Cheeseburger ethics

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.”

Returning women to the history of philosophy

In “Reviving the Female Canon,” Susan Price notes: Despite their influence in early modern philosophy, “the era’s women thinkers are absent from historical anthologies of philosophical works. A group of scholars is trying to change that.” This may help with the larger problem of the under-representation of women in philosophy.

Philosophy of play

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?”

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 is a necessity, not a luxury

What is philosophy good for? Robert Grant provides an excellent explanation of the value of philosophy. “By emphasising clarity, rigour and logical analysis, philosophy teaches students the structure of good arguments, a valuable transferable skill. Studies show philosophy graduates achieve the highest scores in assessments of verbal, analytical and numerical reasoning. Philosophy students make good thinkers. But philosophy is more than useful training in how to think. Its greatest value lies in what it encourages students to think about: the subject matter rather than the method. Philosophy examines the most fundamental concepts we have about what it is to exist as a human in this world: knowledge, truth, meaning, justice, beauty, freedom, consciousness. Our assumptions about these influence all aspect of our lives.”