Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Managing the Pandemic: A Costly Mistake we are Making

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 This comment by Olga Milanese is related to the situation in Italy, where it is common to talk about the pandemic in terms of the "Maximum Precaution Principle." This term is not much used elsewhere, but similar concepts are expressed in different forms, for instance as the need to achieve "eradication" or "elimination" of the SARS-Cov-2 virus. In all cases, it is often maintained that no level other than zero is acceptable in regards to the pandemic (see, e.g. this exchange). Unfortunately, the consequence is that other problems are neglected. Here, Olga Milanese writes some interesting considerations from her viewpoint of a lawyer about the "principle of precaution." These considerations apply not only to the pandemic, but to many facets of the situation as it is nowadays. Facing multiple existential threats, from climate change to resource depletion, the human tendency, now as in past history, is to select one as "the" threat, and convey all the efforts on it, without realizing that some of the perceived "solutions" may do more harm than good.  By Olga MilaneseThe PRINCIPLE OF MAXIMUM PRECAUTION is not what it seems!  First of all, there is no principle of "maximum" precaution, but of precaution ... and that's it! The difference is fundamental. This principle contemplates the need to adopt protection and prevention measures even when it is not absolutely certain that a particular phenomenon is harmful, but there is a SCIENTIFICALLY RELIABLE doubt that it could be.  This means that the legislator and the public administrations, in the exercise of their discretionary powers, must act cautiously when there is a potential risk. In these cases, we speak of "technical discretion", since the choices are made as a result of an evaluation based on the knowledge and the means provided by the various sciences. Even in the common conception, precautionary action is "justified only when there has been identification of the potentially. . .

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News source: Cassandra's Legacy

Election/Voter Fraud: The Great Disappointment?

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Since his election in 2016 Trump has been pushing false claims about voter fraud. After decisively losing the 2020 election, Trump and his supporters claimed widespread voter/election fraud and his legal team headed to court. While Fox News provided some support for the fraud claims, the network earned the ire of Trump and his supporters for not going all in and for some factual reporting. Fortunately for Trump, the right-wing media has been generally supportive of the unsupported claims of fraud. Out of respect for Trump supporters I took their claims seriously and assumed they were honest in their claims and had laudable moral motivations. That is, they believed their claims of fraud and were motivated by a desire to ensure that the election was fair and secure. As such, I did what I would do when any professional colleague makes claims that seem implausible: I give them a reasonable chance to provide supporting evidence and endeavor to be objective and patient. In return, they do the same with my implausible claims. As I write this, no evidence of widespread voter/election fraud has been provided. While Trump’s legal team has filed about 36 lawsuits, at least 25 have been denied, dismissed, settled or withdrawn. Interestingly, while Trump’s team makes claims about fraud in public, they do not make this claim in court. The reason is, of course, that they can lie in public but lies told in court come with consequences. As many others have noted, Trump’s legal team has had ample opportunity to present evidence in court—and have simply not done so. What remains of his team have made the claim that they do have amazing evidence, but they keep refusing to provide it. Even Tucker Carlson has grown frustrated with the promises to provide evidence tomorrow for claims made today. While Trump’s legal team has been publicly advancing unsupported conspiracy theories about election fraud, even they proved to have some limits. After Trump legal team member Sidney Powell. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

Theory and Bioethics

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[New Entry by Jennifer Flynn on November 25, 2020.] [Editor's Note: The following new entry by Jennifer Flynn replaces the former entry on this topic by the previous author.] The relation between bioethics and moral theory is a complicated one. To start, we have philosophers as major contributors to the field of bioethics, and to many philosophers, their discipline is almost by...

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News source: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Consistency & Belief

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While I was required to take Epistemology in graduate school, I was not particularly interested in the study of knowledge until I started teaching it. While remaining professionally neutral in the classroom, I now include a section on the ethics of belief in my epistemology class and discuss, in general terms, such things as tribal epistemology. Outside of the classroom I am free to discuss my own views on epistemology in the context of politics and it is a fascinating subject. My younger self from graduate school would be surprised at the words “epistemology” and “fascinating” used together in the same sentence. But here we are to discuss epistemology and Trump supporters. While COVID-19 is a nightmare for the world, the professed beliefs of Trump supporters about the pandemic provide an excellent case study in belief. As anyone familiar with these beliefs knows, they form a strange set of inconsistent and even contradictory claims. I am not claiming that every Trump supporter believes all these claims and I am not claiming that only Trump supporters believe them; but these are all claims professed by those who support Trump. At the start of the pandemic Trump placed the blame on China and still refers to the virus as “the China virus.” His supporters generally accept this view. The role of China varies depending on which explanation is offered. Some make the true claim that it originated in China. Others make the unsupported claim that it escaped (or was released intentionally) from a lab. On this view, the virus is generally presented as something bad. After all, it makes no sense to blame China unless the virus is a significant problem. There are also various other conspiracy theories about the pandemic—one infamous theory is that the pandemic is real—but caused by 5G. This would be inconsistent with the China virus theory; but one could preserve the China link by claiming that 5G originated in China. Trump has also advanced the idea that the pandemic does not. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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