‘I now pronounce you man and wives’: Canada and polygamy

Mohamed Osman, 2010

A court in British Columbia is currently deciding whether Canada’s anti-polygamy laws are unconstitutional. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-11776534) Those in favour of the legalisation of polygamy suggest that by not allowing it, Canada is failing in its duty to guarantee the freedom of religion for its citizens (there is a large Mormon community in Canada). If polygamy is legalised, then Canada will become the first developed country to allow it.

82% of Canadians oppose legalising polygamy, but this is not due to sheer disgust for alternative lifestyles. The opponents argue that polygamy harms women and that the men who are ‘leftover’ will be unable to secure a wife for themselves. Interestingly, the debate has not focussed on the more fundamental issue of how far the state should be able to intervene in determining how adults arrange their lives. Furthermore, the lawyers are Continue reading “‘I now pronounce you man and wives’: Canada and polygamy”

Ethics and the Law

The study of ethics within the vocational professions has undergone somewhat of a renaissance in recent years.  Several professions now, such as medicine, nursing, business, social work and education, include the study of ethics within their curriculum.  With this in mind, it is perhaps surprising that the study of legal ethics in first degrees, within England and Wales, is still not compulsory.  In contrast, many common law jurisdictions (notably the US, Australia and Canada) now require law students to study legal ethics, as part of a first degree.

However, this is beginning to change.  Writing today in The Guardian Neil Rose, a legal journalist and editor, highlights the growing recognition, within the legal profession, that more needs to be done to ensure Continue reading “Ethics and the Law”

Christmas and Philosophy

Christmas - Philosophy for Everyone: Better Than a Lump of CoalWe recently caught up with Scott C. Lowe, professor and chair in the Philosophy Department at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, and editor of Christmas – Philosophy for Everyone: Better Than a Lump of Coal. He is also the author of “Ebenezer Scrooge – Man of Principle” which appeared in Think magazine in 2009. His philosophical interests are in political and legal philosophy. He hopes his students think of him as the reformed Scrooge at the end of the story, not the hard hearted Scrooge who meets the ghost of Jacob Marley.

PE: Why did you decide to edit a book on Christmas and philosophy?

SCL: It started with an article I published on Ebenezer Scrooge. He’s a great example of the role of character in morality which is a hot debate in ethics these days. From there it struck me that there are a lot of interesting questions about Christmas that philosophers might have something to say about. Continue reading “Christmas and Philosophy”

What have sex and violence done for us, lately?

Much fretting about violence in video games is rooted in the worry that the games will foster violence in the real world.  (If I shoot enough extra-terrestrials in “Space Invaders,” I might end up shooting extra-terrestrials in real life.)

Earlier this week on the NYT’s Economix blog, David Leonhardt speculated that, in fact, violent video games might be partly responsible for the level or declining rates of violent crime during the current recession.  He cites earlier research suggesting that violent movies reduce violent crime.

Ryan Sanger recently discussed similar dynamics in the realm of pornography:  increased access to porn seems to correlate with reduced frequency of rape.  As Sanger notes, the implications for the debate over simulated child pornography could be especially controversial.

None of the research is anywhere near decisive.  But if it turns out that porn and media violence have positive social consequences, the rubber will meet the road on the issue of government regulation of content.  We’ll be in a situation in which the utilitarian justification of a set of related laws changes its valence.  It’ll be interesting to see the debate unfold.

Related articles:

The Duty to Obey the Law
By David Lefkowitz, UNC Greensboro (October 2006)
Philosophy Compass

Does justice matter after death?

In 1908, Jack Johnson became the first African American to win the heavyweight title in boxing. In 1912, after marrying a white woman named Lucille Cameron, Johnson was twice charged with, and later convicted of, violating the Mann Act, which banned inter alia the transportation of women across state lines for “immoral purposes.” Johnson eventually spent a year in prison for this alleged crime. Continue reading “Does justice matter after death?”

Philosophy Compass July Issue

The latest issue form Philosophy Compass is out now, featuring the following great articles, surveying the most recent scholarly literature in philosophy:

PHCO pebbles banner Online ISSN: 1747-9991    Print ISSN: 1747-9991
Philosophy Compass
Volume4, Issue4,2009.
Early View (Articles Available Online in Advance of Print)
© 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd Continue reading “Philosophy Compass July Issue”