Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

The Importance of Collective Intelligence in a Sustainable Future

[This is the text of a short - 15 minute talk - I delivered to the Viridian Conference on 17th March 2021. The purpose of the conference was to discuss the Viridian Declaration, which advocates for technological and social reform in order to make the environment sustainable. One aspect of the declaration focuses on the importance of resilient and adaptive social institutions. That’s where I focused my energies for my talk. As with all short talks of this nature, the ideas and arguments here are programmatic and provocative. They are not rigorously defended. I’m fully aware that there are some holes in what I have to say, but I hope it provides food for thought nonetheless. I have changed the title and made some minor updates to this text from the version I used during the actual talk].I am very pleased to be able to talk to you this evening and I would like to thank the organisers for inviting me to participate in this exciting and optimistic event. I am a philosopher and ethicist of technology and it is, sadly, rare for me to participate in an event in which people talk positively about the future.In the short time I have with you I want to make an argument, or maybe even a plea: that we need to think carefully, systematically and scientifically about how best to harness human and machine intelligence to solve the ecological, sociological and technological problems we currently face. Indeed, I would argue that thinking systematically and scientifically about how to harness [More]

Earning Faculty Buy-in with SAM (Simplify, Automate and Motivate) Part 2: Automation

As noted in the previous post, I need to write a presentation for an upcoming conference. Here is the second part, on automating assessment. Automation As a matter of psychology, people are more likely to stick to a default inclusion when opting out requires effort. An excellent example of this is retirement savings: when employees [More]

Aquinas’ Moral, Political, and Legal Philosophy

[Revised entry by John Finnis on March 16, 2021. Changes to: Bibliography] For Thomas Aquinas, as for Aristotle, doing moral philosophy is thinking as generally as possible about what I should choose to do (and not to do), considering my whole life as a field of opportunity (or misuse of opportunity). Thinking as general as this concerns not merely my own opportunities, but the kinds of good things that any human being can do and achieve, or be deprived of. Thinking about what to do is conveniently labeled "practical", and is concerned with what and how to choose and do what one [More]

The Ethics of Teacher-Student Relationships

When I was starting out in my academic career, I was assigned a senior colleague as a mentor. This is not an unusual practice. The hope is that the senior colleague can provide advice on how to navigate the thickets of academic life. I remember at one of our meetings the topic of teacher-student relationships came up. This colleague told me, in no uncertain terms, that any kind of sexual or romantic relationship with a student (graduate or undergraduate) was inappropriate and should be avoided. Sound advice, but a little bit ironic for two reasons. First, this particular colleague was in a long-term (and by all accounts happy and well-functioning) relationship with a former graduate student. Second, the thought of entering into such a relationship had never crossed my mind nor had it been a feature of our conversation prior to that point. I believe the only reason it had come up was because I was unsure of how to deal with a student whose mother was dying. To say that the advice was disconnected from the context would seem to be an understatement. If I were to characterise the relationships I have had with my students over the years I would say that they are, for the most part, extremely distant. To be fair, this my normative baseline when it comes to all relationships. I have very few close friendships and I am, for the most part, reclusive and solitary. That said, I probably take this reclusive attitude to extremes when it comes to students. For example, I try to [More]

Rediscovering Political Friendship: Aristotle's Theory and Modern Identity, Community, and Equality

2021.03.05 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Paul W. Ludwig, Rediscovering Political Friendship: Aristotle's Theory and Modern Identity, Community, and Equality, Cambridge University Press, 2020, 347pp., $105.00 (hbk), ISBN 9781107022966. Reviewed by Jonny Thakkar, Swarthmore College Those of us who live in liberal democracies do not tend to think of ourselves as connected to our fellow citizens by bonds of friendship. Most of us recognize special obligations towards our fellow citizens on account of our shared membership in a given society. We find it natural, for instance, that more of our tax dollars go to welfare programs within our own country than to overseas aid. But if pushed on why that is, we would be unlikely to invoke the notion of friendship. The concept of friendship seems to apply at a fundamentally different scale to the concept of citizenship: even in the era of Facebook, it still evokes relatively small-scale networks that tie individuals together on the basis of... Read [More]