Tuesday, March 31, 2015

John Rawls

What Rawls was therefore after was a simple, economical and polemical way to show people how their societies were unfair and what they might do about it – in ways that could cut through the debate and touch people’s hearts as well as minds (for he knew that emotion mattered a lot in politics).
The Great Philosophers: John Rawls  | Philosophers' Mail

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

How to Criticize with Kindness

“In disputes upon moral or scientific points,” Arthur Martine counseled in his magnificent 1866 guide to the art of conversation, “let your aim be to come at truth, not to conquer your opponent. So you never shall be at a loss in losing the argument, and gaining a new discovery.” Of course, this isn’t what happens most of the time when we argue, both online and off, but especially when we deploy the artillery of our righteousness from behind the comfortable shield of the keyboard. That form of “criticism” — which is really a menace of reacting rather than responding — is worthy of Mark Twain’s memorable remark that “the critic’s symbol should be the tumble-bug: he deposits his egg in somebody else’s dung, otherwise he could not hatch it.” But it needn’t be this way — there are ways to be critical while remaining charitable, of aiming not to “conquer” but to “come at truth,” not to be right at all costs but to understand and advance the collective understanding.
Dan Dennett talks about how to construct healthy criticism, based on his book Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking.

How to Criticize with Kindness: Philosopher Daniel Dennett on the Four Steps to Arguing Intelligently | Brain Pickings

Sunday, March 08, 2015

The social contract theory according to Socrates

This essay aims to trace the idea of the social contract in the western tradition as far back as possible, in which we turn back looking at Socrates’ trial. Of course, the major works on ‘social contract theory’ were written in closer proximity to our age, initiated by Hobbes’s “Leviathan,” Locke’s “Two Treatises on Government,” Rousseau’s “The Social Contract,” and Montesquieu’s “The Spirit of Laws.” However, there is a great deal of understanding found in Plato’s dialogues, particularly in Euthyphro, Apology, and Crito. Plato also writes extensively related to this topic in the “Republic” (especially, Book II) and the “Laws.”
The social contract theory according to Socrates » 3:AM Magazine

Friday, March 06, 2015

Constructive Thinking

Critical thinking is actually just the first step in a larger process that we might want to call constructive thinking. Rest assured, this is not just wordplay. Critical thinking represents the highly valuable inquiry and interrogation prerequisite to problem identification; it involves the analysis of an argument's merits and faults. It is the process of judging, approving or disapproving. Liberal arts colleges encourage students to ask lots of questions. Through questions, students unravel or deconstruct an argument in order to access its utility. While none of this is inherently negative, it too often becomes routinely condemnatory. It can also breed intellectual laziness; the job of taking something apart is far easier than the job of putting it back together again. The identification of problems made possible by critical thinking is useful only if it gives rise to the problem solving of constructive thinking. The desired endgame is problem solving, not critical thinking for its own sake.
Liberal arts colleges should focus on how they help students learn 'constructive thinking'

Top 10 Living Philosophers to Read Today

Philosophy "is today alive and kicking and produces output admirable for its sharpness, profundity, and richness. From fields as obscure as modal epistemology, to more common ones such as feminism and ethics, here are 10 leaders of today’s best achievements of the human mind."

And there are lots of younger philosophers doing great work worth reading. Many of them--more than 1-in-10--are women.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Walter Sinnott-Armstrong on Moral Psychology

Check out this podcast on moral psychology.
Nigel Warburton interviews Walter Sinnott-Armstrong about moral psychology for this episode of the Philosophy Bites podcast. Is recent psychological research relevant to moral philosophy? If so, what exactly can it provide?"
philosophy bites: Walter Sinnott-Armstrong on Moral Psychology

Monday, March 02, 2015

Why Our Children Don't Think There Are Moral Facts

We can do better. Our children deserve a consistent intellectual foundation. Facts are things that are true. Opinions are things we believe. Some of our beliefs are true. Others are not. Some of our beliefs are backed by evidence. Others are not. Value claims are like any other claims: either true or false, evidenced or not. The hard work lies not in recognizing that at least some moral claims are true but in carefully thinking through our evidence for which of the many competing moral claims is correct. That’s a hard thing to do. But we can’t sidestep the responsibilities that come with being human just because it’s hard.
Why Our Children Don't Think There Are Moral Facts - NYTimes.com