Is there—or rather, ought there to be—a presumption of atheism, as Antony Flew so famously argued nearly half a century ago? It is time to revisit this issue. After clarifying the concept of a presumption of atheism, I take up the evaluative question of whether there ought to be a presumption of atheism, focusing on Flew’s arguments for an affirmative answer. I conclude that Flew’s arguments, one of which rests on an analogy with the presumption of innocence, fail.
Though utilitarianism is far from being universally accepted in the philosophical community, it is taken seriously and treated respectfully. Its critics do not dismiss it out of hand; they do not misrepresent it; they do not belittle or disparage its proponents. They allow the theory to be articulated, developed, and defended from criticism, even if they go on to reject the modified versions. Ethical egoism, a longstanding rival of utilitarianism, is treated very differently. It is said to be “refuted” by (...) arguments of a sort that apply equally well to utilitarianism. It is said to be “unprovable,” when many of the greatest utilitarians themselves, such as Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832), John Stuart Mill (1806–1873), and Henry Sidgwick (1838–1900), admitted that no normative ethical theory, including their own, is provable. Critics of ethical egoism seldom discuss the various theoretical moves that utilitarians are routinely allowed to make, such as (1) fighting the facts, (2) transforming the theory from “act utilitarianism” to “rule utilitarianism,” and (3) biting the bullet. This essay argues that every defensive move made by utilitarians can be made, with equal vigor (if not also plausibility), by ethical egoists. The conclusion is that ethical egoism deserves to be taken more seriously than it is. (shrink)
This collection of original essays by leading philosophers probes the philosophical aspects of rape in all of its manifestations: act, crime, practice, and institution. Among the issues examined are the nature of rape; the wrongfulness and harmfulness of rape; the relation of rape to racism, sexism, classism, and other forms of oppression; and the legitimacy of various rape-law doctrines. Each contributor advances a novel argument and seeks to disentangle the conceptual, evaluative, and empirical issues that arise in connection with the (...) crime. This essential reference work is among the first philosophical anthologies devoted exclusively to the subject of rape--as complex and interesting intellectually as it is pervasive and disturbing socially. (shrink)
The philosophical literature on the moral status of nonhuman animals, which is bounteous, diverse, and sophisticated, contains a glaring omission. There is little discussion of human responsibilities to companion animals, such as dogs and cats. The assumption seems to be that animals are an undifferentiated mass – that whatever responsibilities one has to any animal are had to all animals. It is significant that we do not think this way about humans. Most of us (all but extreme impartialists) acknowledge the (...) existence of special responsibilities to humans. We believe, for instance, that our children, friends, and compatriots have special claims on our attention, time, energy, and resources. This is not at all incompatible (although it is sometimes thought to be) with the view that we have obligations to strangers. My aim in this essay is to fill the lacuna in the literature. I argue that the act of taking an animal into one''s life or home, through purchase, gift, or adoption, generates responsibilities to it, the main one being to provide for its needs, which, in the case of dogs (for example), are many and varied. Since this thesis is shrouded in misconception, I devote part of the essay to clarifying it. I then diagnose its philosophical neglect, which stems from both practical concerns and theoretical commitments. I argue that the practical concerns are groundless and that the theoretical commitments do not have the implications they are thought to have. (shrink)
The received view is that Gaunilo’s attempted refutation of Anselm’s ontological argument fails. But those who believe this do not agree as to why it fails. The aim of this essay is to show that whether the attempted refutation succeeds depends crucially on how one formulates the so-called greatmaking principle on which Anselm’s argument rests . This principle has largely been ignored by contemporary philosophers, who have chosen to focus on other aspects of the argument. I sketch two analyses of (...) metaphysical greatness and suggest that on one of them, which Anselm may have held, his argument avoids Gaunilo’s criticism. (shrink)
Contrary to the popular belief that feminism has gained a foothold in the many disciplines of the academy, the essays collected in Theorizing Backlash argue that feminism is still actively resisted in mainstream academia. Contributors to this volume consider the professional, philosophical, and personal backlashes against feminist thought, and reflect upon their ramifications. The conclusion is that the disdain and irrational resentment of feminism, even in higher education, amounts to a backlash against progress.
Saint Anselm’s ontological argument for the existence of God, formulated nearly a millennium ago, continues to bedevil philosophers. There is no consensus about what, if anything, is wrong with it. Some philosophers insist that the argument is invalid. Others concede its validity but insist that it is unsound. A third group of philosophers maintain that Anselm begs the question. It has been argued, for example, that Anselm’s use of the name “God” in a premise assumes (or presupposes) precisely what has (...) to be proved, namely, that God exists. Another tack is to argue that the premise that God is possible implies or presupposes the conclusion that God exists, or perhaps that, in order to know that God is possible, one must know that God exists. Just as no consensus has emerged about what, if anything, is wrong with Anselm’s argument, no consensus has emerged about whether the argument begs the question. In this essay, I focus on the second type of claim made by the third group of philosophers—the claim that Anselm’s argument begs the question by assuming, as a premise, that God is possible. In particular, I focus on the argument of the contemporary analytic philosopher William Rowe, who has claimed, since at least 1975, that Anselm’s ontological argument begs the question. I argue that Rowe’s argument fails. (shrink)
Feminists, especially radical feminists, have reason to be dissatisfied with contemporary moral theory, but they are understandably reluctant to abandon the theoretical project until it is seen as unsalvageable. The problem is not, however, as Margaret Urban Walker claims, that theory is abstract, that it seeks to guide conduct, or that it postulates moral knowledge. The problem is that contemporary moral theory is foundational.
"Judges should interpret the law, not make it." Nearly everyone assents to this proposition , so why is there controversy? In this essay I examine three grounds or sources of disagreement. First, the concept of interpretation is unclear. Second, there is uncertainty about whether legal interpretation raises special interpretive problems. Third, there is an implicit assumption among legal theorists that constitutional interpretation is a specially problematic kind of legal interpretation. My goal is to clarify these and other misconceptions. In Chapter (...) 2 I connect normative theories of adjudication to the concept of interpretation. In Chapters 3 and 4 I develop a conception of interpretation that explains how constitutional interpretation is possible and why it is necessary, thus refuting proponents of the invention and discovery models of adjudication. In Chapters 5 and 6 I develop theories of expression meaning and constitutional interpretation, respectively. Chapters 7 and 8 are critical analyses of the interpretive theories of H. L. A. Hart, Lon L. Fuller, and Ronald Dworkin. (shrink)