MARS HILL AUDIO Journal

Volume 22

Guests on Volume 22: Andrew Delbanco, on how American culture has effaced the idea of evil; Michael Uhlmann, on two appellate court cases concerning the matter of doctor-assisted suicide; Carlos F. Gomez, on why some American doctors have embraced the idea of killing their patients; Michael Sandel, on the dangers of seeing democracy merely as morally neutral "procedures" to adjudicate differences; Hadley Arkes, on how arguments for legalizing same-gender marriages go further than their advocates would like; and Robert George, on why marriage is an intrinsic good.

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Part 1

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    Andrew Delbanco on how American culture has effaced the idea of evil

    The Death of Satan: How Americans Have Lost the Sense of Evil (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1995)

    Cultural historian Andrew Delbanco explores how Americans have lost the sense of evil. His recent book The Death of Satan examines the literary, social, religious, and political life of three American centuries, focusing attention on how beliefs of good and evil were shaped by forces sometimes far removed from an explicit concern for ethics. Delbanco suggests that the consequences of our actions in modern life are less immediate than they once were and that it is growing increasingly difficult to feel an immediate human relation to an individual action or decision. He believes the reshaping of a definition of moral responsibility is a tall order, one that requires moving away from abstract, metaphorical terms toward more tangible, applicable, and personal ones.

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    Michael Uhlmann on two appellate court cases concerning the matter of doctor-assisted suicide

    Attorney Michael Uhlmann discusses the tradition-breaking, radical decisions of the appellate court cases Compassion in Dying v. State of Washington and Quill v. Waco. Both cases pertain to the question of whether or not an individual should have a constitutional right to a doctor's assistance to die. Uhlmann explains how the individualistic philosophy behind the "Mystery Passage" of the Supreme Court Casey decision is central to these appellate case decisions and to the future of American constitutional law. He believes the right to autonomous individualism is a destructive weapon that will continue to be a "brick bat against traditional morality and customary ways of viewing things."

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    Carlos F. Gomez on why some American doctors have embraced the idea of killing their patients

    Regulating Death: Euthanasia and the Case of the Netherlands (The Free Press, 1991)

    Dr. Carlos F. Gomez talks about Dutch laws which have legalized euthanasia and about why some American doctors have embraced the idea of killing their patients. His book Regulating Death looks at how physicians, who historically have been committed to preserving human life and to the claims of the Hippocratic Oath, have become committed to facilitating the end of life. He asks whether doctor-assisted suicide is an exercise in mercy or expediency. Dr. Gomez is concerned that terminally ill patients can be persuaded and coerced into believing that they ought not to go on living in their present condition. He believes most requests for suicide are an exercise in desperation and that a doctor should respond not by honoring the cry but by honoring the patient.

Part 2

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    Michael Sandel on the dangers of seeing democracy merely as morally neutral "procedures" to adjudicate differences

    Democracy's Discontent: America in Search of a Public Philosophy (Harvard University Press, 1996)

    Michael Sandel, author of Democracy's Discontent, fears that society is losing control of the forces which govern citizens' lives and that from family to neighborhood to nation the moral fabric of community is unraveling. He discusses new ideas about liberty and democracy that "spawn unencumbered selves with no sense of moral responsibility, duty, or attachment." This carefree sensibility, he believes, has been encouraged by a "procedural republic" which interprets democracy to be merely a morally neutral procedure to adjudicate differences. He also talks about a shift from a civic public philosophy that worried about shaping character of citizens to a more individualistic one that conceives of freedom of choice. Sandel believes this conception of freedom cannot sustain a vital democratic life.

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    Hadley Arkes on how arguments for legalizing same-gender marriages go further than their advocates would like

    Hadley Arkes, the Ney Professor of Jurisprudence and American Institutions at Amherst College and an expert on the question of morality and law, published several analyses of the Supreme Court decision Romer v. Evans. That decision overturned the passage of an amendment to the Colorado constitution that forbade the treatment of homosexuals as a class entitled to minority status. In this interview he examines some of the contradictions in the arguments of the defenders of homosexual "marriage."

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    Robert George on why marriage is an intrinsic good

    Is marriage a mere social convention, or does it signify something that is part of the order of created reality? Can marriage become whatever humans desire, or does human nature itself narrowly define marriage? Dr. Robert George, an associate professor of politics at Princeton University, says that it is important to insist that marriage has a distinct, inelastic nature. He also insists that we must understand marriage as an intrinsic good, something that is morally good prior to any good effects it might have, such as social stability, mutual happiness, or the begetting of children.