Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Against Anti-Beneficent Paternalism

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In a previous post, I argued that "undue inducement" worries are typically deeply misguided, and that banning good compensation is contrary to the interests of the very people that it's intended to help.  In this post, I want to raise a different objection: that even if allowing and/or incentivizing beneficent actions (such as kidney donation, or challenge trial participation) would "induce" some people to perform beneficent acts that they might later regret (or that they wouldn't have agreed to if thinking more clearly), it may nonetheless be the case that banning this would be morally even worse.First: I grant that it is absolutely a pro-tanto moral cost if someone makes a personally-regrettable decision.  But a question that is rarely asked is: how great of a moral cost is this?  How does it compare to the moral costs of status-quo harms (e.g. people dying for lack of a kidney transplant, or lack of a promptly-developed Covid vaccine) that are relieved by the transaction, or even just the costs to other participants who truly wish to participate (some of whom may benefit greatly from being well-compensated)?As a general rule, it seems to me that we should not intervene to prevent people from performing beneficent acts (acts that help others more than they harm the agent themselves).  Reasonable people can dispute the conditions under which individuals might be forced to sacrifice their own interests to better promote the general good. But this alternative view, that individuals might be forced, for their own good, not to promote the general good, strikes me as entirely unreasonable.  No sane person should have opposed Covid challenge trials out of concern for the participants, for example.  We should all recognize that such a position is morally outrageous.What about concerns regarding imperfect consent?  I agree that it would be wrong to deliberately misinform or mislead individuals into "consenting" to. . .

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News source: Philosophy, et cetera

The Meaning of Life

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[Revised entry by Thaddeus Metz on February 9, 2021. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Many major historical figures in philosophy have provided an answer to the question of what, if anything, makes life meaningful, although they typically have not put it in these terms (with such talk having arisen only in the past 250 years or so, on which see Landau 1997). Consider, for instance, Aristotle on the human function, Aquinas on the beatific vision, and Kant on the highest good. Relatedly, think about Koheleth, the presumed author of the Biblical book Ecclesiastes, describing life as "futility" and akin...

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News source: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy


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[New Entry by Francesco Berto and Daniel Nolan on February 8, 2021.] A hyperintensional concept draws a distinction between necessarily equivalent contents. If the concept is expressed by an operator, (H), then (H) is hyperintensional insofar as (HA) and (HB) can differ in truth value in spite of (A) and (B)'s being necessarily equivalent. Necessary equivalence of claims is standardly understood in terms of possible worlds (ways things could have been): (A) and (B) are necessarily equivalent when they are true at the same worlds. This is sometimes put in terms of sentences...

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News source: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Cassandra is Dead. Long Live Cassandra!

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 After the fall of Troy, Cassandra was taken as Agamemnon's "pallake" (concubine) and taken to Mycenae where she was killed by Clytemnestra, Agamemnon's wife. The destiny of prophetesses is never so bright, especially when they turn out to have been right. Something similar, although fortunately much less tragic, is happening to the Cassandra blog, censored on Facebook by the powers that be. So, I guess it is time to call it quits. But Cassandra is not dead! She will return in some form.  On March 2, 2011, I started the blog that I titled "Cassandra's Legacy." 10 years later, the blog had accumulated 974 posts, 332 followers, and more than 5 million visualizations (5289.929). Recently, the blog had stabilized at around 2,000-3,000 views per day. A small blog, by all means, but I always had the sensation that it was not without an impact on the nebulous constellation of the people, high up, whom we call "the powers that be." It is a story that reminds me the legend that George W. Bush decided to invade Iraq in 2003 after he had learned about peak oil. Reasonably, it can't be but a legend, but are we sure? After all, the people who take decision are not smarter than us, just way richer. And they can misunderstand things just like we all do. Of course, their blunders make much more noise.  And so, it may well be that many things that we are seeing around us have a logic. For sure, a certain kind of message cannot be eliminated simply by ignoring it anymore. It has to be actively suppressed. And that seems to be what's happening, with censorship rampant in the social media. Even the Cassandra blog, even though not important in itself, attracted the wrath of the powers that be. It was censored on Facebook and it seems to me that it is also kept nearly invisible in the search engines. As I discussed in a previous post on Cassandra, we knew it was going to happen and it did. Of course, this blog could survive even while boycotted by. . .

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News source: Cassandra's Legacy

The Social Media Purge: Why Now?

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Recently, social media and tech companies acted to de-platform Trump and many other right-wing extremists. This included banning Trump from Twitter and other platforms, purging others from social media, and refusing to host services like Parler. This is a marked change from their willingness to monetize many bad actors. To set the stage for the discussion to follow, I need to categorize the bad actors. The first group is composed of those who are motivated by ideology and use the internet to recruit, radicalize and redefine “reality.” They also tend to monetize their online activities (such as their YouTube videos). Members of this group are distinguished by having (or at least professing) a belief system. They are bad actors because they hold to morally wrong belief systems, such as racism and fascism and attempt to corrupt others into their evil. They also engage in deception, lying about their real beliefs and making untrue claims about the world. Tech companies were quite happy to allow these people to monetize their online activities—since they got the lion’s share of the income. YouTube provides an excellent example of such video content: right-wing recruitment and “reality” redefining videos fully monetized by Google. The second group is composed of bad actors who are non-ideological. While they might profess beliefs in their content, they are motivated by profit or the joys of trolling. The same person or group might create content aimed at both the right and the left; they do not care who enables them to profit or who they are trolling. The content often replicates that of the ideologically motivated and this can make it difficult to distinguish between the two groups. After all, a QAnon video might be created by a true Q believer or someone who also creates leftist themed videos to maximize their opportunities for profit. As with the ideological people, the tech companies were happy to make money of these people. The third group consists of bad state. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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