Volume 25, Issue 2 (2017)
Personhood and the Scope of Moral Duty
by Dustin Arand
In this essay I craft a procedure for evaluating claims of moral personhood that would allow us to answer ethical questions raised by issues like abortion, animal rights, artificial intelligence, etc. I focus specifically on the abortion debate as a case study for applying my procedure. I argue that our moral instincts have evolved to promote group cohesion, a necessary prerequisite of which is reliable identification of other group members. These are “persons” in the moral sense of the word. However, while our moral intuitions may be good at picking out paradigmatic instances of moral persons, peripheral or putative instances of this category are a matter of intense debate. Further, I show that the attempt to clarify the boundaries of moral personhood by appealing to physical traits—what I characterize as the equation of moral personhood with ontological personhood—does not actually resolve the underlying ambiguity, nor does it answer the moral question why we ought to recognize moral rights in the first place. I argue instead for a three pronged inquiry that asks (1) whether the entity in question is capable of articulating its own entitlement to moral consideration; (2) if not, whether recognizing it as a moral person would facilitate the recognition of more paradigmatic instances of moral persons, or whether the failure so to recognize it would impede the recognition of more paradigmatic instances of moral persons; and (3) whether the entity’s moral personhood can be recognized without cancelling or substantially burdening the moral rights of paradigmatic instances
of moral persons. I argue that, applying this test, abortion is morally permissible, at least in the early stages of pregnancy when the vast majority of abortions occur anyway.
The Varieties of Religious Purpose
By James A. Montanye
This essay argues that economic scarcity, along with mankind’s evolved propensity for reciprocity, are keys to understanding the origins and evolution of Western religion in all its varieties and purposes. Scarcity is religion’s first cause uncaused. Eusocial cooperation and productive efficiency, which are
mobilized by religion, are shown to be inherent and rational responses to scarcity. The reformation that began around 1500 CE represents the substitution of efficient secular (civil) religions for traditional theological varieties. The balance between traditional and secular religions is determined by cost, benefits, and the structure of economic payoffs.
World-viewing Dialogues on Precarious Life: The Urgency of a New Existential, Spiritual, and Ethical Language in the Search for Meaning in Vulnerable life
By Christa Anbeek
In the last sixty years the West-European religious landscape has changed radically. People, and also religious and humanist communities, in a post-secular world are challenged to develop a new existential, ethical and spiritual language that fits to their global and pluralistic surroundings. This new world-viewing language could rise out of the reflection on contrast experiences, positive and negative disruptive experiences that question the everyday interpretations of life. The connection of these articulated reflections on contrast experiences with former world-viewing sources and practices with regard to precarious life could provide new meaning and orientation for individuals and communities. Four different sorts of dialogues can be distinguished, which together I call world-viewing dialogues: contrast experiences and the dialogue with oneself, contrast experiences discussed in small groups, contrast experiences and values in our nowadays society and contrast experiences in dialogue with philosophical and religious traditions from different cultures and ages.
By Teed Rockwell
Many modern theological debates are built around a false dichotomy between 1) an atheism which asserts that the universe was created by purposeless mechanical processes and 2) acceptance of a religious system which requires both faith in the infallibility of sacred texts and belief in a supernatural God. I propose a form of naturalistic theism, which rejects sacred texts as unjustified, and supernaturalism as incoherent. I argue that rejecting these two elements of traditional organized religion would have a strongly positive impact on the beliefs and practices of religion, even though many religious people feel strongly attached to them. It is belief in sacred texts that is responsible for
most of the evil done in the name of religion, not belief in God. Many of the strongest arguments for atheism work only against a supernatural God, and have no impact on the question of the existence of a natural God.
From Compulsive to Persuasive Agencies: Whitehead’s Case for Entertainment
By Myron Moses Jackson
Western societies currently face the backlash of violent and militant extremisms practiced in the form of tribalistic-phobocratic politics. The battleground is set between advocates of self-centeredness and those who entertain a world-centered self. To entertain concerns what Henri Bergson calls “zones of indetermination” and assumes A. N. Whitehead’s dictum: “in the real world it is more important that a proposition be interesting than that it be true. The importance of truth is, that it adds to interest” (1978 89, 92, 259). Cultural agencies, processes, and aims that we take an “interest” in have the power to be more influential, encouraging norms of persuasion. Such openness to the persuasion of entertainment is propositional in character, or acts as “lures for feeling” of proposals to be felt without mandates. The first section will discuss the way in which to take up the daunting task of reading Whitehead. The second and third sections will address those aspects pertinent to a philosophy of entertainment that present the cultural-aesthetic underpinnings for the emergence of persuasive agencies. The goal of cultivating tolerance and freedom for civilized societies hinges upon institutional methods and practices that are legitimated more by way of persuasive coercion rather than coercive persuasion.