THE BLOG @ PHILOSOPHERS' CORNER

Kant on Lying to Robots, Part II

I recently posed a puzzle about Kant's moral philosophy. The puzzle was this: if lying is always wrong, would it be wrong (according to Kant’s theory) to lie to a robot with speech technology who came to your door trying to locate innocent people who were hiding from a tyrannical government?

Read more

Discriminating Streets

Why is there so much bad urban design? How can we make our streets more welcoming to everyone? Is the perfect city merely a mirage? This week on the show we’re asking whether streets can discriminate, and how we can design our cities so they are more just.

Read more

Abortion and Dehumanization

From time to time, pro-life advocates appropriate my work on dehumanization to argue that those who take a pro-choice position routinely dehumanize the unborn, paving the way for murder-by-abortion. I want to show why these arguments don’t hold any water.

Read more

On Jerks and Ethicists

Can studying moral philosophy make you more moral? Could it make you less moral? How do we become more virtuous? Or should we all just settle for moral mediocrity? These are some of the questions we’re thinking about on this week’s show, “The Ethical Jerk.”

Read more

A Cat's Life

Listener Jacob B. in the UK got in touch with a question on our recent "Pet Ethics" show. He wanted to know if preventing his cat from staying out at night to make sure she is not killed by a fox means he is depriving her of an essential part of a cat's life experience. Ray responds.

Read more

The Value of Metaphor in a Pandemic

Metaphors are some of the greatest tools of human expression. They can have great emotional power and can unite us in how we conceptualize the world. But we don’t yet have the rich and transformative ways of thinking about the global pandemic that a good metaphor could provide.

Read more

Benjamin and Modern Enchantment

Has the modern world become disenchanted? Is there a way to find the magic again? In this week's show, we're discussing Walter Benjamin, the German-Jewish cultural critic from the early 20th century, who had fascinating things to say about this.

Read more

The Ethics of Pet Keeping

Do we really have the right to own our fellow creatures? Are there some animals that should never be kept as pets? Is it okay to declaw a cat, clip a bird’s wings, or dock a dog's tail? These are some of the questions we're asking on this week's show.

Read more

Celebrating Our 500th Episode

Philosophy Talk just celebrated our 500th episode. Quite an accomplishment from the point of view of the 1st episode. Let me reminisce for a bit, going back in time to when I first had the idea for the program, getting Ken Taylor on board, creating a pilot episode, and finally getting broadcast in 2004.

Read more

Naïve Racism

Social psychology has shown that people tend to generalize on incidents of good behavior for their in-group, but generalize on bad behavior for members of out-groups. This tendency leads to a form of racism I call "naïve" because the racist person has no idea that their minds are operating this way.

Read more

Covid and the Veil of Ignorance

As I’ve struggled to find a film to write about, I thought I’d write about a feature of Covid that is particularly philosophically relevant: you can be infected but be asymptomatic. So you must make decisions under uncertainty, not knowing whether you are sick or contagious—victim or vector.

Read more

Your Racist Mental Habits

A flurry of studies have shown that even self-avowed non-racists can still be implicitly biased against black people. There is not much agreement about how to think about the nature of this ‘implicit’ phenomenon, but one possibility is that our racist biases are best understood as a perceptual habit.

Read more

Demonizing Black Men

Many of us watched in horror as a Minnesota policeman casually kneeled on George Floyd’s neck until he lay limp and lifeless on the pavement. This is a manifestation of what I call demonizing dehumanization. Almost always, it is men from racially oppressed groups who are dehumanized in this way.

Read more

Listener Covidundrums

Are there particular moral dilemmas and conundrums the coronavirus pandemic and its effects have raised for you? Have you struggled to find an ethical way to balance your own needs and the needs of others? In this week’s show we’re discussing listeners’ real life covidundrums.

Read more

Puzzle 3: Kant on Lying to Robots

Many of you know by now that I’ve committed to presenting philosophical puzzles for the duration of the Corona crisis. This month's puzzle is somewhat sci-fi in nature, but not totally farfetched, as we’ll see. The motivating question is this: What should Kant say about lying to robots?

Read more

Can Philosophy Help in a Crisis?

We are months into a global crisis that has claimed at least 300,000 lives around the world and left many others feeling isolated and alone. Can the arts and humanities help us find comfort, connection, and a sense of common purpose in these difficult times? In particular, can philosophy?

Read more

Narrative Burnout

When I’ve felt depressed or isolated in the past, fiction has been a source of escape and catharsis. But during this lockdown, I've been struggling with stories. I've been streaming less television, reading fewer novels, and watching fewer movies than ever before. I've got a case of "narrative burnout."

Read more

A Pandemic of Dreams

Covid has not only infected our waking lives, it has seeped into our sleeping lives as well. Researchers report that there has been an apparent increase in vivid, powerful and disturbing dreams. This heightened awareness provides a wonderful opportunity to fulfill the ancient injunction to “Know thyself!”

Read more

More Money Matters

We got another listener question, this time from Alicia in Berkley whose question is for Graham Hubbs, the guest on our recent episode, "(Why) Money Matters." Alicia asks about the government's ability to print money and its value and Graham answers.

Read more

#FrancisOnFilm: Crip Camp

Are you eager for quarantine to be over but apprehensive about what the future might bring? For a dose of optimism, reflections on freedom, and a very good film, check out Crip Camp: a Disability Revolution. I was lucky to see it at this year's Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award.

Read more

Money Matters

Is money the root of all evil, or is it just a technology that makes our lives more efficient? Should some things not be for sale? This week on Philosophy Talk, we’ll be discussing money: where it comes from, what it is now, and what it could become in the future.

Read more

Proust and Social Distance

Marcel Proust once wrote about a hypothetical sufferer of “spiritual depression” who has no physical incapacity but lacks the will to act. If you've been walled up at home for weeks, you might suffer from this type of mental languor. A good book may be the jolt you need to spur you into new and creative thoughts.

Read more

Puzzle 2: What is an Identity?

Continuing my series of puzzles to distract you from the current crisis, this month I'm asking: What is an identity? I mean the kind of identity that makes you a member of a certain social group (call these collective identities, social identities, or group identities), though that’s a rough characterization.

Read more

Philosophy and the Superhero

Can comic books reveal deep truths about human nature? What can Marvel’s Miracleman teach us about metaphysics? Should we be learning about ethics from Batman and Superman? On this week’s show, we’ll be talking with Nathaniel Goldberg about what philosophers can learn from superhero comics.

Read more

Trying to Let Go of the Past

How many times have you heard people advise others to let go of the past? Once you see that these painful, traumatic experiences are over and done, you supposedly achieve “closure” and can “get on with your life.” But trying to let go of past experiences is not really something you can achieve.

Read more