There is a link to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on the “links” page of this blog. An interesting article on the 20th anniversary of Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains why it is a very useful and reliable resource for students of philosophy: “Quite a few people in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States are looking online for information about Kantian morality. And the relationship between education and philosophy is piquing the interest of web surfers worldwide. How do we know this? The data comes from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the web’s oldest and arguably most credible open-access source of philosophical information. Launched two decades ago, years before Wikipedia existed, the site led the way in academic information sharing. It now includes 1,478 authoritative and vetted entries about all manner of philosophical topics. It is updated almost daily, thanks to about 2,000 contributors. The encyclopedia averages more than a million Internet hits per week. Users include students, scholars, librarians and even military officials.”
Are professional ethicists more moral than others? Apparently not. According to Eric Schwitzgebel, many professional ethicists tend to be “cheeseburger ethicists.” A cheeseburger ethicist is someone who reasons that it is morally wrong to eat meat and nevertheless enjoys a cheeseburger because everyone else does it. “In most cases, we already know what is good. No special effort or skill is required to figure that out. Much more interesting and practical is the question of how far short of the ideal we are comfortable being.” And professional ethicists seem more or less as comfortable as everyone else in falling short of their moral ideals. So … what is the point of philosophical reflection about how we ought to live? “Genuine philosophical thinking critiques its prior strictures, including even the assumption that we ought to be morally good. It damages almost as often as it aids, is free, wild and unpredictable, always breaks its harness. It will take you somewhere, up, down, sideways – you can’t know in advance. But you are responsible for trying to go in the right direction with it, and also for your failure when you don’t get there.”
In “Reclaiming the Power of Play, Stephen Asma notes that “play is also a crucial part of the full life of the human animal, and yet philosophers have said very little about it.” And yet philosophy is a kind of play: “What would, and what should, we do with our free time? After the world of work, will we have the time, energy and ambition to do philosophy, make art, study history, master languages and make craft beers? Will we play creatively as ‘holy yea-sayers,’ or will we just watch more TV?”
Are there moral facts? For example, is it a fact that “copying homework assignments is wrong”? Or is this merely an opinion or belief? In “Why Our Children Don’t Think There Are Moral Facts,” Justin McBrayer explains that there are moral facts and along the way raises some useful distinctions about facts, values, beliefs, opinions, and the truth … though it’s clear from readers’ comments not everyone agrees. (Also, it’s “ad nauseam,” not “ad nauseum.”)
In a recent lecture to the American Philosophical Association, University of Michigan philosophy professor Peter Railton describes his battle with depression. “On social media, audience members described giving him two standing ovations, and even crying.” A draft of the lecture itself is available here.
A “valid” argument is one in which the conclusion follows logically from the premises regardless of whether the premises and/or the conclusion happens to be true or false. An “invalid” argument is one in which the conclusion does not follow logically from the premises even if the conclusion happens to be a true statement. A conclusion may be true or false regardless of whether it follows from a valid argument or not. Got it? See if you can spot the valid and invalid arguments in this “valid or invalid” quiz. Warning: a favorite trick of logicians is to test students with some valid arguments that have false conclusions and some invalid arguments that have true conclusions.