How Morality Changes in a Foreign Language. Studies show that the way we think about moral questions is subtly influenced by the language we're using at the time. People using a non-native language tend to be more cerebral and less emotional. What does this say about the concept of the moral center, or "just knowing" what's right and what's wrong?
The Moral Machine: Welcome to the moral machine! - you are a self-driving car, unfortunately something has gone horribly wrong - who put that wall there? Regrettably, you are now about to crash and must choose the lesser of two evils. Do you kill your passengers or that old lady and her cute little doggy crossing the road? - A new MIT project provides a public exploration of the kinds of trolley problem style dilemma's that self-driving cars may have to face and allows us to compare our shared moral intuitions.
At Philosop-her, Meena Krishnamurthy invites women in philosophy to introduce themselves and their work. For example, Elizabeth Barnes, "Confessions of a Bitter Cripple": "I have sat in philosophy seminars where it was asserted that I should be left to die on a desert island ... I have been told that, while it isn't bad for me to exist, it would've been better if my mother could've had a non-disabled child instead ... And these things weren't said as the conclusions of careful, extended argument ... They were the kind of thing you skip over without pause because it's the uncontroversial part of your talk." [more inside]
"Julia is a do-gooder – which is to say, a human character who arouses conflicting emotions. By 'do-gooder' here I do not mean a part-time, normal do-gooder – someone who has a worthy job, or volunteers at a charity, and returns to an ordinary family life in the evenings. I mean a person who sets out to live as ethical a life as possible. I mean a person who is drawn to moral goodness for its own sake. I mean someone who commits himself wholly, beyond what seems reasonable. I mean the kind of do-gooder who makes people uneasy."
Teleotheism and the Purpose of Life - "Please give this sermon a try. I think it has much in it that will be of interest to a wide range of readers: philosophy, cosmology, evolutionary theory, and science fiction, as well as theology. And nothing in it depends on believing in God at all." Abstract: As an enlightened form of atheism, I turn to teleotheism. Teleotheism is the view that God comes at the end, not at the beginning, where I am defining “God” as “the greatest of all things that can come true.” In this view, the quest to discover what are the greatest things that are possible is of the utmost importance. The best of our religious heritage is just such an effort to discover the greatest things that are possible. (via; previously)
3QD's 2014 finalists for best blog posts on philosophical topics: Should animal products have ethical warning labels? Why is scientific uncertainty a moral responsibility [see last 4 mins.]? Should people choose probabilistically among competing moral theories? What are some bad ways of arguing about free will? Are most of us just not good enough to be utilitarians? Are volunteer soldiers morally responsible for unjust wars? Do P2P networks provide a model for something to do with consciousness, reality, and, yep, quantum mechanics? When are delusions good for us (see also)? What's up with philosophical systems that knock themselves down, e.g. Nāgārjuna's, Nietzsche's, and Rorty's? There's also an archive page for older prizes and other categories (previously).
Can you defeat some of history's greatest philosophers, discover the true nature of morality, and escape the afterlife armed with only the Socratic method? You can if you are Socrates Jones:
Ace Accountant Pro Philosopher!
"All people are not equally entitled to my time, affection, resources or moral duties." In his book "Against Fairness," (trailer) Stephen T. Asma argues in defense of favoritism and against universal love. "Whence then do we find morality and justice in an unfair world?" [more inside]
Paul Ryan. Seven-term congressman for Wisconsin's 1st District. Chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee. Architect of the controversial Ryan Budget -- a "Path to Prosperity" [PDF - video - CBO] that would slash trillions from the federal budget, sharply curtail taxes on the wealthy, and transform Medicare into a private voucher system. Proponent (vid) -- and renouncer -- of Ayn Rand 's Objectivism. Social Security beneficiary. Hunter. Weinermobile driver. And as of this morning, the 2012 Republican candidate for Vice President of the United States of America. [more inside]
"Assassination and targeted killings have always been in the repertoires of military planners, but never in the history of warfare have they been so cheap and easy. The relatively low number of troop casualties for a military that has turned to drones means that there is relatively little domestic blowback against these wars. The United States and its allies have created the material conditions whereby these wars can carry on indefinitely. The non-combatant casualty rates in populations that are attacked by drones are slow and steady, but they add up. That the casualty rates are relatively low by historical standards — this is no Dresden — is undoubtedly a good thing, but it may allow the international media to overlook pesky little facts like the slow accretion of foreign casualties." -NYT Opinionator: The Moral Hazard of Drones
Elizabeth Kolbert explores the case against kids. Drawing from the work of philosophy professors David Benatar, Christine Overall and economist Bryan Caplan, Kolbert examines the justifications for reproducing.
You can't kill me without becoming like me! I can't kill you without losing the only human being who can keep up with me! Isn't it IRONIC?
Batman should kill the Joker. No, he shouldn't. Yes, he should. No really, he shouldn't. What would Kant, Mill, Hobbes, Nietzsche, and Rawls think? [more inside]
Kwame Anthony Appiah discusses honor, moral revolutions, and the condemnation of future generations. His new book The Honor Code chronicles how the concept of honor has been crucial in the fight against immoral practices like dueling, foot-binding, and slavery. (See also 1, 2)
The Stupidity of Dignity: Conservative bioethics' latest, most dangerous ploy. Steven Pinker reviews Human Dignity and Bioethics, the latest report from the President's Council on Bioethics. [more inside]
The Moral Instinct. "Evolution has endowed us with ethical impulses. Do we know what to do with them?" [Via The Mahablog.]
Moral Minds, a new book by Marc Hauser, is based on research by Hauser and colleagues such Josh Greene and John Mikhail. In it, he posits that an innate moral sense is analogous to "universal grammar"[Wiki] from Chomskyan linguistics. As reviewed by a Science Times staff member. ...And a philosopher.
Is Civilization Decaying? Will technological progress be accompanied by moral progress? Notes on a 1923 debate between J. B. S. Haldane (Daedalus) and Bertrand Russell (Icarus). "As John Brunner pointed out in an article in the New Scientist in 1993, these two books ... inspired two generations of science fiction writers."
"The study of feelings, once the province of psychology, is now spreading to history, literature, and other fields." Scholarship on the emotions is a rich field for historians and philosophers. Martha Nussbaum (previously discussed here) has written on historical views of the relationship between morality and emotion, and delves more deeply into it in her recent book, Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions. Of particular relevance these days may be M.F. Burnyeat's new book, Restraining Rage: The Ideology of Anger Control in Classical Antiquity, which focuses on Classical views of anger and its proper place in human action. Many today could learn from Marcus Aurelius: "as grief is a mark of weakness, so is anger, for both have been wounded and have surrendered to the wound." [First link via Ye Olde Phart.]
Returning to Reason Reasonably. Dreams of rationalism now dog university life, says Stephen Toulmin in his new book, Return to Reason. He argues that we must restore faith in our ability to reason about the moral life. Via Arts & Letters Daily.