April 2010


When one hears the word “apology” in a philosophical context, one naturally thinks of Plato’s famous Socratic dialogue, ``The Apology”. And then it strikes one that Socrates doesn’t sound all that apologetic. Historically, ``apology” often meant “reasoned argument or writing in justification of something”. Nowadays it mostly means “a regretful acknowledgment of an offense or failure”. It’s in this latter sense we are interested in apologies, including apologies in the political sphere, whether sincere or self-serving statements pretending to be expressions of regret.

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Faces, Feelings and Lies

How can we know what a person is feeling by looking at their face, and in particular can we know if they are lying? There is clearly both a psychological side to this and an epistemological side. Our guest is famous for his work on the psychological side, with a positive result: we can know what a person is feeling, and whether they are lying; at least the information is often there in the face. But it’s not always so easy.

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The Ethics of Torture

Is water-boarding torture? If it is, does that make it wrong? Always? Usually? What is torture, and why is it always, usually, or sometimes wrong? Almost every dictionary gives two definitions of torture: a narrow one… inflicting great pain. And a broad one… severe mental anxiety and suffering. Water-boarding clearly counts as torture by the second definition, perhaps the issue isn't clear given the first definition. But sure if our topic is the ethics, or morality, of torture, we need the more inclusive definition – severe mental anxiety and suffering.

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On Being a Wife

What is a wife?  From a philosophical point of view, it looks like the word `wife’ is a predicate and so should stand for a condition, presumably one that humans meet or don't meet  at times.  And so the first question is, which condition?  And then the next questions would be about the importance of the property, its relation to issues of equality, social structure and the like.

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What is a Wife?

Why focus just on wives? What about husbands? And what about homosexual marriages? Why not be gender-neutral and politically correct? Why not ask: what is a spouse?

Beside the fact that it doesn’t have the same ring, our main answer is that neither the category "husband" nor the category "spouse" is as historically, culturally, or philosophically interesting as the category "wife."

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