May 20th 2017


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Morrison's budget jive lacks inherent harmony

CANBERRA OBSERVED Does budget do heavy lifting or is it "Labor lite"?

NEW ZEALAND Porn poll shows strong majority supports default opt-out policy to protect kids online

FRANCE Emmanuel Macron: a president without a political base

YOUNG POLITICAL ACTIVIST TRAINING (YPAT) Seven-day intensive course without equal in Australia

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Taiwan to go full steam ahead with submarines

RURAL AFFAIRS Murray Goulburn closures an omen of an industry in crisis

CLIMATE SCIENCE Temperature hasn't risen in 20 years: latest data

QUEENSLAND ENERGY 50 per cent renewables target: Is it credible?

LITERATURE Inexplicable: the ongoing appeal of H.P. Lovecraft

LITERATURE The gentle giant: Samuel Johnson

MUSIC Promissory notes: the public funding siphon

CINEMA Going in Style: Old dogs turned rookie robbers

LETTERS

BOOK REVIEW An abstemious revolutionary

BOOK REVIEW Soviet-era thriller revels in details

Books promotion page

Bird on an Ethics Wire: Battles about Values in the Culture Wars

Margaret Somerville

$45.75


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McGill-Queen’s UP, Montreal, 2015
Hardcover: 358 pages
Price: AUD$45.75

 

Book description

Our physical ecosystem is not indestructible and we have obligations to hold it in trust for future generations. The same is true of our metaphysical ecosystem – the values, principles, attitudes, beliefs, and shared stories on which we have founded our society. In Bird on an Ethics Wire, Margaret Somerville explores the values needed to maintain a world that reasonable people would want to live in and pass on to their descendants.

Somerville addresses the conflicts between people who espouse “progressive” values and those who uphold “traditional” ones by casting her attention on the debates surrounding “birth” (abortion and reproductive technologies) and “death” (euthanasia) and shows how words are often used as weapons. She proposes that we should seek to experience amazement, wonder and awe to enrich our lives and help us to find meaning. Such experiences, Somerville believes, can change how we see the world and live our lives, and affect the decisions we make, especially regarding values and ethics. They can help us to cope with physical or existential suffering, and ultimately put us in touch with the sacred – in either its secular or religious form – which protects what we must not destroy.

Experiencing amazement, wonder, and awe, Somerville concludes, can also generate hope, without which our spirit dies. Both individuals and societies need hope, a sense of connection to the future, if the world is to make the best decisions about values in the battles that constitute the current culture wars.

About the author

Margaret Somerville is a professor in the Faculty of Law and Faculty of Medicine at McGill University. Among her earlier books are The Ethical Canary: Science, Society and the Human Spirit (2004), and Death Talk: The Case Against Physician-Assisted Suicide (2014).


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