Saturday, December 24, 2011

Women, violence and harrassment

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There are two major news stories involving women, and harassment or violence in the headlines today: the recent allegations of gender-based harassment within the ranks of the RCMP, and the massive response to the violent treatment of female Egyptian protesters at the hands of the Egyptian military.

While these particular headlines are relatively new, they do rise out of a backdrop of stories about gender-based discrimination and violence facing women today. Whether it is the stories that come out of the Pickton trial or off the Highway of Tears, or allegations over honor killings, the media has been full of stories over the last year about women here in Canada as well as across the world that have been harmed or even killed for reasons having to do with their gender. Although it is difficult to trace the roots of the problem in some cases, much of the violence appears to stem from beliefs about how women should or should not act, and whether whether some women and girls are, as in the words of some, "disposable".

Friday, December 23, 2011

Kyoto and Canada

Coming right on the heels of the Climate Change Conference in Durban, Canada has announced its decision to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol.

The decision has been met with a wide range of reaction, both within Canada and internationally. Many are calling the decision Canada's "lowest point" environmentally speaking, or "shameful" while others hail it as "positive" or opine that we should go one step further and withdraw from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that governs the Kyoto Protocol.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Polygamy Ruling Raises Deep Questions about Rights and Responsibilities

In a landmark ruling the BC Supreme Court upheld the prohibition against polygamy to prevent harm to women and children. The ruling’s strong focus on the positive obligations of the state to protect the rights of children sets an important precedent in Canadian jurisprudence. A seeming lack of coherence between citing harm to the institution of monogamous marriage as a ground for prohibition and then allowing plural common law relationships will likely give rise to an appeal. The judgement recognizes that this ruling is an infringement of the right to religious freedom, but argues that it is a justified infringement because of the harm done to women and children.

The ruling raises deeper questions about the nature and scope of human rights, about the balance between different rights when they come into conflict, and about limits to the accommodation of religious and cultural diversity. Probing these issues, which permeate our society, leads back to the philosophical and religious roots of what justice means. Plans by the Institute of Christian Studies to explore what we really mean when we appeal to social justice and human rights in cases like this are timely.

Kathy Vandergrift
Chair, Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children

Monday, November 28, 2011

Democracy and Capitalism

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Slovenian-born philosopher Slavoj Zizek, whose critical examination of both capitalism and socialism has made him an internationally recognised intellectual, speaks to Al Jazeera's Tom Ackerman about the momentous changes taking place in the global financial and political system.

In his distinct and colourful manner, he analyses the Arab Spring, the eurozone crisis, the "Occupy Wall Street" movement and the rise of China. Concerned about the future of the existing western democratic capitalism Zizek believes that the current "system has lost its self-evidence, its automatic legitimacy, and now the field is open."

Friday, September 16, 2011

Law and/or Love

Law is often paired with order and juxtaposed to love and compassion as if one is being asked to consider the dichotomy that where there is law and order love and compassion are absent (and the other way round of course). The juxtaposition of law and order to love and compassion can also be seen in less stark terms, that is, in terms of the contrast of priority and posteriority. In such a juxtaposition one assigns priority to one emphasis or the other such that the one emphasis frames and assigns meaning to the other or vice versa. Either one views love and compassion within the frame set for them by law and order, or one views law and order as meaningful only in the context set for them by love and compassion. Viewed separately, the two emphases will have different meanings than when the one is viewed in terms of the other, or the other way round. In both cases a choice is involved: “this” or “that.” The choice itself bespeaks a prior distinction: “this” is not “that.” But, what if the distinction presupposed is itself contestable. What if somehow the terms of the one emphasis come to bleed into the terms of the other? What then? What if one began to think not of law or love but law and love, the love of law or perhaps the law of love? This little bit of wondering, inspired by the attempt to test the choice for compassion of colleague Hendrik Hart, and the fascinating views on law and normativity in the context of freedom and love of colleague Nik Ansell, occasioned an admittedly peculiar reading of Psalm 119 (118), given as a chapel talk at ICS’s Fall Retreat this September. I post it here for your consideration and comment.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Does Philosophy Matter?

Stanley Fish, professor of humanities and law at Florida International University in Miami, challenges whether philosophy can actually change the way people act. Simply put, Fish says philosophy is fun but ineffectual.

“I’m not debunking philosophy or saying that people shouldn’t do it,” Fish writes in his New York Times blog. “Philosophy is fun; it can be a good mental workout; its formulations sometimes display an aesthetically pleasing elegance. I’m just denying to philosophy one of the claims made for it —that its conclusions dictate or generate non-philosophical behavior.”

When Prayer and Politics Meet

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Republican Governor of Texas Rick Perry led a prayer rally recently, just days before his official declaration to seek the Republican presidential nomination. Held at Reliant Stadium in Houston, "The Response" rally drew more than 30,000 people for what Al-Jazeera English reports was a Protestants only affair.

"Lord, you are the source of every good thing," Perry prayed. "You are our only hope
and we stand before you today in awe of your power and in gratitude for your blessings, and humility for our sins. Father, our heart breaks for America. We see discord at home. We see fear in the marketplace. We see anger in the halls of government, and as a nation we have forgotten who made us, who protects us, who blesses us and for that we cry out for your forgiveness."

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Introducing Ground Motive

Ground Motive is sponsored by the Centre for Philosophy, Religion and Social Ethics (CPRSE) at the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto.
A religious ground motive has "a central communal character and gives expression to a common spirit… It lies at the foundation of a community of thought, insofar as it guarantees ... mutual understanding even between philosophical trends which vehemently combat each other."
—Herman Dooyeweerd, 1961      
Ground Motive is a forum to host and foster quality online dialogue on subjects of relevance to the CPRSE’s mandate. It is intended for the benefit of the CPRSE and of all whose subject interests or fields of research and study intersect with those of the CPRSE and its participants.