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1. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Charles W. Harvey Paradise Well Lost: Communitarian Nostalgia and the Lonely Logic of the Liberal Self
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“Paradise Well Lost” offers a description and criticism of communitarian claims that in contemporary liberal society the self is in sad shape, that liberal society is out of harmony with the needs of the self, and that such a society makes the good life nearly impossible to achieve. It is argued that communitarian thought is driven by a false and deluded nostalgia for a self-world unity that never was andnever can be, that human consciousness prohibits the neatly unified communialization of self and world that seems desired by much communitarian thinking. A final argument claims that there are nontrivial connections between the communitarian desire for self-world unity, and the twentieth-century emergence of totalitarian society--connections about which it is wise to be worried.
2. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Kenneth W. Kemp Right Intention and the Oil Factor in the Second Gulf War
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This essay responds to the argument that US interest in Kuwaiti oil made its war against Iraq fail the just-war criterion of right intention. That argument is based on a misunderstanding of the criterion, namely, that right intention requires not merely the presence of a concern for justice but the absence of any other (especially self-interested) motives. Correction of this misunderstanding is important to application of the just-war theory to the general question of intervention in foreign wars.
3. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Lee F. Kerckhove Moral Fanaticism and the Holocaust: A Defense of Kant Against Silber
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I defend Kant’s moral psychology against John R. Silber’s argument that Kant cannot account for the radical evil of Hitler. Silber’s argument cannot be maintained, I argue, if Kant’s account of theological and moral fanaticism, and the personality of the moral fanatic, are taken into account. I contend that Kant’s writings support an analogy between the fanatical pursuit of religious and moral ideals and Hitler’s fanatical pursuit of an ideal of racial purity. I conclude that Kant’s account of moral fanaticism is adequate to account for the actions and moral psychology of Hitler.
4. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Egbeke Aja Time and Space in African (Igbo) Thought
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This paper is an attempt to articulate an African (Igbo) conception of space and time. Igbo terms and phrases are explained in light of their traditional, non-European cultural and linguistic background. Care is taken to present a distinctively African account, not a neo-colonial one. The African conceptions of space and time account for some African beliefs and practices regarding causality, including such widely misunderstood phenomena as divination, the “medicine man,” and “magic.”
5. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Ric Caric Northrup Identity, Social Relations, and Time: The Implications of Mead for Democratic Social Theory
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This essay analyzes the nature of social relations when individual identity is conceived as both autonomous and socially constructed. Viewing identity as autonomous and socially constructed makes it necessary both to conceive individuals as socially related to others in the present and past, and to incorporate individuals into multiple systems of social relations. I argue that George Herbert Mead’s theory of social systems provides a basis for performing these tasks. By adding a concept of “contemporaneous consciousness” to Mead’s notion of temporal systems, it is possible to view individuals as autonomous within a multiplicity of temporal systems.
6. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Saranindranath Tagore Death and Pictures in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus
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The Picture Theory based on a realist ontology is central to the argument of the Tractatus. Wittgenstein, however, makes idealist claims while discussing the notion of the metaphysical subject. In this paper, I develop an interpretation of this text in which realism and idealism are reconciled. The task is accomplished by focusing on the later remarks of the Tractatus in general and the remarks on death in particular.
7. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
Raymond Kolcaba, Katharine Kolcaba Health Maintenance as Responsibility for Self
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Many kinds of health compromising norms, habits, and beliefs are highly resistant to change thereby preventing new knowledge about health maintenance from advancing widespread better health. Persons would be more responsive if they used a health ethic to harmonize personal behavior with health-maintaining practices. We argue that common sense morality includes a portion of a health ethic in the guise of responsibilities to maintain health as well as avoid self destruction. We discuss an example in which its application can retard decline in older age that results from a sedentary lifestyle.
8. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
Kate Lindemann Philosophy of Liberation in the North American Context: Transforming Oppressor Consciousness
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This paper utilizes concepts from the works of Paulo Freire and other Latin American philosophers of liberation to formulate a philosophy of liberation in a North American context. Since many North Americans experience a double consciousness, that is, both oppressor and oppressed consciousness, our liberating task is quite complex. This study offers both a philosophical framework and an example of the process of demythologizing one aspect of North American consciousness, the consciousness of privilege.
9. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
Matthew Freytag MacIntyre’s Conservatism and Its Cure: The Formal Structure of Traditions
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Conservative communitarian Alasdair MacIntyre makes a fundamental claim about the formal conditions for rationality, personhood, and intelligible valuation, and a detachable, less fundamental empirical claim that these formal conditions can be met only in a hierarchically organized social tradition. Having suggested a formal account of narrative tradition which relies on the schematic notion of systematic complexity, MacIntyre retreats to an account in terms of canon and authority. He thus obscures the structures that underlie his own metaphysics of morals, the structures of the practices, narrative unities, and traditions which on his account are both identity-constituting and value-creating. Once these structures are discerned, the possibility of good lives will no longer seem linked to preservation of the forms of the existing polis.
10. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
Edward L. Schoen The Methodological Isolation of Religious Belief
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According to Langdon Gilkey, both religion and science are cognitive enterprises, but they are separated methodologically. As a result, science and religion are concerned with different, though related levels of truth. Against these claims, historical examples are used to argue that scientific and religious explanations cannot be so neatly separated. To the contrary, both fields frequently treat overlapping ranges of data in methodologically opportunistic ways.
11. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
Jorge M. Valadez The Sociopolitical Implications of Multiculturalism
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In this essay, I propose a definition of multiculturalism and provide pragmatic and theoretical reasons for accepting the multicultural perspective when it is defined in this manner. In addition, I discuss and defend three sociopolitical principles to which we are committed in adopting the multicultural perspective and discuss some of the concrete social and institutional changes needed for implementing these principles.
12. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
John D. Jones Multiculturalism and Welfare Reform
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Multiculturalism has not yet systematically addressed, much less challenged, dominant approaches to poverty and welfare reform. This lacuna must be rectified since the widespread poverty experienced by people of color poses a substantive threat to the development of a truly inclusive and multicultural society. Present approaches to poverty, defined in the context of welfare reform, are defective for three reasons: First, welfare reform basically aims to reduce welfare “dependency” by moving so-called able-bodied welfare recipients off welfare and into the labor market. This project seems destined to fail given a chronic scarcity of jobs, and especially decent paying jobs. Second, welfare reform does not provide an adequate framework for the general alleviation of poverty since many poor receive little or no welfare assistance. Third, welfare assistance is based on an invidious, stigmatizing distinction between the able-bodied poor (viewed as unworthy and disreputable) and the disabled poor. Thus, given disproportionate rates of poverty among people of color as well as a general (but mistaken) impression that US poverty is principally a “minority” problem, present policies and attitudes toward the poor insure that many people of color will bear the brunt of economic and symbolic marginalization despite gains which accrue to some people of color as the result of greater racial and cultural inclusiveness.
13. 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.
14. 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.
15. 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.
16. 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.
17. 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.
18. 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.
19. 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.
20. Philosophy in the Contemporary World: Volume > 1 > Issue: 4
Wallace Gray A Surprising Rediscovery and Partial Review of The Foundations of Belief by James Balfour
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Well known as the British politician responsible for the Balfour Declaration during World War I, James Balfour was also a philosopher. Long forgotten, his remarkable book The Foundations of Belief (1895) merits contemporary reassessment. Critical of modern compartmentalization, Balfour argues for an integration of religion, philosophy, and science---a position now often identified as postmodern. This article presents some of Balfour’s contemporary scholarly significance, and hints at his usefulness in undergraduate teaching.