We shouldn't be mean to animals. Is that because animals have rights, like people do? Or is it just because people care about animals? Is it intrinsically worse to step on dog than on a spider?
Is every idea worth responding to, or are some ideas so harmful that we should not engage at all?
University of Virginia professor of philosophy Elizabeth Barnes explores this question in a recent article, arguing that it is sometimes worth it to engage with harmful ideas, such as Peter Singer's argument that the lives of disabled people are on average less valuable than the lives of nondisabled people.
For her, whether to engage depends on a cost-benefit analysis. Because real harm can come from engaging with harmful ideas, the benefits of engaging must outweigh the harm. There might be some clever and intellectual ideas that are also harmful—but there are so many other clever and intellectual ideas that are not harmful and worth engaging more.
Read the full essay here: https://www.chronicle.com/article/Arguments-That-Harm-And/242543
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