Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Aristotle’s Aesthetics

[New Entry by Pierre Destrée on December 3, 2021.] The term "aesthetics", though deriving from the Greek (aisthetikos meaning "related to sense experience"), is a modern one, forged by Baumgarten as the title of his main book (Aesthetica, 1750). Only later did it come to name an entire field of philosophical research. Aristotle does not use that term. But after Plato, he does use the word mimetike (that is, literally, the art of producing a mimesis), and since he considers [More]

Beneficentrism

Philosophical discussion of utilitarianism understandably focuses on its most controversial features: its rejection of deontic constraints and the "demandingness" of impartial maximizing.  But in fact almost all of the important practical implications of utilitarianism stem from a much weaker feature, one that I think probably ought to be shared by every sensible moral view.  It's just the claim that it's really important to help others.  As Peter Singer and other effective altruists have long argued, we're able to do extraordinary amounts of good for others very easily (e.g. just by donating 10% of our income to the most effective charities), and this is very much worth doing.It'd be helpful to have a snappy name for this view, which assigns (non-exclusive) central moral importance to beneficence.  So let's coin the following:Beneficentrism: The view that promoting the general welfare is deeply important.Clearly, you don't have to be a utilitarian to accept beneficentrism. You could accept deontic constraints. You could accept any number of supplemental non-welfarist values (as long as they don't implausibly swamp the importance of welfare). You could accept any number of views about partiality and/or priority.  You can reject 'maximizing' accounts of obligation in favour of views that leave room for supererogation.  You just need to appreciate that the numbers count, such that immensely helping others is immensely [More]

Knowing one’s opinion is worth hearing

Mary Midgley muses that the dearth of men in Oxford during WW2 helped her and her friends Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, and Iris Murdoch find their way into philosophy. But each of them took years to find her voice—Midgley longest of all. What held them back and what provoked them to finally speak up?       Related StoriesThe society of Holocaust victims: what was life inside a Nazi camp like?City spaces, pace bias, and the production of disabilityHomi K. Bhabha on V.S. Naipaul: in conversation with William [More]