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Ethics

Ethics

One Nation Undecided

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Let’s be honest, we’ve all expressed opinions about difficult hot-button issues without always thinking them through. With so much media spin, political polarization, and mistrust of institutions, it’s hard to know how to think about these tough challenges, much less whatto do about them. One Nation Undecided takes on some of today’s thorniest issues and walks you through each one step-by-step, explaining what makes it so difficult to grapple with and enabling you to think smartly about it. ~ Publisher’s Description

God and Cosmos

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Naturalistic ethics is the reigning paradigm among contemporary ethicists; in God and Cosmos, David Baggett and Jerry L. Walls argue that this approach is seriously flawed. This book canvasses a broad array of secular and naturalistic ethical theories in an effort to test their adequacy in accounting for moral duties, intrinsic human value, moral knowledge, prospects for radical moral transformation, and the rationality of morality. In each case, the authors argue, although various secular accounts provide real insights and indeed share common ground with theistic ethics, the resources of classical theism and orthodox Christianity provide the better explanation of the moral realities under consideration. Among such realities is the fundamental insight behind the problem of evil, namely, that the world is not as it should be. Baggett and Walls argue that God and the world, taken together, exhibit superior explanatory scope and power for morality classically construed, without the need to water down the categories of morality, the import of human value, the prescriptive strength of moral obligations, or the deliverances of the logic, language, and phenomenology of moral experience. This book thus provides a cogent moral argument for God’s existence, one that is abductive, teleological, and cumulative.

From Shame to Sin

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The transformation of the Roman world from polytheistic to Christian is one of the most sweeping ideological changes of premodern history. At the center was sex. Kyle Harper examines how Christianity changed the ethics of sexual behavior from shame to sin, and shows how the roots of modern sexuality are grounded in an ancient religious revolution. “Harper brings a classicist’s expertise to this rich, provocative account of early Christian attempts to transform Roman sexual culture and the understandings of the body, property, sexuality, and the cosmos that formed its basis. This important contribution contextualizes Christian Scripture in a more exhaustive and extensive way than most theological and biblical studies treatments do. The author shows how Christian preaching and teaching responded to social customs and understandings. He indicates the ways in which Christians both borrowed and transformed notions of fate, fortune, and self-control found in classical novels and other Christian literature. Harper also traces the arc of development of Christian sexual ethics into the first few centuries of the church, showing that not only Paul but other Christian writers and theologians as well were deeply shaped by cultural debates over the sexual role of slaves and the value of virginity. Students of classics, Christian ethics, and the New Testament will find this outstanding book indispensable.” ~ A. W. Klink in Choice

Sexual Morality in a Christless World

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Author Matthew Rueger openly embraces this hot topic, writing compassionately with a father’s heart and adamantly with a fierce determination to outline the truth from a reasoned, conservative Christian perspective. This book came to life following a series of presentations that Rueger gave on the subjects of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. The audience? A skeptical, secular-minded bunch of college students in their ethics class at Iowa State University. Christians need to expect the unpleasant from their opponents, arm themselves with answers to common objections, and speak in clarity and love. Rueger shares a game plan for families and churches facing the future, moving from important accounts of history to the tangles of the twenty-first century.

David Brooks on Eulogy Virtues

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It occurred to me that there were two sets of virtues, the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues. The résumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral — whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful. Were you capable of deep love? … But if you live for external achievement, years pass and the deepest parts of you go unexplored and unstructured. You lack a moral vocabulary. It is easy to slip into a self-satisfied moral mediocrity. You grade yourself on a forgiving curve. You figure as long as you are not obviously hurting anybody and people seem to like you, you must be O.K. But you live with an unconscious boredom, separated from the deepest meaning of life and the highest moral joys. Gradually, a humiliating gap opens between your actual self and your desired self, between you and those incandescent souls you sometimes meet.

Alana Newman on Transferring or Delaying Suffering

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We … need to learn how to grieve, and remind people we can’t infringe upon others’ rights when we attempt to alleviate our own suffering. ¶ One round of IVF can cost $8-10,000. One surrogate + egg donor pregnancy can cost up to $300,000. We have the resources, the will and the intelligence to actually cure or prevent many forms of infertility. But we have to reject treating people like products. … On a forum I was reading several years ago there was a single mom by choice who had given birth to a son with severe learning disabilities. She asked, “Does anyone know if I can get a refund?” ¶ Even though these processes create new life, please understand that they are not pro life. ¶ Even though you hear again and again that these processes work to “make people happy”, please understand that they do not in fact make people happy. They only delay or transfer pain.

Aaron Kheriaty on Sex and Sadomasochism

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Before making decisions about our sexual behaviors, we need to ask ourselves some questions about what we want to be doing to our brain and our body — what kind of neural tracks and networks do we want to be reinforcing through these behaviors? Do we want to be fusing sex and love? Sex and security? Sex and attachment or commitment? Sex and fidelity? Sex and trust? Sex and unselfishness? Or do we want to be fusing in our brain and in our experiences sex and violence? Sex and dominance? Sex and submission? Sex and control? We shape our brain by our choices. And we develop increasingly automatic and ingrained habits by our repeated choices. But the initial choice of which path we embark upon is up to us.

In Search of Moral Knowledge

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Scott Smith, carefully and consciously, with philosophical rigor and clarity of word, offers a defense of moral knowledge that is tightly tethered to more ancient, and Christian, understandings of the good, the true and the beautiful. The result is a compelling case for why philosophical naturalism, including its cousin, nominalism, must be rejected by anyone who sincerely seeks after moral knowledge. Smith’s greatest accomplishment in this book, however, is the way in which he interacts, at a high level, with contemporary philosophical schools of thought and ancient traditions in a way fully accessible to the educated layman and college student. ~ Francis J. Beckwith

Pope Benedict XVI on Leaving a Clear Path for Evil

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Wolfgang Pauli took up the thread of the discussion and agreed… “The complete division between knowledge and faith is surely just a temporary stopgap measure. In Western society and culture we could for instance, in the not-too-distant future, come to the point at which the parables and images that religion has used up to now are no longer convincing, even for simple folk; and then, I fear, traditional morality will also very rapidly break down, and things will happen that are more frightful than anything we can imagine.” At that time in 1927, those taking part in the conversation could have at most a vague suspicion that soon afterward the unholy twelve years would begin, in the course of which things did indeed happen that were “more frightful” than could previously have been thought possible. There were of course a good number of Christians, some of whose names we know and some who have remained nameless, who opposed the demonic forces with the power of their Christian conscience. But on the whole the power of temptation was stronger; those who just went along with things left a clear path for evil.

Kim R. Holmes on Manufacturing Human Rights

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Yet this principle of inalienable natural rights — fundamental rights that government neither creates nor can take away — isn’t the same as the thoroughly modern idea of “human rights.” ¶ Although both are universal, natural rights most emphatically do not come from government. Government only secures these rights, that is, creates the political conditions that allow one to exercise them. Human rights, as popularly understood, are bestowed by the state or governing body. In addition, natural rights, being natural, do not change over time. All men, at all times, have had the same right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Human rights, on the other hand, constantly change. A whole cottage industry has sprung up to advance a bevy of new “economic and social rights” conceived of, defined by, and promoted by activists, governments, and international bureaucrats. ¶ Many Americans are unaware that these manufactured rights are not the same as the natural rights endowed by God or nature. What are often called “human rights” today are social constructs. They either sound like high-minded aspirations — equal rights for women and minorities — or like trivial and harmless concepts such as the “right to leisure.” ¶ These concepts are in fact neither high-minded nor harmless: they are fundamentally incompatible with the Founders’ understanding of natural rights.

Mordecai Roshwald on Being Laudably Judgmental

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I have been consistently judgmental — a pejorative characteristic these days, but a laudable trait in my opinion. For, to put it bluntly, just as humanity must distinguish between what is true and what is false, so it must discriminate between what is right and what is wrong. ¶ Good and Evil are not merely subjective perspectives of various civilizations. They are basic notions of humanity, even if often erring. They have to be decided by thoughtful exploration and not by public opinion poll. Just as the belief that the world is flat is mistaken, even if at one time most people thought it to be true, so to kill a person who is blameless is wicked, even if in some cultures it may be justified.

Francis Beckwith on Pro-Abortion Arguments

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In a four part series, Francis Beckwith addresses the primary arguments offered on behalf of legal abortion: “The pro-life position is subject to somewhat varying formulations. The most widely accepted and representative of these can be defined in the following way: The unborn entity is fully human from the moment of conception. Abortion (narrowly defined) results in the intentional death of the unborn entity. Therefore, abortion entails the intentional killing of a human being. This killing is in most cases unjustified, since the unborn human being has a full right to life. If, however, there is a high probability that a woman’s pregnancy will result in her death (as in the case of a tubal pregnancy, for example), then abortion is justified. For it is a greater good that one human should live (the mother) rather than two die (the mother and her child). Or, to put it another way, in such cases the intent is not to kill the unborn (though that is an unfortunate effect) but to save the life of the mother. With the exception of such cases, abortion is an act in which an innocent human being is intentionally killed; therefore, abortion should be made illegal, as are all other such acts of killing. This is the pro-life position I will be defending in this series.” Parts: “The Appeal to Pity“, “Arguments from Pity, Tolerance, and Ad Hominem“, “Is The Unborn Human Less Than Human?“, and “When Does a Human Become a Person?“.

Duhemian and Augustinian Science and the Crisis in Non-Empirical Knowledge

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A salient feature of the success of any social, religious, or moral movement is the degree to which its advocates understand, shape, and employ the flow of ideas that forms the intellectual backdrop against which those advocates carry out their work. Setting aside Marxist and other self-refuting materialist forms of social determinism, it seems clear that ideas are among the primary things that impede or facilitate revolutionary movements. ¶ Nowhere is this more evident than the pro-life cause. But just exactly what ideas constitute the core components of the milieu in which pro-life advocates live and move and have their being? I am not a sociologist nor the son of one, and I am no expert in the sociology of knowledge. However, I am a philosopher and, as such, I have a take on this question upon which I believe it is important for us to reflect.

A Shared Morality

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Morality based on natural law has a long tradition, and has proven to be quite resilient in the face of numerous attacks and challenges over the years. Those challenges are no less serious today, which leads one to ask if natural law is still a viable foundation for ethics. Craig Boyd provides a contemporary defense of natural law theory against modern challenges from the arenas of science, religion, culture, and philosophy. In his analysis, he defends many of the classical elements of natural law, but also takes into account the contributions of scientific discoveries about human nature. He concludes that natural law is a necessary but not sufficient basis for ethics that must be accompanied by a theory of virtue.

Scott Sauls on the Core Issue in Abortion

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I believe that the core issue in the pro-life vs. pro-choice debate is whose rights matter most. Is it the rights of the mother or the rights of the infant in her womb? I believe that the answer is yes. … Pro-life advocates allege that pro-choice is not an accurate term, because only one person in the equation gets to choose the destiny of all people in the equation, namely the mother. She has one hundred percent of the decision making power and the infant inside of her has no decision making power, no voice, and no ability to defend her/himself. The idea that a woman should have jurisdiction over her own body also breaks down, because roughly fifty percent of infants in utero are female who have no choice over what happens to their bodies. ¶ Pro-choice advocates allege that pro-life is not an accurate term. This is precisely the concern that an abortion provider voiced to me just one week ago. He said, “As I see it, the so-called pro-life position only applies to one kind of life. After the infant is born, pro-life people tend to disappear from the picture.” He went on to say that over sixty percent of women who come in for an abortion are alone and live below the poverty line. Rarely has this doctor seen or heard a “pro-life” person express any concern whatsoever for her life. … If we don’t show deep concern for both mother and child, … then our religion is lopsided. Until we become both/and on this issue, our religion is not true.

Emily Gould on How To Be Not Evil

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The good news is that “Big Bang Theory” is just bad, not evil. Aside from Penny’s unintelligence being played for “laughs,” the show is relatively progressive in its treatment of gender. In one of the episodes I saw, Penny and Amy and Bernadette are involved in a subplot where Amy, in an attempt to scientifically study something about friendships, tries to pit the friends against each other. In the course of this plot they have several conversations about work, thereby ensuring that the show passes the “Bechdel test” (female characters must talk, to each other, about something other than men). ¶ There aren’t any hot wife/schlub husband jokes, both men and women are seen to be nerds, and there isn’t anything overtly horribly racist going on, except the show’s mostly-whiteness and Raj’s “funny” accent. And the theme song, by the Barenaked Ladies, provides a brief history that begins with the titular “Big Bang” and goes on to cover concepts like Neanderthals using tools; it would not be compatible with a theory of the universe that takes the Bible literally. So that’s something, at least.  There’s hope for America yet.

Jean-Jacques Rouseau on the Golden Rule

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Even the precept of doing unto others as we would have them do unto us has no true foundation other than conscience and sentiment; for where is the precise reason for me, being myself, to act as if I were another, especially when I am morally certain of never finding myself in the same situation? And who will guarantee me that in very faithfully following this maxim I will get others to follow it similarly with me? The wicked man gets advantage from the just man’s probity and his own injustice. He is delighted that everyone, with the exception of himself, be just. This agreement, whatever may be said about it, is not very advantageous for good men. When the strength of an expansive soul makes me identify myself with my fellow, and I feel that I am, so to speak, in him, it is in order not to suffer that I do not want him to suffer. I am interested in him for love of myself, and the reason for the precept is in nature itself, which inspires in me the desire of my well-being in whatever place I feel my existence. From this I conclude that it is not true that the precepts of natural law are founded on reason alone. They have a base more solid and sure. Love of men derived from love of self is the principle of the human justice. The summation of all morality is given by the Gospel in its summation of the law.

Paul Stark on the Humanity of the Unborn

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Before deciding how we ought to treat the unborn — a moral question — we must first be clear about what the unborn is. This is a scientific question, and it is answered with clarity by the science of human embryology. ¶ The facts of reproduction are straightforward. Upon completion of the fertilization process, sperm and egg have ceased to exist (this is why “fertilized egg” is an inaccurate term); what exists is a single cell with 46 chromosomes (23 from each parent) that is called a zygote. The coming into existence of the zygote is the point of conception—the beginning of the life of a new human organism. The terms zygote, embryo and fetus all refer to developmental stages in the life of a human being.

Tom Gilson on the Ethics of the Latest Today

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Modernity is good. Tradition is bad. Who knew it was so simple? ¶ But when did modernity begin, and what gave it such ethical primacy? What is the message here? Is [it] that later is better, and older is worse? That’s an argument that’s far too easily made today. It can’t be disproved! What I mean by that is that there is nothing later than today, nothing more modern to judge today, nothing to prove today wrong, as long as the standard is that newer is better. ¶ The problem with that, of course, is that there were other todays before today’s today. Some of them were quite modern todays. The eugenics movement of the early 20th century was all about progress and modernity, and during the todays of that era, progress and modernity carried the same ethical force they carry for [some] today. Hitler’s Germany was about progress and modernity in its own “today.” So were the killing regimes of Stalin and Mao.

Victor Hugo on Deep Waters, Dark Shadows

Go Night falls; he has been swimming for hours, his strength almost gone; the ship, a distant far-off thing, where there were men, is gone; he is alone in the terrible gloom of the abyss; he sinks, he strains, he struggles, feels beneath himself invisible shadowy monsters; he screams. ¶ Men are gone. Where is God? ¶ He screams. Help! Someone! Help! He screams over and over. ¶ Nothing on the horizon. Nothing in the sky. ¶ He implores the lofty sky, the endless waves, the reefs; all are deaf. He begs the storms; but impassive, they obey only the infinite. ¶ Around him, darkness, storm, solitude, wild, unconscious tumult, the ceaseless churning of fierce waters. Within him, horror and exhaustion. Beneath him the devouring abyss. No resting place. He thinks of the shadowy adventures of his limp body in the limitless gloom. The biting cold paralyzes him. His hands cramp shut and grasp at ... nothing.

Arthur Koestler on War

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Even a cursory glance at history should convince one that individual crimes committed for selfish motives play a quite insignificant part in the human tragedy, compared to the numbers massacred in unselfish loyalty to one’s tribe, nation, dynasty, church, or political ideology, ad majorem gloriam dei. The emphasis is on unselfish. Excepting a small minority of mercenary or sadistic disposition, wars are not fought for personal gain, but out of loyalty and devotion to king, country or cause. Homicide committed for personal reasons is a statistical rarity in all cultures, including our own. Homicide for unselfish reasons, at the risk of one’s own life, is the dominant phenomenon of history.

The Wisdom of the Christian Faith

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Although typically separated, philosophy and New Testament theology are mutually beneficial for the understanding of the distinctive wisdom that guides Christian thought and life. The Wisdom of the Christian Faith fills a major gap in the literature on the philosophy of religion. It is the first book on the philosophy of religion to be authored entirely by philosophers while directly engaging themes of wisdom in the Christian tradition. The book consists of all new essays, with contributions from John Cottingham, Paul Gooch, Gordon Graham, John Hare, Michael T. McFall, Paul K. Moser, Andrew Pinsent, Robert Roberts, Charles Taliaferro, William Wainwright, Jerry Walls, Sylvia Walsh, Paul Weithman, and Merold Westphal.