When the truth hurts

Is it ever worth not knowing the truth? Sometimes there are downsides to knowing the truth. For example, the truth about health or personal relationships can sometimes produce more pain than good. But we don’t always know when the truth will be worth it and when it wouldn’t. So what should we do? In “When the Truth Hurts,” Jess Whittlestone proposes this approach: “If I’m right here that the risks involved in seeking the truth too little are greater than those involved in seeking the truth too much, then aiming to always seek the truth might be a good general rule of thumb. This isn’t to say that the truth is ultimately valuable, or that there are no cases where we’re better off not knowing the truth. Valuing the truth doesn’t mean wasting time on understanding trivial, boring things, or asking everyone you meet what they like least about you. But given that most of the time we’re operating under a great deal of uncertainty, we might benefit overall from believing – falsely! – that the truth is what matters most.”

Disease and self-identity

When does the deterioration of your brain rob you of your identity, and when doesn’t it? Is it when you lose your memories, or is it the loss of something else that robs you of your self? In “Your Brain, Your Disease, Your Self,” philosopher Shaun Nichols and psychologist Nina Strohminger say it is your morality more than your memory that makes you you. “It is only when our grip on the moral universe loosens that our identity slips away with it.”

An experiment: tell the truth

“One day I decided to stop lying. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never been a big liar before in my life, but I decided to – to the best of my abilities – not lie at all. I defined some borderline case rules for myself, for example, it is ok to avoid or withhold the truth, when the effects of telling it would be harmful for myself or someone else (do I look pretty in this dress?), but not to tell a direct lie, however small.” Jacob Henricson gives the result of his experiment in “Honesty in Business – A Stoic Experiment.”  Kant would approve.

 

Should vegans compromise?

Some activists for animal rights “reject any compromises with welfare-oriented groups that aim to secure incremental improvements — such as larger cages — for animals raised and slaughtered in horrific circumstances.” They think that working for more humane treatment of animals in an unjust institution like factory farming violates their moral principle that it’s wrong to use animals for food in the first place. Bob Fischer and James McWilliams question whether it makes sense to put moral principle ahead of preventing suffering. 

Morality and the war on ISIS

In the age of ISIS, can we still have ‘just wars’?” In her interview with Gary Gutting, Cecile Fabre argues that the principles underlying the “just war” tradition apply not only to “traditional” wars between nation states but also to war against ISIS. “It’s illusory to think that we can ever once and for all defeat terror — as illusory as to think that we can eliminate murder, rape, drug trafficking, and so on. As I noted earlier, human beings have always done those things to one another. Most of us don’t think that the best way to stop suspected murders, rapists, and traffickers is to bomb into the ground the areas where we think they are hiding. The most we can do is to catch and punish them (or if necessary kill them with minimum collateral damage). We do so knowing that we will not be able to spare all likely victims. Outside of war, the price we pay for abiding by moral principles is a great deal of wrongful suffering. The same is true regarding war.”

Bioethicists, get out of the way!

In “The Moral Imperative for Bioethicists,” Steven Pinker argues that ethicists should not use their philosophical distinctions and niceties to slow down research. “Given this potential bonanza, the primary moral goal for today’s bioethics can be summarized in a single sentence. Get out of the way. A truly ethical bioethics should not bog down research in red tape, moratoria, or threats of prosecution based on nebulous but sweeping principles such as ‘dignity,’ ‘sacredness,’ or ‘social justice.’ Nor should it thwart research that has likely benefits now or in the near future by sowing panic about speculative harms in the distant future.”