This book seems really dated at this point, but its still a good resource for teachers insofar as it presents some of the relevant primary source mateThis book seems really dated at this point, but its still a good resource for teachers insofar as it presents some of the relevant primary source material and some important early essays in this debate. I would not recommend purchasing the book for a course but there is some stuff that can be be culled from this and presented in current class discussion (or that might serve as useful background reading for professors)....more
This book deals with the philosophical, social, and ethical issues that arise with the advent of genetic knowledge and technology. It would be a greatThis book deals with the philosophical, social, and ethical issues that arise with the advent of genetic knowledge and technology. It would be a great book for an introductory course dealing with these issues, because it is remarkably easy to read and follow. ...more
Glover wants to understand why human beings are so awful to one another. Although his attempts to answer the question may be part of the explanation,Glover wants to understand why human beings are so awful to one another. Although his attempts to answer the question may be part of the explanation, they are unconvincing as the whole explanation. He lays down an awful lot of blame in this book, but in the end, he does not have the resources to say why eugenics, to take one example, is wrong. He just assumes that his reader will agree with him that it is (which also shows that the book, as well as the sensibilities of the author, is dated).
The hardest questions about the twentieth century are left unaddressed. For instance, where is the discussion of the fact that the major atheist regimes were all openly murderous regimes? Where is the grappling with secularism and the rise of scientific humanism as a factor in this depressing moral history? At the end, Glover tells us patly that we need only see one another as humans. How he could come to such a simplistic conclusion at the end of this detailed analysis of war, murder, and genocide is mysterious but telling. And he does not seem equipped to deal with the possibility of "post" or "trans" humanism either. Appeals to human dignity are utterly empty when they are ungrounded or based in appeals to intuition, which are as unstable as they are divergent across cultures.
Perhaps the best book I have ever read on virtue, and perhaps relatedly, the best defense of the unity of the virtues thesis I have ever encountered.Perhaps the best book I have ever read on virtue, and perhaps relatedly, the best defense of the unity of the virtues thesis I have ever encountered.
The back cover of this book tells of its inevitable fate: it will be read and cherished by social conservatives, and ignored by almost everyone else.The back cover of this book tells of its inevitable fate: it will be read and cherished by social conservatives, and ignored by almost everyone else. For its there we find the predictable accolades from conservative columnists and television personalities, and the total absence of commentary or even acknowledgment from what the author herself calls the "mainstream, secular media." I was able to find reviews in traditionally conservative dailies and news magazines, but nothing in their left-leaning counterparts, apart from a mention by Douthat in the Times, which appears to have given it no real traction elsewhere. This is not helped by the fact that the book is published by Ignatius, the go-to press for traditionally minded Catholics. Of course, I don't know if that was the result of a principled choice or just where the book eventually landed, but I think it would have been better served coming out of a press that at least attempts to appeal to a wider audience. For this is a book whose provocative theses deserve widespread discussion.
What are the paradoxes of the sexual revolution that intrigue and humor Eberstadt the most? First and foremost, I think, is her claim that despite the fact that the left can claim the majority of the intelligenstia globally, there is a kind of willful ignorance on its part when it comes to critically and rationally assessing its own sacred cows and dogmas. She puts the will to disbelieve or even acknowledge the reality of the negative consequences of the sexual revolution on a par with the will to disbelieve the negative consequences of communism in a previous generation. Second is her claim that contraception and the revolution in sexual mores it allowed was supposed to benefit women and make them happier. But all the empirical, anecdotal, and cultural evidence, she argues, points to the opposite conclusion. Third, she notes that as we have become more liberationist about sex we have become increasingly puritanical about moralistic about food. And finally, she notes that although it has become the most universally execrated moral document of the twentieth century, Humanae Vitae is the encyclical whose moral claims and warnings are most born out by the literature in the empirical social sciences: that is, by actual empirical facts. And, in fact, it is true that all the negative global consequences that Pope Paul VI worried about in that document have come to fruition, in many cases more dramatically and disastrously than the Pope had dared to envision.
Of course, there will be rejoinders to all of these claims, and those rejoinders would no doubt be interesting and worth engaging. But we will never know, I think, because it appears as though the book will largely be ignored, in accordance with its first stated paradox. Ironically, then, the left's indifference to the book, while regrettable, is in large part its intellectual vindication.
I have been teaching the marriage debate in my philosophy class, and previously I had been relying on Evan Wolfson's book. Having finished this book,I have been teaching the marriage debate in my philosophy class, and previously I had been relying on Evan Wolfson's book. Having finished this book, I am now kicking myself for using Wolfson. Rauch is so much more thoughtful, so much more serious, and so much more enjoyable. For one thing, he doesn't attempt to demonize his opponent (this makes him closer to Corvino than Wolfson or other authors). For another, he gets the arguments right, and he engages them forcefully. Sadly, this is rare. Perhaps I can just sum up what it manages not to be (in contrast to so many of its counterparts): Its not hysterical, not moralizing, not ad hominem, and not cheap and dirty. He doesn't rely on emotional ploys or gimmicks.
There are moments, of course, when he is not fair, and when he can't help himself. HIs worst moments are his attempts to engage the Aristotelians. He just can't imagine taking Aristotelian teleology as morally significant. But his hardly makes him unique.
Of course, there is much in here for many different camps to disagree with. But having recently slogged through so much crap on this topic, this book stands out for its clarity and force of argument. ...more
Philosophically, this book is predictably a bit of a mess. But it would be a mistake to evaluate it as such (despite the author's (or his agent's) prePhilosophically, this book is predictably a bit of a mess. But it would be a mistake to evaluate it as such (despite the author's (or his agent's) pretensions). I was surprised by how compelling I found his discussion of the grotesque and frankensteinesque nature of factory farming. We've all seen the pictures and the videos, which honestly do very little to move me, so it says something that Foer's writing had an impact on my conscience. It did. But that impact was limited, and I'm not going to change my eating habits as a result of reading it.
First things first. Foer convincingly argues that factory farming is really awful and terrible. But here's the trouble: we all already knew that. Maybe there were some educated folks out there who didn't, but my guess is that the segment of the population who remains unaware of the horrors of factory farming is identical to the segment of the population who has no idea who Jonathan Safran Foer is. So there is a question about why this book was written that Foer does not manage to answer satisfactorily.
Second, I wonder what the point is of criticizing factory farming apart from a critique of global capitalism. Foer might as well have written a book about your clothes, the computer or phone you are currently starting into as you read this, or who you voted for this year. Because all of those choices involved the very real and systematic oppression of actual human beings across the globes, let alone chickens or turkeys. The hand wringing over the fates of chickens (while important) has always struck me as patently absurd when compared to what happens to children and adults all over the world so you can wear your gap chinos or buy your hershey's chocolate. Foer might say he cares about them as well, but that animal suffering is either more important or something we have more "consumer power" with respect to. Both of those claims strike me as obviously false.
Third, it is beyond absurd to suggest that becoming a vegetarian suddenly makes your food choices more "ethical" or "humane." We all know that most vegetables on offer are brought to market by a veritable form of slavery (if you were unaware of this, do yourself a favor and google "migrant workers" and "tomatoes"). Foer does not even bother to mention this, let alone have an honest discussion about it.
Foer is a good writer, and Everything is Illuminated is a delightful novel. But as a moral theorist Foer leaves much to be desired. ...more
This book is further evidence that feminists can't decide what they think about porn. According to this author, sure sex is fun and doesn't have to beThis book is further evidence that feminists can't decide what they think about porn. According to this author, sure sex is fun and doesn't have to be linked to procreation and marriage, but she still finds our porn culture horrific. She tries to give a variety of reasons--distorted views about what "normal" sex looks like, distorted ideas about women and what pleases them, relationship and marriage troubles, etc. I think I would find these to be genuine problems had the author bothered to give an account of what "normal" sex is--what its proper form and function are, for instance. But of course, she has no such account. She has some bare bones feminist ideals, but she really has no reason for being put off by porn other than the fact that it is addictive, it appeals to the worst side of men and women (but again, without explaining why), and that it harms kids. But one could say the same thing about television, violent video games, etc.
It's clear that the author does have a problem with casual sex, though she isn't willing to be honest about this. It's also clear that the author is unsure why she is against this.
Another problem I had with this book is that it relies heavily upon anecdotal evidence which seems to prove that porn has ruined some people's lives. But that hardly seems like writing a book about, since almost anything can ruin almost anyone's lives if they use it poorly enough.
I think the only truly compelling chapter in this book is the one dealing with child pornography and children's exposure to porn. This is something that "pro-porn feminists" refuse to take on, and the author rightfully chastises them for it.
Janet Smith takes on the thankless task of explaining and defending Humanae Vitae. This is still required reading for anyone who wishes to understandJanet Smith takes on the thankless task of explaining and defending Humanae Vitae. This is still required reading for anyone who wishes to understand this maligned encyclical....more
I was hoping that this book was going to present a more philosophical treatment of non-monogamy, but that is definitely not the author's intentions. TI was hoping that this book was going to present a more philosophical treatment of non-monogamy, but that is definitely not the author's intentions. This is a self-help guide if you think that a good human life has lots of sex with lots of people (with a healthy dose of ad hominem attacks against anyone who does not share the author's ideas about sex and relationships). As a moral philosopher, I would simply note that the author's idea of what is "ethical" leaves much to be desired. Apparently you are "ethical" if you think about what you do and why you do it, focus on yourself (and in particular, your own pleasures and needs), devise methods for dealing with guilt, shame, and other bothersome emotions, and try your best not to trespass the autonomy of others, or hurt anyone's feelings (unless of course, the other is one of those pesky "prudes"--totally OK to attack them indiscriminately). Being ethical in the author's sense involves constant "re-programming" so that you don't feel the way most human beings inevitably feel about relationships It's an amazingly individualist and hedonist conception of human life, unsurprisingly. But again, philosophically, there really isn't anything here. ...more
This is a decent summary of the case for marriage equality. Wolfson argues persuasively that if we accept the legal and moral arguments that have ledThis is a decent summary of the case for marriage equality. Wolfson argues persuasively that if we accept the legal and moral arguments that have led us to no-fault divorce, marriage rights for prisoners, rights for women, and the right to privacy when determining our sexual conduct, then marriage equality makes sense and marriage discrimination does not make sense. His case would have been strengthened, however, if he had a single argument for his conception of marriage as primarily a romantic/sexual union between two consenting adults who may or may not adopt/or somehow create children outside that sexual relationship. This is, for him, a given (and, to his credit, it is a conception that is backed by the courts time and again). But notice that it simply begs the question against his opponent, who will deny this, and it would have been nice if he had taken up the issue more directly. Surely there is a case to be made that this is the correct way to think about marriage, if it is in fact the correct way. And that leads me to my other complaint. Wolfson does not have the intellectual discipline to avoid ad hominem attacks. This is not surprising given the way the gay rights movement has gone--in stark contrast, by the way, to the civil rights movement it claims for itself--but its still deeply regrettable. He calls his opponents mean, vicious, hating, irrational, prudish, and yes, totalitarian. Again, this is all to the detriment of an otherwise compelling legal and moral argument.
I am currently teaching this book in my disputed moral issues class. One thing this books makes especially clear, and that I harp on with my students again and again, is that when we argue our case based on conventional ideas, we have to be willing to call those conventional ideas into question. Wolfson relies too heavily on the now conventional idea that marriage is primarily about romantic/erotic love that is not in any special way connected to the family (i.e., that being a spouse is not meaningfully tied to being a parent). He tacitly relies on moral categories of right and wrong, just and unjust, but his arguments tend to bottom out in the claim that this is in fact how things are. That slide between the descriptive and the normative is too casual, and it is one of the reasons this "debate" can be so frustrating. ...more