Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

The Natural Law Tradition in Ethics

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[Revised entry by Mark Murphy on May 26, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] 'Natural law theory' is a label that has been applied to theories of ethics, theories of politics, theories of civil law, and theories of religious morality. We will be concerned only with natural law theories of ethics: while such views arguably have some interesting implications for law, politics, and religious morality, these implications will not be our focus here....

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News source: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Albert Camus and the problem of absurdity

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Albert Camus (1913-1960) was a French philosopher and novelist whose works examine the alienation inherent in modern life and who is best known for his philosophical concept of the absurd. He explored these ideas in his famous novels, The Stranger (1942), The Plague (1947), and The Fall (1956), as well as his philosophical essays, The Myth of Sisyphus (1942) and The Rebel (1951). He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957.Camus was born to a poor family in war torn French Algeria. His father, a farmer, was killed in the First World War, leaving his deaf and illiterate wife to raise Camus and his elder brother. Despite the deprivation of his childhood, he won a scholarship to a prestigious lycée in Algiers and went on to study philosophy at the University of Algiers. He began his writing career as a journalist for Alger Républicain newspaper. After moving to Paris, he became involved in the Resistance movement, editing its clandestine paper, Combat, and was sought by the Gestapo. His memories of wars and experiences under the Nazi occupation permeated his philosophy and novels. His debut novel, The Outsider, and the essay, The Myth of Sisyphus, catapulted him to fame and brought him to the attention of Jean-Paul Sartre. After the liberation of France, he was a major figure in post-war French intellectual life.His philosophy of absurdism can be exemplified in his essay Le Mythe de Sisyphe (The Myth of Sisyphus: 1942). Camus defined the absurd as the futility of a search for meaning in an incomprehensible universe, devoid of God, or meaning. Absurdism arises out of the tension between our desire for order, meaning and happiness and, on the other hand, the indifferent natural universe’s refusal to provide that. In the essay, Camus posed the fundamental philosophical question: is life worth living? Is suicide a legitimate response if life has no meaning? He compared humankind’s longing for order and meaning to the Greek mythological hero Sisyphus, who was. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Philosophy

Discrimination and Fairness in the Design of Robots

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[Note: This is (roughly) the text of a talk I delivered at the bias-sensitization workshop at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Montreal, Canada on the 24th May 2019. The workshop was organised by Martim Brandão and Masoumeh (Iran) Mansouri. My thanks to both for inviting me to participate - more details here]I never quite know how to pitch talks of this kind. My tendency is to work with the assumption that everyone is pretty clever, but they may not know anything about what I am talking about. I do this from painful personal experience: I've sat through many talks at conferences like this where I get frustrated because the speaker assumes I know more than I do. I'm sorry if this comes across patronising to some of you; but I'm hoping it will make the talk more useful to more of you.So, anyway, I am going to talk about discrimination and robotics. More specifically, I am going to talk about the philosophical and legal aspects of discrimination and how they might have some bearing on the design of robots.Before I get started I want to explain how I approach this problem. I am neither a roboticist nor a computer scientist; I am a philosopher and ethicist. I believe that there are three perspectives from which one can approach the problem of discrimination and fairness in the design and operation of robots. These are illustrated in the diagram below.The diagram, as you can see, illustrates three kinds of relationships that humans can have with robots. The first, which we can call the 'design relationship', concerns the relationship that the original designers have with the robot they create. Discrimination becomes a worry here because it might leak into that design process and have some effect on how the robot looks and operates. The second relationship, which we can call the 'decision relationship', concerns the decisions the robot makes with respect to its human users. Discrimination becomes a worry here because the robot might. . .

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News source: Philosophical Disquisitions

Ice Cream Man

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This Call of Cthulhu adventure transforms one of the classic joys of summer, the ice cream truck, into a vehicle of nightmares.  A bereaved father wants the investigators to kill the ice cream man. Is he insane or is the ice cream man a monster? Or both? Pay what you want; you can want to pay nothing.

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

Hilbert’s Program

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[Revised entry by Richard Zach on May 24, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] In the early 1920s, the German mathematician David Hilbert (1862 - 1943) put forward a new proposal for the foundation of classical mathematics which has come to be known as Hilbert's Program. It calls for a formalization of all of mathematics in axiomatic form, together with a proof that this axiomatization of mathematics is consistent. The consistency proof itself was to be carried out using only what Hilbert called "finitary"...

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News source: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

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