Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Are Face Masks Useful Against the Epidemic? Political and Scientific Questions

Are face masks useful against the Covid-19 epidemic? As obvious, it depends on various factors: the WHO says there is no scientific evidence of a benefit from the generalised use of masks by "healthy people in the community." But it is also stated that masks are beneficial when used in special conditions. Here, I tell you what I found about the scientific literature, but first I'll discuss how people tend to approach the problem according to their political views.This is a modified version of a post that appeared in Italian on "Effetto Cassandra"The Covid-19 epidemic is winding down in Italy, just like everywhere in Europe. The data indicate that the average mortality in most countries has been below average during the past three weeks, at least, and the curve shows no signs of picking up again. In Italy, there are still a few scattered cases, mostly in Northern Italy, but the numbers are minuscule. On all counts, the epidemic is over.As a consequence, the use of face masks is not mandatory anymore in most regions of Italy, except inside shops, buses, and other crowded places. I expected that people walking in the streets would gladly shed their masks and enjoy the fresh air of these last weeks of spring, but many didn't. An informal measurement that I made during the past few days shows that if you take a walk in Florence you'll see a good 30% of the people still wearing masks tightly fitted on their faces. Another 30%-40% wear the mask loose on their face, leaving free [More]

Robots, AI and the Moral Culture of Patiency

[This is the text version of a talk I delivered to the Swedish AI Society Conference, via Zoom, on the 17th of June 2020]Will the increased use of robotics and AI change our moral culture? In this talk I want suggest that it will. Specifically, I want to argue that the diffusion of robots and AIs into our political, social and economic lives will cause us to shift away from a moral culture of responsibility towards a culture of moral patiency. The argument I put forward is tentative and suggestive only. I am not trying to predict the future today. I am, instead, trying to sketch a way of looking at it and understanding the impact that technology might have on our moral beliefs and practices. In some ways, it is this style of thinking about the future that I hope to defend, not the specific claims I make about the future, but I do this by showing how this style of thinking works and not by just talking about it. I have three things I need to cover in the remainder of my talk: (a) what is a moral culture?; (b) how can we think about changes in moral cultures?; and (c) how might robots/AI cause a shift to a culture of moral patiency? 1. What is a moral culture?The concept of a moral culture is something that is common parlance among sociologists and social psychologists. That said, it is not always well or precisely defined. Different theorists and commentators seem to mean slightly different things when they use the terminology. For present purposes, I will define [More]

Are Face Masks Useful Against the Epidemic? Political and Scientific Approaches to the Issuee Issue.

Are face masks useful against the Covid-19 epidemic? As obvious, it depends on various factors: the WHO says there is no scientific evidence of a benefit from the generalised use of masks by "healthy people in the community." But it is also stated that masks are beneficial when used in special conditions. Here, I tell you what I found about the scientific literature, but first I'll discuss how people tend to approach the problem according to their political views.This is a modified version of a post that appeared in Italian on "Effetto Cassandra"The Covid-19 epidemic is winding down in Italy, just like everywhere in Europe. The data indicate that the average mortality in most countries has been below average during the past three weeks, at least, and the curve shows no signs of picking up again. In Italy, there are still a few scattered cases, mostly in Northern Italy, but the numbers are minuscule. On all counts, the epidemic is over.As a consequence, the use of face masks is not mandatory anymore in most regions of Italy, except inside shops, buses, and other crowded places. I expected that people would gladly shed their masks and enjoy the fresh air of these last weeks of spring, but many didn't. An informal measurement that I made during the past few days shows that if you take a walk in Florence you'll see a good 30% of the people still wearing masks tightly fitted on their faces. Another 30%-40% wear the mask loose on their face, leaving free the nose and often also [More]

Are militaries justified in existing?

Pacifism, in its most recognisable form, is an absolute, principled condemnation of war. Military abolitionism is the view that institutions devoted to war are not justified in existing. Most pacifists are also military abolitionists. This is unsurprising. After all, if you think that going to war is always wrong, then you’ll likely think that having […] The post Are militaries justified in existing? appeared first on OUPblog.         Related StoriesGrowing up in the shadow of Sri Lanka’s civil warWhat literature can teach us about living with illnessSix French comedies you should [More]

Sacrifice Regained: Morality and Self-interest in British Moral Philosophy from Hobbes to Bentham

2020.06.16 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Roger Crisp, Sacrifice Regained: Morality and Self-interest in British Moral Philosophy from Hobbes to Bentham, Oxford University Press, 2019, 233pp., $70.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780198840473. Reviewed by Robert Shaver, University of Manitoba Roger Crisp's excellent book concerns the relation between morality and self-interest in the British Moralists -- there are chapters on Hobbes, More, Cumberland, Locke, Mandeville, Shaftesbury, Butler, Hutcheson, (Samuel) Clarke, Reid, Hume, Smith, Price, and Gay/Tucker/ Paley/Bentham. Each chapter begins with a critical account of the moral theory of the moralist, followed by a critical discussion of the moralist's view of the relation between morality and self-interest. Some are rational egoists; some give no normative role to self-interest; many are dualists, holding that both self-interest and morality give reasons. Of the dualists, some think that in cases of conflict, morality wins; some think self-interest holds a veto; others think that morality and self-interest each win in different cases. Before Hume, everyone... Read [More]

Gaṅgeśa

[New Entry by Stephen Phillips on June 18, 2020.] Gaṅgeśa, the "Great Professor" (mahopādhyāya), lived in the fourteenth century in northeastern India. In Sanskrit, he wrote a philosophic masterpiece called the "Jewel" solidifying several centuries of advances in epistemology and logic within the classical school of "Logic," Nyāya. By all counts, Gaṅgeśa is one of the major figures not only in Nyāya but in the whole long and complex history of [More]