Defending Life is arguably the most comprehensive defense of the pro-life position on abortion - morally, legally, and politically - that has ever been published in an academic monograph. It offers a detailed and critical analysis of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey as well as arguments by those who defend a Rawlsian case for abortion-choice, such as J. J. Thomson. The author defends the substance view of persons as the view with the most explanatory power. The substance (...) view entails that the unborn is a subject of moral rights from conception. While defending this view, the author responds to the arguments of thinkers such as Boonin, Dworkin, Stretton, Ford and Brody. He also critiques Thomson's famous violinist argument and its revisions by Boonin and McDonagh. Defending Life includes chapters critiquing arguments found in popular politics and the controversy over cloning and stem cell research. (shrink)
Catholics and Evangelical Protestants often find themselves on the same side on a variety of issues in bioethics. However, some Evangelicals have expressed reluctance to embrace the natural law reasoning used by Catholics in academic and policy debates. In this article, I argue that the primary concerns raised by Evangelicals about natural law reasoning are, ironically, concerns expressed by and intrinsic to the natural law tradition itself. To show this, I address two types of Protestant critics: the Frustrated Fellow Traveler (...) and the Solo Scripturist. (shrink)
The purpose of this essay is to offer support for the substance view of persons, the philosophical anthropology defended by Patrick Lee in his essay. In order to accomplish this the author presents a brief definition of the substance view; argues that the substance view has more explanatory power in accounting for why we believe that human persons are intrinsically valuable even when they are not functioning as such, why human persons remain identical to themselves over time, and why it (...) follows from these points that the unborn are human persons; and responds to two arguments that attempt to establish the claim that the early human being is not a unified substance until at least fourteen days after conception. (shrink)
This article responds to Giubilini and Minerva’s article ‘After birth abortion: why should the baby live?’ published in the Journal of Medical Ethics. They argue for the permissibility of ‘after-birth abortion’, based on two conjoined considerations: (1) the fetus or newborn, though a ‘potential person’, is not an actual person, because it is not mature enough to appreciate its own interests, and (2) because we allow parents to terminate the life of a fetus when it is diagnosed with a deformity (...) or fatal illness because of the burden it will place on the child, parent, family or society we should also allow parents to do the same to their newborn, since it is no more a person than the fetus. The author critiques this case by pointing out (a) the metaphysical ambiguity of potential personhood and (b) why the appeal to burdens is irrelevant or unnecessary. (shrink)
The ascendancy of Christian activism in bioethical policy debates has elicited a number of responses by critics of this activism. These critics typically argue that the public square ought to embrace Secular Liberalism, a perspective that its proponents maintain is the most just arrangement in a pluralist society, even though SL places restraints on Christian activists that are not placed on similarly situated citizens who hold more liberal views on bioethical questions. The author critiques three arguments that are offered to (...) defend SL: the golden rule contract argument, the secular reason argument, and the err-on-the-side-of-liberty argument. The author concludes that each of these arguments fail to support SL. (shrink)
This article critically assesses an account of religious liberty often associated with several legal and political philosophers: Ronald Dworkin, John Rawls, and Christopher Eisgruber and Lawrence Sager. Calling it the Religion as Comprehensive Doctrine approach, the author contrasts it with an account often attributed to John Locke and the American Founders Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, the Two Sovereigns approach. He argues that the latter provides an important corrective to RCD’s chief weakness: RCD eliminates from our vision those aspects of (...) religious belief and practice that most conventional religious believers would consider essential to their faith. (shrink)
Although the notion of physician value neutrality in medicine may be traced back to the writings of Sir William Osler, it is relatively new to medicine and medical ethics. We argue in this paper that how physician value neutrality has been cashed out is often obscure and its defense not persuasive. In addition, we argue that the social/political implementation of neutrality, Political Liberalism, fails, and thus, PVN's case is weakened, for PVN's justification relies largely on the reasoning undergirding PL. For (...) these reasons, we conclude that PVN has no philosophical or ethical warrant and thus should be abandoned. We suggest that the physician present to her patients some type of statement or creed that would give them an idea of where she stands on important axiological issues and how these stands are cashed out clinically. (shrink)
In her ground-breaking 1971 article, “A Defense of Abortion,” Judith Jarvis Thomson argues that even if one grants to the prolifer her most important premise—that the fetus is a person—the prolifer’s conclusion, the intrinsic wrongness of abortion, does not follow. However, in her 1995 article, “Abortion: Whose Right?,” Thomson employs Rawlsian liberalism to argue that even though the prolifer’s view of fetal personhood is not unreasonable, the prochoice advocate is not unreasonable in rejecting it. Thus, because we should err on (...) the side of liberty, the right to abortion is vindicated. In this article, I argue that Thomson’s latter reliance on Rawlsian thinking suggests a way of re-reading her earlier essay that casts doubt on whether she really grants the dominant prolife account of unborn human life. (shrink)
This essay is a review of Edward Feser’s Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide. In the first part, the author summarizes the book’s five chapters, drawing attention to Feser’s application of Aquinas’s thought to contemporary philosophical problems. Part 2 is dedicated to Feser’s Thomistic analysis of Intelligent Design (ID). The author explains Feser’s case and why Aquinas’s “Fifth Way,” which is often labeled a “design argument,” depends on a philosophy of nature that ID’s methods implicitly reject.
Supporters of Justificatory Liberalism (JL)—such as John Rawls and Gerard Gaus—typically maintain that the state may not coerce its citizens on matters of constitutional essentials unless it can provide public justification that the coerced citizens would be irrational in rejecting. The state, in other words, may not coerce citizens whose rejection of the coercion is based on their reasonable comprehensive doctrines (i.e., worldviews). Proponents of the legal recognition of same-sex marriage (SSM) usually offer some version of JL as the most (...) fundmental reason why laws that recognize marriage only if it is a union between one man and one woman are unjust. In this article I argue that the application of JL in support of legal recognition of SSM does not succeed because the issue under scrutiny—the nature of marriage—is deeply embedded in, and in most cases integral to, many (if not most) citizens’ reasonable comprehensive doctrines. Thus, I argue that because of the effects and consequences of the legal recognition of SSM, it results (or will result) in a violation of JL against dissenting citizens. (shrink)
This article is a response to Barbara Forrest’ 2011 Synthese article, “On the Non-Epistemology of Intelligent Design.” Forrest offers an account of my philosophical work that consists almost entirely of personal attacks, excursions into my religious pilgrimage, and misunderstandings and misrepresentations of my work as well as of certain philosophical issues. Not surprisingly, the Synthese editors include a disclaimer in the front matter of the special issue in which Forrest’s article was published. In my response, I address three topics: (1) (...) My interest in Intelligent Design (ID) and public education and why as a Thomist I have grown more skeptical and explicitly critical of ID over the years, (2) the sorts of philosophical mistakes with which Forrest’s article is teeming, and (3) my Christian faith, religious exclusivism, and interfaith dialogue. (shrink)
This article is a response by the author of Defending Life, Francis Beckwith, to Kevin Corcoran’s critical review of that book. In his review Corcoran maintains that Beckwith provides only a “typical” genetic code argument for the zygote’s individual humanity, and that Beckwith fails to show that there exists an individual human organism that subsists from conception and develops into a mature version of itself. Beckwith argues that Corcoran is mistaken on both counts.
In this paper I will critically analyze the first part of David Hume’s argument against miracles, which has been traditionally referred to as the in-principle argument. However, unlike most critiques of Hume’s argument, I will (1) present a view of evidential epistemology and probability that will take into consideration Hume’s accurate observation that miracles are highly improbable events while(2) arguing that one can be within one’s epistemic rights in believing that a miracle has occurred. As for the proper definition of (...) a miracle, I offer the following, which I believe most religious people generally mean when they call an event miraculous: "A miracle is a divine intervention that occurs contrary to the regular course of nature within a significant historical-religious context". Although I am fully aware that this definition has its detractors, it will merely function in this paper as a working definition so that we can come to grips with Hume’s argument. This definition has been. (shrink)
Claims of religious conscience that run counter to prevailing cultural trends are increasingly met with bewilderment and disbelief. The author argues that this should not surprise us given the ways in which the rational and liturgical status of religious beliefs and practices are widely misunderstood and misrepresented by jurists and legal philosophers. To make this point the author discusses some recent arguments found in court cases as well as in legal scholarship on religion. He encourages Catholic philosophers—who typically do not (...) work in this area--to enter the fray by contributing to the jurisprudential literature that touches on issues of faith, reason, and religious liberty. (shrink)
This article is a response to Evan Fales’s critique of Francis Beckwith’s chapter ’Philosophia Christi’ Series 2, 3.1 2001) that appeared in the 1997 book, ’In Defense of Miracles’ (InterVarsity Press, 1997). Beckwith argues that Fales seems to misunderstand his argument. In his reply, Beckwith clarifies his original case and then moves on and addresses Fales’s argument that if miracles regularly occur, the reason for believing in miracles would be undermined; they are contrary to the regular course of nature. Beckwith (...) argues that Fales confuses the regularity of agent causation with the regularity of scientific laws. (shrink)
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:Reviewed by:Reforming the Law of Nature: The Secularization of Political Thought, 1532–1689 by Simon P. KennedyFrancis J. BeckwithKENNEDY, Simon P. Reforming the Law of Nature: The Secularization of Political Thought, 1532–1689. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2022. ix + 125 pp. Cloth, $110.00In this monograph Simon P. Kennedy offers an account of the desacralization of politics in the West by critically examining the works of five central figures in the (...) Protestant Reformed tradition: John Calvin (1509–64), Richard Hooker (1554–1600), Johannes Althusius (1557–1638), Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679), and John Locke (1632–1705). He dedicates a chapter to each thinker. The core of Kennedy's thesis is that desacralization is the result of a shift in the way modern thinkers like Hobbes and Locke reimagined the nature of natural law. The medieval tradition, having found its fullest expression in the work of St. Thomas Aquinas, saw natural law as one of four different types of law: eternal law (the eternal plan of creation in the mind of God), natural law (the rational creature's participation in the eternal law), human law (civil laws that are derived from the natural law), and divine law (the Old and New Testaments). According to Kennedy, the eventual desacralization of politics was set in motion with the development of arguments for natural rights that relied on a natural law that was in [End Page 553] practice severed from eternal law. But in that case, our political institutions—which are founded on the natural law—are purely human constructions and thus entirely secular.The usual story is that the Protestant Reformation constituted the decisive break with the medieval tradition and that it was the political theology of the reformers and their immediate successors that made the secularization of politics nearly inevitable. Kennedy wants to push back against that story. He argues, quite convincingly, that Calvin, Hooker, and Althusius, all Reformed Protestants, were in continuity with their medieval predecessors. Although Calvin is often depicted by his contemporary followers—especially among American Evangelicals—as hostile to the natural law tradition, Kennedy marshals an impressive case that shows that classical natural law seemed almost second nature to Calvin. My own sense is that the confusion over Calvin is the result of his contemporary readers expecting him to use the vocabulary of an Aquinas or a Duns Scotus. But not finding that vocabulary, they conclude that he rejected the natural law. Kennedy dispels that confusion by showing that Calvin in fact was fully committed to the four types of law absent the technical jargon of medieval scholasticism.Hooker and Althusius, writes Kennedy, continue in that tradition, though with a bit of a twist that some argue portends to Hobbes and Locke. Hooker and Althusius use the language of contract to account for the origin of certain aspects of political life. But Kennedy insists that it is a mistake to interpret them as proto-contractarians (as one finds in Hobbes and Locke), for they still held that the natural law participates in the eternal law, and that any agreements employed in the service of political life are under the authority of, and guided by, the natural law. One could argue, then, that these "contracts," like constitutions and treaties, are nonstatutory manifestations of the human law, which is perfectly consistent with classical natural law. So like Calvin before them, Hooker and Althusius were, as Kennedy puts it, theistic political naturalists.Hobbes and Locke are a different story. According to Kennedy, they both defended desacralized views of politics, with Hobbes being the more extreme of the two. Although I think he is correct in that assessment, I am not sure he locates the cause of the desacralization in the right place. For example, he says that because for Locke politics is artificial and not natural—that is, it is the result of a social contract to insulate members of society from the instability of a state of nature—politics is desacralized, even though God is the ultimate source of the natural law. But it is not clear how that in and of itself desacralizes politics. After all, Aquinas, the paradigm case of a classical natural lawyer, held... (shrink)
This essay is a review of Edward Feser’s Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide. In the first part, the author summarizes the book’s five chapters, drawing attention to Feser’s application of Aquinas’s thought to contemporary philosophical problems. Part 2 is dedicated to Feser’s Thomistic analysis of Intelligent Design. The author explains Feser’s case and why Aquinas’s “Fifth Way,” which is often labeled a “design argument,” depends on a philosophy of nature that ID’s methods implicitly reject.