Stuart J. Youngner
Two factors, medical science's growing control over the timing of death and the increasingly desperate need for organs, have led to a reopening of the debate about the definition of death and have forced a consideration of aspects of the determination of death that had never been addressed before. Without the pressing need for organs, the definition of death would have remained on the back shelf, the conversation of a few interested philosophers or theologians. This article examines some new questions raised by medical technology and the frantic search for new, morally acceptable sources of human organs over the past thirty years. This examination concludes that death itself is a social construct and that, in a pluralistic society such as ours, a conclusive definition of death or determination of the moment of death is out of the reach of both medical science and philosophy.
This chapter analyses the Franciscans's views in ethics and moral psychology, beginning with an overview of the general characteristics of Franciscan moral thought in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. It then examines the views of John Duns Scotus (1265/66–1308) and William Ockham (c. 1288–1347) on three central matters of debate: the nature of the virtues, the relationship between intellect and will, and the relationship between moral requirements and the divine will.
Terence H. Irwin
This chapter begins by considering the relationship between Christian ethics and moral philosophy. The analysis then turns to the period between the Reformation (from the early sixteenth century) and the death of St Alphonsus Liguori (in 1787). It discusses arguments for and against voluntarism; fundamental morality as genuine morality; pagan virtue; what Christian morality adds to morality; moral and positive obligations; and divine love and divine justice.
One of the greatest challenges of the contemporary world is to find a moral discourse that can reach all the inhabitants of the earth, but one that preferably causes no violence to the conceptual frameworks of particular religions. If the concepts that are central to moral practice in the world's great religions cannot be thinned into a common set of concepts, the task is impossible. Or it may be impossible for some other reason, perhaps because it is impossible to get a common content to morality that is sufficient for the requirements for life in a pluralistic world. But it is a goal that should not be given up until its impossibility has been demonstrated. A given religion may find that some of its moral teachings are not feasible for interaction with the practitioners of other religions and it may have to revise or abandon them for interaction to be possible, but that is an issue that needs to be addressed within the framework of that religion.
Peter van Inwagen
There are many ways to understand the phrase “the problem of evil.” This article conceives this phrase as a label for a certain purely intellectual problem—as opposed to an emotional, spiritual, pastoral, or theological problem (and as opposed to a good many other possible categories of problem as well). The fact that there is much evil in the world (that is to say, the fact that many bad things happen) can be the basis for an argument for the nonexistence of God (that is, of an omnipotent and morally perfect God). But this article takes these qualifications to be redundant: It takes the phrases “a less than omnipotent God” and “a God who sometimes does wrong” to be self-contradictory, like “a round square” or “a perfectly transparent object that casts a shadow.”) Here is a simple formulation of this argument: If God existed, he would be all-powerful and morally perfect. An all-powerful and morally perfect being would not allow evil to exist.
In the eighteenth century it was thought that there could be no coherent or consistent system of morality without certain common religious beliefs. These were the belief in the existence of God; in his providential government of human affairs; in his justice and benevolence; and especially, in the prospect of an afterlife in which rewards and punishments would be distributed according to each person’s conduct before death. The latter was considered to be especially necessary, because justice in this life was many times left incomplete and the virtuous might suffer, while the wicked prospered, so that without the persuasion of a future state there appeared to be little to prevent the morally corrupt from pursuing their self-interest, whenever it suited them, even when doing so happened to violate their moral duties. There was therefore a perceived need for a theodicy of some kind, a theory of divine justice in this life and in a future state after death. This concept of the relationship between religion and morality was contested. Two issues, in particular, were of importance: the moral value of threatening punishments in an afterlife and the extent to which philosophical argument, without the aid of the Scriptures or other forms of revelation, was sufficient for knowledge of the afterlife.
Thomism is a philosophical movement based on the writings of Thomas Aquinas. This chapter begins by explaining the historical context within which Thomism originated and some of the general issues arising in Thomistic discussions, and then considers the two main approaches to Thomistic ethics: eudaimonism and natural law. It concludes with an application of Thomistic ideas to a current discussion of justice and practical rationality, specifically Alasdair MacIntyre's treatment of Aquinas in his book, Whose Justice? Which Rationality?