The Obama Administration Stance on Nuclear Weapons: An Outline and Evaluation

“So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. I’m not naive. This goal will not be reached quickly—perhaps not in my lifetime. It will take patience and persistence. But now we, too, must ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change. We have to insist – yes, we can.”

-President Barack Obama, Prague, 2009.[1]

 

Not since President John F. Kennedy has the world seen an American leader with such liberal policies regarding the use and proliferation of nuclear weapons. Even before taking office President Barack Obama espoused a vision for a world free of nuclear weapons. The Obama administration has made very clear their goal to move away from archaic cold war era policy requiring overtly large arsenals, toward one more conducive to 21st century security needs; one that is tailored toward prevention, deterrence and elimination of nuclear threats from clandestine proliferation agendas and terrorist organisations. Read more of this post

Extirpating the Passions: A Stoic Endeavour


The main tenant of Stoic ethics is that since virtue is the only thing one may control absolutely, then virtue is the ultimate good. All other things are external to us and hence out of our control. Investing ourselves passionately in externals then, will inevitably cause us great distress and disrupt our pursuit of the good life. Passions, for the Stoic, are excesses of impulse toward externals and hence the source of our distresses. One must then pursue a life free from the passions in order to live the good life. But is this possible? The Stoics insist it is if we are indifferent to externals; that is, abandon our value judgements of them. Read more of this post

The Future Matters: Modern Individualistic Ethics and our Obligations toward Future Generations and the Environment


If future generations are to remember us more with gratitude than sorrow, we must achieve more than just the miracles of technology. We must also leave them a glimpse of the world as it was created, not just as it looked when we got through with it.”

– Lyndon B. Johnson, American President.

Because we don’t think about future generations, they will never forget us.

 – Henrik Tikkanen, Finnish author.

It is my firm belief that I have a link with the past and a responsibility to the future. I cannot give up. I cannot despair. There’s a whole future, generations to come. I have to keep trying.”

– King Hussein of Jordan.

Human beings have a natural tendency to include future generations in ethical considerations of present-day issues. There seems to be a general consensus that we have a responsibility of some order toward those who will precede us. One that holds us to account and indeed greatly informs the way we view the world, not just politically or socially, but increasingly environmentally. This ‘natural tendency’ seems to create some difficulties for modern ethicists who attempt to rationalise our assumed obligation within a utilitarian or rights-based framework. We see that, once again, individualistic ethics struggle to account for some of the intuitions we stand firmly by Read more of this post

The Dangers of Authoritarian Regimes: Promoting Democracy and Human Rights in Northern Africa

Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) deals with the individual’s right to participate in the governance of his country[1]. This includes the right to elect a freely chosen candidate in a universally free and fair electoral process that will ensure the authority of the government is legitimized by the will of the people. When states violate or simply choose not to subscribe to this most fundamental of human rights, it paves the way for further and more flagrant violations of the UDHR. History paints a damning picture of the effectiveness of authoritarian regimes in securing the human rights of its population. We may concede that democracy is far from incorruptible, but we must also recognize the superiority of that system in pursuing the equal and universal protection of an individual’s human rights, relative to more authoritarian systems. Read more of this post

Jürgen Habermas’s Communicative Reason: Triumphs and Limitations

The second generation of ‘Critical Theory’ is most commonly associated with the work of Jürgen Habermas. Once an assistant to Theodore Adorno of the first generation, his ideas around culture, politics and identity were very much inspired by Dialectic of Enlightenment – the centrepiece of the first generation. However, Habermas’s sharp revision of Critical Theory introduced a far more optimistic tone regarding the future of society.[1] Central to his Theory of Communicative Action is the idea that through ideal-speech situations it is possible to strike a balance between strategic, or instrumental rationality, and communicative rationality to reclaim the democratic principles that promote open argumentation, essential for his conception of modern society and modernity.

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Max Horkheimer’s Critique of Instrumental Reason and the Domination of Nature

As the founder of the Frankfurt school in the 1930s, Max Horkheimer’s work set a formalised foundation for the previously undefined philosophical area of Critical Theory (with capitals). Heavily influenced by Marx, Hegel and Kant, Horkheimer’s early work focused around suffering and happiness, emancipation and rationality, and critiques of metaphysics and positivism. His most famous publication Dialectic of Enlightenment deals with the consequences of the period of ‘so-called’ Enlightenment of the 18th century. Here, Horkheimer further explores the claims to emancipation that arose from this time, and in doing so links the Enlightenment to instrumental rationality and the domination over nature, and further to capitalism, self-preservation and the repression that arises from it. This paper takes a brief but insightful look at Horkheimer’s critique of instrumental reason and how it leads human beings to dominate over nature, themselves and each other. Read more of this post

European Integration at the Detriment of the Other: Implications for Sub-Saharan Africa


The European Union (EU) represents Sub-Saharan Africa’s (SSA) biggest trading partner accounting for 31% of production exports and supplying 40% of its imported products.[1] Since the Rome Treaty of 1957, there has been some form of Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the European Community (EC), now the EU, and SSA. One may ask that while the EU remains vitally important to SSA, what value is there for the EU to trade with a region with the economic might of Belgium.[2] Perhaps the EU sees the African Union – closely modelled on the EU – as kindred and in that way has some wisdom to bestow upon it.[3] At issue here is the EU’s conflicted intentions; on one hand promoting regional integration, on the other securing Preferential Trade Agreements (PTA) to benefit their own integration process. This paper explores these conflicted intentions with a greater eye toward the implications of European integration on SSA. Read more of this post