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[VIDEO] Philosophers' World Cup

Even as we wait in anticipation for Sunday's World Cup final between France and Croatia, there is at least one other major soccer event that we can watch right now: the "Philosophers' World Cup" by Monty Python. One of the group's most famous skits, the "Philosophers' World Cup" between German and Greek philosophers/soccer players (with Confucius as the referee) is still hilarious as ever. Check the video out above. Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92vV3QGagck

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Enlightenment Peddlers

This is the final installment of my series of essays on the so-called “intellectual dark web”—a loose confederation of talking heads, some of whom have a mind-bogglingly massive following, who promulgate philosophical, political, and psychological ideas, either primarily or entirely outside the formal academic universe (and who generally claim to have been driven to do so because academia is fatally infected with “political correctness” and is hostile to the full-blooded, open-minded, heroic pursuit of truth). Because the intellectual dark web thrives on consumer popularity rather than peer...

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Who Is a “Criminal”?

One of the “arguments” for restrictive and even harsh immigration policies in the United States seems to go (more or less) like this: 1. people who enter the country illegally are breaking the law; 2. since they’re breaking the law, they’re criminals; 3. since they’re criminals, they should be deported as soon as possible (and treated harshly). Such thinking—spelled out to a greater or lesser degree—is suggested by publications in right-wing circles and endorsed in anti-immigrant activism, like in the photo above. The argument, of course, is applied opportunistically. I’ve never known of a...

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Self-Reliance and the Ethics of Homeschooling

It's no secret that black children in American receive a subpar education compared to their white peers: underfunded schools, higher rates of suspension, and largely teachers that are not like them. To address this, some black parents are turning to homeschooling their children, as well as to impart a strong appreciation of Black culture and achievements. Is this self-reliance a form of agency and empowerment in raising confident children, or in fact a step backward from the Brown v. Board of Education and the fight to desegregate schools? Read more: https://www.theatlantic.com/...

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One Person, One Vote?

In 1880, trade unionist George Howell published a pamphlet titled “One Man, One Vote”. Since then, versions of the slogan “one person, one vote” have been used in a variety of settings to express a democratic ideal: elections should provide every citizen with an equal say in governance.  But in America, the reality still falls short of the ideal. One Person, Zero Votes? One problem is that many Americans do not vote.  According to the Pew Research Center, only 56% of voting-age Americans participated in the 2016 presidential election, as compared to 80% in Denmark, 83% in Sweden,...

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#FrancisOnFilm: The Rachel Divide

The Rachel Divide, a documentary about Rachel Dolezal and the controversy over her claims to racial identity, came out in April on Netflix. For readers who don't remember the story, Rachel Dolezal was the president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP. She was forced to resign after her parents revealed that she was Caucasian. Her critics charged her with lying about having been the victim of hate crimes, with cultural and racial appropriation, with taking advantage of white privilege, with using her black sons, and with violating the rules of government ethics in her service on official...

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Puppet Philosophers

The puppets of Sesame Street and The Muppet Show should step aside — a new puppet show is in town. Featuring Noam Chomsky, Elon Musk, Karl Marx, and Ayn Rand as rod puppets, Manufacturing Mischief (a riff on Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent) premiered in April at MIT, Chomsky's "longtime intellectual home." According to The New York Times, the eccentric play involves a technology contest, an apparatus called the Print-a-Friend and "a surprise appearance by Donald Trump." As part of the play, its characters debate the nature of technology,...

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Why America is not a Nation

America is not a nation. It is only a place. Or so I will argue in this blog entry. And this fact, I claim, has great significance for understanding the potential demise of the republic we once dreamt of.  Why do I say that?   Well, there's a short answer and a slightly longer answer.  The short answer is that too many Americans hate, or at least really dislike other Americans for us to count as a nation.   The longer answer is similar in spirit, but will take some work to spell out in detail.   Spelling out the longer answer requires me to say a bit more  about...

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Distortion in Philosophy

Philosophy has, of course, become more diverse in recent years, with more women and people of color entering the field. However, that hasn't changed the lack of diversity in the canon of philosophy. In particular, as Ray Briggs, Stanford philosophy professor and featured contributor on our blog, argues, some of the philosophical examples used over and over again are misogynistic, or rely on false hypothesis. Briggs worries that “when most of the authors we read are white and male, some aspects of the subject matter get distorted, and it’s hard to tell where the essential stuff ends and...

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Philosophers and the Meaning of Life

What's the meaning of life? There have been moments in philosophy that placed a deal of emphasis on questions like this. We can think of French existentialists like Sartre and Camus that seem to be very sensitive to concerns about the futility of existence. Currently, academic philosophers in the English speaking world are not prone to take this question seriously on its own terms. At least this is what Professor of Philosophy Kieran Setiya argues in this Aeon article. Many philosophers nowadays think of the question as confused or misguided. Or they try to explain what...

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The Ethics of Care

This week, we’re thinking about feminism and care ethics. Caring and being cared for are really important for human flourishing. Imagine a person who cared about nothing but him or herself. Such a person would be a monster. On the flip side, a person that nobody else cared about at all would be lonely and invisible. But caring has its risks too. Caring about one person too much can cause you to care about other people too little. Or you can care about the wrong things altogether. Imagine a person who cared mostly about doing everything in their power to embarrass other people. Such a person...

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Should Robots Be Caregivers?

I was delighted to learn that my native country, Ireland, now has a competition called the Irish Young Philosopher Awards. This year's inaugural competition awared the "Young Philosopher of the Year" prize to 16-year-old Luke Rickard, whose project was "Is it ethical for robots to be caregivers?”  Irish President Michael D. Higgins, who awarded the prize to Luke, is a vocal advocate for introducing philosophy into schools in Ireland. He expressed hope the the annual Young Philosopher Awards will become as big as the Young Scientist competition. In this interview with Luke, he...

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Are We Slaves to Technology?

Smartphones are everywhere. In 2017, more than 67 percent of Americans owned a smartphone, and researchers expect that percentage only to increase over time. But how might this phenomenon, of always having our phones and access to social media at the tips of our fingers, impact the experience of being human? Should we be at all wary of technology's rapid rise? Sherry Turkle, a sociologist at MIT, thinks so, arguing that technology is "transforming what it means to be human." In this interview with Vox, Turkle worries that our extensive use of technology might make us less empathic. This...

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How a Glitch Caused a Crisis

We are in a constitutional crisis. It is not a looming crisis. It has already arrived, with the president’s declaration that he has the absolute right to pardon himself and his potential partners in crime, and the absolute right to stop any investigation for whatever reason he chooses. The crisis is not that he has said these things. He is almost certainly wrong in his interpretation of the law and the Constitution. After all, Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution requires the President to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” Pardoning himself and his cronies out of corrupt...

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An Antidote to Bullshit

In the last two installments of this blog, I’ve been discussing the so-called “Intellectual Dark Web” (IDW): an active and expanding Internet subculture that purports to provide an alternative to academic orthodoxy. Generally speaking, the stars of the IDW and their audience see the humanities and social sciences as hopelessly mired in politically correct ideology, and view their own enterprise as a sort of university-in-exile that is unsullied by feminism, identity politics, and other corrupting influences, and where unfettered freedom of thought and speech are the order of the day. I’ve...

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Repugnant Markets

Our topic this week is what we’re calling repugnant markets. We have in mind potential markets in goods and services the buying and selling of which people tend to find repugnant for one reason or another. We say “potential” markets because society tends not to allow markets in such goods to operate in the open… though there are often black markets in such goods. Are we right to prohibit markets in goods the buying and selling of which some people find repugnant? That’s the kind of question we will be addressing this week, with our guest, Nobel Prize winning economist, Alvin Roth—who may be...

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Is Kanye a Philosopher?

Kanye West, best known for his music career, is now expanding into philosophy, as revealed in an interview with his interior designer. But the 'book' Kanye has in mind will find its medium not in printed pages, but in real-time tweets. He's thus far expounded on consciousness and the ownership of ideas—all in the 280 characters, of course.  Can a series of tweets really constitute a book? And should we now consider Kanye a philosopher? Read more here: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2018/apr/18/kanye-west-twitter-return-philosophy-book

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The Twilight Zone and the Human Condition

In 1964, The Twilight Zone, aired its last episode, "The Bewitchin' Pool," on CBS. Some argue that the major themes of The Twilight Zone still resonate with modern audiences. What are these themes then, and how are they philosophically driven? As J.W. McCormack writes in The New York Review of Books, the show's most prevalent themes distill to the following: "'you are not what you took yourself to be,' 'you are not where you thought you were,' and 'beneath the façade of mundane American society lurks a cavalcade of monsters, clones, and robots.'”  The...

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What is it Like to Lose Your Identity?

Hannah Upp has dissociative fugue, an extremely rare form of amnesia, in which people lose access to their autobiographical memory and personal identity. Because of her condition, Upp occassionally goes missing for a few days or even weeks without warning. During an episode of fugue, she is at loss of a sense of self. Without a coherent self-identity and collection of memories from the past, she becomes a different person from the Hannah Upp that her friends, family, and herself know her as. She was once found laying face down in the waters of New York Harbor after going missing for...

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Against Marriage

On the one hand, it might seem baffling that the state gets involved in our love life. Why does the government need to keep track of who's married to whom? Will they next start tracking who our friends are? On the other, married partners gain certain important legal benefits regarding taxation, inheritance, next-of-kinship, and parental responsibility. But is there a way for the state to keep track of these legal benefits without regulating our relationships? This insightful and well-done Aeon article thinks so. Dr. Clare Chambers argues that a more just society wouldn't involve the...

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The Morality of Big Business

"Big business" for many has largely immoral associations: corrupt, profit-driven at the expense of human wellbeing or the environment, threatening to mom-and-pop shops everywhere. But this wasn't always the case—big businesses used to be viewed positively by the public. Is our current immoral perception of big businesses truly accurate? Are small-businesses really the shining examples or morality and business we take them to be?  This article from The Atlantic tackles the question, "How did large firms go from being a symbol of American strength to being the object of...

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On Deepities and Bullshit

I was sitting at a bar last week, when I had the misfortune of being asked the following question by the person next to me. In a profound tone of voice: “Do you believe in the Law of Attraction?” The so-called Law of Attraction is one of the cornerstones of New Age positive thinking, and one version of it (out of many) goes like this: if you sincerely believe with all your power that you already have what you want, then it will come to you. So for example, if you want to get into law school, then according to the Law of Attraction, you should “believe with all your power” that you...

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Consciousness Deniers?

The idea that consciousness is an illusion may be a familiar one. Thinkers like Daniel Dennett, Brian Farrell, and Richard Rorty espouse this basic notion: That conscious experience, as a result of collective physical processes in the brain, does not itself exist. But philosopher Galen Strawson, calling this idea "the Denial," argues that the denial of consciousness in philosophy is "the silliest claim ever made." He first explains the eminence of "the Denial" as a "mistaken interpretation of behaviorism" and later reasons why their claim is contradictory. Having consciousness is knowing...

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Is there a Right to Sex?

Most of us would think that straight men who demand the right to sex are motivated by a patriarchal sense of entitlement. Indeed, the claim that people have a right to sex can be a dangerous ideology, one that is used to justify rape and other hate crimes against women. One paradigmatic example of this was Elliot Rodger's killing spree back in 2014 when he shot multiple people, most of them women, because he was angry at women for refusing to sleep with him. As a reaction against this claim and its misogynistic implications, we may naturally argue that nobody is entitled to sex with others....

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Faith and Humility

For better or for worse, believers and non-believers are unlikely to fully agree about the relationship between faith and humility. Indeed, some non-believers may insist that there is an inherent conflict between the two. Faith can make the believer appear stubbornly dogmatic, impervious to reasoned argument and willfully blind to the truth. People of faith sometimes seem to claim to have a direct pipeline to God. And having a pipeline to God too often frees them to ignore the protestations of the rest of us mortals. And that doesn’t look like humility, at least not to outsiders. To them, it...

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