Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Black, White, Left, Right and Blue

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Incited by their leader, Trump supporters stormed the capital. This event, like the anti-mask protests, provides a clear contrast with the police response to BLM protests. To illustrate, Trump ordered the tear gassing of peaceful protestors for a photo op outside of a church while rioters in the capital were able to take selfies with the police. There was, it must be noted, some violent conflict between the rioters and the defenders of the capitol and people did die. But the overall response of the authorities was to let the mob have its way. Trump, who has called peaceful protestors “thugs”, expressed his love for the capitol rioters. Thus, protests on the left are generally  met with police force and the protestors are often cast as lawless thugs. Protests on the right are often met with police tolerance and the protestors are sometimes regarded as patriots.  There are, of course, exceptions that can shock the “patriots.” From a moral standpoint, the problem is that just policing requires that people be treated fairly: police response to protests should be consistent and proportional to the violence. This is clearly not the case: protests by the white right are treated one way, protests by the left and minorities are treated another way. An obvious objection is that I have given but two anecdotes—the church photo op and the storming of the capital. One cannot infer the existence of systemic injustice from two examples. After all, it might just be a few bad apples or some such thing. This objection does raise a reasonable point: general claims about the police require a representative sample. Fortunately, the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) has gathered such a sample and analyzed the data. Those who might dismiss the ACLED with accusations of being anti-police leftists can undertake their own study. They will need to take care to collect a representative sample and avoid various common errors in reasoning to ensure their study is. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

Philosopher Spotlight: Eden Lin

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I'm delighted that Eden Lin agreed to contribute the following post to my "philosopher spotlight" series.  Enjoy!* * *Most of my work has focused on the normative ethics of well-beingor welfare, which investigates (i) what counts as a life that is going well or badly for the individual whose life it is, (ii) what determines how well or badly someone’s life is going, and (iii) what things are good or bad for individuals in the most basic way.Theories of well-being typically purport to identify the basic goods and bads—the kinds of things that it is ultimately in or against an individual’s interests to possess and whose presence in a life makes it go well or badly. Pluralistictheories of well-being, on which there are either a plurality of basic goods or a plurality of basic bads, have been a recurring theme in my work. I argue that the correct theory of well-being is a pluralistic theory in “Pluralism about Well-Being” (Philosophical Perspectives, 2014), and I propose a particular way of understanding the distinction between pluralistic and monistic theories in “Monism and Pluralism” (The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Well-Being, 2016). In “The Subjective List Theory of Well-Being” (Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 2016), I argue that subjectivistsabout welfare, who claim that how well things are going for someone is entirely a matter of how satisfied their favorable attitudes are, have good reasons to abandon the monistic theories that they have traditionally defended and to endorse a pluralistic theory instead. There are three other papers in which I consider how subjectivist theories of well-being should best be developed. In “Asymmetrism about Desire Satisfactionism and Time” (Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics, vol. 7, 2017), I propose a new answer to the timing question: at what times does the satisfaction of one of your favorable attitudes benefit you if the times at which you have the attitude do not overlap with the times at which its. . .

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News source: Philosophy, et cetera

Playing to lose: transhumanism, autonomy, and liberal democracy [long read]

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The debate over human “enhancement,” or the biotechnological heightening of human abilities, is prominent in bioethics. The most controversial stance is transhumanism, whose advocates urge us to develop biotechnologies enabling the “radical” elevation of select capacities, above all, rationality.Transhumanists insist that their vision of the radical bioenhancement of human capacities is light-years removed from prior eugenics, which was state managed. Decisions about how far and even whether to enhance oneself and one’s children-to-be would stem strictly from personal discretion. Since autonomy is retained—indeed, powerful biotechnologies would offer individuals marvelous new avenues for its expression—transhumanists’ vision fits squarely within liberal democracy. Or so we are told.This reassuring, empowering picture is undercut by transhumanists’ own arguments, which offer incompatible pictures of personal autonomy in relation to decisions about the use of bioenhancement technologies. Autonomy is, indeed, front and center when transhumanists’ immediate goal is debunking the charge of substantive ties to eugenic history. It recedes, however, when they focus on why one proceeding rationally should find their “posthuman” ideal compelling. Here, transhumanists depend on rationales from utilitarian ethics, within which autonomy cannot be valued in its own right, to support the strong desirability of bioenhancement and even its moral requirement.Utilitarian ethics and its ties to politicsFor utilitarians, only well-being, gauged in terms of states of affairs, is intrinsically worthwhile. Utilitarians aim to maximize well-being, calculated in terms of the overall balance of benefit and harm. Decisions are to be made impartially, their reference point not individuals or families, but, instead, generations. From a utilitarian perspective, the course deemed to maximize generational well-being is the rational and, thus, morally required path.Ethical and political stances are. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Philosophy

The Deification of Emperor Trump: Following Caligula's Path

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Jake Angeli, high priest of the growing cult of Emperor Donald Trump, dressed as a manifestation of the horned God Cernunnos. The deification of Emperor Trump in Washington, yesterday, didn't go so well, but we are moving along a path that the Romans already followed during the decline of their empire, including the deification of emperors, starting with Caligula. So, comparing Roman history to our current conditions may tell us something about the future. I already speculated on what kind of Roman Emperor Donald Trump could have been, just after he was elected. I concluded that he might have been the equivalent of Hadrian. The comparison turned out to be not very appropriate. Clearly, Trump was no Hadrian (a successful emperor, by all means). But, after four years, and after the recent events in Washington, I think Trump may be seen as a reasonably good equivalent of Caligula, or Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, who also reigned for 4 years, from 37 to 41 AD. Caligula was the prototypical mad emperor -- you probably heard that he nominated his horse consul. And he was not just mad, he was said to be a cruel, homicidal psychopath, and a sexual pervert to boot. In addition, he tried to present himself as a living god and pretended to be worshipped. He even claimed to have waged a war against the Sea God Poseidon, and having won it!But, really, we know little about Caligula's reign, and most of what was written about him was written by people who had plenty of reasons to slander his memory, including our old friend Lucius Annaeus Seneca (he of the "Seneca Effect"). The Romans knew and practiced the same rules of propaganda we use today. And one typical way to slander a deceased emperor was to accuse him to be a sexual pervert. But it really doesn't matter so much if Caligula really was so bad as we are told he was. The point is that there is a certain logic in his actions. In Rome just as in almost every ancient empire in history, normally Emperors were far from. . .

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News source: Cassandra's Legacy

Hugo Grotius

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[Revised entry by Jon Miller on January 8, 2021. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Hugo Grotius (1583 - 1645) [Hugo, Huigh or Hugeianus de Groot] was a towering figure in philosophy, political theory, law and associated fields during the seventeenth century and for hundreds of years afterwards. His work ranged over a wide array of topics, though he is best known to philosophers today for his contributions to the natural law theories of normativity which emerged in the later medieval and early modern periods. This article will attempt to explain his views on the law of nature and related issues while simultaneously providing...

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News source: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Presupposition

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[Revised entry by David I. Beaver, Bart Geurts, and Kristie Denlinger on January 7, 2021. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, notes.html] We discuss presupposition, the phenomenon whereby speakers mark linguistically information as being taken for granted, rather than being part of the main propositional content of a speech act. Expressions and constructions carrying presuppositions are called "presupposition triggers", forming a large class including definites and factive verbs. The article first introduces a sample of triggers, the basic properties of presuppositions such as projection and cancellability, and the diagnostic tests used to identify them....

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News source: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

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