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1. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 1 > Issue: 3
Michael K. Briand Democratic Public Judgment: The Role of “Mutual Comprehension”
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The need to choose between good things in conflict lies at the heart of politics. Only citizens deliberating together can authoritatively form the democratic public judgment necessary to resolve such conflicts. The key step to arriving at a sound widely supported public judgment is getting all members of the public to “comprehend”---to understand and appreciate---the goods in conflict. Mutual comprehension enables us to combine our individual perspectives without loss, thereby providing the basis for collective deliberation. Such comprehension is essential because the mutual respect between citizens upon which democratic politics depends is impossible without it. Mutual comprehension is possible because we share a common human nature that, despite our manifest and irreducible differences is built around a limited and universal set of human needs and dispositions.
2. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 1 > Issue: 3
Jeremiah Conway Transforming Stories: The Death of Ivan Ilyich, the Birth of a Reflective Life
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The problem addressed by this paper concerns the responsibility of higher education in the growing thoughtlessness of culture. By “thoughtlessness” is meant not the absence of mental “busyness,” but indifference to the self-reflective life. How do we cope with the fact that, for so many, the educative act has little or nothing to do with the cultivation of self-reflection, especially when this indifference is amply represented within higher education as well as the wider culture? The paper unfolds in three sections. First, it explores the factors complicating the search for effective materials by which to instigate and encourage the transformation to a self-reflective life. Second, it argues that stories, particularly what it calls “transforming stories,” play an important role in provoking and providing insight into the “turning around of the soul” from unreflective to reflective living. Finally, it illustrates how one such transforming story, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, by Leo Tolstoy, helps accomplish this educational goal.
3. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 1 > Issue: 3
Deirdre Golash Pluralism, Integrity, and the Interpretive Model of Law
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In Law’s Empire, Ronald Dworkin argues that the choice between conflicting interpretations of law is, and should be, influenced by the aspiration to “integrity,” that is, the construction of law as a coherent whole, as though it were the product of a single author. I argue that, particularly under conditions where opinion on relevant issues is significantly divided, the search for a single coherent explanation of law may be seriously misleading. The idea of integrity is a principled basis for legal interpretation only where there is an underlying unity, rather than an underlying plurality. Dworkin suggests that there is a basis for striving toward such unity, and for an obligation to obey the law, in our “associative” obligations to fellow members of our political community. I argue that such obligations, to the extent that they exist, are too weak to provide an adequate basis for a moral obligation to obey the law.
4. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 1 > Issue: 3
Bart Gruzalski Healing the Ills of Unemployment, Societal Breakdown, and Ecological Degradation: Gandhi’s Vision for a Sustainable Way of Life
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In this paper I describe Gandhi’s vision for a way of life that would be an essential part of any sustainable solution to worldwide problems of unemployment, societal breakdown and ecological degradation. Gandhi’s vision included a communitarian lifestyle of simplicity and non-accumulation in which agriculture would be supported by cottage industries using appropriate technologies (e.g., spinning). Assuming obligations to future generations, Gandhi’s proposal highlights the degree to which our First-World lifestyle is morally impermissible. One objection to this criticism of our First-World lifestyles is that we can solve the problem of ecological degradation by exporting only appropriate technologies to the Third World and supplementing our use of consumptive technologies with technological cleanups. This suggestion is not only irresponsible and unjust, but also hopeless, for our resource consumptive standards are already the model for development worldwide. To counteract this destructive model we must begin to recreate, in the First World, sustainable lifestyles that others will want to emulate. Part of this task involves the inner work that has been a casualty of the ideologies of modernity, and Gandhi’s vision is a blueprintfor both the outer and inner work that are essential to recreate a sustainable society.
5. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 1 > Issue: 3
Erin McKenna Feminism and Vegetarianism: A Critique of Peter Singer
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Singer’s ethics assume an autonomous, impartial, abstract reasoner. Nonhuman animals, like human animals, have an interest in not suffering; so we all agree on an impartial, rational, consistent minimum standard of treatment that we see must extend to nonhuman animals. While I think this kind of argument works well in the “liberal” context of countries based on social contract reasoning, I am not convinced it goes far enough in achieving the desired attitude shift. We are still encouraged to think in terms of the self-interest of an autonomous, impartial, abstract reasoner, and thus there are many instances in which it is perfectly “reasonable” to harm nonhuman animals. To challenge Singer I use views of the individual proposed by socialist feminist and radical feminist theories. Both of these theories (in all their variety) propose a substantial revisioning of the individual and thereby shift the focus from rights talk to issues of responsibility and care. While there are clear dangers in these approaches as well, I believe there is a fruitful combination of Singer’s argument with these feminist approaches that will help us see the deep nature of our connectedness to nonhuman animals and make us realize that the eating of meat is really a form of cannibalism.
6. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 1 > Issue: 3
Peter Singer Feminism and Vegetarianism: A Response
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Erin McKenna is correct to question the relative weight that I give to emotions and reason in Animal Liberation. In 1975 when the first edition was published, emotion played a key role in the campaigns of animal societies, and I wished to make an appeal to reason that would have ethical and political impact. I disagree with McKenna’s conclusion that an impartial, objective stance is either impossible or undesirable. I argue that we should not abandon the attempt to reach an impartial position. Admittedly, in some disputes, giving equal weight to all interests will be extraordinarily difficult. But to do so is not impossible, just extraordinarily difficult, and a decision must be made regarding which course is better on the whole. This difficulty gives no reason to abandon impartiality.
7. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 1 > Issue: 3
Lara M. Trout Can Justice as Fairness Accommodate Diversity?: An Examination of the Representation of Minorities and Women in A Theory of Justice
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The purpose of this paper is to expose a problem of application in John Rawls’ theory of justice. An examination of his treatment of the application of his principles in A Theory of Justice reveals an insensitivity toward the proper representation of minorities and women. This problem, which is rooted in Rawls’ conception of the relevant social position is not properly addressed by him, yet is grounded in inconsistencies which undermine the just practical implementation of his theory. A provisional solution to this problem is to provide the original position with historical information, as well as to place within its jurisdiction the application of the two principles of justice.