Profoundly important ethical and political controversies turn on the question of whether biological life is an essential aspect of a human person, or only an extrinsic instrument. Lee and George argue that human beings are physical, animal organisms - albeit essentially rational and free - and examine the implications of this understanding of human beings for some of the most controversial issues in contemporary ethics and politics. The authors argue that human beings are animal organisms and that their personal identity (...) across time consists in the persistence of the animal organisms they are; they also argue that human beings are essentially rational and free and that there is a radical difference between human beings and other animals; criticize hedonism and hedonistic drug-taking; present detailed defenses of the prolife positions on abortion and euthanasia; and defend the traditional moral position on marriage and sexual acts. (shrink)
Contemporary liberal thinkers commonly suppose that there is something in principle unjust about the legal prohibition of putatively victimless crimes. Here Robert P. George defends the traditional justification of morals legislation against criticisms advanced by leading liberal theorists. He argues that such legislation can play a legitimate role in maintaining a moral environment conducive to virtue and inhospitable to at least some forms of vice. Among the liberal critics of morals legislation whose views George considers are Ronald Dworkin, Jeremy Waldron, (...) David A.J. Richards, and Joseph Raz. He also considers the influential modern justification for morals legislation offered by Patrick Devlin as an alternative to the traditional approach. George closes with a sketch of a "pluralistic perfectionist" theory of civil liberties and public morality, showing that it is fully compatible with a defense of morals legislation. Making Men Moral will interest legal scholars and political theorists as well as theologians and philosophers focusing on questions of social justice and political morality. (shrink)
We argue that all human beings have a special type of dignity which is the basis for (1) the obligation all of us have not to kill them, (2) the obligation to take their well-being into account when we act, and (3) even the obligation to treat them as we would have them treat us, and indeed, that all human beings are equal in fundamental dignity. We give reasons to oppose the position that only some human beings, because of their (...) possession of certain characteristics in addition to their humanity (for example, an immediately exercisable capacity for self-consciousness, or for rational deliberation), have full moral worth. What distinguishes human beings from other animals, what makes human beings persons rather than things, is their rational nature, and human beings are rational creatures by virtue of possessing natural capacities for conceptual thought, deliberation, and free choice, that is, the natural capacity to shape their own lives. (shrink)
In various places we have defended the position that a new human organism, that is, an individual member of the human species, comes to be at fertilization, the union of the spermatozoon and the oocyte. This individual organism, during the ordinary course of embryological development, remains the same individual and does not undergo any further substantial change, unless monozygotic twinning, or some form of chimerism occurs. Recently, in this Journal Jason Morris has challenged our position, claiming that recent findings in (...) reproductive and stem cell biology have falsified our view. He objects to our claim that a discernible substantial change occurs at conception, giving rise to the existence of a new individual of the human species. In addition, he objects to our claim that the embryo is an individual, a unified whole that persists through various changes, and thus something other than a mere aggregate of cells. Morris raises a number of objections to these claims. However, we will show that his arguments overlook key data and confuse biological, metaphysical, and ethical questions. As a result, his attempts to rebut our arguments fail. (shrink)
"Public reason" is one of the central concepts in modern liberal political theory. As articulated by John Rawls, it presents a way to overcome the difficulties created by intractable differences among citizens' religious and moral beliefs by strictly confining the place of such convictions in the public sphere. Identifying this conception as a key point of conflict, this book presents a debate among contemporary natural law and liberal political theorists on the definition and validity of the idea of public reason. (...) Its distinguished contributors examine the consequences of interpreting public reason more broadly as "right reason," according to natural law theory, versus understanding it in the narrower sense in which Rawls intended. They test public reason by examining its implications for current issues, confronting the questions of abortion and slavery and matters relating to citizenship. This energetic exchange advances our understanding of both Rawls's contribution to political philosophy and the lasting relevance of natural law. It provides new insights into crucial issues facing society today as it points to new ways of thinking about political theory and practice. (shrink)
Abstract. We argue that all human beings have a special type of dignity which is the basis for (1) the obligation all of us have not to kill them, (2) the obligation to take their well-being into account when we act, and (3) even the obligation to treat them as we would have them treat us, and indeed, that all human beings are equal in fundamental dignity. We give reasons to oppose the position that only some human beings, because of (...) their possession of certain characteristics in addition to their humanity (for example, an immediately exercisable capacity for self-consciousness, or for rational deliberation), have full moral worth. What distinguishes human beings from other animals, what makes human beings persons rather than things, is their rational nature, and human beings are rational creatures by virtue of possessing natural capacities for conceptual thought, deliberation, and free choice, that is, the natural capacity to shape their own lives. (shrink)
I am, of course, aware that infanticide was accepted and practiced in ancient Greece and Rome, and is still practiced in places like India and China today; just as I am aware that slavery was accepted and practiced in ancient Greece and Rome , and is still practiced in some places today. But if philosophers, no matter how sophisticated, were to step forward today to argue that slavery is morally acceptable , I would call that madness.Of course, the ‘madness’ I (...) am referring to in condemning the advocacy of infanticide and slavery or their moral permissibility is moral madness. I am not making a clinical diagnosis of a psychiatric condition. I take it that this was obvious, but that Charles Camosy is nevertheless troubled that I would say such a thing. But I do say it. And at the risk of giving offense, I will say it again: advocating the moral permissibility of killing healthy newborn infants is moral madness; and it is scandalous, especially in a journal expressly directed not merely to philosophers but to physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals—people whose attitudes shape decisions they make about the lives of real people, including real infants.Whatever errors of fact and judgment are made possible by the complexities of human development or a prenatal …. (shrink)
The paper by Magill and Neaves in this issue of the Journal attempts to rebut the "natural potency" position, based on recent advances in direct reprogramming of somatic cells to yield "induced pluripotent stem" (iPS) cells. As stated by the authors, the natural potency position holds that because "a human embryo directs its own integral organismic function from its beginning . . . there is a whole, albeit immature, and distinct human organism that is intrinsically valuable with the status of (...) inviolability and deserving full moral respect" (p. 26). The authors boldly assert that "The recent production of iPS . . . highlights a prima facie absurdity for the natural potentiality argument" (p. 29). Yet the argument against natural potency is both logically flawed and based on a characterization of the scientific evidence that is factually inaccurate. (shrink)
This book defends the conjugal view of marriage. Patrick Lee and Robert P. George argue that marriage is a distinctive type of community: the union of a man and a woman who have committed to sharing their lives on every level of their beings (bodily, emotionally, and spiritually) in the kind of union that would be fulfilled by conceiving and rearing children together. The comprehensive nature of this union, and its intrinsic orientation to procreation as its natural fulfillment, distinguishes marriage (...) from other types of community and provides the basis for the norms of marital exclusivity and permanence. Lee and George detail how the basic moral norms regarding sexual acts follow from the ethical requirement to respect the good of marriage and explain how the law should treat marriage, given its conjugal nature, examining both the same-sex-marriage issue and civil divorce. (shrink)
Natural law theory is enjoying a revival of interest in a variety of scholarly disciplines including law, philosophy, political science, and theology and religious studies. This volume presents twelve original essays by leading natural law theorists and their critics. The contributors discuss natural law theories of morality, law and legal reasoning, politics, and the rule of law. Readers get a clear sense of the wide diversity of viewpoints represented among contemporary theorists, and an opportunity to evaluate the arguments and counterarguments (...) exchanged in the current debates between natural law theorists and their critics. Contributors include Hadley Arkes, Joseph M. Boyle, Jr., John Finnis, Robert P. George, Russell Hittinger, Neil MacCormick, Michael Moore, Jeffrey Stout, Joseph Raz, Jeremy Waldron, Lloyd Weinreb, and Ernest Weinrib. (shrink)
This collection of original papers from distinguished legal theorists offers a challenging assessment of the nature and viability of legal positivism, a branch of legal theory which continues to dominate contemporary legal theoretical debates. To what extent is the law adequately described as autonomous? Should law claim autonomy? These and other questions are addressed by the authors in this carefully edited collection, and it will be of interest to all lawyers and scholars interested in legal philosophy and legal theory.
The author, a member of the U.S.President's Council on Bioethics, discussesethical issues raised by human cloning, whetherfor purposes of bringing babies to birth or forresearch purposes. He first argues that everycloned human embryo is a new, distinct, andenduring organism, belonging to the speciesHomo sapiens, and directing its owndevelopment toward maturity. He then distinguishesbetween two types of capacities belonging toindividual organisms belonging to this species,an immediately exerciseable capacity and abasic natural capacity that develops over time. He argues that it is the (...) second type ofcapacity that is the ground for full moralrespect, and that this capacity (and itsconcomitant degree of respect) belongs tocloned human embryos no less than to adulthuman beings. He then considers and rejectscounter-arguments to his position, includingthe suggestion that the capacity of embryos isequivalent to the capacity of somatic cells,that full human rights are afforded only tohuman organisms with functioning brains, thatthe possibility of twinning diminishes themoral status of embryos, that the fact thatpeople do not typically mourn the loss of earlyembryos implies that they have a diminishedmoral status, that the fact that earlyspontaneous abortions occur frequentlydiminishes the moral status of embryos, andthat his arguments depend upon a concept ofensoulment. He concludes that if the moralstatus of cloned human embryos is equivalent tothat of adults, then public policy should bebased upon this assumption. (shrink)
"Many in elite circles yield to the temptation to believe that anyone who disagrees with them is a bigot or a religious fundamentalist. Reason and science, they confidently believe, are on their side. With this book, I aim to expose the emptiness of that belief." --From the introductionAssaults on religious liberty and traditional morality are growing fiercer. Here, at last, is the counterattack.Showcasing the talents that have made him one of America's most acclaimed and influential thinkers, Robert P. George explodes (...) the myth that the secular elite represents the voice of reason. In fact, George shows, it is on the elite side of the cultural divide where the prevailing views frequently are nothing but articles of faith. Conscience and Its Enemies reveals the bankruptcy of these too often smugly held orthodoxies while presenting powerfully reasoned arguments for classical virtues.In defending what James Madison called the "sacred rights of conscience"--rights for which government shows frightening contempt--George grapples with today's most controversial issues: abortion and infanticide, same-sex marriage, genetic manipulation, euthanasia and assisted suicide, religion in politics, judicial activism, and more. His brilliantly argued essays rely not on theological claims or religious authority but on established scientific facts and a philosophical tradition that extends back to Plato and Aristotle.Conscience and Its Enemies elevates our national debates. It sets forth powerful arguments that secular liberals are unaccustomed to hearing--and that embattled defenders of traditional morality so often fail to marshal. It also lays out the principles and arguments for rebuilding a moral order. (shrink)
This work brings together leading defenders of Natural Law and Liberalism for a series of frank and lively exchanges touching upon critical issues of contemporary moral and political theory. The book is an outstanding example of the fruitful engagement of traditions of thought about fundamental matters of ethics and justice.
While we should acknowledge the blessings that genetic knowledge, and the biotechnologies it makes possible, have delivered or will deliver soon, there are urgent worries to consider. The first worry is that we may compromise, or further compromise, in both science and politics, the principle that every human being, irrespective of age, size, mental or physical condition, stage of development, or condition of dependency, possesses inherent worth and dignity and a right to life. The second worry, closely related, is that (...) many people are coming to view procreation as akin to manufacture. They also regard children not as gifts to be cherished and loved even when "imperfect," but rather as products that may legitimately be subjected to standards of quality control and discarded or killed in the embryonic, fetal, and even infant stages if they do not measure up. The glory of our political tradition is its affirmation of the profound, inherent, and equal dignity of all human beings. The history of our politics and social practice, our law and economics, and even our medicine is in significant measure the struggle to live up to the demands of this affirmation. What we need is fidelity to the principles of human equality and dignity that have always served us well when we have had the wisdom and fortitude to honor them. (shrink)
The following is the text of an address delivered by Professor George at the twentieth anniversary conference of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists in New York, October 2012. George identifies the intellectual roots of recent threats to conscience rights—especially for people of faith—in the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology’s 2008 report that, he argues, makes ideological claims rather than using scientific evidence to support the denial of conscience rights to medical professionals in the areas of birth control and (...) abortion. (shrink)
John Finnis is a pre-eminent legal, moral and political philosopher. This volume contains over 25 essays by leading international scholars of philosophy and law who critically engage with issues at the heart of Finnis's work.
This volume gathers leading moral, legal, and political philosophers alongside theologians to examine John Finnis' work. The book offers the first sustained critical study of Finnis' contribution across the philosophy of rationality, legal and political philosophy, and theology. It includes a substantial response from Finnis himself in which he defends and develops his ideas.
As Charles Camosy observes, he and I agree more than we disagree. He believes with no less conviction than I do that deliberately killing infant children is profoundly morally wrong and a grave violation of human rights.1 So where do we disagree?I think that killing infant children, or promoting the moral permissibility of doing so, is moral madness, and that we should say so, rather than treating infanticide as just one more legitimate, albeit in the end morally mistaken view. We (...) owe this to potential victims of the potential mainstreaming of support for infanticide.Professor Camosy suggests that my view, or its public expression, is uncharitable towards advocates of infanticide and ‘at variance with a Christian …. (shrink)