Why do we grant religious exemptions? Many distinguished scholars and judges have been drawn to the idea that conscience is entitled to special protection, because a person in its grip cannot obey the law without betraying his deepest, most identity-defining commitments. The weakness of this justification is shown by philosopher Harry Frankfurt's account of what he calls “volitional necessity,” which clarifies the structure of the argument that invocations of conscience imply. Frankfurt shows that a person can be bound in this (...) way by allegiances that there is no reason to respect; volitional necessity can arise from anything at all that a person cares about. Conscience is thus a poor basis for claims upon other people. Accommodation must rather depend on some idea of the value of religion. (shrink)
This book's thirty essays explore philosophically the nature and morality of sexual perversion, cybersex, masturbation, homosexuality, contraception, same-sex marriage, promiscuity, pedophilia, date rape, sexual objectification, teacher-student relationships, pornography, and prostitution. Authors include Martha Nussbaum, Thomas Nagel, Alan Goldman, John Finnis, Sallie Tisdale, Robin West, Alan Wertheimer, John Corvino, Cheshire Calhoun, Jerome Neu, and Alan Soble, among others. A valuable resource for sex researchers as well as undergraduate courses in the philosophy of sex.
A lively history of American libertarianism and its decay into dangerous fantasy. In 2010 in South Fulton, Tennessee, each household paid the local fire department a yearly fee of $75.00. That year, Gene Cranick's house accidentally caught fire. But the fire department refused to come because Cranick had forgotten to pay his yearly fee, leaving his home in ashes. Observers across the political spectrum agreed-some with horror and some with enthusiasm-that this revealed the true face of libertarianism. But libertarianism did (...) not always require callous indifference to the misfortunes of others. Modern libertarianism began with Friedrich Hayek's admirable corrective to the Depression-era vogue for central economic planning. It resisted oppressive state power. It showed how capitalism could improve life for everyone. Yet today, it's a toxic blend of anarchism, disdain for the weak, and rationalization for environmental catastrophe. Libertarians today accept new, radical arguments-which crumble under scrutiny-that justify dishonest business practices and Covid deniers who refuse to wear masks in the name of "freedom." Andrew Koppelman's book traces libertarianism's evolution from Hayek's moderate pro-market ideas to the romantic fabulism of Murray Rothbard, Robert Nozick, and Ayn Rand, and Charles Koch's promotion of climate change denial. Burning Down the House is the definitive history of an ideological movement that has reshaped American politics. (shrink)
What moral commitments do we manifest when we make claims upon one another? The practice of claiming is inescapable, and so any normative presuppositions of that practice are similarly inescapable (at least on pain of self-contradiction). This inquiry thus promises an Archimedian point from which to address intractable moral disagreements in modern society. Whatever we happen to differ about, we can be shown to agree about these premises, and therefore to share commitment to whatever can be derived from these premises. (...) The most prominent developer of this approach is Jürgen Habermas, who has sought to ground, inter alia, religious and cultural rights on this basis. I will argue that the strategy cannot resolve disagreement in the way Habermas hopes, and that this has been shown, perhaps inadvertently, by Stephen Darwall, who for very different reasons seeks to work out the premises of the practice of claiming (and who never discusses Habermas). Darwall has no apparent interest in finding a universally convincing basis for resolving moral controversies. He seeks to address, not the practical problems of a pluralistic society, but some specialized, albeit important, questions of metaethics, having to do with what kind of entity a moral claim is . Both Habermas and Darwall think that discourse presupposes a kind of respect among persons. Darwall, however, shows that respect is too fluid, and takes too many possible forms, to ground any but the most trivial specific moral claims. (shrink)
Freedom of thought means freedom from social tyranny, the capacity to think for oneself, to encounter even shocking ideas without shrinking away from them. That aspiration is a core concern of the free speech tradition. It is not specifically concerned with law, but it explains some familiar aspects of the First Amendment law we actually have—aspects that the most prevalent theories of free speech fail to capture. It explains the prohibition of compelled speech, and can clarify the perennial puzzle of (...) why freedom of speech extends to art and literature. It also tells us something about the limits of legal regulation, and about the ethical obligations of private actors. (shrink)
Is pornography within the coverage of the First Amendment? A familiar argument claims that it is not. This argument reasons that the free speech principle protects the communication of ideas, which appeal to the reason ; pornography communicates no ideas and appeals to the passions rather than the reason ; therefore pornography is not protected by the free speech principle. This argument has been specified in different ways by different writers. The most prominent and careful of these are Frederick Schauer (...) and John Finnis. Both founder on the attempt to distinguish pornography from art, which both would protect. If art, film, and literature should be protected, then this protection should extend to the pornographic subsets of these genres. (shrink)
In this article, Professors Wolff and Koppelman offer a critical analysis of the free speech claims that were asserted by the law schools and law faculty that sought to challenge the Solomon Amendment. Solomon is a federal statute that requires law schools to grant full and equal access to military recruiters during the student interview season. The military discriminates against gay men and lesbians under its t Ask, Don policy, and the law professors claimed a right to exclude the military (...) under the First Amendment doctrine of arguing that the presence of discriminatory recruiters would interfere with the ability of faculty to express their own message of inclusion toward their gay students. Those claims were ultimately rejected by the Supreme Court in Rumsfeld v. FAIR. Wolff and Koppelman argue that the law professors' litigation efforts, though well intentioned, were deeply misguided, seeking to extend a recent and aberrational decision in the law of expressive association to unsustainable lengths and, in the process, offering a characterization of the manner in which faculty engage in their own expression that is inconsistent with the ideals that should govern institutions of higher learning. (shrink)