A Journal of Philosophy, Applied to the Real World

Volume 2 Number 1. June 2014


Church-State Separation, Healthcare Policy, and Religious Liberty
Journal of Practical Ethics 2(1): 1-23
This paper sketches a framework for the separation of church and state and, with the framework in view, indicates why a government’s maintaining such separation poses challenges for balancing two major democratic ideals: preserving equality before the law and protecting liberty, including religious liberty. The challenge is particularly complex where healthcare is either provided or regulated by government. The contemporary problem in question here is the contraception coverage requirement in the Obama Administration’s healthcare mandate. Many institutions have mounted legal challenges to the mandate on grounds of religious freedom. The paper proposes a number of interconnected principles toward a resolution of the problem: for the institutional realm, specific principles for church-state separation and a principle concerning the protection of citizens’sense of identity; and for the ethics of citizenship in the conduct individuals, principles that provide an adequate place for natural (thus secular) reason in lawmaking and political decisions.
Taking Humour (Ethics) Seriously, But Not Too Seriously
Journal of Practical Ethics 2(1): 24-43
Humour is worthy of serious ethical consideration. However, it is often taken far too seriously. In this paper, it is argued that while humour is sometimes unethical, it is wrong much less often than many people think. Non-contextual criticisms, which claim that certain kinds of humour are always wrong, are rejected. Contextual criticisms, which take issue with particular instances of humour rather than types of humour, are more promising. However, it is common to overstate the number of contexts in which humour is wrong. Various mistakes of this kind are highlighted and cautioned against.
Only X%: The Problem of Sex Equality
Journal of Practical Ethics 2(1): 44-67
When Mill published The Subjection of Women in 1869 he wanted to replace the domination of one sex by the other laws based on ‘a principle of perfect equality’. It is widely complained, however, that even advanced countries have still failed to achieve equality between the sexes. Power and wealth and influence are still overwhelmingly in the hands of men. But equalities of these kinds are not the ones required by the principle of equality that Mill had in mind; and, furthermore, a principle that demanded them would actually be incompatible with Mill’s. The conclusion is not, however, that social policies dealing with men and women are all they should be. It is just that although the fundamental problems of feminism could be – and to a considerable extent still can be – expressed in terms of requirements for justice and equality, we have now reached a stage where concentrating on these ideas can distort the real problems, and may actually impede the kind of progress that is needed.