• Abortion,  Ethics,  Personhood

    If Rights, Then God.

    Victor Reppert’s reconstruction of the Roe v. Wade argument is illuminating: There is a constitutionally guaranteed right of privacy, of which we can be certain. In the case of abortion, the right of privacy must prevail unless there is a countervailing right of which we can be certain, such as the fetus’s right to life. This protects a woman’s right to consult with her doctor and decide whether or not to get an abortion. Just as it is a violation of privacy rights to make birth control illegal, it violates privacy right to prohibit abortion, unless a countervailing right can be established. But the fetus’s right to life cannot be…

  • Ethics

    Normativity and Motivation

    According to Christine Korsgaard, there is a distinction between explanatory and normative adequacy for a moral theory. In a really interesting passage, Korsgaard asks us to think from two points of view – a third person point of view and a first-person point of view. She then takes a standard evolutionary explanation of moral obligation and asks us to consider its truth from both points of view: Suppose someone proposes a moral theory which gives morality a genetic basis. Let’s call this ‘the evolutionary theory’. According to the evolutionary theory, right actions are those which promote the preservation of the species, and wrong actions are those which are detrimental to…

  • Epistemology,  Ethics

    Legal Nativism?

    Over at Law and Liberty, John McGinnis favorably quotes legal scholar Harold Berman. Berman apparently told The Fulton County Daily Report (although, I can’t for the life of me find the quotation in its original context): A child says, ‘It’s my toy.’ That’s property law. A child says, ‘You promised me.’ That’s contract law. A child says, ‘He hit me first.’ That’s criminal law. A child says, ‘Daddy said I could.’ That’s constitutional law. McGinnis finds strong support for Berman’s claims in the developemt in of his own daughter: “As my daughter turns two this week, nothing has been more remarkable to this law professor than her already intense relation with rules, vindicating…

  • Ethics,  Language,  Politics

    Generous Interpretation – The Bedrock of Good Relations

    Relationships only work when we generally impute good motives to the speakers of sentences. Due to the nature of natural human languages, vagueness and ambiguity are inevitable in speech. Every-day talk is not supposed to be precise. But it works well because we assume the best of other people. At least in public discourse in America, this assumption is no longer true. It seems we assume the worst motives in other people (at least of those whose political opinions are not the same as our own). Even when we agree with them, we appear unable to impute good motives to our opponents (let alone when we disagree). One’s policy in…

  • Bible,  Ethics,  Logic

    Logic and Obligations

    Jason Lisle argues that we have a moral obligation to be logical: “Thinking rightly is not optional… It is something God requires of us.” His argument is as follows: To think logically is to think – in a sense – like God thinks. And, by definition, to be logical is to reason correctly. This makes sense when we consider that God always thinks correctly. God is the ultimate standard of correctness. So if you want to think about a particular topic correctly, you must think about it in the same basic way that God does. The argument depends on what it means to think about something ‘in the same basic…

  • Ethics,  Language,  Philosophy of Linguistics

    Sentence Conscience?

    In Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace, Williams and Bizup present several pairs of sentences and invite the reader to consider which of the two he prefers. Here is an example: A: Once upon a time, as a walk through the woods was taking place on the part of Little Red Riding Hood, the Wolf’s jump out from behind a tree occurred, causing her fright. B: Once upon a time, Little Red Riding Hood was walking through the woods, when the wolf jumped out from behind a tree and frightened her. B is clearly better than A even though both sentences are, strictly speaking, grammatically correct. What is interesting is how…

  • Ethics,  Language,  Philosophy of Language

    Pronounambulation

    My paper can no more make an argument than my computer can hope for a Cubs win. People write papers and in those papers people express propositions in sentences that constitute arguments. ‘I’ is the first person pronoun and I use it to refer to myself, the person writing the paper. If I want to tell you something I am going to do in my paper, I will tell you that I will be the one doing it: “In this paper, I will argue…” ‘One’ is a personal pronoun referring to anyone to which some property or other might apply. If I say, ‘one might argue ~q’, I am referring to…

  • Bible,  Ethics

    The Folly of Violence

    It only takes two people to start a bar brawl. Someone knocks over a beer, the guy hits him, and soon everyone is fighting.  Violence always spreads and there is only one thing that you and I can do that stops it: We must not join in.  No matter how angry one might feel about a situation, joining a violent gang is not the answer. Yet many will be tempted. Fueled by foolish rhetoric, irresponsible journalism, and insecure governance, some will go from spectators to participants. And what began as an isolated scrap will turn into a national brawl.  The only way to stop the spread is not to join in. …