Two profound atrocities in the history of Western culture form the subject of this moving philosophical exploration: American Slavery and the Holocaust. An African American and a Jew, Laurence Mordekhai Thomas denounces efforts to place the suffering of one group above the other. Rather, he pronounces these two defining historical experiences as profoundly evil in radically different ways and points to their logically incompatible aims. The author begins with a discussion of the nature of evil, exploring the fragility of human (...) beings and the phenomena of compartmentalizing, unquestioning obedience to authority, and moral drift. Citing compelling examples from history and contemporary life, he characterizes evil acts in terms of moral agency, magnitude, and intent. With moving testimony, Thomas depicts the moral pain of African Americans and Jews during their ordeals and describes how their past as victims has affected their future. Without invidious comparison, he distinguishes between extermination and domination, death and natal alienation, physical and mental cruelty, and between being viewed as irredeemable evil and as a moral simpleton. Thomas also considers the role of blacks and Jews in the Christian narrative. _In Vessels of Evil_, Thomas also considers the ways Jews and blacks have gone on to survive. He analyzes the relative flourishing of Jews and the languishing of blacks in this country and examines the implications of their dissimilar tragedies on any future relationship between these two minorities. (shrink)
Rather than focusing on political and legal debates surrounding attempts to determine if and when genocidal rape has taken place in a particular setting, this essay turns instead to a crucial, yet neglected area of inquiry: the moral significance of genocidal rape, and more specifically, the nature of the harms that constitute the culpable wrongdoing that genocidal rape represents. In contrast to standard philosophical accounts, which tend to employ an individualistic framework, this essay offers a situated understanding of harm that (...) features the importance of interdependence and relationality and that conceptualizes harms as embodied and contextual. The paper ultimately reveals what is distinctive about this particular crime of sexual violence by exploring the logic of genocidal rape: genocidal rape involves the harm of forced self-betrayal unleashed relationally, causing victims as representatives of their group to participate inadvertently in the destruction of that group. (shrink)
This book examines the negative power that child maltreatment has on individuals and society ethically and politically, while analyzing the positive power that parental love and healthy families have. To address how best to confront the problem of child maltreatment, it examines several policy options, ultimately defending a policy of licensing parents, while carefully examining the tension between child and adult rights and duties.
This volume addresses a wide variety of moral concerns regarding slavery as an institutionalized social practice. By considering the slave's critical appropriation of the natural rights doctrine, the ambiguous implications of various notions of consent and liberty are examined. The authors assume that, although slavery is undoubtedly an evil social practice, its moral assessment stands in need of a more nuanced treatment. They address the question of what is wrong with slavery by critically examining, and in some cases endorsing, certain (...) principles derived from communitarianism, paternalism, utilitarianism, and jurisprudence. (shrink)
This essay is a commentary upon "Race and Kant" by Thomas Hill, Jr and Bernard Boxill. They argue that although Kant in his anthropological writings took blacks to be inferior, his moral theory requires that they be shown the proper moral respect since blacks are persons nonetheless. I argue that this argument is sound, because the conception of inferiority that Kant attributed to blacks does not permit showing them the proper moral respect. Imagine a defective Mercedes Benz and a Ford (...) Pinto. These two cars are not inferior in the same sort of way. For Kant, I argue, the inferiority of blacks is more akin to that of a Ford Pinto; for he undoubtedly took blacks to be perpetual children. Chilren are persons, too; however, no one has ever supposed that moral theory applies to children in the full way that it applies to adults. (shrink)
In this important and engaging volume, international scholars present opposing viewpoints to debate ten of the most important issues in contemporary social philosophy. Provides an original analysis of some of society’s most pressing issues Written by an outstanding cast of international scholars Issues covered include the nature of freedom, the limits of religious tolerance, affirmative action, parenting, the death penalty, privacy, violence, world hunger, social diversity, homosexuality, and abortion Invites the reader to participate in the exchange of arguments.
Having children is the most common aim among human beings. The Family and the Political Self aims to capture the insights that can be gleaned from taking this truth seriously. One truth is that human beings may not be as self-interested as is commonly supposed. In this book Laurence Thomas argues that the best construal of the political self reflects this truth.
This essay looks at the impact that technology is having upon friendship. For as we all know, it is nothing at all to see friends at a restaurant table all engaged in texting rather than talking to one another.
Ethical egoism and Kantian ethics constitute radically different and incompatible moral traditions. Speaking rather broadly, one might go so far as to say that each tradition is a source of inspiration for criticisms of the other, each tradition reminding us of the limitations of the other. For Kantian ethics, with its extreme other-regarding and abstract approach to morality, would sometimes seem to lose sight of the self, leaving a self that seems somewhat eviscerated. Ethical egosim, by contrast, with its extreme (...) self-centered conception, would seem to lose sight of the importance of others, positing a self that can only give instrumental value to others. Though both traditions have been criticized, these criticisms have travelled independently of one another—no line of argument being at once a criticism of both. Perhaps no such argument is to be had. However, when two traditions trade off of one another this suggests an underlying text or theme. That theme, I suggest, is about the metaphysics of the moral self—that is, the way in which the self is morally constituted. I want to offer an account of the way in which the self is morally constituted which is at once a criticism of both ethical egoism and Kantian ethics. (shrink)
Although there are many variations on the theme, so much is made of the good of moral autonomy that it is difficult not to suppose that there is everything to be said for being morally autonomous and nothing at all to be said for being morally nonautonomous. However, this view of moral autonomy cannot be made to square with the well-received fact that most people are morally nonautonomous — not, at any rate, unless one is prepared to maintain that most (...) people are irrational in this respect. I am not. Thus, I reject what I take to be the prevailing view of moral autonomy. I argue that it is false that (1) moral autonomy is such that it is rational for every person to prefer being morally autonomous to being morally nonautonomous, but true that (2) moral autonomy is such that if anyone is morally autonomous, then it is rational for him to prefer being morally autonomous to being morally nonautonomous. (shrink)
What rights govern heterosexual and homosexual behaviors? Two distinguished philosophers debate this important issue in Sexual Orientation and Human Rights. Laurence M. Thomas argues that a society which has the constitutional resources to protect hate groups can protect homosexuals without valorizing the homosexual life-style. He defends the view that the Bible cannot warrant the venom that, in the name of religion, is often expressed against homosexuals. Michael E. Levin defends the unorthodox view that the aversion some people experience toward homosexuality (...) deserves respect. He further argues that while homosexuals enjoy the same rights as others to be free of violence and discrimination, they do not have more extensive rights. (shrink)
This essay is a discussion of the radio talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger. It is an assessment of the moral advice that she dispenses her radio show, and kinds of criticisms to which she has been subjected.
The essay discuss the issue of comparing the American Slavery and the Holocaust, and the extent to which the ideology of the American dream has fueled invidious comparisons between the two peoples. Just as murder and rape are wrongs to be understood in their own right, I argue that a like claim holds for American Slavery and the Holocuast. The essay further points out that we should be weary of supposing that wrongdoing is the sort of the thing for which (...) compensation is at all possible. (shrink)
Speciesism is the wrong of not acknowledging the moral qualities that non-human animals possess that are similar or equivalent or even superior to the moral qualities that human beings possess. However, since it is manifestly clear that no one thinks that apes are in any way obligated to human beings, it clearly cannot be a form of speciesism to be mindful of the differences on the basis of which that is so. In opposition to the advocates of the Great Ape (...) Project, my aim in this essay is to establish the quite minimal claim that apes should not have the same moral status as human beings because human beings have a far greater capacity for moral responsibility than do apes. The claim that I wish to establish is quite compatible with the claim that apes should be treated in a much more morally wholesome manner. (shrink)