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A World Without Work

Will technology eventually eliminate the need for human labor? Without work, will we finally have all the free time we want to pursue our hobbies and passions? Or do we need work to give our lives a sense of purpose and achievement? Ever since the invention of the wheel, we humans have been coming up with all sorts of new technologies to reduce or even eliminate certain types of labor. In many ways, this has been a boon for humanity. Apart from saving us time and effort, these inventions have grown our economies, and have increased the standard of living worldwide. Now, we...

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How Will Racism Be Eradicated?

In this long, honest, and insightful piece, discusses the way forward for our racist society. How will we eliminate racism from all facets of our society, from the institutions to the quotidian interactions? Kendi gives credence to the following suggestion: Take those people who have been oppressed by racism and give them the positions of power. Kendi reaches this conclusion by reflecting on the last fifty years of racist and anti-racist back-and-forth in this country. There's a lot to glean from this splendid article. Read it as part of "The long read" series at The Guardian: https...

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Social Status

Ever thought social status could be understood through a philosophical lens? Kevin Simmler, engineer and philosophical blogger, thinks so. In the spirit of French computer scientist Jean-Louis Desalles’ scholarly work, Simmler claims that underpinning social status is dominance and prestige. Built into the notion of prestige is the idea of admiration, or how we curry favor with people we respect.   Note that Dessalles’ theory of prestige actually stipulates that admiration and prestige-seeking are two “complementary teaming instincts”. This means that these two qualities are part of our...

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Should You Fear AI?

AI takeover—the hypothetical event wherein computers or robots take over the world and obliterate humankind—is a common trope in science fiction books and apocalyptic movies. But is superintelligent AI really something we should fear?    In this TEDTalk, scientist and philosopher Grady Booch thinks not. While movies like The Matrix, Metropolis, and The Terminator exacerbate humans' fears of being supplanted by technology—that is, that we might develop technology that is much too advanced for own good—we forget, in Booch's view, an important point. Engineers are not...

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Women in Philosophy

What explains the fact that women makeup only 25% of British philosophy departments? Note that the numbers aren’t so different for American universities. MIT philosopher Sally Haslanger reports that even "As recently as 2010, philosophy had a lower percentage of women doctorates than math, chemistry and economics."    In a debate on the topic, philosopher Mary Warnock says we should not think the reason for this gender disparity is that women dislike philosophy because of "its supposedly adversarial style, its devotion to winning an argument rather than seeking truth or consensus.” Nor does...

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Transitions in Philosophy Talk

It’s time to make it official. After well over 400 episodes, 13 and half years on the air, and two years before that trying to get on the air, John has decided to transition into a new role in order to allow him more time—both for himself and for his academic pursuits. Henceforth, he will be our Host Emeritus. It’s been quite a ride. Working with John over the course of all these years to create and perfect a new art form and to bring it to all of you has been one of the joys of my life. I will really miss working with him on a weekly basis. But you know what they say—when one door closes,...

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Theodor Adorno [VIDEO]

We are posting this thought-provoking, yet entertaining summary of Theodor Adorno's work on his 114th birthday, although he's not around to celebrate. Adorno was the influential founder of the Frankfurt School, a now prolific philosophical powerhouse. His writings on culture, capitalism, and fascism are as timely as when they were written. Enjoy the video! A link to it can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YGnPgtWhsw

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Can We Have Our Truth Back, Please?

I think we can all agree that this is a pretty terrible time to be a fan of truth. Politicians have always lied, of course, but few have dared to deny the verifiably obvious, such as the size of an inauguration crowd. Few have perpetuated conspiracy theories, such as the one about Obama’s place of birth. Few would have defended their distortions by claiming that their words were “not intended to be a factual statement,” that there are “alternative facts,” or that “facts don’t exist any more.”   Meanwhile, an absurdly high percentage of the population believes that Barack Obama is a Muslim,...

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Is Neoliberalism Destroying the Earth?

Thousands of posters, books, videos, and social media exhort us to take four minute showers, eat vegan, carpool, and recycle in order to slow global warming and save Planet Earth, and yet, we have to ask, do these individual efforts really amount to much? Not really, according to this article from The Guardian. In fact, it is neoliberalism, with its emphasis on the free market and government deregulation of corporations, which cons the populace into thinking that an individual's "green efforts" might bear consequence on the environment. That is, by exalting the power of the...

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Credibility and Gender

What are the norms governing credibility assessments? How do we judge whether someone is telling the truth or not? What kind of good is credibility? Jennifer Lackey, Professor of Philosophy at Northwestern University, is interested in questions like these as well as testimonial injustice. Someone falls victim to testimonial injustice when he or she suffers a credibility deficit due to something about his or her identity. For instance, a woman calls the police because her husband is abusive. When the police arrive at the woman’s house, they disregard her complaint, writing it off as the woman...

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Are Bosses Like Dictators?

Do bosses operate like mini-monarchs of the workplace? In what ways does your boss (if you have one) have arbitrary, excessive power over your life? Why do we demand democracy in the political sphere, and yet give it up so quickly in the economic? In this rich article on Vox, eminent philosopher Elizabeth Anderson addresses these questions head-on. Perhaps unsurprisingly, she thinks that there's a strong parallel between bosses and dictators. Take a look: https://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2017/7/17/15973478/bosses-dictators-workplace-rights-free-markets-unions

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Hate! Hate! Hate!

The last thing that I do every night is watch the news shows on TV, and listen to the pundits discuss and debate the issues of the day. And the first thing that I do in the morning, after pouring myself a mug of coffee, is sit down in a comfy chair and read the news.  I’ve noticed that ever since the abortive “Unite the Right” protest in Charlottesville, during which members of the so-called alt-right, kitted out with swastika flags and Ku Klux Klan regalia, marched through that little college town chanting neo-Nazi slogans, the topic of hate has been high on the media agenda. More...

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[VIDEO] Are You Living in a Simulation?

Business magnate Elon Musk believes that it is highly probable that we are living in a simulated reality—but why? What with recent and rapid progress in photorealistic, 3D simulations (think of video games like the Sims or Arma 3), Musk maintains that the ability for humans to realistically simulate reality is not so far off. Assuming that everything in the physical world can be simulated, Musk posits that humans might just decide to simulate themselves, once they realize the immutable limits of human, scientific progress. In the end, as this video from Vox explains, there are...

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Your Question: Changing Physical Laws

After listening to the most recent episode in our cosmology series, on whether the laws of physics could ever change, a listener emailed us with a question: We can trace our fundamental forces (strong and weak interaction, electromagnetism, gravity) back to microseconds after the big bang. If we can trace them back this far, wouldn't the only way to change the fundamental laws of the universe be to recreate the conditions of the big bang? Which is, of course, impossible. - Zach in the University of Arkansas Excellent question, Zach! We put it to our guest on the show, Massimo Pigliucci, and...

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Polyamory

What is it like to be in love with more than one person at a time? Is monogamy natural, as authors like Helen Fisher have argued, or an outmoded cultural artifact, as claimed by authors like Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá? On this week's philosophy talk, we discuss polyamory with writer and philosophy professor Carrie Jenkins.Trying to pin down whether something is due to nature or culture strikes me as a fool's errand; surely any human endeavor as complicated as building a romantic relationship will have both natural and cultural components. A better way into understanding polyamory is...

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The Best of Analytic and Continental Philosophy

In a recent interview in What Is It Like to Be a Philosopher?, Tina Fernandes Botts answered the age-old question of whether analytic and continental philosophy are really all that different in the final analysis. Although Botts responds rather amenably by seeking to bridge the "divide" in confessing that she finds both sides helpful and "real" philosophy, she somehow manages to duplicate the very same debilitating stereotypes of these two fields at the same time.  She begins by explaining that where analytic philosophy goes wrong is in thinking "that philosophical questions can be...

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Creativity and Character

Do you have to be courageous to be creative? Or is it better to give the public what it wants? What are the character traits that make somebody exceptionally creative? Philosophy 24/7 interviews Professor Matthew Kieran of the University of Leeds about the Philosophical Psychology of creativity.   Kieran sees creativity as a kind of excellence that we praise because it allows us to do new things and achieve. However, what exactly are we picking out when we praise an individual for her creativity. Is it eccentricity? novelty? originality? In response, Kieran offers two kinds creativity:...

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Which Statues Should Go?

A large hunk of metal in the shape of a human occupies a public space—maybe a park. Thousands of statues around the United States and world fit this description. Many depict people who have done hideously immoral things. Almost all depict morally imperfect people (with baby statues, perhaps, being the exception). It’s intuitive, I think, that some statues should be left in place and some should be torn down. This statue of Victor Hugo should stay, in order to commemorate the man and his great works; the Hitler statue whose remains are captured here, however, deserved destruction. But what...

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Flexitarian vs. Vegetarian

Vegetarian: no meat, always. Flexitarian: no meat, sometimes. A recent Aeon article by Alberto Giubilini makes the case for flexitarianism. Suppose our goal is to reduce overall meat consumption. If we become vegetarians, sure, we won't be eating any meat ourselves. But, we will also be implicitly or explicitly encouraging others to become vegetarians as well. That's a tough sell for many people across the world. Instead, if we just become flexitarian and encourage others to simply join us in eating less meat, then we'll end up convincing more people and thereby reduce meat...

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Dennett vs. Papineau on Consciousness

Both David Papineau and Dan Dennett are famed materialists (the doctrine that consciousness can be fully explained by material and neuronal functions), so why did Papineau give Dennett's book, From Bacteria to Bach and Back, a critical review? As this account of the debate by Tim Crane explains, Papineau raises two primary concerns with Dennett's book. First, he argues that Dennett fails to sufficiently distinguish between comprehension in humans and animals; and second, Papineau rejects Dennett's assertion that consciousness is a kind of illusion ("illusionism"). While Dennett...

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Is James Franco Rescuing Philosophy?

You might not have expected it, but the actor James Franco is promoting analytic philosophy in his new YouTube series, Philosophy Time. In relatively short videos, under 10 minutes, Franco chats back and forth with prominent philosophers such as Liz Harman and Andy Egan on issues ranging from metaphor to abortion. The videos are titled like college philosophy courses (Phil 101, Phil 102, etc.) but are presented in a way to make philosophy feel more approachable and fun to learn about. Franco listens earnestly, but engages in a light-hearted manner, and the video production adds to...

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Could the Laws of Physics Change?

What if gravity suddenly stopped working? Or what if e gradually came to equal mc3 rather than mc2? Could the fundamentals of physics really change? Or Is this just the stuff of science fiction? That’s the question we’re addressing this week on Philosophy Talk.  Now I must admit that part of me wonders whether this idea even makes sense. I admit, though, that we can surely imagine such a thing. Early in the history of the cosmos, the fundamental constants have one set of values. Later, they have a different set. No doubt that would be surprising, but the idea itself isn’t incoherent, I...

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Mental Health and Assisted Suicide

Should people with a mental illness be helped to die if that is what they wish? Following Canada's legalization of assisted suicide for terminally ill people in 2016, Adam Maier-Clayton led a campaign for his own right to death. Suffering from Somatic Symptom Disorder, a mental illness which expresses itself as physical symptoms without an apparent bodily cause, Adam insisted that Canada include mental health problems in its legislation for assisted suicide—but to no avail. Adam committed suicide this April, without his family beside him and after four years of suffering from crippling and...

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#FrancisOnFilm: Dunkirk

The evacuation of British and Allied forces from Dunkirk in 1940 was a great patriotic moment in British history of which Americans have little knowledge. The story of Dunkirk is heroic: the British Expeditionary Force, the French First Army, and other Belgian and Dutch troops were cut off and driven to the coast where they were surrounded and subject to bombing and capture. Using navy ships and a flotilla of 650 small boats, the British managed to rescue 338,000 of the troops in just three days. Christopher Nolan’s movie Dunkirk, released on July 21st and as of this writing tops at...

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Philosophy of the Midlife Crisis

MIT philosopher Kieran Setiya thinks he can shed some light on the meaning and implications of the midlife crisis. The term “midlife crisis” gained popularity after psychoanalyst Elliot Jacques published a paper entitled “Death and the Midlife Crisis.” He found that his patients were flourishing but had a sense of malaise and meaninglessness associated with death. He was concerned with people of the first world, wherein things in their life were going well but there was still a sense of futility.    Setiya found the sense of futility “very elusive” and therefore, puzzling. The sense of...

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