Category «Philosophy»

Podcast: Defining Free Will

This week, I returned to Atheistically Speaking to discuss free will. Back in June, Thomas and I had a good chat about moral philosophy and The Moral Landscape. Earlier in July, Thomas aired two episodes on free will, AS49 and AS50. He shared his thoughts on an exchange between Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett. Dennett …

Evil in All Its Forms

The U.S. Supreme Court expanded exemptions to a federal mandate that requires employer health plans to cover birth control. The mandate already exempts churches and lets other non-profits file for a “religious accommodation.” The Hobby Lobby decision lets for-profit employers file, too. The Wheaton College ruling lets Wheaton, a Christian non-profit, skip filing the accommodation form—EBSA …

Facebook’s Emotion Experiment & Informed Consent

For seven days in January 2012, roughly 689,000 Facebook users unknowingly took part in an “emotional contagion” study. Facebook reduced the percentage of positive posts, negative posts, or both in select news feeds. A comparison group had posts omitted from their feeds at random. Reducing negative posts led users to give status updates with fewer …

Podcast: Moral Philosophy & The Moral Landscape

Thomas Smith, host of the podcast Atheistically Speaking, had me on to talk about moral philosophy and Sam Harris’s The Moral Landscape. Previous guests of the program include philosopher Massimo Pigliucci, a critic of Harris. Thomas is a supporter of Harris’s scientific theory of morality. He and I had a friendly and fruitful discussion that …

The Fight for Moral Truth

In my essay for Sam Harris’s Moral Landscape Challenge, I assumed that serious competing theories of morality and value exist. Sam rejects this assumption. He contends that the only serious ethical theory is the one he accepts—consequentialism (explained after the jump). Sam also rejects my assumption that ethics must be prescriptive. He says an ethical …

Science, Philosophy, & Reality

Sam Harris has published his response to my winning essay in the Moral Landscape Challenge. I’d like to thank Sam for issuing the challenge and replying to my essay. I’d also like to thank Russell Blackford for all his hard work as contest judge. In my essay, I say that Sam has “not brought questions …

Treating Pets as Persons in Citizen Canine

David Grimm, journalist and editor at Science, has published a book about our increasingly personal connection to our pets. This worthwhile read is called Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs. A central theme is cats and dogs’ path to legal personhood. The book explores answers to two questions. Do cats and dogs …

The Worst Possible Misery for Everyone is Bad (Reasoning)? – Part 1

Sam Harris’s “worst possible misery for everyone” argument (WPME, for short) attempts to defend this conclusion: Increases/decreases in the well-being of conscious creatures fully determine which states of the world are morally better/worse. The argument is named for its key premise: “The worst possible misery for everyone is bad.” In this post, I’ll lay out …