“Gratified By Humiliating and Dominating A Helpless Human Being”

The connection between conservative religiosity and greater proneness towards corporal punishment and authoritarian parenting styles in general is well known. But in contemporary American purity culture this can go to uncommon extremes. Michael Pearl’s well-read and oft-recommended book To Train Up A Child essentially teaches parents to aim to crush all willfulness, any hint of [Read More...]

Is The Use of Pepper Spray Torture?

Yesterday digby discussed various cases of the use of pepper spray to argue that it is obviously torture. Is it torture? If it is torture but in some cases it could foreseeably prevent an altercation with greater likelihood of long term physical damage could it be justified nonetheless?  Is it only unjustified when applied to non-violent [Read More...]

What A "War on Terror" Should Mean vs. What it Has Meant

Princeton’s emeritus philosophy professor Michael Walzer is co-editor of Dissent. He is not a George W. Bush yes-man. But he thinks that “war on terror” is a legitimate concept even as many leftish thinkers oppose it as a confusion. People argue that terrorism is a tactic, not a specific enemy you can target. In “Terrorism [Read More...]

The Religious Conservative’s False Choice: “Big Brother” Or “Heavenly Father”

In an e-mail to me, Caroline proposes thought provoking reasons for non-believers to encourage (or at least to not actively discourage) religious beliefs: It would also be nice if people would carry out actions in good conscience of just being decent human beings rather than in fear of reprisal in the afterlife, but as there [Read More...]

What Does It Mean For Pleasure And Pain To Be “Intrinsically Instrumental” Goods?

In reply to my post, Pleasure And Pain As Intrinsic Instrumental Goods, James objects: You are defining pleasure as intrinsic instrumental good. This is obviously not intrinsic goodness as I define it at all. Instrumental goodness is not intrinsic goodness. A successful pleasure instance is an intrinsically good instance of pleasure in-itself and for-itself, just for being [Read More...]

Pleasure And Pain As Intrinsic Instrumental Goods

In recent posts I have been arguing that there is one sense of the word “good” which can be analyzed in terms of facts and that this is the kind of “goodness” which we can consider a real part of the world.  This real, intrinsic, factual sense of goodness is its meaning as “effectiveness”. We [Read More...]

Philosophical Ethics: Can We Uphold A Moral Law And A Principle That We Should Break It?

In a series of posts this semester, I am going to blog all (or almost all) the lecture topics for the two Philosophical Ethics classes I am teaching this semester. Each of these posts will primarily explicate the reading or a theme that dominated class discussion in a way that should be accessible to novices [Read More...]

Philosophical Ethics: A Possible Kantian Formula For Determining The Permissibility Of Self-Defense

In a series of posts this semester, I am going to blog all (or almost all) the lecture topics for the two Philosophical Ethics classes I am teaching this semester. Each of these posts will primarily explicate the reading or a theme that dominated class discussion in a way that should be accessible to novices [Read More...]

Influential Iranian Imam Supports Interrogations Using Rape

The following quotes from Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, with whom Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is said to “regularly consult,”  are graphic, sickening, and devastating to anyone with a conscience.  Read at your own discretion: Asked if a confession obtained “by applying psychological, emotional and physical pressure” was “valid and considered credible according to Islam,” Mesbah-Yazdi [Read More...]


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