Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Race/Gender Swapping: Why Not Just Create New Characters (or focus on old ones)?

In fiction, race/gender swapping occurs when an established character’s race or gender is changed. For example, the original Nick Fury character in Marvel is a white man, but this character was changed to a black man in the Ulimates and in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As another example, the original Dr. Smith in Lost in [More]

Tendentious Terminology in Ethics

Ethical theorists may sometimes engage in "persuasive definition": re-defining an evocative phrase for their own purposes, in a way that their opponent will reasonably regard as inaccurate and unfair.  Two examples that always annoy me are "treating someone as a mere means" and the "separateness of persons".  Opponents of consequentialism all too often trot out these phrases to indicate deep flaws in consequentialism. But it only works for them if they first redefine these terms to mean something that has nothing to do with the literal meaning of treating someone as a mere means or the separateness of persons.  You might as well redefine "terrorist" to denote adherents of the opposing views, and then complain that your opponents are all terrorists.  It's dishonest rhetoric, and ought to be avoided.  In this post, I'll explain my two examples, and why I consider them so misleading.  Others are welcome to comment with other examples -- especially any that you think consequentialists may be guilty of!Treating someone as a mere means (rather than as an end in themselves) would violate the moral datum that each person has final (non-instrumental) value.  That sure would seem a straightforward moral blunder.  But Kantians redefine the phrase to instead mean something like acting upon someone without their consent.  Of course, it's fine to try to argue for the view that acting upon someone without their consent is incompatible with [More]

“Refusing” vs “Declining” the Vaccine

Because of the psychological power of rhetoric, words do matter. As philosophers point out in critical thinking, words have both a denotation (the meaning) and a connotation (the emotions and associations invoked). Words that have the same (or similar) denotation can have very different connotations. For example, “police officer” and “pig” (as slang) have the [More]

Value Vagueness

While the Republican politicians in my adopted state of Florida profess to love freedom, they also have been busy passing laws to restrict freedom. To illustrate, Governor DeSantis has opposed mask mandates and vaccine passports on the professed grounds of fighting “medical authoritarianism.” However, the Governor and the Republican dominated state legislature have banned ‘critical [More]

Why Constraints are Agent Neutral

My previous post argued that deontologists must prefer not to violate deontic constraints, or those constraints would lack normative significance. There is one last way that they might avoid my argument that constraints trivialize killing, namely, by holding that while the agent must prefer to abide by constraints, bystanders should prefer that the agent acts wrongly, killing one to save five.  This post will set out why I think that view is mistaken.By way of background: It's typically assumed that constraints must be agent-relative.  To explain why an agent should not kill one to prevent five other killings, deontologists often say things like, "Each agent has a special responsibility for their own actions -- that they not act wrongly, even to prevent more others from doing so." But in his groundbreaking paper, 'Agent-neutral deontology', Tom Dougherty pointed out that the injunction to not act wrongly, even to prevent more others from doing so can be given agent-neutral form, e.g.: "Each agent should [prefer and] ensure that no one kills to prevent more killings by others." (2013, 531)This agent-neutral conception of constraints seems much more intuitively appealing. It might be characterized as "patient-centered" rather than "agent-centered". As Setiya (2018, p. 97) put it, "when you should not cause harm to one in a way that will benefit others, you should not want others to do so either."  Whatever deontologists have [More]

Preferring to Act Wrongly

Deontologists hold that it's wrong to kill an innocent person, even to prevent five other such killings. Does it follow that they should prefer Five Killings over One Killing to Prevent Five?  If so, my previous argument kicks in to demonstrate that they care insufficiently about killing.  In this post, I want to argue that the alternative -- preferring to act wrongly -- results in an even worse theory.First, consider the objection that deontologists needn't take any stand on matters of preferability.  Perhaps they are just concerned to elucidate our obligations, and remain silent on all else.  But that doesn't help, because so long as there are further questions to be asked here (as there clearly are), their incomplete moral view must (if it is to have any hope of being correct) be coherently completable. That is, if certain verdicts about the deontic statuses of actions cannot be coherently combined with any plausible further claims about the relative preferability of various possible worlds, then those initial verdicts cannot all be true.  So we might as well move on to the question of what the most plausible completion of a deontological view would be: what verdicts about preferability fit best with the claim that it's wrong to kill one to prevent five killings.Okay. So, why not prefer One Killing to Prevent Five, while regarding it as impermissible to bring about? Here I think it's important to get clear on what kind of [More]

Latest News

Here are some of the things going on in philosophy
and the humanities.

See all News Items

Philosopher Spotlight

Conversations with philosophers, professional and non-professional alike.
Visit our podcast section for more interviews and conversations.

Interview with

Dr. Robert McKim
  • on Religious Diversity
  • Professor of Religion and Professor of Philosophy
  • Focuses on Philosophy of Religion
  • Ph.D. Yale

Interview with

Dr. Alvin Plantinga
  • on Where the Conflict Really Lies
  • Emeritus Professor of Philosophy (UND)
  • Focuses on Epistemology, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Religion
  • Ph.D. Yale

Interview with

Dr. Peter Boghossian
  • on faith as a cognitive sickness
  • Teaches Philosophy at Portland State University (Oregon)
  • Focuses on atheism and critical thinking
  • Has a passion for teaching in prisons
See all interviews


Twitter followers


News items posted


Page views per month

21 years

in publication

Latest Articles

See all Articles