J. Cottingham, R. Stoothoff, D. Murdoch (transl.) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985) (cited by volume and page number).CSMK: Descartes, René The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, vol. 3, J. Cottingham, R. Stoothoff, D. Murdoch, A. Kenny (transl.) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991) (cited by page number). (shrink)
I cannot possibly do justice to James Taylor's main contention that full-blooded epicureanism is true. But if it is true then, as he notes, this ‘bold’ philosophical position promises to revise our thinking about many areas in bioethics which presuppose that death is bad.1 Of course if Epicureanism is true, the implications run much wider and deeper than bioethics. Any human activity that in any way presupposes the badness of death will be groundless—killing or being killed in war will be (...) morally inconsequential, saving people from death will be without merit and execution could not count as punishment. But, Taylor assures us, the truth of Epicureanism need not force such drastic practical changes for two reasons: excising the mistaken non-epicurean portion of those practical matters might not exhaust our concerns with those questions, and in any case we might be hard-wired to think that death is bad, so we would be stuck with a view that we see on reflection is false .2 However, that much of our common sense practical thinking about life and death might remain intact despite being groundless is small comfort, since we would then be something like Christians trying to carry on who realise, on reflection, that there is no God.Taylor seeks to mitigate …. (shrink)
The doctrine of karma and rebirth is often praised for its ability to offer a successful solution to the Problem of Evil. This essay evaluates such a claim by considering whether the doctrine can function as a systematic theodicy, as an explanation of all human suffering in terms of wrongs done in either this or past lives. This purported answer to the Problem of Evil must face a series of objections, including the problem of any lack of memory of past (...) lives, the lack of proportionality between wrongdoing and the observed suffering in the world, the problem of infinite regress of explanation, and the problem of compatibility of free will with karmic determinism. These objections, either separately or taken together, provide (it is argued) sufficient reason to doubt whether the doctrine of karma and rebirth can in fact provide a satisfactory theodicy. (shrink)
Sam Harris’ new book “The Moral Landscape” is the latest in a series of attempts to provide a new “science of morality.” This essay argues that such a project is unlikely to succeed, using Harris’ text as an example of the major philosophical problems that would be faced by any such theory. In particular, I argue that those trying to construct a scientific ethics need pay far more attention to the tradition of moral philosophy, rather than assuming the debate is (...) simply between a scientific ethics and a “supernatural” ethics provided by religion. (shrink)