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Richard Oxenberg
Emory University (PhD)
  1. Is God a Liberal?Richard Oxenberg - manuscript
    In this brief article I argue that liberalism is the political form most consistent with theism.
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  2. Is Consciousness an "Emergent Property"?Richard Oxenberg - manuscript
    In this very brief reflection, I argue against the suggestion that consciousness may be viewed as an emergent property of matter.
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  3.  42
    Anselm's Sleight-of-Hand: A Brief Deconstruction of Anselm's Ontological Argument.Richard Oxenberg - manuscript
    In this brief essay, I argue that Anselm's ontological argument for the existence of God achieves its effect through the verbal equivalent of a magician's "sleight-of-hand." More technically, the argument commits the informal fallacy of equivocation. I provide a brief analysis of the argument's text to demonstrate this.
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  4.  76
    Body, Mind, and Spirit: The Crack in the Western Model.Richard Oxenberg - manuscript
    A brief reflection on the mind-body problem and its implications for the way we conceive of ourselves and live our lives.
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  5.  81
    Thinking About Thinking: A Brief Introduction to Logic.Richard Oxenberg - manuscript
    This is a brief primer on elementary logic originally developed for an Applied Ethics course. I offer it here for any who might find it worthwhile or useful.
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  6.  43
    Nothing, Inc.Richard Oxenberg - manuscript
    A short story about an encounter with . . . nothing.
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  7.  35
    The Law of Karma: A Meditation.Richard Oxenberg - manuscript
  8.  59
    Job and the Problem of Evil: Some Thoughts.Richard Oxenberg -
    Is it reasonable to believe in a God of love in the face of life's many evils? In this essay I consider how the biblical book of Job raises and responds to this question.
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  9.  31
    Moon.Richard Oxenberg - manuscript
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  10.  26
    The Fragility of God (Some Thoughts for a Christmas Morning).Richard Oxenberg -
    A brief reflection on the meaning of the Christ-child.
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  11.  8
    Believing In: On the Nature of Religious Belief.Richard Oxenberg -
    Religion, especially Western religion, calls upon us to 'believe' on the basis of 'faith.' But in what way can faith serve as a justification for belief? In this essay, I distinguish between 'belief in' and 'belief that' and argue that faith, properly understood, entails the former, not the latter.
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  12.  45
    Worship: A Meditation.Richard Oxenberg - manuscript
    A personal reflection on the meaning of worship and the 'worthiness' of God.
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  13. Waiting for the Messiah: A Jewish-Buddhist Reflection on Fiddler on the Roof.Richard Oxenberg - 2021 - Interreligious Insight 19 (2):56-60.
    In this brief essay I reflect upon the character of Jewish spirituality through a meditation on the themes of tradition, love, and loss as they appear in the Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof.
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  14. The Teleological Suspension of the Ethical: Abraham, Isaac, and the Challenge of Faith.Richard Oxenberg - manuscript
    God demands that Abraham sacrifice his son Isaac. Why? Kierkegaard tells us that God requires of Abraham a "teleological suspension of the ethical." In this essay I explore the meanings of the Ethical, God, and Faith in an effort to make sense of this phrase, and, more broadly, of the biblical story itself.
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  15. Locke and the Right to (Acquire) Property: A Lockean Argument for the Rawlsian Difference Principle.Richard Oxenberg - 2010 - Social Philosophy Today 26:55-66.
    The purpose of my paper is to show the derivation of what is sometimes called the ‘new liberalism’ (or ‘progressive liberalism’) from the basic principles of classical liberalism, through a reading of John Locke’s treatment of the right to property in his Second Treatise of Government. Locke’s work sharply distinguishes between the natural right to property in the ‘state of nature’ and the societal right to property as established in a socio-economic political system. Whereas the former does not depend on (...)
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  16. Nansen's Cat: An Examination of Zen 'Oneness'.Richard Oxenberg - manuscript
    If a Zen Master kills a kitten, and does not hear its scream, does it make a sound? In this essay, I use the Zen story of Master Nansen's killing of a kitten as an entree into a reflection on the Zen experience of enlightenment. I argue that the story of Nansen and the cat, as presented in the Zen tradition, raises many questions and problems that must be resolved if we are to envision the enlightenment experience in a clear (...)
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  17. Suffering and Bliss in the Heart of God: Steps on the Spiritual Ladder.Richard Oxenberg - manuscript
    Whence comes suffering? If the divine reality is a reality of bliss, and all is derived from this divine reality, how can suffering arise? Does the reality of God contain suffering? Might suffering be understood as a mode of bliss? These are the questions I take up in this essay. I suggest that the various states of suffering may best be understood as fragments of bliss, progressively resolved as fragmentation is overcome. Spiritual life is the progressive movement from the suffering (...)
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  18. Original Sin: The Divergent Doctrines of Augustine and Tillich.Richard Oxenberg - manuscript
    In this paper I provide a comparative analysis of Augustine's and Paul Tillich's doctrines of Original Sin. I argue that Augustine's doctrine is deeply flawed in ways corrected for by Tillich.
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  19. The Lure of the Advertising Image: A Platonic Analysis.Richard Oxenberg - manuscript
    Sut Jhally begins his essay “Advertising at the Edge of the Apocalypse” with the following provocative claim: “Advertising is the most powerful and sustained system of propaganda in human history and its cumulative effects, unless quickly checked, will be responsible for destroying the world as we know it.” Jhally argues that the advertising industry, in fostering an association between human aspiration and desire for consumable goods, creates an artificial demand for such goods that is, at once, far in excess of (...)
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  20. Are All Things Permissible?: A Look at Woody Allen's "Crimes and Misdemeanors".Richard Oxenberg - manuscript
    In this essay I examine the moral message presented in Woody Allen's film, "Crimes and Misdemeanors.".
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  21.  54
    A Conversation on Salvation.Richard Oxenberg - manuscript
    A brief dialogue on the meaning of Christ's salvation with a Christian evangelical.
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  22. My Other Myself: Aristotle and the Value of Friendship.Richard Oxenberg - manuscript
    What constitutes a true human-to-human relationship? What is its importance and value for human life? These are the questions I explore in this talk on Aristotle's philosophy of friendship, originally presented as part of Boston University's Core Curriculum lecture series.
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  23. On the Complementarity of Judaism and Christianity.Richard Oxenberg - 2017 - Interreligious Insight 15 (2):46-57.
    I write as a Jew who has come to see the Jewish and Christian religious movements as complementary, at least as each may be ideally envisioned. This complementarity does not entail the ‘supersession’ of Judaism or the negation of Judaism. It does not in any way imply that Jews should abandon Judaism. On the contrary, rightly seen it can lead to a greater affirmation of Judaism and of the teachings at Judaism's heart. In this article I discuss the nature of (...)
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  24. Why Does Pain Hurt?: An Inquiry Into the Limits of Evolutionary Explanation.Richard Oxenberg -
    In this essay I argue that Darwinian theory, far from supporting a philosophy of metaphysical materialism, actually calls materialism into question. Once this is recognized we see that evolutionary theory, for all its successes (which are considerable), is more limited than is generally supposed in its ability to reveal or explain the ultimate thrust of life.
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  25. Evil and the Immaturity of Freedom: An Existential-Ontological Inquiry Into the Heart of Darkness.Richard Oxenberg - 2017 - Interreligious Insight 15 (1):28-26.
    Whence comes the evil will? My paper examines Kant’s notion of radical evil and Kierkegaard’s analysis of sin in order to uncover the existential-ontological dynamic of the evil will. Ultimately, I argue, the evil will arises in response to the anxiety inherent in freedom itself. I conclude with an examination of Kierkegaard’s ‘formula of faith’ as a solution to the dilemma of freedom, and consider the role faith may play in freedom’s moral maturation.
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  26. Why Computers Are Not Intelligent: An Argument.Richard Oxenberg - 2017 - Political Animal Magazine.
    Computers can mimic human intelligence, sometimes quite impressively. This has led some to claim that, a.) computers can actually acquire intelligence, and/or, b.) the human mind may be thought of as a very sophisticated computer. In this paper I argue that neither of these inferences are sound. The human mind and computers, I argue, operate on radically different principles.
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  27. Bloodthink, Doublethink, and the Duplicitous Mind: On the Need for Critical Thinking in a Just Society.Richard Oxenberg - manuscript
    "Crooked people deceive themselves in order to deceive others; in this way the world comes to ruin." This quote from a medieval Confucianist expresses the ethical danger of self-deception. My paper examines the psychological proclivity for self-deception and argues that it lies behind much social and interpersonal injustice. I review Hitler's Mein Kampf, as a premiere example of such cognitive duplicity, and Socratic dialectic, as an example of the cognitive hygiene necessary to combat it. I conclude that a robust educational (...)
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  28. Truth and Longing: An Inquiry Into the Epistemology of "Belief".Richard Oxenberg - manuscript
    William Alston has written that religious belief is justifiable because it is based upon epistemic practices similar to those justifying belief in sensory facts. In this paper I argue for a different understanding of religious belief. What is called for in religious belief is not affirmation of factual truth-claims but devotion to God. The significance and validity of creedal formulae lie in their capacity to elicit and express such devotion, not in their factual and/or informational character. My paper considers four (...)
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  29. The Pledge of Allegiance: A Reading.Richard Oxenberg - 2017 - Political Animal Magazine.
    In the Pledge of Allegiance we pledge our loyalty, not to the United States as it may exist at any particular moment, but to the flag and what it represents: an ideal United States that maintains "liberty and justice for all." When we say the Pledge we commit ourselves to this ideal, and to the ongoing struggle of bringing our actual nation into alignment with it.
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  30. What Is Truth?: On the Need for an Old Paradigm.Richard Oxenberg - 2018 - Political Animal Magazine.
    In this essay I argue for the need to restore our recognition of the importance of philosophical truth in our endeavor to understand our world and our selves. In particular, I note that the physical sciences have no way of examining the axiological dimension of being - i.e., that dimension from which values spring - whereas an appreciation for, and understanding of, our values is crucial to the conduct of our personal, interpersonal, and political lives.
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  31. The Spirit and the Ego: A Brief Cognitive Model for the Spiritual Path.Richard Oxenberg - manuscript
    In this very brief piece, I outline a way of thinking about spiritual pursuits.
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  32. The Incoherence of Libertarianism.Richard Oxenberg - manuscript
    In this essay I argue that the ethical and political position known as libertarianism is logically incoherent and, as such, cannot serve as a sound basis for either political theory or public policy. Given that the libertarian position is frequently used to provide the rationale for many of the economic (if not the social) policies of the right, a recognition of this incoherence is especially relevant to us today.
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  33. Things Fall Apart: Reflections on the Dying of My Dad.Richard Oxenberg - manuscript
    In December of 2013, my Dad died of advanced Alzheimer's and a condition called Myasthenia Gravis. This is a selection of journal entries I made over the course of the two years leading up to my Dad's death. It is not a philosophical essay, but a personal reflection, in "real time" so to speak, on the nature of the dying process in relation to questions of faith, hope, despair, and the meaning of a man's life. I offer it here for (...)
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  34.  86
    Notes on the Spiritual Path.Richard Oxenberg - manuscript
    In this paper I present, in summary form, some of my central thoughts about spirituality and religion.
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  35. The Problem of Despair: A Kierkegaardian Reading of the Book of Job.Richard Oxenberg - manuscript
    The Book of Job is often read as the Bible's response to theodicy's 'problem of evil.' As a resolution to the logical difficulties of this problem, however, it is singularly unsatisfying. Job's ethical protest against God is never addressed at the level of the ethical. But suggested in Job's final encounter with God is the possibility of a spiritual resolution beyond the ethical. In this paper I examine the Book of Job as a response to the spiritual problem of despair; (...)
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  36. My Understanding of the Biblical God: A Brief 'Transreligious' Reflection.Richard Oxenberg - 2015 - Interreligious Insight 25.
    In this brief paper I reflect upon the Bible's portrayal of God as pointing beyond itself toward a notion of divinity many religions can embrace, but one only imperfectly expressed in the biblical portrait itself. I argue that a fuller recognition of the *fallibility* of the biblical portrait can lead us to a deeper and more satisfying appreciation of the Bible itself.
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  37. Heidegger, Metaphysics, and Wheelbarrows: A Poetic Introduction to Heidegger's Being and Time (Full Article).Richard Oxenberg - 2001 - Philosophy Now 32:12-14.
    I employ William Carlos Williams' poem, "The Red Wheelbarrow" to provide a non-technical introduction to Heidegger's Being and Time. (Note: This Philpapers entry provides access to the full article.).
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  38. On Progressive Revelation: Some Thoughts.Richard Oxenberg - manuscript
    In this very brief piece I suggest the possibility of regarding the Bible as both revealed and fallible, by outlining a theory of revelation that sees it as conditioned by the limitations of those who receive it.
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  39. Philosopher-Kings in the Kingdom of Ends: Why Democracy Needs a Philosophically Informed Citizenry.Richard Oxenberg - 2015 - Philosophy Now 10 (111).
    Question: How do you turn a democracy into a tyranny? Answer (as those familiar with Plato's Republic will know): Do nothing. It will become a tyranny all by itself. My essay argues that for democracy to function it must inculcate in its citizens something of the moral and intellectual virtues of Plato’s Philosopher-Kings, who identify their own personal good with the good of society as a whole. Only thereby can Kant’s ideal of the ‘Kingdom of Ends’ - a society in (...)
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  40. When Mountains Cease to Be Mountains: An Interreligious Meditation on the Sanctification of Desire.Richard Oxenberg - manuscript
    What is the relationship of human desire to divine love? Spiritual traditions teach us that human desire achieves its true aim only when elevated into the life of divine love. In this essay, I provide a reading of three sayings from three spiritual traditions - Buddhist, Taoist, and Christian - in order to explore the meaning of this.
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  41. Einstein's Quandary, Socrates' Irony, and Jesus' Laughter: A 'Post-Modern' Meditation on Faith, Reason, Love, and the Paradox of the One and the Many.Richard Oxenberg - manuscript
    The paradox of 'the One and the Many' might, more generally, be understood as the paradox of relationship. In order for there to be relationship there must be at least two parties in relation. The relation must, at once, hold the parties apart (otherwise they would collapse into unity) while holding them together (otherwise relationship itself would cease). It must do so, further, without itself becoming a third party which would then, itself, need to be related. This paper considers this (...)
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  42. The Libertarian Error.Richard Oxenberg - 2017 - Political Animal Magazine.
    This article examines the flaw in the libertarian conception of the right to property. It argues that libertarians fail to recognize that, in a settled society, the right to amass property must be qualified and limited by the right of all people - including those without property - to have access to sufficient property for a satisfactory life.
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  43. In Spirit and Truth: Toward a Theology Without Walls.Richard Oxenberg - 2020 - In Theology Without Walls: The Transreligious Imperative. London and New York: Routledge. pp. 14-24.
    Theology Without Walls is a project that seeks to understand the nature of divine reality through an exploration of all the world's religious traditions, without confining itself to any one in particular. In this essay, I discuss why theology has traditionally been done within the boundaries of specific traditions and suggest that, in our time, we are called to a new, more comprehensive, approach to theology.
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  44. On the Mystical Element in Moral Offense: An Existential Inquiry.Richard Oxenberg - manuscript
    Moral violation often takes the form of material harm, which might lead us to suppose that it consists essentially in the harm done. And yet we might suffer the same harm through nature or accident without feeling morally offended. If a hurricane destroys my property, I suffer harm but no offense. If another person deliberately damages my property, I am offended. But why? Wherein lies the difference? My essay employs Arthur Schopenhauer’s ethic of egoism and Paul Tillich’s theology of love (...)
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  45. Retributivism and Outraged Love: A Search for the Heart of Retributive Justice.Richard Oxenberg - manuscript
    "An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind." This quote, often attributed to Gandhi, suggests the illegitimacy of the retributive urge. On the other hand, many feel a strong intuitive sense that "justice must be served" and that violators of justice must be fittingly punished. In this paper I examine the urge for retributive justice and argue that, at its base, it is rooted in a profound desire to have a wrongdoer see the nature of his or (...)
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  46. Love and Death in the First Epistle of John: A Phenomenological Reflection.Richard Oxenberg - manuscript
    “Whoever does not love abides in death,” writes John in his first epistle (1Jn 3:10). This statement presents us with a paradox. Death, so we suppose, is precisely that in which one cannot 'abide.' Our first thought is to interpret this as metaphor. John is saying that a life devoid of love is a life somehow like death. But, having never died, how do we know what death is like? My paper explores these questions with the aid of two philosophical (...)
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  47. Doing Unto Others: A Phenomenological Search for the Ground of Ethics.Richard Oxenberg - manuscript
    Can we find a phenomenological basis for the ethical 'ought'? This essay addresses this question through a reflection on Husserl's fifth Meditation. In the fifth Meditation Husserl endeavors to show the manner in which I constitute the other through an associative pairing of the other with my own subjectivity. This essay argues that this same associative pairing forces me to acknowledge the other as a person of intrinsic worth insofar as I recognize myself as one. Having acknowledged the intrinsic worth (...)
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  48. For Gabriel, on Holiness (a Passover Letter to My 7-Year-Old Son).Richard Oxenberg - manuscript
    I was inspired to write this letter by something my 7-year old said about the meaning of holiness. In it I reflect on this meaning, in language and terms a 7-year-old might understand and appreciate.
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  49. On Poetry and Philosophy: Healing an Ancient Quarrel.Richard Oxenberg - manuscript
    In the tenth book of the Republic, Plato famously writes: "There is an ancient quarrel between poetry and philosophy." In this essay I reflect upon this "quarrel" through an analysis of a passage from Dante's Inferno. I conclude by suggesting that, when employed well, poetry and philosophy complement each other in helping us reflect upon the deep issues of life. (This paper was originally presented at the 19th Annual Conference of Association for Core Texts and Courses) .
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  50. The Victims of Totality: Wholism and Totalism in Monotheistic Religion.Richard Oxenberg - manuscript
    This paper is a reflection on the ethical and spiritual ambiguities of Monotheism. It proceeds through an examination of Thomas Aquinas’ concept of desire and René Girard’s notion of victimage. It is divided into two parts. In the first I examine Thomas’ ideas of desire and goodness in order to develop some key terms and concepts. In the second I employ these terms and concepts in a critique of René Girard’s victimage thesis, in an effort to shed light on the (...)
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