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Hold on There, Robert Samuelson! Let's Think This Through!

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The branch of philosophy that is devoted to considering values and value claims is ethics. Ethics can cover both personal ethics and the ethics of policy considerations. The branch of law that is devoted to considering ethics with respect to the law is jurisprudence, the fancy way of saying philosophy of law and the ethics of law.

It strikes me that philosophy, including as it does ethics, is an inescapable part of life, especially when we turn our attention to debates about values.

But whereforth are thou, philosophy?

When we turn our attention to works in public philosophy, Nussbaum's new book about sexual orientation, mentioned above, should be of interest to liberals.

Liberals should also welcome James H. Fetzer's book RENDER UNTO DARWIN: PHILOSOPHICAL ASPECTS OF THE CHRISTIAN RIGHT'S CRUSADE AGAINST SCIENCE (2007). In this book centered on the debate about teaching evolutionary theory in public education, Fetzer also has a fine chapter on the abortion debate, in which he works with deontological moral theory to work out his position supporting legalized abortion in the first trimester.

Regarding broader political orientations, liberals might also enjoy reading Alan Wolfe's book THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2009).

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In conclusion, I have argued that values debates in American politics are inescapable, whether Samuelson likes them or not. As a result, we need works in public philosophy. But we also need to have people undertake the effort to read them and use them constructively as ways to help them learn the art of argumentation and debate involving philosophic dialectic (to clarify one's thought) and political rhetoric to arouse the justified political anger of one's fellow Americans and thereby hopefully move them to non-violent political action.

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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