All posts filed under: Philosophy

Philosophy

The Philosophy of Honesty

What does it take to be honest? Although often invoked, the concept of honesty is quite tricky to characterize. Taking a closer look, it is a cognate notion of authenticity. Let’s see why. TRUTH AND HONESTY While it may be tempting to define honesty as speaking the truth and abiding by the rules, this is an overly-simplistic view of a complex concept. Telling the truth – the whole truth – is at times practically and theoretically impossible as well as morally not required or even wrong. Suppose your new partner asks you to be honest about what you have done over the past week, when you were apart: does this mean you’ll have to tell everything you have done? Not only you may not have enough time and you won’t recall all details; but, really, is everything relevant? Should you also talk about the surprise party you are organizing for next week for your partner? The relationship between honesty and truth is much more subtle. What is truth about a person, anyway? When a judge …

Introduction to Ethical Egoism

Ethical egoism is the view that each of us ought to pursue our own self-interest, and no-one has any obligation to promote anyone else’s interests. It is thus a normative or prescriptive theory: it is concerned with how we ought to behave. In this respect, ethical egoism is quite different from psychological egoism, the theory that all our actions are ultimately self-interested. Psychological egoism is a purely descriptive theory that purports to describe a basic fact about human nature. ARGUMENTS IN SUPPORT OF ETHICAL EGOISM 1. Everyone pursuing their own self-interest is the best way to promote the general good. This argument was made famous by Bernard Mandeville (1670-1733) in his poem The Fable of the Bees, and by Adam Smith (1723-1790) in his pioneering work on economics, The Wealth of Nations. In a famous passage Smith writes that when individuals single-mindedly pursue “the gratification of their own vain and insatiable desires” they unintentionally, as if “led by an invisible hand,” benefit society as a whole. This happy result comes about because people generally are the …

The Good Life?

The various meanings of “living well” What is “the good life”?  This is one of the oldest philosophical questions.  It has been posed in different ways–How should one live?  What does it mean to “live well”?– but these are really just  the same question   After all, everyone wants to live well, and no-one wants “the bad life.” But the question isn’t as simple as it sounds.  Philosophers specialize in unpacking hidden complexities, and the concept of the good life is one of those that needs quite a bit of unpacking.   For what do phrases like “the good life,” or “living well,” mean.  They can be understood in at least three ways. 1.  THE MORAL LIFE One basic way in which we use the word “good” is to express moral approval.  So when we say that someone is living well or that they have lived a good life, we may simply mean that they are a good person, someone who is courageous, honest, trustworthy, kind, selfless, generous, helpful, loyal, principled, and so on.  They possess …

Racism and Teaching Anti-Racism

WE ARE NOT BORN RACIST People are not born racist. As former U.S. President Barack Obama, quoting Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa, tweeted shortly after the tragic events in Charlottesville August 12, 2017 in which the university town was overtaken by white supremacists and hate groups, resulting in the killing of a counter protester, Heather Heyer, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” Very young children do not naturally choose friends based on the color of their skin. In a video created by the BBC children’s network CBeebies, Everyone’s Welcome, pairs of children explain the differences between themselves without referring to the color of their skin or ethnicity, even though those differences exist. As Nick Arnold writes in What Adults Can Learn About Discrimination From Kids, according to Sally Palmer, Ph.D., lecturer in the …

Exploring the benefits in LGBT marriage

For decades, researchers have studied the benefits of marriage, finding that married people are likely to be healthier, wealthier and wiser than their unmarried peers. But these studies reflected those who were allowed to marry. Only recently – when states started passing laws guaranteeing same-sex couples the right to marry – could researchers begin to examine how marriage impacted the health of LGBT Americans. At the University of Washington School of Social Work, our team has conducted the first national study that explores the relationship between marriage, health and quality of life for LGBT adults 50 and older. The findings reaffirm some of the health benefits associated with marriage in the general population. But they also highlight many of the unique barriers LGBT Americans continue to face. The benefits of marriage persist Survey data from the study – titled “Aging with Pride: National Health, Aging, and Sexuality/Gender Study (NHAS)” – analyzed responses from 1,821 LGBT older adults who lived in states with legalized same-sex marriage and access to federal benefits (32 states plus the District …

The false dichotomy feminism

The occasion is provided by recent controversies concerning the delicate concepts of gender and race, where once again — as in both the cases of trigger warnings and of Islamophobia — I see well intentioned progressives needlessly (in my mind) and harshly attacking fellow progressives, or at the least, people who ought to be their natural political allies. (As in the other two cases, I will ignore contributions from the right and from libertarians, on the ground that I find them both less constructive and less surprising than those from the sources I will be discussing here.) Let me start with gender. I recently read with fascination an two year old New York Times op-ed piece by feminist Elinor Burkett entitled “What makes a woman?” explaining why a number of feminists have issues with certain aspects of the transgender movement, and in particular why Burkett had mixed feelings about the very public coming out of Caitlyn Jenner. First, Jenner: Burkett says that of course she supports a member of an often vilified gender minority when …

atheist Theory of Mind

Theory of Mind

Introduction Planet earth appears to be filled with unseen forces that control the behavior of its inhabitants. No, this isn’t the beginning to a cheesy B-movie science fiction film script. This is reality and even the staunchest of skeptics act as if they believe in these invisible forces. That is, we live in a material world ruled by minds with no physical locality and it is here that we think beliefs, desires, intentions, and other mentalstates are both responsible for, and explain our behavior. There is nothing particularly magical or surprising about this fact, at least not until we consider particular theories in the cognitive science of religion (CSR) that, for example, suggest atheists may be “socially disabled”, have a “malfunction” in their ability to reason about these mental states, or perhaps that there is no such thing as atheism at the level of cognition. Thus, and I ask jokingly, does the atheist have a theory of mind? But, more on this in a moment. Attributing mental states is something we do to others and …

skeptic society The Future of philosophy

The Future of philosophy

The Future of philosophy, Anyone who claims that the writings of philosophers are pointless or unnecessary is immediately accused of philosophical naïveté. And so in order to avoid or counter the charge one has to do a bit of philosophy. Likewise, it’s difficult to articulate an anti-metaphysical stance without getting bogged down in something that looks a lot like metaphysics. In a sense, you’ve lost the battle before you’ve even begun.