Here comes another post on ethics! This one is, I must admit, somewhat meta-ethical, despite my recent post
about the limited value of meta-ethical discussions when it comes to debates in first-order ethics
. As I pointed out in the discussion that followed that essay, it’s not that I don’t think that meta-ethics is interesting, it’s just that it shouldn’t be used as an excuse for refusing to get down and dirty about actual everyday moral questions.
I used to have the “meta” itch, but I learned to live with it and stop scratching it. It only irritates anyway, without doing much good work.
Let me explain.
If you are a regular (or even occasional) reader of Rationally Speaking you know that we often publish essays that have to do with ethics and moral philosophy
. That's because ethics is one of those things that always lurks in the background (and sometimes the foreground) of our lives, whether we reflect on it or not. And I of course think it is better to reflect on it, at least from time to time.
The families of some very severely brain injured patients believe that once all treatment options are exhausted, allowing their relatives to die with the help of terminal sedation would be a humane and compassionate option.
The authors interviewed the families of patients in a vegetative or minimally conscious state, found some relatives believed euthanasia by sedation would be preferable to withholding or withdrawing treatment. Currently, the withdrawal of treatment such as artificial nutrition and hydration is the only legal method guaranteed to allow death in patients in a vegetative state.
In a forthcoming episode of the Rationally Speaking podcast
, Julia and I discuss the philosophy and science of suicide, i.e. what empirical inquiry tells us about suicides (who commits them, how, what are the best strategies for prevention) and how philosophical reflection may lead us to think of suicide. In this post I will focus on the philosophical side of the discussion, for which an excellent summary source, with a number of additional references, is this article by Michael Cholbi
in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, to which I will keep referring below.
America has developed a surveillance problem, hiding behind a facade of security. Britain has been down this road before, the average citizen in London is photographed 300 times per day by government, which has done nothing to reduce crime.
Thus it makes sense that a law academic from the University of East Anglia (UEA) has advice for how to repair the trust of people and foreign governments who feel violated by the administration's tactics.
I am not particularly friendly to the so-called New Atheism.
So the other day Julia Galef and I had the pleasure of interviewing mathematical cosmologist Max Tegmark for the Rationally Speaking podcast
. The episode will come out in late January, close to the release of Max’s book
, presenting his Mathematical Universe Hypothesis (MUH). We had a lively and interesting conversation, but in the end, I’m not convinced (and I doubt Julia was either).
For decades, some minority students (blacks, Latinos, native Americans) were given preferential treatment in college admissions while other minorities (Asians) were penalized. This posed a legal and cultural dilemma. Stipulating that recruitment must occur “without regard to race, color, or creed” except for certain groups was seemingly in conflict with the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids consideration of race.
The 14 year old kid in the picture on the right was named Aitzaz Hasan Bangash. His name is a difficult one to remember for westerners, but that is a pity, because he ended his life as a true hero.
Last Monday Aitzaz was lingering out of school with two friends in the small shiite town of Ibrahimzai, near the Pakistani capital Islamabad. Just before getting in they were approached by a 20-year-old who claimed he wanted to enrol to the school. The students realized that he was concealing a bomb and planned to blow up the school.
Is there such a thing as moral expertise?
Good question, right? I’ve been thinking more about it for a few weeks now as a result of an interesting talk by Gopal Sreenivasan
(Duke University) entitled “Moral expertise and the proto-authority of affect,” which he gave at CUNY’s Graduate Center.