About Me

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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE (2012), HUMANITY ENHANCED (2014), and THE MYSTERY OF MORAL AUTHORITY (2016).

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Submission accomplished

Well, almost. I've completed my submission to the National Human Rights Consultation - all 55,000 words of it. That's the equivalent of a small book written over the past five weeks or whatever it's been (in which time I also wrote a 24,000 word submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission freedom of religion project; to be honest, though, there's considerable overlap between the two documents).

This year will see the publication of Voices of Disbelief, and I'll be doing whatever I can to publicise it (e.g., giving talks everywhere I can, in Australia and overseas, in the second half of the year). I'll also be looking for a publisher for my thesis on human enhancement - which may lead to a lot of rewriting if I find a publisher who'll have faith in me.

Over the next year or two, I also have the ambition of writing a book about freedom of religion, relating it to other fundamental political freedoms, such as freedom of speech, and to liberal principles such as the harm principle. Writing these two lengthy submissions gave me the impetus to do a lot of research on the issues (and to recycle whatever words I could from older publications, in an effort to get it all together quickly). I also think it was important for someone to address the issues at length, and with as much rigour as possible, from the kind of Millian liberal viewpoint that I take, but which is seldom defended explicitly by anyone else in public debate in Australia.

There are many topical issues that potentially fall under the heading of freedom of religion. Should we have religious vilification laws? If so, what should their content be? What rights (and what protections) should apply if private individuals want to use religious law, such as Sharia law, to settle their commercial disputes? Or their marital disputes? Should these practices be regulated or even banned? What do we think of claims by Catholic doctors and pharmacists to exemption from laws of general application relating to, say, carrying out abortions or selling contraceptives?

I know of only two really comprehensive, recent books on the subject - one of which is by two evangelical Christians (Ahdar & Leigh) and the other by a liberal Jew (Martha Nussbaum). As I said, these are good books, full of useful scholarship. The Ahdar and Leigh book contains excellent technical analysis that even someone hostile to their religious viewpoint should look up if they want to deepen their understanding of the legal aspects. But my selection of issues would be a bit different from either of the books I've mentioned ... there's a lot of room for scholarly work by someone who looks at the issues with a more cynical eye.

If any publishers see this post before I'm in a position to put some kind of proposal together, you know where to come.

Meanwhile, my submission to the National Human Rights Consultation will be accomplished when I actually send it off. That might be tomorrow. At the moment I'm just checking through it all, looking out for typos and infelicities. Then it'll be bombs away!

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