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bob Watt


This is a response to John Gardner’s article – The wrongness of rape. It claims that Gardner is fundamentally or radically wrong; not by attacking his careful and well-constructed argument from the ‘inside’ – by attempting to demonstrate some logical flaw in his argument – but by attacking his world-view. He shows us a world which simply does not accord with reality as perceived in our everyday lives by most, or all, of us. Whilst many philosophers, and certainly most philosophers of law, analyse the world in the way exemplified by Gardner, it is to be hoped that they reserve this analysis to their professional lives and do not make the mistake of thinking that it is connected with reality. For them reason prevails with emotion being relegated to the status of a mere ‘epiphenomenon’; whilst, for most of us, our emotional life is at least as important as our rational life.This article is an invitation to Gardner and others to make a ‘paradigm shift’ in the sense proposed by Thomas Kuhn. Kuhn, in his explanation of the history of cosmology, showed how in order to explain the observed motion of the planets increasingly complicated systems of circular orbits were used (consisting of cycles, epicycles, epi-epicycles and so forth). These complex systems of orbits were used to explain the motion of the planets round the sun because people refused to believe that the planets could move in anything other than perfect circles. However, as the observational data grew it became clear that no system of circular orbits, no matter how complex, could explain the observations. When Johannes Kepler advanced the work of Nicolas Copernicus, Tycho Brahe and Galileo Galilei and showed that the orbit of Mars could be best modelled by showing that it was elliptical, the problem was solved. Similarly, it is averred that no system of purely rational explanation, such as that advanced by Gardner, can explain the wrongness of rape. The explanation needs to start from a different position by explicitly including emotion in the explanation. 

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