Defending Life is arguably the most comprehensive defense of the pro-life position on abortion - morally, legally, and politically - that has ever been published in an academic monograph. It offers a detailed and critical analysis of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey as well as arguments by those who defend a Rawlsian case for abortion-choice, such as J. J. Thomson. The author defends the substance view of persons as the view with the most explanatory power. The substance (...) view entails that the unborn is a subject of moral rights from conception. While defending this view, the author responds to the arguments of thinkers such as Boonin, Dworkin, Stretton, Ford and Brody. He also critiques Thomson's famous violinist argument and its revisions by Boonin and McDonagh. Defending Life includes chapters critiquing arguments found in popular politics and the controversy over cloning and stem cell research. (shrink)
In this article, we discuss Beauchamp and Childress’s treatment of the issue of moral status. In particular, we introduce the five different perspectives on moral status that Beauchamp and Childress consider in Principles of Biomedical Ethics and explain their alternative to those perspectives, raise some critical questions about their approach, and offer a different way to think about one of the five theories of moral status that is more in line with what we believe some of its leading advocates affirm.
Catholics and Evangelical Protestants often find themselves on the same side on a variety of issues in bioethics. However, some Evangelicals have expressed reluctance to embrace the natural law reasoning used by Catholics in academic and policy debates. In this article, I argue that the primary concerns raised by Evangelicals about natural law reasoning are, ironically, concerns expressed by and intrinsic to the natural law tradition itself. To show this, I address two types of Protestant critics: the Frustrated Fellow Traveler (...) and the Solo Scripturist. (shrink)
The purpose of this essay is to offer support for the substance view of persons, the philosophical anthropology defended by Patrick Lee in his essay. In order to accomplish this the author presents a brief definition of the substance view; argues that the substance view has more explanatory power in accounting for why we believe that human persons are intrinsically valuable even when they are not functioning as such, why human persons remain identical to themselves over time, and why it (...) follows from these points that the unborn are human persons; and responds to two arguments that attempt to establish the claim that the early human being is not a unified substance until at least fourteen days after conception. (shrink)
This article is a critical review of David Boonin's book, A Defense of Abortion (Cambridge University Press, 2002), a significant contribution to the literature on this subject and arguably the most important monograph on abortion published in the past twenty years. Boonin's defense of abortion consists almost exclusively of sophisticated critiques of a wide variety of pro-life arguments, including ones that are rarely defended by pro-life advocates. This article offers a brief presentation of the book's contents with extended assessments of (...) those arguments of Boonin's that are his unique contributions to the abortion debate and with which the author disagrees: (1) Boonin's critique of the conception criterion and his defense of organized cortical brain activity as the acquired property that imparts to the fetus a right to life: (2) Boonin's defense of J. J. Thomson's violinist argument and his distinction between responsibility for existence and responsibility for neediness and its application to pregnancy. (shrink)
This article responds to Giubilini and Minerva’s article ‘After birth abortion: why should the baby live?’ published in the Journal of Medical Ethics. They argue for the permissibility of ‘after-birth abortion’, based on two conjoined considerations: (1) the fetus or newborn, though a ‘potential person’, is not an actual person, because it is not mature enough to appreciate its own interests, and (2) because we allow parents to terminate the life of a fetus when it is diagnosed with a deformity (...) or fatal illness because of the burden it will place on the child, parent, family or society we should also allow parents to do the same to their newborn, since it is no more a person than the fetus. The author critiques this case by pointing out (a) the metaphysical ambiguity of potential personhood and (b) why the appeal to burdens is irrelevant or unnecessary. (shrink)
The ascendancy of Christian activism in bioethical policy debates has elicited a number of responses by critics of this activism. These critics typically argue that the public square ought to embrace Secular Liberalism, a perspective that its proponents maintain is the most just arrangement in a pluralist society, even though SL places restraints on Christian activists that are not placed on similarly situated citizens who hold more liberal views on bioethical questions. The author critiques three arguments that are offered to (...) defend SL: the golden rule contract argument, the secular reason argument, and the err-on-the-side-of-liberty argument. The author concludes that each of these arguments fail to support SL. (shrink)
This article critically assesses an account of religious liberty often associated with several legal and political philosophers: Ronald Dworkin, John Rawls, and Christopher Eisgruber and Lawrence Sager. Calling it the Religion as Comprehensive Doctrine approach, the author contrasts it with an account often attributed to John Locke and the American Founders Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, the Two Sovereigns approach. He argues that the latter provides an important corrective to RCD’s chief weakness: RCD eliminates from our vision those aspects of (...) religious belief and practice that most conventional religious believers would consider essential to their faith. (shrink)
This book is a presentation and critical analysis of Hume’s argument against miracles. In addition, this work contains a critique of contemporary rehabilitations of Hume’s argument by Flew, Nowell-Smith, and McKinnon, and a defense of the kalam cosmological argument for God’s existence. The author concludes that the concept of miracle is perfectly coherent and that it is possible that one can enough evidence to be epistemically justified in believing that one has occurred. This book also includes a discussion on the (...) nature of evidential standards and how they are similar to scientific law in their grounding. (shrink)
Although the notion of physician value neutrality in medicine may be traced back to the writings of Sir William Osler, it is relatively new to medicine and medical ethics. We argue in this paper that how physician value neutrality has been cashed out is often obscure and its defense not persuasive. In addition, we argue that the social/political implementation of neutrality, Political Liberalism, fails, and thus, PVN's case is weakened, for PVN's justification relies largely on the reasoning undergirding PL. For (...) these reasons, we conclude that PVN has no philosophical or ethical warrant and thus should be abandoned. We suggest that the physician present to her patients some type of statement or creed that would give them an idea of where she stands on important axiological issues and how these stands are cashed out clinically. (shrink)
This essay is a review of Edward Feser’s Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide. In the first part, the author summarizes the book’s five chapters, drawing attention to Feser’s application of Aquinas’s thought to contemporary philosophical problems. Part 2 is dedicated to Feser’s Thomistic analysis of Intelligent Design. The author explains Feser’s case and why Aquinas’s “Fifth Way,” which is often labeled a “design argument,” depends on a philosophy of nature that ID’s methods implicitly reject.
In her ground-breaking 1971 article, “A Defense of Abortion,” Judith Jarvis Thomson argues that even if one grants to the prolifer her most important premise—that the fetus is a person—the prolifer’s conclusion, the intrinsic wrongness of abortion, does not follow. However, in her 1995 article, “Abortion: Whose Right?,” Thomson employs Rawlsian liberalism to argue that even though the prolifer’s view of fetal personhood is not unreasonable, the prochoice advocate is not unreasonable in rejecting it. Thus, because we should err on (...) the side of liberty, the right to abortion is vindicated. In this article, I argue that Thomson’s latter reliance on Rawlsian thinking suggests a way of re-reading her earlier essay that casts doubt on whether she really grants the dominant prolife account of unborn human life. (shrink)
Supporters of Justificatory Liberalism (JL)—such as John Rawls and Gerard Gaus—typically maintain that the state may not coerce its citizens on matters of constitutional essentials unless it can provide public justification that the coerced citizens would be irrational in rejecting. The state, in other words, may not coerce citizens whose rejection of the coercion is based on their reasonable comprehensive doctrines (i.e., worldviews). Proponents of the legal recognition of same-sex marriage (SSM) usually offer some version of JL as the most (...) fundmental reason why laws that recognize marriage only if it is a union between one man and one woman are unjust. In this article I argue that the application of JL in support of legal recognition of SSM does not succeed because the issue under scrutiny—the nature of marriage—is deeply embedded in, and in most cases integral to, many (if not most) citizens’ reasonable comprehensive doctrines. Thus, I argue that because of the effects and consequences of the legal recognition of SSM, it results (or will result) in a violation of JL against dissenting citizens. (shrink)
This article is a response to Barbara Forrest’ 2011 Synthese article, “On the Non-Epistemology of Intelligent Design.” Forrest offers an account of my philosophical work that consists almost entirely of personal attacks, excursions into my religious pilgrimage, and misunderstandings and misrepresentations of my work as well as of certain philosophical issues. Not surprisingly, the Synthese editors include a disclaimer in the front matter of the special issue in which Forrest’s article was published. In my response, I address three topics: (1) (...) My interest in Intelligent Design (ID) and public education and why as a Thomist I have grown more skeptical and explicitly critical of ID over the years, (2) the sorts of philosophical mistakes with which Forrest’s article is teeming, and (3) my Christian faith, religious exclusivism, and interfaith dialogue. (shrink)
This article is a response by the author of Defending Life, Francis Beckwith, to Kevin Corcoran’s critical review of that book. In his review Corcoran maintains that Beckwith provides only a “typical” genetic code argument for the zygote’s individual humanity, and that Beckwith fails to show that there exists an individual human organism that subsists from conception and develops into a mature version of itself. Beckwith argues that Corcoran is mistaken on both counts.
Is Religion Special? More Likely Than Not!Francis J. Beckwith - 2018 - In David Boonin, Katrina L. Sifferd, Tyler K. Fagan, Valerie Gray Hardcastle, Michael Huemer, Daniel Wodak, Derk Pereboom, Stephen J. Morse, Sarah Tyson, Mark Zelcer, Garrett VanPelt, Devin Casey, Philip E. Devine, David K. Chan, Maarten Boudry, Christopher Freiman, Hrishikesh Joshi, Shelley Wilcox, Jason Brennan, Eric Wiland, Ryan Muldoon, Mark Alfano, Philip Robichaud, Kevin Timpe, David Livingstone Smith, Francis J. Beckwith, Dan Hooley, Russell Blackford, John Corvino, Corey McCall, Dan Demetriou, Ajume Wingo, Michael Shermer, Ole Martin Moen, Aksel Braanen Sterri, Teresa Blankmeyer Burke, Jeppe von Platz, John Thrasher, Mary Hawkesworth, William MacAskill, Daniel Halliday, Janine O’Flynn, Yoaav Isaacs, Jason Iuliano, Claire Pickard, Arvin M. Gouw, Tina Rulli, Justin Caouette, Allen Habib, Brian D. Earp, Andrew Vierra, Subrena E. Smith, Danielle M. Wenner, Lisa Diependaele, Sigrid Sterckx, G. Owen Schaefer, Markus K. Labude, Harisan Unais Nasir, Udo Schuklenk, Benjamin Zolf & Woolwine (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Philosophy and Public Policy. Springer Verlag. pp. 277-289.details
Some have questioned why religion should be singled out for special treatment in our legal instruments, such as the US Constitution, Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Why, for example, do these documents afford protection to citizens who engage in an activity religiously, while not affording the same protection for citizens who engage in what appears to be the same activity non-religiously? To answer this question, the author explains why religion, as with other associations and practices, has been justly singled out. (...) However, he goes on to show how so-called non-religious beliefs and practices can be afforded the same protection under the law without diminishing the historical reason for religion’s specialness: the two sovereigns account. (shrink)
Theologian, philosopher, teacher. There are few religious figures more Catholic than Saint Thomas Aquinas, a man credited with helping to shape Catholicism of the second millennium. In Never Doubt Thomas, Francis J. Beckwith employs his own spiritual journey from Catholicism to Evangelicalism and then back to Catholicism to reveal the signal importance of Aquinas not only for Catholics but also for Protestants. Beckwith begins by outlining Aquinas' history and philosophy, noting misconceptions and inaccurate caricatures of Thomist traditions. He explores the (...) legitimacy of a "Protestant" Aquinas by examining Aquinas' views on natural law and natural theology in light of several Protestant critiques. Not only did Aquinas' presentation of natural law assume some of the very inadequacies Protestant critics have leveled against it, Aquinas did not, as is often supposed, believe that one must first prove God's existence through human reasoning before having faith in God. Rather, Aquinas held that one may know God through reason and employ it to understand more fully the truths of faith. Beckwith also uses Aquinas' preambles of faith--what a person can know about God before fully believing in Him--to argue for a pluralist Aquinas, explaining how followers of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam can all worship the same God, yet adhere to different faiths. Beckwith turns to Aquinas' doctrine of creation to question theories of Intelligent Design, before, finally, coming to the heart of the matter: in what sense can Aquinas be considered an Evangelical? Aquinas' views on justification are often depicted by some Evangelicals as discontinuous with those articulated in the Council of Trent. Beckwith counters this assessment, revealing not only that Aquinas' doctrine fully aligns with the tenets laid out by the Council, but also that this doctrine is more Evangelical than critics care to admit. Beckwith's careful reading makes it hard to doubt that Thomas Aquinas is a theologian, philosopher, and teacher for the universal church--Catholic, Protestant, and Evangelical. (shrink)
In this paper I will critically analyze the first part of David Hume’s argument against miracles, which has been traditionally referred to as the in-principle argument. However, unlike most critiques of Hume’s argument, I will (1) present a view of evidential epistemology and probability that will take into consideration Hume’s accurate observation that miracles are highly improbable events while(2) arguing that one can be within one’s epistemic rights in believing that a miracle has occurred. As for the proper definition of (...) a miracle, I offer the following, which I believe most religious people generally mean when they call an event miraculous: "A miracle is a divine intervention that occurs contrary to the regular course of nature within a significant historical-religious context". Although I am fully aware that this definition has its detractors, it will merely function in this paper as a working definition so that we can come to grips with Hume’s argument. This definition has been. (shrink)
Claims of religious conscience that run counter to prevailing cultural trends are increasingly met with bewilderment and disbelief. The author argues that this should not surprise us given the ways in which the rational and liturgical status of religious beliefs and practices are widely misunderstood and misrepresented by jurists and legal philosophers. To make this point the author discusses some recent arguments found in court cases as well as in legal scholarship on religion. He encourages Catholic philosophers—who typically do not (...) work in this area--to enter the fray by contributing to the jurisprudential literature that touches on issues of faith, reason, and religious liberty. (shrink)