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Robin Attfield

This work defends an interrelated set of theses in value-theory, normative ethics and meta-ethics. The three Parts correspond to these three areas.
Part One (Value) defends a biocentric theory of moral standing, and then the coherence and objectivity of belief in intrinsic value, despite recent objections. Intrinsic value is located in the flourishing of living creatures; specifically, a neo-Aristotelian, species-relative account is supplied of wellbeing or flourishing, in terms of the development of the essential capacities of one's species. There follows a theory of priorities, or of relative intrinsic value, in which the satisfaction of basic needs takes priority over other needs and over wants, and the interests of complex and sophisticated creatures over those of others, where they are at stake.
Part Two defends a practice-consequentialist theory of the criteria of rightness and of obligation, which leaves room for supererogation, underpins our intuitions about justice, commends population growth only where it is genuinely desirable, and responds better than act-consequentialism to objections like that concerned with the separateness of persons. Part Three sifts meta-ethical theories, rejects moral relativism, and defends a cognitivist and naturalist meta-ethic. In defending analytical naturalism, it takes into account the latest literature on supervenience.
By responding to recent discussions, this study supersedes my Theory of Value and Obligation (1987). It is equipped with detailed end-notes and an ample bibliography, which could prove a research tool of itself.

Series:

William Gerber

The book analyzes, synthesizes, and evaluates the insights of the world's outstanding thinkers, prophets, and literary masters on the good, the morally right, and the lovely (part one); the question whether the world operates on the basis of such universal laws as the logos, the tao, and the principle of polarity (part two); what there is and isn't in the world, including such categories as existence, reality, being, and nonbeing (part three); and pre-eminently credible and enriching beliefs about truth, wisdom, and what it all means (part four).
Emphasis is placed on the divergent views of such intellectual giants as Confucius and Laotse in ancient China; the classical Hindu philosophers from ancient times to Gandhi and Tagore; patriarchs and prophets quoted in Scripture; Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle; Saints Augustine and Thomas Aquinas in the Middle Ages; Descartes, Spinoza, Locke, Hume, and Kant; and nineteenth- and twentieth-century luminaries such as Bentham, Mill, Peirce, James, Dewey, Sartre, and Wittgenstein.
The differences and resemblances of their cogitations are portrayed as a conversation of the ages on questions of persistent concern.

Series:

Daniel Statman and Avi Sagi

Religion and Morality seeks to answer two fundamental questions regarding the relation between religion and morality. The first is the puzzle posed by Socrates, the so-called ' Euthyphro dilemma', which asks: is morality valuable by virtue of its intrinsic importance and worth, or is morality valuable because, and only because, God approves it and commands us to follow its dictates? The second question is raised by Kierkegaard in Fear and Trembling. He asks: Is a conflict between religion and morality possible? Does God ever demand that we neglect our moral commitments? The discussion on these questions is divided into three parts. In the first two parts, we discuss the idea that morality depends on religion. The authors distinguish two types of dependence: strong dependence, according to which the very existence, or validity, of moral obligations depends on God's command, and weak dependence, according to which though morality itself is independent of God, God (or belief in God) is necessary to enable human beings to know their moral duties and to carry them out. The authors reject the strong dependence thesis, as well as most versions of the weak dependence. The third part of the book discusses different versions of the view that religion might conflict with morality. The authors reject this view, and show that very few religious thinkers would follow it all the way through to its ultimate consequences. The book has implications for the philosophy of religion, in its emphasis on the centrality of the moral element in religion, and for moral philosophy, in its highlighting, among other things, of the nature of moral judgments.

Kevin Behrens

I explore themes in sub-Saharan African thought that entail both interspecific and intergenerational justice. Citing a pervasive African belief that all of nature is interrelated, and that humans are required to live harmoniously with the rest of nature, I argue that strong anthropocentrism is rejected, and that some sense of a requirement to promote justice between species is implied. I also claim that the widespread veneration of ancestors among African peoples assumes a relational continuity between generations, implying that current generations are responsible for those in the future and have clear moral obligations towards them. Whilst Western philosophy has struggled to account theoretically for moral obligations towards future generations, and the very notion remains disputed, African thought regards such obligations as obvious and incontestable. I argue that a theory of intergenerational justice grounded in African thought could, at most, be only weakly anthropocentric, because of the fundamental belief that all natural entities are interrelated. This implies a sense of intergenerational justice that must necessarily also include interspecific justice. On these grounds, moral agents have obligations not just to future generations of humans, but to future generations of other species, too. I claim that African thought regards intergenerational moral obligation as so obvious and basic a duty, that it could easily be conceived of in terms of rights. On this African view, the current set of agreed international rights is woefully incomplete without the inclusion of the rights of future generations. Finally, I investigate the implications for international policy and environmental justice if such rights were agreed to by the international community.

Geir Henning Presterudstuen

Ancestral spirits and ghosts have always been prominent in the indigenous Fijian pantheon, folklore and everyday beliefs. In these narratives their presence have not always been perceived threatening or negatively. In fact, ancestral spirits were often perceived as integral to the social equilibrium and protectors of tradition to the extent that they have been used discursively to affirm ethno-political demands and lend legitimacy to both traditional and political leaders until quite recently. In contemporary Fiji, however, ghosts are increasingly constructed as more sinister, violent and foreboding catastrophe. A key shift in these discourses appears to be that the presence of a ghost signifies spiritual pollution and a threat to the community; problems that can only be solved by intense praying and spiritual cleansing. This recent change in the cultural construction of spirits is, I suggest, associated with the growth of Pentecostalism and the increasingly fundamental nature of dominant religious discourse in Fiji. These movements discursively create pre-Christian Fijian traditions and cultural expressions as anti-Christian, and often advocate that a radical break with all pre-modern beliefs and cultural expressions is a necessity for the well-being of the vanua (the community and the land). The reconstruction of ghosts and spirits, from useful and potentially good forces of the land to evil enemies of health and wellbeing, thus highlights an intensification of the perceived opposition between Fiji’s pre-Christian customs and devotion to the Christian god. By looking at ghosts and spirits as cultural signifiers I thus suggest that constructions of the monstrous are a particular strategy communities use to deal with the dialectics of tradition and modernity. In more general terms, I use ethnographic examples to show how monsters and spirits can change appearance and meaning in new contexts, but also how these shifts impact localised discourses about belonging and identity.

Robin L. Fetherston

On top of a file cabinet in my office in Doha, Qatar, sits a cardboard box of trinkets and bookmaking supplies, and buried somewhere in it is a sliver of wood covered in transparent tape on both sides. I found the splinter embedded in the outer weave of my purse the morning after a suicide bomber destroyed the theatre in which eight colleagues and I were sitting as we watched a rendition of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. I keep it as a memento of escaping the danger of that night – for I pulled it out of my purse rather than what could have been my eye. But to focus only on the relief of escaping relatively unharmed on March 19, 2005, fails to do justice to the complexities of survivorship. My creative nonfiction essay describes the impact of a single act of terrorism on one group of expatriate academic colleagues and the varying and similar ways in which we responded. It observes that while people may survive a bombing, no one remains undamaged. It seeks to explain why in contrast to those farther away from the incident, these nine academics whose ideas and beliefs covered a wide spectrum of religion and non-religion intuitively refrained from using the word evil when discussing the Egyptian suicide bomber or his act – how the descriptors of language failed us. And it discusses how the bombing revealed to us our Edenic dreams of Doha as a safe haven in the Middle East, while simultaneously blasting them away, and what new perceptions emerged from that disillusioning.

David B. Feldman, Ian C. Fischer and Robert A. Gressis

It is commonly believed that religious convictions moderate death anxiety and aid in coping with loss. However, scant research addresses this issue. We detail the results of an empirical study comparing religious believers and non-believers on measures of death anxiety and grief. More precisely, we investigated the relationships between certain religious beliefs (e.g., specific views of God and extrinsic vs. intrinsic religiosity) and levels of fear and acceptance of death, as well as both painful grief reactions to losses and grief-related growth (e.g., deepening relationships with others, discovering new views of life, etc.). A total of 101 participants from across the U.S. were surveyed, including individuals with an array of ages (19 to 57), education levels, and ethnicities. About half professed religious or spiritual belief, and 71 participants lost a loved one in the last 10 years. Those with some form of belief did not demonstrate lower levels of death anxiety. They did, however, display higher levels of certain types of death acceptance. Additionally, those who professed some form of religious belief, in comparison to those who did not, tended to have lower levels of grief and greater levels of grief-related growth. Those believers who viewed God as warm and interested in their lives (versus more distant) had significantly lower levels of personal fear of death. Similarly, those with high intrinsic religious motivation (seeing religious participation as a valuable goal in itself, rather than instrumental to achieving other goals) reported lower levels of fear of death and higher levels of death acceptance. In short, though religious belief appears to matter in general with regard to death anxiety, and grief, the specifics of those beliefs further nuance how religion is connected with people’s reactions to human mortality.