THE BLOG @ PHILOSOPHERS' CORNER

When Do False Beliefs Exculpate?

Another month of pandemic... and another philosophical puzzle from me to distract you from it. This time, the puzzle concerns beliefs and specifically whether acting under the guidance of false beliefs can exculpate someone of a moral wrongdoing.

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Should the Arts Be for All?

Should artists make artworks that are easy to understand? Or should there be challenging artworks out there, but free education to help us understand them? What, if anything, is the value of difficult paintings, poems, and novels? This week we’re thinking about “The Arts for All.”

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Say it Enough, They’ll Believe It

If you repeat something often enough, people are more likely to believe it. That's a phenomenon called the illusory truth effect. It can happen with smart people, and even when the statement is already known to be false. So why does repeating something make people more likely to believe it?

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Whose Fault Is It Anyway?

Who’s to blame for big problems like racism, factory farming, or climate change? Isn’t it time we held governments and corporations accountable? Or would that just let individuals off the hook? This week we’re talking about collective responsibility.

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Why We Argue About Fiction

From an evolutionary standpoint, it’s puzzling that humans consume fiction. Why waste valuable cognitive resources on information we know is unreal? But it is even more puzzling that we argue about such fictions! I explore some reasons why we do this.

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What Would We Lose If We Had No Art?

Think about the art you’ve enjoyed in your life: the novels, the television, the music, the poetry, the sculpture, the paintings—the list goes on. Now try to imagine a scenario in which none of this art had ever been made. What would we lose in a world like this?

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Why Games Matter

Do games help us form social bonds and build important life skills, or are they just a pleasant way to escape the daily grind? Worse yet, could playing games make us lazy and antisocial? These are some of the questions we’re asking in this week’s show, What’s in a Game?

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Reasons to Hate

Why is there so much hate in the world? Is hatred ever morally justified? Or does hate just breed more hate? What exactly is hatred anyway? These are some of the big questions we’re tackling on this week’s show, Why We Hate.

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Abortion and Humanity

In my last blog I explained how some opponents of abortion misappropriate my work on dehumanization, and why their argument doesn’t work. But if we understand dehumanization as the denial that some human beings are really human, this conception seems to serve the anti-abortion cause much better.

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Skepticism and Trust in Science

Why do so many people believe in conspiracy theories? Do we need to evaluate the evidence for ourselves, or should we just trust the experts? This week on Philosophy Talk, we’re discussing science and skepticism, and the role that trust plays in deciding what's true.

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Philosophy for the Apocalypse

Several philosophers have recently remarked that it’s hard to do philosophy in the face of the apocalypse. Philosophy is sometimes seen as a special treat for the fattest of times, and an utterly impractical hobby in the leanest. Not only is this idea false, it’s also self-defeating.

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Who Gets to be a Citizen?

How should we decide who gets to be a citizen? Should your political rights really depend on where you were born? Would it be better to live in a world without borders? This week, we’re talking about citizenship, political rights, and justice.

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Why Do People Argue about Fiction?

For this month's puzzle, I'm focusing on the human ability to produce and consume fiction. Why do creatures evolved to survive in a harsh reality spend so much time, energy, and effort doing this? And why do we argue with one another about what “really” happened in these various fictional worlds?

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Does Meritocracy Have Merit?

Should people be rewarded for their talent and effort? Or should society treat us all the same? Is meritocracy just a smokescreen for a system that’s rigged? These are some of the questions we're asking on this week's show on "The Merits of Meritocracy."

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Another Reason Zoom Is So Draining

There is a particular dead-eyed, mind-numbing exhaustion I feel at the end of every video meeting I’ve ever attended. Zoom is exhausting for many reasons, but the most important one is that it is missing a fundamental piece of social interaction—joint attention.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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