HMS Ulysses And The Trolley Problem

I’m a professor of philosophy, and quite frequently, I teach classes on social and political philosophy and philosophy of law; the subject matters of these classes and their attendant discussions, very often stray, as they should, into ethical theory and its foundations. There, on numerous occasions, my students raise the The Trolley Problem and askContinue reading “HMS Ulysses And The Trolley Problem”

Talking About Natural Law With Children

Last Thursday, thanks to New York City public schools taking a ‘mid-winter break,’ my daughter accompanied me to Brooklyn College and sat in on two classes. My students, as might be expected, were friendly and welcoming; my daughter, for her part, conducted herself exceedingly well by taking a seat and occupying herself by drawing onContinue reading “Talking About Natural Law With Children”

Reinhold Niebuhr On The Ethical Permissibility Of Political Violence

In reviewing Reinhold Niebuhr‘s Major Works on Religion and Politics, Adam Kirsch makes note of the following passage from Niebuhr’s Moral Man and Immoral Society: If a season of violence can establish a just social system and can create the possibilities of its preservation, there is no purely ethical reason upon which violence and revolution can be ruledContinue reading “Reinhold Niebuhr On The Ethical Permissibility Of Political Violence”

Nietzsche’s Inversion Of Natural Law In The Genealogy Of Morals

The radically constructive nature of legal and economic concepts emerges quite clearly in the brilliant second essay of The Genealogy of Morals. Here, Nietzsche sets out his view of how the concept of a contract creates persons, how the ethical subject is not found but made. For Nietzsche, the law, a set of human practices,Continue reading “Nietzsche’s Inversion Of Natural Law In The Genealogy Of Morals”

Freedom in the Absence of Social Convention

In reviewing Arturo Fontaine‘s La Vida Doble, “a harrowing examination of violence during the Pinochet period,” whose heroine is Lorena, “a female terrorist who is tortured, changes sides, and becomes a torturer herself”, David Gallagher writes: But why in fact do good fathers and meek husbands and generous lovers undertake such cruel torture? Here Lorena seesContinue reading “Freedom in the Absence of Social Convention”

Shame, Rage, and Fascism

Jonathan Lear, in the course of a memorial address to the American Philosophical Association–dedicated to Bernard Williams–noted: For Williams, shame needs to be conceived in terms of its inner psychological structure, in particular, in terms of internal objects and our relations with those objects. The basic experience connected with shame is of being seen inContinue reading “Shame, Rage, and Fascism”

Dexter, Psychopaths, and Vigilante Justice

Dexter provoked a great deal of commentary–as any long-running television serial on a killer-killing serial killer would (and should.) Now that I’ve finished the show–all eight seasons of it, after feeling several times during the sixth season that I would never make it to the end–I’ll throw in my tuppence. Dexter‘s central conceit–the killings mentionedContinue reading “Dexter, Psychopaths, and Vigilante Justice”

A Puzzle about Karmic Doctrine – Contd.

Reader theendlessknot3d writes in with an interesting comment to yesterday’s post on the doctrine of karma as explicated by Daya Krishna: You say that karma is working, in the case of B, to bring retribution for a past action, Y, which B had previously inflicted on another, and that A is therefore potentially free of guilt/responsibilityContinue reading “A Puzzle about Karmic Doctrine – Contd.”

Daya Krishna on the Doctrine of Karma: A Puzzle

During the course of a series of lectures delivered at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study in 2005–in an attempt to explicate what he saw as one of the primary distinctions between the ‘Western’ and the ‘Indian’ conceptions of the relationship of the individual to society–Daya Krishna noted: The idea that one may be responsibleContinue reading “Daya Krishna on the Doctrine of Karma: A Puzzle”

Ethnocentricity, Moral Beliefs and Moral Truth

Adam Etinson writes in The Stone on ethnocentrism (defined as ‘our culture’s tendency to twist our judgment in favor of homegrown beliefs and practices and against foreign alternatives’), skepticism about universal morality and the existence of moral facts as  a response to it, and finally, on whether such skepticism is warranted. To wit, concern aboutContinue reading “Ethnocentricity, Moral Beliefs and Moral Truth”