Judgment without Morality


Both Sartre and Anscombe say that they’re teasing out the logical consequences of atheism for ethics, and of course we saw this back in Nietzsche too. If you ask “are these figures moral realists or moral irrealists?”, I think they’re going to say you’re missing the point. No, a sentence like “X is right” no […]

Rawls’s Second Principle: Compromise or Clusterf*#$?

Rawls’s principle 2a, to remind you, is (quoting from wikipedia here): Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that (Rawls, 1971, p.302; revised edition, p. 47): (a) they are to be of the greatest benefit to the least-advantaged members of society, consistent with the just savings principle (the difference principle). This has appeal […]

Bergmann as Philosopher (Before All that “New Work” Stuff)

We’re barely more than a day away right now from our interview with Frithjof, which he says he’s “thrilled” about, and I’m certainly looking forward to as well, though I can picture any number of things going less than ideally as I introduce these two known elements (Frithjof on the one hand and Seth/Wes/Dylan on […]

Norm Schultz (Mile High Sanity Project) on Aristotle’s Ethics

In preparation for our Aristotle Politics episode, I checked out a new semi-philosophy podcast called the Mile High Sanity Project, as they had an episode on Aristotle’s ethics. I say “semi-philosophy,” because the podcast is made up of three guys in different disciplines. They trade off being the lead guy on episodes, so the philosophy […]

Topic for #58/#59: Is vs. Ought (G.E. Moore, C.L. Stevenson, Alasdair MacIntyre)

These two episodes cover some related approaches in 20th century ethics: First, we read Chapter 1 of G.E. Moore’s Principia Ethica(1903), which argues against utilitarianism and other ethical philosophies by exposing the “naturalistic fallacy,” which equates “good” with some natural property like pleasure or people’s actual desires. This error, says Moore, also extends to equating […]

Alan Watts on Buddhist and Christian Mythographies

Watch on YouTube. I liked the meta-discussion that kicked off the second PEL naturalized Buddhism episode, specifically on what knowledge we gain by assessing the supernatural “rules” contained within “religious” Buddhism. Even after rejecting a supernaturalist stance, there’s value in reviewing the form of life revealed within Buddhism’s supernatural tenets. In that spirit, I enjoyed Boddhisatva’s Brain most for its […]

Topic for #53/#54: Buddhism and Science with Guest Owen Flanagan

In episode 53, the full four-man PEL crew spoke with Duke University’s Owen Flanagan, mostly about his book The Bodhisattva’s Brain: Buddhism Naturalized, which has a number of aims: -To argue that supernatural beliefs can be removed (or “tamed”) from Buddhism and still leave an elaborate enterprise relevant to modern life. -To put Buddhist conceptions […]

Kenan Malik (via The Browser) on Morality without God (and the Euthyphro)

In this interview with Kenan Malik (a “scientific author,” i.e. a psychology/biology guy who dabbles in philosophical issues) uses the Euthyphro to argue that presenting religion as the guardian of moral values “diminishing the importance of human agency in the creation of a moral framework.” His enemy is “false certainty” in ethics, whether because you […]

Paul Boghossian (via Philosophy Bites) on Moral Relativism

We’ve discussed Paul Boghossian and his book against relativism a bit in our Nelson Goodman episode. See my blog post on this from last year. In this interview on the Philosophy Bites podcast, Boghossian talks about moral relativism, giving some shades of the view: e.g. you could be a relativist about manners but not really […]

Topic for #46: Plato’s Euthyphro

Does morality depend on religion? In Plato’s early and fun (and short!) dialogue Euthyphro, Socrates questions Euthyphro (who’s on his way to go and file murder charges against his own father) about the meaning of “piety.” Is an action (like turning in your dad) pious because it’s the kind of thing that the gods love? […]

Topic for #45: Moral Sense Theory: Hume and Smith

Here’s the recorded episode. In Ep. 41, we discussed David Hume’s ethics both providing a challenge for any naturalist (meaning one compatible with a modern scientific world-view) ethics–you can’t deduce “ought” from “is”–and as providing an approach to moral psychology. In this discussion, we grappled with selections from Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature (1740) and […]

Magnetic Morality Modulation

This September, PBS will re-broadcast an interesting episode of NOVA ScienceNOW, which touches on some points raised in PEL’s interview with Patricia Churchland. The episode demonstrates a procedure called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), which can influence a person’s moral judgments as they are being made, simply by messing with the neural activity located within the brain’s Right TemporoParietal […]

Moral Psychology vs. Normativity

Given that Churchland focuses on the causal story (physiological, evolutionary, psychological, cultural) for where we get our moral sense, does that mean that the causal story is all there is to it, i.e. that by understanding the causal theory, you understand morality itself? Certainly Kant thought not: the causal story is only relevant for him […]