Moral facts

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.”)

Coming out as a philosopher who battles depression

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.

Valid or invalid?

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.

Philosophy … as relevant as the iPhone

Using three philosophers as examples, Nicholas Kristof explains we cannot dismiss the humanities. “These three philosophers influence the way I think about politics, immigration, inequality; they even affect what I eat. It’s also worth pointing out that these three philosophers are recent ones. To adapt to a changing world, we need new software for our cellphones; we also need new ideas. The same goes for literature, for architecture, languages and theology.”

Psychologists investigate the Socratic method?

Confusion may be better for learning than clarity. Why do philosophers have to disagree with everything that anyone says? Whatever their motivation, one result is that the Socratic method of generating confusion is better for learning. As this article explains …

“Common wisdom holds that confusion should be avoided during learning and rapidly resolved if and when it arises,” wrote a team of researchers in a paper published earlier this year. While this might be true when it comes to superficial tasks such as memorizing facts and figures, “Confusion is likely to promote learning at deeper levels of comprehension under appropriate conditions.”

In other words: If teachers want students to learn the really important stuff, like comprehending difficult texts and modeling complex systems, they should put their students in confusing situations.

What is wisdom?

… and what does it have to do with philosophy, which is supposed to be “the love of wisdom”? The Sage and the Shrink (Julian Baggini and Antonia Macaro) say: “Being wise is about knowing what’s important; having sufficient insight into how we and others tick; having a handle on negative moods and emotions instead of being controlled by them; having an attitude of curiosity and a love of learning; understanding we’re all in the same boat and therefore being compassionate towards ourselves and others.”