Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Ethics of Pornography (Part 2)

(Part One)

This post is the second in my brief series on the ethics of pornography. The series works off the pair of essays on this topic in the book Contemporary Debates in Applied Ethics . We are currently going through Andrew Altman’s “pro”-pornography essay. As we saw the last day, Altman argues that the more general right to sexual autonomy entails (perhaps only weakly) the right to produce and access pornography. Although, he makes the case by way of analogy with the right to access and produce contraceptives, or the right to engage in premarital sex.

We closed the last post by briefly considering the counterargument to Altman’s view. This counterargument can be briefly stated as follows (numbering builds upon what was established in the previous post):

  • (4) People have a right to do X if and only if X does not cause harm to others.
  • (5) Pornography causes harm to others.
  • (3*) Therefore, people do not have a right to produce and access pornography.

The key to this, of course, is premise (5). What reason do we have to think that pornography causes harm to others? That’s what we’re going to focus on today.

1. Does Pornography cause Sexual Violence against Women?
A common rejoinder to the proponent of a right to pornography is the following. Pornography can often depict situations involving sexual violence against women. And even if no one is actually harmed during the filming or photographing of such scenes (a topic to which we shall return), it could still be the case that viewing such material increases the likelihood of certain viewers carrying out similar acts of violence against women. To put it more pithily: there could be an indirect causal link between pornography and sexual violence. And since sexual violence is indubitably a kind of harm, it would follow that pornography would cause harm to others.

Now you’ll note the liberal use of “woulds” and “coulds” in the previous paragraph. So far, this argument is strictly hypothetical because we don’t know whether the indirect causal link actually exists. At this point, some empirical evidence is required. Unfortunately, when this happens — and when the topic is beyond my area of expertise — I begin to despair. The fact is, I have no real idea of where the evidence points on this one. All I can do is tell you what Altman says.

So what does he say? He says that the available evidence does not support the existence of any robust causal link between viewing pornography and sexual violence. In reaching this conclusion, he is particularly influenced by the work of Joseph Slade in his 2001 book Pornography and Sexual Representation . Slade says that some existing studies show weak links, while others show no links, and still others suggest an inverse relationship between pornography and sexual violence. This seems like an area where good meta-analyses are needed. Does anyone reading this know of any?

Altman makes a couple of other supporting observations. One is that if this is the kind of argument you’re going to make, then there is no reason to single out pornography for special treatment: other types of violent media probably have similar effects, why not ban them too? Of course, this kind of rhetorical ploy could easily backfire: someone could go ahead and bite the bullet and argue that we need to ban all violent media. But let’s assume the ploy works as Altman wants it to, does it follow that we should not restrict pornography? Not necessarily; it could be that sexual violence is particularly problematic and particularly worthy of precautionary treatment. I’d be willing to pursue that line of argument, but fortunately Altman touches upon it by discussing the potential concerns about pornography and the subordination of women. We’ll talk about that next. Before we do though, let’s summarise the argument so far as a pair of premises:

  • (5.1) Men who view violent pornography are more likely to engage in sexual violence.
  • (6) Evidence of a connection between pornography and violence is not robust.

We’ll be plugging these into the argument map at the end.

2. Does Pornography Contribute to Sexual Inequality
Here’s a second line of reasoning in support of premise (5): Pornography often displays women in humiliating and degrading positions. As a result, it influences the attitudes of those who use pornography towards women. It encourages them to see women as sexual objects, sources of gratification, things to played with then disregarded; it does not encourage them to treat women as moral equals. This is probably bad in itself, but it is certainly exacerbated when it takes place within a society that is already struggling to shake off the shackles of sexism. So:

  • (5.2) Pornography degrades and subordinates women, and thereby contributes to a society that degrades and subordinates women.

Altman is even less impressed by this claim than he is by the claimed link between violence and pornography. First off, he thinks there is little reason to conclude that the sexual acts depicted in pornography are inherently degrading. And second, he says there is very little evidence to suggest that open access to pornography is correlated with subordination and sexism in society at large, let alone causally-linked to it. It seems like Altman is on reasonably strong grounds here: correlational evidence suggests that the most sexually inhibited societies, the one’s with the least liberal policies on pornography (Saudi Arabia is mentioned) are the ones where women suffer the most.

  • (7) Evidence suggests that societies with open access to pornography are better places for women to live.

While this looks like a strong point, I wonder if we are yet to see the full social impact of the widespread availability of pornography in modern liberal societies. The internet has only really begun to dominate how we access information in the past ten years. And it has resulted in the near-universal access to pornography. This allows people of all ages to access pornography on an unprecedented scale. So I’d be on the lookout for more data on this in the future.

3. Does the Porn-Industry Harm Women?
A third, and for now final, way in which to support premise (5) is to say something like the following: Some (many?) women who participate in the production of pornographic material are harmed in the process of making it. This harm can range from straightforward criminal coercion, to more subtle forms of psychological harm. Thus, even if it is true that some (or many) women who do participate in the production of pornographic material are not harmed, there is still reason to restrict it.

  • (5.3) Women who participate in the pornographic industry are harmed.

Altman responds to this by pointing out the obvious fact that women (or rather, people in general) are harmed by the practices within all sorts of industries. And once again this kind of harm ranges from the straightforwardly criminal to the subtle and psychological. Thus, there is no particular reason to single out pornography for special treatment in this regard: if there are laws or regulations being violated, then prosecutions should ensue; if there is psychological harm, counseling or more information should be provided so as to allow for informed choice; if financial necessity is forcing people to work in the industry when they would rather not, assistance should be given. In other words:

  • (8) There are rights violations in all industries; there are ways of dealing with these problems other than through the banning of pornography.

This allows us to provide the following argument map:

4. Concluding Thoughts
That brings us to the end of the discussion of Altman’s essay. I close with a couple of thoughts of my own. As I read through Altman’s piece, one question continued to gnaw at me: granting that there is some kind of right to pornography, does it follow that there should be open access to pornographic material?

The answer would appear to be an obvious “no”. And I certainly don’t think Altman thought any differently. The basic impression I got from him was that the current legal position is probably fine and that pornography should only be available to sexually mature adults. But I was struck by the possibility of more creative (and restrictive) forms of access. For instance, I toyed with the idea of a “pornography licence” which, much like how a gun licence operates in my own country, would only allow people who meet certain criteria to access pornography. I thought that, if there was a provable link between pornography and certain kinds of harm, this might be a reasonable compromise position.

But then another thought struck me: the internet has so revolutionised how we access information, and has made all kinds of information so easily available, that this would probably be impossible. And yet the fact that it is impossible to prevent a certain class of behaviours can't really be a good reason to stop trying to do so. The internet has also probably made it impossible to eliminate child pornography and terrorist conspiratorialising, but that doesn't mean we should stop trying to eliminate those things.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Ethics of Pornography (Part 1)

In the event that the title to this post draws in some new visitors — and if I know anything about the internet, I think it might — I feel a warning is in order: There will be no titillation in these posts; just dry philosophical analysis of the arguments for and against pornography. Well, maybe not “dry” — I like to think my writing has some fluidity to it — but definitely analytical. If that’s not your cup of tea, you should probably go elsewhere.

Still here? Good, let’s get down to business.

Continuing with my reading through Contemporary Debates in Applied Ethics, in this next series of posts I’m going to take a look at the pair of essays on the ethics of pornography. First up is Andrew Altman’s pro-pornography essay “The Right to Get Turned On: Pornography, Autonomy and Equality”. In it, Altman defends the right to pornography on the grounds of the more general right to sexual autonomy. Altman’s essay wins a prize for being the only academic piece I’ve ever read that features the phrase: “Multiple penetration also seems inherently innocuous.” Whether that’s a good or bad thing, I leave to you to decide.

1. Sexual Autonomy and Pornography
Traditionally (in the US, at any rate), the debate over pornography has been couched in terms of freedom of speech: pornography is viewed as a form of expression, and as a form of expression it is entitled to legal protection. This way of framing the debate has been criticised over the years — perhaps most dramatically by Catharine MacKinnon in her work Only Words — and it perhaps is to Altman’s credit that he rejects this framing device. He argues, instead, that the right to produce and access pornography is part and parcel of a more general liberal right to sexual autonomy.

We can summarise his basic argument as follows:

  • (1) People have a right to sexual autonomy, i.e. to develop and explore their sexual identities as they see fit.
  • (2) If people have a right to sexual autonomy, then they have a right to produce and access pornographic materials.
  • (3) Therefore, people have a right to produce and access pornographic materials.

I think it’s safe to say that the basic idea of a right to sexual autonomy is safe enough, and so premise (1) is secure. What’s really at issue here is the justification of premise (2). Why assume that the right to sexual autonomy entails a right to produce and access pornographic materials?

Altman uses analogical reasoning in support of (2). He says that the right to produce and access pornography is much like the right to produce and access contraceptives, and so if the latter is part of the right to sexual autonomy, then so too is the former. Similar analogies are drawn between the right to engage is premarital sex and homosexual activity.

I’m not sure that this is the most persuasive way to make the case for (2). I feel like the following two reasons, when combined, might make a better case for (2):

  • (2.1) Pornography is an important part of the development and exploration of sexual identity; and
  • (2.2) There is a general presumption against restriction of activity in a liberal society.

A couple of things should be noted about these premises. First, note how (2.1) does not say that pornography is an essential part of sexual identity. If it said that, and if that was true, then (2) would be fully supported without the need for (2.2). The reason it doesn’t say that is that it might not be true. In other words, there might be plenty of reasons to think that sexual identity could be developed and explored in a sufficiently robust way in a world without ready access to pornography. Still, the weaker version seems sound: pornography probably does help a significant number of people to develop their sexual identities.

How about (2.2)? Well, the idea is that when combined with (2.1) it should make a pretty good case for the right to pornography. There are, however, two problems with it. For one thing, it speaks only of a “presumption” against restrictions. That presumption can be rebutted. We will talk about this in more detail below. For another thing, it presumes that we want to live in a liberal society. That’s something that many traditional critics of sexual autonomy reject. Such critics tend to worry about the social disintegration and degradation that results from overly liberal attitudes. Fortunately, this traditionalist critique has much in common with standard liberal and feminist critiques of pornography and so we can consider them jointly. We turn to that task below.

2. The Basic Argument Against Pornography
Altman’s basic argument in favour of pornography has an obvious flaw: rights are never absolute. As mentioned above, people’s activities can be restricted under certain circumstances. The key is to know which circumstances. The general rule, made famous by JS Mill, is that people’s activities can be restricted whenever they cause harm to others. Now, although there is always some dispute over what is covered by the word “harm”, in the present context we will assume that harm arises when someone is physically abused or suffers a set back to important life interests.

That allows us to craft the following argument against pornography:

  • (4) People have a right to do X if and only if X does not cause harm to others.
  • (5) Pornography causes harm to others.

I won’t write in the proper conclusion here. It’s relatively obvious that when combined these premises lead to the rejection of (3) and that’s what’s illustrated in the argument map below.

When it comes to the evaluation of this argument, I think we can safely set premise (4) to one side: even if there are conceptual problems with the harm principle, I suspect that very few people would argue that harm to others is not a legitimate reason to restrict individual autonomy. Consequently, I think premise (5) is where the controversy may be expected to lie. Critics of pornography have identified a number of ways in which pornography causes harm (primarily to women). Altman considers three of them. We will look at them the next day.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Updated: Posts on Common Sense Atheism (Index)

As no doubt many of my readers know, I have been doing a series of posts on Luke Muehlhauser's excellent blog commonsenseatheism.com. I've been thinking that I should provide a link to these. So here it is.

I may as well take the opportunity to say that reading Luke's blog inspired me to start up Philosophical Disquisitions. I enjoy his substantive, yet accessible discussions of philosophy and his excellent podcast.

It was quite an honour when he asked me to contribute to his blog and I would like to thank him for that.

Anyway, enough flattery.

My posts on CSA are similar to those here and are designed to provide readable introductions to articles on the contemporary philosophy of religion. I'll keep this updated.

On Erik Baldwin's "Can the Extended A/C Model Provide a Defeater for Basic Christian Belief"

On Paul Draper's "Pain and Pleasure: An Evidential Problem for Theists"

Saturday, July 9, 2011

PD Episode 12 - Hedonism and the Experience Machine

Episode 12 of the podcast is now available for download here. You can also subscribe on iTunes here.

This episode discusses hedonic utilitarianism and Nozick's experience machine argument. The diagram below provides an overview of the four versions of the experience machine discussed in the podcast. Other relevant links are available below.

Tim Mulgan's book Understanding Utilitarianism

Antti Kaupinnen's post on Experimental Philosophy

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Ethics of Euthanasia (Part Four)

(Part One, Part Two, Part Three)

This post is the final part of my brief series looking at the ethics of euthanasia. The series follows the pair of essays from Michael Tooley and Daniel Callahan in the book Contemporary Debates in Applied Ethics . In the most recent post, I looked at the first part of Callahan’s anti-euthanasia argument. In this post, I wrap things up by looking at the rest of what he has to say.

As we saw, Callahan is worried about the social consequences of legalising euthanasia. He thinks proponents of euthanasia mistakenly construe the decision to end one’s life (with assistance) as a private decision, and consequently as something that should be left within the zone of self-determination. This is wrong because euthanasia is necessarily a social act: something that requires the assistance of another individual. What’s more there are reasons to be concerned about the fact that theother individual is likely to be a member of the medical profession. I examined those reasons the last day and found them to be somewhat suspicious.

Today we continue to develop Callahan’s critique by briefly considering three issues. First, the distinction between killing and letting die. Second, the worries arising from the Dutch experience with legalised euthanasia. And third, the personality-type most likely to avail of euthanasia.

1. Killing vs. Letting Die
I won’t talk about this issue too much since I have a podcast planned on the topic. Suffice it to say, there is a tradition within applied ethics that maintains there is an important distinction between actively killing someone and passively letting them die. We talked about this previously when looking at Tooley’s pro-euthanasia essay. The reason this is important when it comes to euthanasia is that some people think it is okay for individuals to refuse life-preserving medical treatment (and thereby let themselves die), but do not think it is okay for the same individuals (with assistance from their doctors or families) to take active steps toward killing themselves.

Euthanasia advocates sometimes try to exploit the openness of people to the passive forms of euthanasia when defending its active forms. They do this by arguing that there is no important moral difference between killing and letting die. James Rachels was perhaps the leading proponent of this argument. Unsurprisingly, Callahan rejects it. He thinks that proponents of the “no difference” argument are confused. They fail to appreciate the nature of a doctor's decision to “let someone die”. Basically, he points out that life is fatal and that, ultimately, doctors can’t prevent death, they can only postpone it. Thus, they aren’t really killing people when they withdraw treatment, they are just making unavoidable decisions about the best use of medical resources.

I find Callahan’s analysis to be a little shallow here. There are complex issues to be addressed in determining what counts as a cause of what, and he fails to discuss those. Also, Tooley’s argument, which opposes Callahan’s, does not rely on this killing-versus-letting-die distinction and so the issue can be sidestepped by the euthanasia advocate. In any event, I think Frances Kamm does a better job of discussing the difference between killing and letting die in some of her work, and I’ll do a podcast on it in the near future. So let’s just move on.

2. The Dutch Experience
As noted last time, one of Callahan’s primary worries about euthanasia is that, if legalised, it will add to the range of permissible killing in society. And if we add to the range of permissible killing, we will find ourselves sliding down a very slippery slope indeed.

He illustrates his point by reference to a study done on the regulation of euthanasia in the Netherlands. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Dutch courts allowed for euthanasia provided certain conditions were met. Although the legal situation has changed more recently, it is this period that is covered by the study referenced by Callahan. The study, which dates from 1992, was an anonymous survey of the Dutch physicians who were responsible for ensuring that the conditions mentioned by the courts were being met. Despite repeated assurances over the preceding years, the survey found that 50 percent of euthanasia cases went unreported, and that 1/3 were cases of non-voluntary euthanasia.

Callahan finds this shocking and a dramatic illustration of the slippery slope mentioned above. I’m not too sure. Although I’m unfamiliar with the all empirical data on the Dutch experience with euthanasia, I think it’s worth recalling the observation made by Tooley: what matters here is not whether there are undesirable cases of euthanasia in the Netherlands, but whether there are more such cases than when compared to countries that don’t have legalised euthanasia? After all, just because a practice has not been legalised does not mean it is not taking place. Tooley thinks that when the appropriate comparative exercise is carried out, the results lead us away from Callahan’s pessimistic view.

3. Catering for the Autonomous
Callahan closes his essay with an interesting observation. After examining evidence from Oregon (which also has a form of legalised euthanasia) he notes that very few people actually avail of euthanasia. In practice, those who suffer from painful, debilitating and terminal illnesses tend to make do with palliative care, no matter how unbearable their lives have become. What's more, those who do avail of euthanasia tend to share an unusual personality trait. They are, for want of a better word, control freaks; people who need to exert decision-making power over all aspects of their lives. Given the concerns he has already expressed, Callahan thinks there is no good reason to legalise euthanasia simply to cater to the needs of such people.

I’m not sure what to make of this suggestion. There is, no doubt, a pejorative undertone to what Callahan is saying. He clearly thinks that control freakery is not to be encouraged (this is a general worry, see here for example). Well, when you put it like that, I guess this sounds right. But, still, I don’t think personal autonomy is something to be sneered at. Indeed, I think it is a key moral value in liberal societies, something that should be cherished. However, let’s suppose that I’m wrong about this and that autonomy is simply neutral, it still would not follow that, just because it is a minority interest, it shouldn’t be accommodated by the law. Minority groups are often given special treatment by the law. So I can’t see exactly what Callahan is getting at here.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Favourite Posts?


Hi everybody,

So this blog has been up and running for over 18 months. In that time I've published over 320 blog posts. That isn't a staggering level of productivity, but since most of the posts are pretty substantive I guess it's something to be proud of.

Anyway, since I have a reasonable back catalogue upon which to draw, I've been thinking about putting together a "best of" Philosophical Disquisitions-post. I might also consider compiling and rewriting the better stuff into a pdf ebook (free, of course) if there's any interest in that.

But I need your help. Since I can't be a dispassionate judge of what I've written, I need you to tell me what your favourite posts are. If you'd like to do this, then please tell me what you like in the comments section below. I'd be most appreciative. And if you want to give some reasons as to why you like particular posts, that'd be all the better.


(By the way, if you're stuck for ideas or if you can't remember all the stuff I've written, then you can always go to the contents page. I'm updating now so everything should be available there pretty soon.)

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Ethics of Euthanasia (Part Three)

(Part One, Part Two)

This post is part of the series I’ve been doing on the ethics of euthanasia. The series is based on the essays contained in the book Contemporary Debates in Applied Ethics . As noted previously, this book is organised around “pro” and “anti” essays. We’ve already looked at the “pro” euthanasia essay by Michael Tooley. In this entry, we’ll look at the “anti” euthanasia essay by Daniel Callahan.

One thing that is immediately apparent on reading Callahan’s essay is the difference in quality between it and Tooley’s. While Tooley’s essay was relatively short, and had a tendency toward glibness, it was still well organised and contained a structured argument. I finished it with a clear sense of both Tooley’s position and his defence of that position. By comparison, Callahan’s essay is a bit of a ramble. I’ve toyed with the idea that this is purely a down to personal bias on my part — i.e. I find it to be a ramble because I’m less inclined to agree with Callahan’s position — but I don’t think this is it. I think it is genuinely less well thought-out than Tooley’s piece. Still, I’m going to try to be fair and work hard to reconstruct what I take to be Callahan’s main arguments.

To give a precis at the outset, I’d say Callahan’s primary concern with euthanasia is how its endorsement would add to the range of permissible killing and thereby create an unwelcome change in our attitudes towards life and death. This change could, in turn, have undesirable social consequences that we would be better off without.

1. The Psycho-Sociology of Suicide
Callahan begins by commenting on attitudes to suicide within modern societies. He notes that comparatively few people turn to suicide as a way of dealing with the “awfulness” of their lives, despite the fact that many people suffer from terrible physical and psychological suffering. He adds that on the rare occasions that suicide is opted for, it is usually treated as an unhappy event. Something which friends and family of the deceased regret or are displeased about.

Callahan wonders why this is. He suspects that it has to do with the fact suicide is seen a bad way of coping with hardship and that life is viewed as “better, even nobler, when we human beings put up with the pain and travail that come our way.” Suicide, he argues, violates a fundamental and rational taboo, the sanctity of life.

Callahan accepts that these observations about, what I am calling, the “psycho-sociology of suicide”, are hardly decisive objections to euthanasia. Nevertheless, he thinks they provide an enriched background perspective from which to evaluate the typical arguments offered in favour of euthanasia. He also thinks that it is important to make sense of the common sense view on these matters.

I’m not sure about either the enriched perspective or the values of common sense. I think the negative reaction to suicide generally arises when (as is usually the case) it is a young, emotionally disturbed person who takes their own life. The negative reaction is justified in these cases since these people would seem to have sacrificed a future life that could have been quite valuable to them. Whether the same negative reaction (a) exists and (b) is justified in the case of an older person suffering terrible pain due to a terminal illness is quite another matter. For instance, I’d love to see any work done on whether similar negative emotions are associated with the family members of those who make use of Dignitas. I know Terry Pratchett did a documentary on this recently but unfortunately I didn’t see it.

It would also seem important on these occasions to discriminate between the negative emotions that accompany all loss of life ( e.g. sadness about the loss of a loved one) and those that are particular to suicide. I don’t think the mere fact that people are sad about someone’s passing is sufficient to warrant the assumption that people feel an important taboo has been broken. I wish Callahan had engaged more with this issue.

2. The Social Dimension of Euthanasia
Having set out the psycho-sociology of suicide, Callahan proceeds to, in his own words, “look at” the three basic arguments offered in favour of euthanasia. They are (i) the argument from the right to self-determination; (ii) the argument from the duty of beneficence and (iii) the argument from the lack of difference between killing and letting die.

You no doubt wonder why I just made a point of quoting Callahan’s own description of what he does with these three arguments (i.e. “look at” them). The answer is that it is at this point that I feel Callahan begins to ramble. Although he does talk about the argument from self-determination, he doesn’t really engage with the three arguments (and he certainly doesn’t engage with Tooley’s arguments). Instead, he offers his own basic objection to euthanasia. I’ll take the liberty of focusing solely on that objection.

The basic objection that Callahan offers is that euthanasia is misconstrued by its advocates as a private decision (i.e. a matter of self-determination) when it is, in fact, a social decision with undesirable social consequences. Now before we getting any further into it, I think this is itself a misreading of the advocates of euthanasia. Anyone who seriously discusses personal autonomy and end-of-life decision-making is well-aware of the social dimension to these decisions - no man is an island and all that. What they typically argue is that the negative social consequences do not outweigh the value in reduced harm to the sufferer and his or her family. That claim about the balance of harms over benefits is where the dispute really lies. And I think we should be perfectly happy to entertain Callahan’s argument at this level. To do that, we’ll need to consider in more detail how Callahan justifies his claim about the sociality of euthanasia and why he thinks this leads to negative consequences.

3. Private Killing and The Doctor-Patient Relationship
As regards the sociality of euthanasia, Callahan makes an obvious point: euthanasia isn’t your typical suicide, it’s a (medically) assisted form of suicide. As such, it necessarily involves at least one other person, in this case the doctor. And the involvement of the medical practitioner is worrisome for at least two reasons.

First, the doctor-patient relationship is a confidential one, one which is governed by certain laws on privilege and privacy. There are only a few, rare exceptions to these laws. This creates a problem since, if euthanasia is to be legalised, it would need to be regulated. But if doctor-patient privilege is to be maintained, there may be no way of knowing whether or not the regulations are being observed. Callahan argues that the Dutch experience confirms the existence of this problem (more on this the next day).

Second, tradition within the medical profession has firmly opposed the use of the medical knowledge to end life. Doctors have sworn to protect life, not hasten its conclusion. Callahan thinks there is wisdom in this tradition. Medical knowledge of how to bring about death is too powerful. If endorsed by the broader community, doctors could have a questionable amount of authority over life and death decisions.

So we have, essentially, two arguments from present facts about the medical profession used to reject the legalisation of euthanasia (see how we’ve moved from the moral debate to the legal debate?). Are either of them persuasive? I have some doubts about them myself. Most obviously, I wonder whether doctors would have to be involved in these decisions. Although I didn’t mention it at the time, Tooley argued in his essay that doctors need not be involved in consulting or counseling patients contemplating euthanasia. Instead, people could be specially trained in this area. This would seem to remove many of the problems identified by Callahan. Still, it would involve a substantial change to the existing legal order, and that should not be undertaken lightly.

Another problem that Callahan identifies has to do with euthanasia and private killing. Callahan thinks that private killing, such as used to exist when duelling was an acceptable dispute resolution mechanism, is a bad thing. And so, to the extent that euthanasia reinstates private killing, it too is a bad thing.

I have my concerns about this argument as well. I certainly agree that duelling was a silly and barbaric practice, but I think there are strong disanalogies between it and euthanasia, ones that consequently lessen the persuasive force of Callahan’s argument. Consider duelling. There, the concern is to resolve a dispute between two individuals and I suspect that we abhor duelling because it is a particularly wasteful and violent way in which to resolve disputes. Particularly when we have other means of doing this that are less wasteful and violent. Contrast this with euthanasia. There, our concern is to best manage the pain and suffering experienced at the end of life and we do not always have humane ways of preventing painful death. Thus, in certain circumstances, killing (euthanasia) might be the best option. This makes it different from the duelling case.

Okay, so we’ll leave it there for now. In the final part, we’ll cover the remainder of Callahan’s article.

Friday, July 1, 2011

iTunes Back Up and Running

The iTunes feed for the podcast is working now again. Actually, that's a bit misleading -- I've created a new feed, so if you were subscribing before, you'll have to do it again now. But don't worry, it's pretty easy to do. Just follow the link to iTunes here.

All the old episodes are available again as well.