Stephen Kershnar, the SUNY Fredonia professor who sparked viral anger over his remarks supporting pedophilic sexual relationships, who argued that “it wasn’t obvious” that sex with a one-year-old child is wrong in all cases, as reported by The Post Millennial, has also argued in favor of slavery and torture.
Kershnar, a libertarian professor whose academic background extends to applied ethics, metaphysics, philosophy of law, and political philosophy, argued in a paper for the Journal of Social Philosophy that slavery is “not a rights violation since the right not to be enslaved and the right not to give out a benefit are waivable and the conjunction of their voluntary waiver is not itself a rights violation.”
In the paper, titled “A Liberal Argument for Slavery,” dated 29 October, 2003, Kershnar writes that “In this paper, I argue that state recognition and enforcement of slavery contracts is consistent with the value of autonomy and with liberalism.
“By ‘liberalism’ I mean the notion that injust harm to others (and perhaps pejorative exploitation) is a good reason, and the only good reason, for state coercion,” he clarifies. “My strategy is to show that formation sand enforcement of a slavery contract does not necessarily infringe upon anyone’s moral rights or lead to pejorative exploitation and hence may not be disallowed on liberal grounds.”
“This argument thus challenges the compatibility of liberalism and the current international ban on slavery at least insofar as the ban rests on considerations of justice,” he wrote, expressing his desire to push his argument forwards in favor of dismantling laws prohibiting slavery.
In the paper, copies of which can be found on academic databases, Kershnar compares the “slavery contract” to being not too different from enlisting in the armed forces, which he claims “resemble temporary slavery contracts insofar as they involve the waiver of many legal rights.” He also cites prison sentences as a form of slavery.
“In some cases a person may rationally act on the basis of values that lead to the elimination of her autonomy,” writes Kershnar. “For instance, a person suffering from the earliest stages of a debilitating neurological disease may place great disvalue on humiliation and physical degradation, and thus desire death.”
While framed from a quasi-legal perspective, Kershnar’s paper is a thinly veiled argument for BDSM sexual contracts, whereby a submissive female (whether child or adult) “submits” herself to a “master,” akin to the Gorean lifestyle subculture, in which sexual fantasies take on added dimensions in the real world.
While Kershnar does not explicitly mention the subculture, much of his ideas pushed in the paper arguing for slavery, and in another 2011 book titled “For Torture: A Rights-Based Defense.”
In the pro-torture book, Kershnar provides an analysis on torture, which argues “on non-consequentialist grounds, specifically rights-based ones, torture is sometimes permissible.”
“Third, it argues that torturers are not always vicious. Fourth, it argues that it is plausible that these conclusions apply to some real world cases. In short, it fills the following gap: it evaluates torture from a rights-based perspective and finds that in some cases it is permissible. My book is a unique philosophical exploration of torture,” writes Kershnar.
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