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Are Some Philosophical Ideas Too Harmful to Propose?

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The question of whether some philosophical ideas are too harmful to even be proposed was raised in a philosophy teaching group on Facebook. This essay is the result of that question, though this could easily be the subject of an entire book. As such, this is more of a quick ramble of thoughts about the matter than a complete theory of harmful ideas. When addressing this question, a good starting place is sorting out the matter of harm: determining who would be harmed and the nature of the harm. From the perspective of those (who see themselves as) harmed, the answer is likely to be “yes.” But this leads to the matter of whether this (perceived) harm objectively warrants not proposing an idea—if such objectivity is possible. The easy and obvious way to approach this morally is to use utilitarianism: if proposing a philosophical idea would generate more harm (negative value) than benefit (positive value) for the morally relevant beings, then it would be too harmful to propose. Ideas would need to be assessed on a case by case basis using a plausible account of value, a plausible system of weighing these values, and a plausible account of who is morally relevant. As would be expected, different people can rationally and reasonably come up with vastly different assessments—not to mention all the irrational and unreasonable assessments about dangerous ideas. The obvious counters to this utilitarian approach would be arguments in favor of other moral systems, such as a deontological theory of ethics. The discussion of harmful ideas would also require setting some guidelines about the sort of ideas and harms that should be given serious consideration. For example, it is easy to make up a horror story case of a philosophical idea such that understanding the idea would lead to madness, catatonia or even death. Fortunately, these fictional cases are easy to address: these ideas would obviously be too harmful to propose. The moral justification would be analogous to arguments. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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