Kennedy v. Louisiana (2008) – US Case Law Overview

In 2008, proponents of capital punishment for rape believed they had a winning case that would allow the use of capital punishment for some nonlethal crimes. Patrick O’Neal Kennedy from Harvey, Louisiana was sentenced to death after he was convicted of raping his eight-year-old stepdaughter. The rape was uncommonly brutal in its severity. The injuries that Kennedy’s stepdaughter sustained from the repeated rapes required emergency surgery. Kennedy initially maintained that the battery was committed by two neighborhood boys. He even refused to plead guilty when a settlement was offered to spare him from a death sentence. In 2003, Kennedy was convicted and sentenced under a 1995 Louisiana law that allowed the death penalty for the rape of a child under the age of 12. The Court did not share the same optimism that proponents of capital punishment did. The majority, relying on the precedent of the ESD Doctrine, overturned the death penalty since the rape, though it did involve a child, did not result in the death of the victim (544 U.S. 407).

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The Historical Development of the Evolving Standards of Decency (ESD) Doctrine in the U.S. Supreme Court

One of the most controversial elements of the U.S. Bill of Rights is the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause of the Eighth Amendment which states that “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted” (U.S. Const. Amdt. 8). Whether the use of the death penalty is an instance of cruel and unusual punishment has been the subject of sustained and intense debate given that there have been over 16,000 legal executions in the United States from 1700 until 2019 (TIME). Continue reading

One Perspective on Christianity and Disability


     In what follows, I will lay out some of the more problematic aspects of Christianity’s relationship with its members who are disabled. This will involve an exploration of Christian theology and a comparison with another, similarly harmful, approach to/worldview of disability known as the medical model.

NOTE: I realize that what is about to be said does not apply universally to all of Christianity or its denominations or its beliefs. But there are still people and denominations who hold to some of these beliefs or views, either directly or indirectly, and who propagate this mistreatment of people with disabilities, either purposefully or inadvertently. It it to these particular Christian individuals and groups that this article is predominantly addressed.

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Contra Haidt: A Short Critique of Schwitzgebel and Rust’s Empirical Studies

From Haidt’s impassioned rejection of the “rationalist delusion,” it is difficult to discern why Schwitzgebel and Rust would place such significance on the aforementioned behaviors as they pertain to ethicists versus non-ethicists. There are more morally egregious behaviors that ethicists could engage in would serve to overwhelmingly confirm the fact that they do not act more morally than others despite their professional status as moral philosophers. Yet, in the various articles published by Schwitzgebel and Rust, very little explanation is provided as to why these are truly relevant to determining whether moral philosophers behave better than those who may not have as extensive training or education in moral reasoning. In an article about the library habits of ethicists versus their non-ethicist counterparts, there is only one sentence provided as to why failure to return library books is bad (Schwitzgebel 714). Rather than justifying their choice of moral behaviors to research, Schwitzgebel and Rust spend most of their published articles explaining the methods they use.

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A Summary of “The Righteous Mind” by J. Haidt


In his work “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion,” social psychologist Jonathan Haidt coins the term “the rationalist delusion” to explain a tendency of a majority of scholars to overemphasize the importance of rationality in human behavior throughout history (103). Haidt claims that the “worship of reason,” particularly within the realm of morality, is essentially inappropriate and he utilizes the rest of his book to advocate for a different version of moral reasoning and decision making processes based more on emotive intuitions that are dominant (103).

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The Nature of Communication between Physician and Patient in Western Medicine

One feature of Western medicine’s social institution that serves to maintain authority/power in the hands of the physician is insulating the layperson from properly understanding what may be ailing him/her. Illich defines this process as “medical mystification” (80). It is an intellectual obscuring of sorts and stems from the physician’s special knowledge and training as it pertains to the proper functioning of the human body.

The other part of this insulation between the patient and the physician lies in the style of communication between the two. In referring to this style, or mode, of communication one must not only look at the vocabulary utilized by the physician but also at the structure of conversation between the patient and physician such as when the former enters into a hospital for medical purposes.

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Power and Authority in the Patient/Physician Relationship in Western Medicine

The largest disparity between position in the social hierarchy of Western medicine is between the patient and the physician. The patient/physician interaction is critically shaped by the rigidity of the social hierarchy. In describing the nature of the patient/physician relationship, Parsons lays out four distinct features that establish and maintain a particular form of the subordinate/superior relationship, most commonly expressed in terms of power/authority.

Before going further, an extremely important distinction must be drawn. Power and authority are, categorically, not the same things. For instance, in at least one form, the legitimization of authority allows one to exercise more power. Authority therefore enhances elements like one’s reputation or one’s social standing. Authority, also, could be viewed as an entirely different form of power. Whereas power may stipulate the explicit use of force/coercion (i.e. violence), authority may stipulate a softer version of that with similar end results but without the use of force/coercion. Instead, psychological mechanisms and tools may be utilized. I don’t want to go too far down the rabbit hole on this, but suffice it to say they are conceptually and logically distinct and should be kept that way for current purposes.

In this case, the physician is bestowed with authority through his/her extensive knowledge of the human body, coupled with the recognition of the former by the social structure known as medical school. The authority of the physician allows him/her to suggest, recommend, and, in some cases, command the patient to complete or permit certain actions.

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A Historical Primer on Polygamous Marriage

    45b Capture

The history of polygamy is a rich and varied one. Dating back to 3000 BCE and continuing today, spanning the world from Asia to Europe, from Africa and the Middle East to North America. The ancient patriarchs of the Hebrews such as Abraham, Esau, and Jacob were the heads of polygamous households. Similarly, under Shari’ah Law in Islam, a man is allowed to marry up to four women so long as he treats them in an egalitarian manner. Even the father of early modern Protestantism, Martin Luther, admitted that Christianity and polygamy were not mutually exclusive ideals, noting that the practice did not contradict anything in the Holy Bible (Swisher 3-4). As a result, it is fair to say that there is a globally attested and historical tradition of polygamy and that it has been defended over time as a viable form of marriage.

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The Incompatible Properties Argument(s) by T.M. Drange

[This article was originally published by Dr. Theodore Drange in Philo 1998 (2), pp. 49-60. It has been re-purposed here, eliminating most of Drange’s accompanying comments to anticipated objections. The intention here is just to provide the outlines of his argument(s) in their logical form(s) and promote awareness of the argument’s overall strength.]


Atheological arguments (arguments for the nonexistence of God) can be divided into two main groups. One group consists of arguments which aim to show an incompatibility between two of God’s properties. Let us call those “incompatible-properties arguments.” The other group consists of arguments which aim to show an incompatibility between God’s existence and the nature of the world. They may be called “God-vs.-world arguments.” A prime example of one of those would be the Evidential Argument from Evil. This paper will only survey arguments in the first group. Arguments in the second group are discussed elsewhere.[1]

To generate incompatible-properties arguments, it would be most helpful to have a list of divine attributes. I suggest the following. God is:

(a) perfect                       (g) personal

(b) immutable                (h) free

(c) transcendent            (i) all-loving

(d) nonphysical              (j) all-just

(e) omniscient                (k) all-merciful

(f) omnipresent              (l) the creator of the universe

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An Overview of Camus on the Absurd


The Absurd (at least on Camus’s view) emphasizes “a fundamental disharmony” or “tragic incompatibility” in our finite existence. Camus ultimately argues that the Absurd is the product of a head-on collision between our seemingly universal human desire for objective order, meaning, and purpose in life and the bleak, indifferent, perhaps even soul-crushing “silence of the universe.” “The absurd is not in man nor in the world,” Camus writes, “but in their presence together…it is the only bond uniting them.”

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