Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Fighting Overpopulation: Ten methods to exterminate most of humankind

First of all, a disclaimer: I am not advocating the extermination of anyone! This post is just an attempt of mine to place myself in the shoes of the bad guys who could think of doing such a thing and examine how they could do it. Could these scenarios occur for real? I don't know but, as I say at the beginning of this blog, "always plan for the worst case hypothesis"You know that there are people, high up in the hierarchy, who have powers that we commoners can't even dream of. And when the powers that be (PTB) decide that something is to be done, they usually succeed by a combination of propaganda, money, and sheer force. Obviously, they can't miss the fact that for decades the world's best scientists have been speaking about a coming collapse of the global ecosystem, mainly because of climate change. So, would they act on this knowledge? And, if so, how?Like everybody else, the PTBs think in terms of their personal survival and some of them reacted to the threat of the collapse of the ecosystem by buying desert bunkers and stockpiling food and weapons in there. But what if some of them decided to take a more proactive stance? Not being scientists, they may well reason in simplified terms: what is the cause of the coming collapse? Those pesky humans, of course. Then, an obvious solution is to get rid of most of them.The bad guys who plan the extermination of humankind are a classic element of science fiction, but large scale exterminations are a constant of real [More]

Right Wrong-Makers (forthcoming in PPR)

My latest paper, 'The Right Wrong-Makers', has been accepted for publication in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research!  I actually think this is the best (and most significant) paper I've written.* The basic setup:Stocker (1976) famously lamented the "moral schizophrenia", or disharmony "between one's motives and one's [normative] reasons," that he associated with modern ethical theories. Our moral theories appear to furnish us with highly abstract fundamental justifications--invoking the likes of aggregate utility, reasonable rejectability, universalizable maxims, or the balance of prima facie duties. Ordinary moral motivation, by contrast, often involves concern for particular, concrete individuals|and rightly so. This divergence between justification and apt motivation is all the more striking because many contemporary moral theorists explicitly endorse principles linking the two. Others (especially consequentialists) have responded by disavowing this link, effectively embracing the charge of schizophrenic disharmony. But I think such disavowals are a mistake. This paper offers a different kind of response to Stocker's charge. We can reject the assumption that our moral theories furnish us with highly abstract fundamental justifications, normative reasons, or moral grounds. Our theories may advert to highly abstract properties in specifying their criteria for right action: that which fills in the blank in statements of the form, "An act is right iff [More]

The Mechanics of Moral Change

I’ve recently become fascinated by moral revolutions. As I have explained before, by “moral revolution” I mean a change in social beliefs and practices about rights, wrongs, goods and bads. I don’t mean a change in the overarching moral truth (if such a thing exists). Moral revolutions strike me as an important topic of study because history tells us that our moral beliefs and practices change, at least to some extent, and it is possible that they will do so again in the future. Can we plan for and anticipate future moral revolutions? That's what I am really interested in. To get a handle on this question, we need to think about the dynamics of moral change. What is changing and how does it change? Recently, I’ve been reading up on the history and psychology of morality and this article is an attempt to distill, from that reading, some models for understanding the dynamics of moral change. Everything I say here is preliminary and tentative but it might be of interest to some readers. 1. The Mechanics of Morality: a Basic PictureLet’s start at the most abstract level. What is morality? Philosophers will typically tell you that morality consists of two things: (i) a set of claims about what is and is not valuable (i.e. what is good/bad/neutral) and (ii) a set of claims about what is and is not permissible (i.e. what is right, wrong, forbidden, allowed etc). Values are things we ought to promote and honour through our behaviour. They include things like pleasure, happiness, [More]

Overpopulation: Are You Sure it is an Ignored Problem?

In the 1960s and 1970s, the problem of world overpopulation was often discussed and birth control was proposed as a solution. It soon became politically incorrect even to discuss this subject in public, but it may be that it wasn't forgotten, only acted upon in ways that didn't involve a public debate. In July of every year, the WWF usually alerts of the arrival of the "Fish Dependence Day" in Europe. It marks the date when the European consumption of fish equals the projected yearly production of fish from European seas. There follows that, from that day onward, Europeans eat only imported fish or offshore fish up to the end of the year and, as you may imagine, the fated day comes a little earlier every year. It is just one of the many indicators of the overexploitation of the world's natural resources, as I and my coworker Perissi describe in our recent book "The Empty Sea".The politically correct way to mention overexploitation is to say that we should be more careful, consume a little less, diversify, avoid the most overexploited stocks of resources, and that then everything will be well. This is the way I reported the 2020 Fish Dependence Day in an article I wrote for an Italian Newspaper.You have to be careful in these matters: just a few days ago I was attacked on Facebook as a would-be exterminator of humankind just because I said that the Covid-19 epidemic is basically over in Italy. But when anonymous commenting is allowed, as it is in that newspaper, people can [More]