Any caring human being asks the question What is the right thing to do? on a regular basis. As a philosophy professor who teaches ethics regularly, I am aware that in the minds of many, the whole purpose of thinking systematically and rigorously about the moral life is to provide reliable and confident answers to that very question. Moral philosophers from Immanuel Kant to Iris Murdoch, from Aristotle to Alasdair MacIntyre, have provided frameworks within which to answer the question. But… Read more

During the last third of the semester in my General Ethics class this semester, we will be considering first race, then gun violence. Although we sometime treat these as separate issues, they are often intimately connected. In the middle of a discussion not long ago on aspects of on of my blog posts, I noted that It is impossible it is for someone like me to know what it is like to be a person of color in our country…. Read more

God would have us know that we must live as people who manage our lives without God. Dietrich Bonhoeffer In my introductory ethics class, we are currently in the middle of a unit called “Does God Have Anything To Do With Ethics?” Perhaps it is a feature of teaching at a Catholic college, but I am frequently surprised by how many of my students are convinced that the only basis for being moral is belief in a God who will… Read more

A little over a year ago, as I dressed after working out, I had a brief conversation with a campus security guard who frequently chooses to torture himself at the gym around the same time as I do. He noted how much he was dreading Saint Patrick’s Day, which last year fell on a Friday. “I’ll be here dealing with drunk students for twelve hours,” he predicted. “It’s always the worst day of the year; on a Friday, it’s gong… Read more

Sports fans old enough to remember the 70s and 80s will recall that a regular occurrence at baseball or football games either in person or on television was, when the camera panned the stands, to see a person—often wearing a colorful fright wig—holding up a large homemade poster board sign with a cryptic reference that made sense only for initiates: John 3:16. I often imagined the confusion that many might have felt at this ubiquitous, almost subliminal communication, especially in… Read more

Dr. Seuss was a regular in our house when my sons were young—my thirty-something sons still occasionally mention how much they both loved Green Eggs and Ham in particular. Theodor Geisel’s creatively madcap work has occasionally made it into this blog over the past five years, from the star-bellied Sneetches in an early essay on heresy to the environmentally-minded Lorax during an on-campus controversy over the demise of a 150-year-old oak. The most recent Dr. Seuss classic to cross my… Read more

One of stories that was emphasized regularly in the Baptist Sunday school of my youth was Jesus’s apparent love of children from Matthew’s gospel. Actually, Matthew provides a couple of vignettes in back-to-back chapters that often get conflated. In response to the ubiquitous, “adult” questions about who is going to be greatest in the kingdom of heaven, Jesus uses a kid for a “show-and-tell” moment. Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter… Read more

Last Sunday’s gospel gives us John’s version of Jesus “going Brooklyn” on the moneychangers in the temple, a story that has often been used by Christians to justify anger (usually described as “righteous”). Several months ago, I wondered in this blog whether I might also use it to justify my hatred for Donald Trump. I find that hatred still simmering below the surface, and I’m still wondering if that makes me a bad Christian . . . Flannery O’Connor once… Read more

This coming week I will be starting a unit with my General Ethics students called “Does God Have Anything To Do With Ethics?” Among other things, I will be exposing my predominantly Catholic students to essays by atheists; they will be amazed to find how much they share in common . One of the texts we will be considering is from a series of interviews published by The New York Times a few years ago on its “Opinionator” blog.  In these… Read more

Today is my birthday, so I ask for your indulgence. Our culture tends to assume that with increased years comes increased wisdom, but as a Chinese philosopher once pointed out, some people just get older with the passage of time, and the wisdom thing never happens. With that in mind, here are a few things that, on my sixty-second birthday, I think I know to be true. 1. Some things never change: A Facebook friend reported the results of her… Read more

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