March 2020

Viral Xenophobia

As I write this, the world is in the path of a mounting pandemic. People are frightened. They should be. The novel coronavirus is dangerous. It can and does kill. But its biologically menacing character is just one part of the threat that it poses. The virus also presents us with a social threat.

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Puzzle 1: Are Beliefs Voluntary?

Need a distraction from the incessant stream of information and speculation about the Coronavirus? I certainly do. So for my next few blogs, I’m going to describe philosophical puzzles that are either old or new. I won’t help solve them until the next blog, at which point I’ll post links to various solutions. Enjoy!

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Game Theory and COVIDiocy

It's time for a listener question! Susan L. wrote to us with a very interesting question about game theory and COVID-19. She wanted to know if we could discover a pattern in the president's behavior and use game theory to disrupt that pattern and save lives. I put together some responses to Susan's question.

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Sorry, Critics: Parasite is a Good Movie

For me—as for the good people at the Oscars—Parasite was far and away the best film of 2019. Critics, however, are eagerly denouncing it as a failure, a capitulation, a “conservative” film, indeed a movie full of “contempt” for the working class. What is going on?

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#FrancisOnFilm: Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Is it wrong to paint someone’s portrait without their consent? Portrait of a Lady on Fire presents this ethical dilemma for an eighteenth century portrait artist. The film is deep on many levels, but one of the most important is how it asks us to think about portraiture, privacy, and consent.

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