November 2014

Hypocrisy

There’s certainly a lot of hypocrisy around, especially in politics. But how bad is it? Is it a simply necessary evil for an effective politician? Or is it really one of the worst kinds of vices? I suppose we ought to start by trying to get clear on what exactly hypocrisy is. The word ‘hypocrisy’ comes from a Greek word meaning “playing a theatrical role”. So, we might start with: A hypocrite is someone who pretends to be something he's not. That definition probably fits a lot of cases, but I don’t think it's quite right.

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The Moral Costs of Climate Change

The topic of climate change is timely and important, but it’s also one that's difficult to talk about. We’re making such a mess of this planet—chopping down forests and burning carbon-based fossil fuels, polluting our air, soil, and water, causing polar ice caps to melt and sea levels to rise. We’re already beginning to see the devastating effects of climate change around the globe, and it’s only going to get worse—especially if we pass the 2 degrees celsius tipping point, which seems inevitable at this point.

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Transformative Experiences

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Identities Lost and Found in a Global Age

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The Philosophy of Humor (And the Humor of Philosophy)

  A skeleton walks into a bar.  It says, “Give me a beer and a mop.” That’s my idea of a great joke.  It’s short.  The first line creates a vivid image. Then with nothing further you get the punchline.  It takes most people a couple of seconds to get it; the clearer the initial image, the sooner one starts laughing.  Or groaning. But some people hate this joke.  Not subtle.  Not cerebral.  No one has yet told me it is offensive to skeletons, but that’s just a matter of time. Here is another of my favorites.

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Intuitions Are a Guide to…Look Here!

A debate rages in philosophy about whether intuitions can help us know the truth. The intuitions in question are psychological states that arise in response to real or hypothetical examples. A classic example (mentioned on the recent intuitions show): imagine Jewish people are in your basement and a Nazi is at your door in 1942. Is it right to lie to the Nazi? Intuition in this case favors lying. But is this intuition really showing us the truth? Do intuitions tell the truth in general?

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The Fairness Fixation

This week our topic is what we’re calling fairness "fixation." The choice of the word ‘fixation’ is a little bit tongue in cheek. But it is meant to convey the serious thought that maybe, just maybe, we are too concerned with fairness. There are definitely those – especially, I think, on the right, but perhaps not only them – who seem to think that we definitely are.

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