This week we're asking about the Demands of Morality -- whether living morally adds or detracts from the goodness of a life. The answer may seem obvious to some people. When you do the moral thing, you're doing the right thing. Violating morality is doing the wrong thing. It’s good to do the right thing; bad to do the wrong thing. You will always do better and live better when you do the moral thing.
Religion offers us a comforting and inspiring vision of human existence. In the Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Islam and Christiantiy, a just but loving and merciful God created the universe. He’s in charge. And he’s got a plan -- not just for the universe as a whole, but for each of us. Seems like it would be nice to wake up in the morning as a part of all that.
The title of this week’s show might sound a little mysterious. How can dance, of all things, be a way of knowing? Most things we know, we know either through perception or through thinking and reasoning. But on the surface of things, it doesn’t look like dance is either a form of perception or a form of thinking.
Probably the most persuasive argument for the existence of God --- I don’t mean to philosophers and logicians, but to ordinary people --- goes something like this: All of this --- that is, a world with life, intelligence, beauty, humans, morality, etc., ---- couldn’t have come about by accident. It must be due to some intelligent, powerful Being --- and that’s what God is.
Our topic this week is the psychology of partisan politics. To appreciate how divided Americans are about politics, we might with god, guns, and sex. Some Americans view gun ownership as a non-negotiable, almost sacred right and view homosexuality as an unholy abomination. Other Americans see guns as one of our greatest social ills and see differences in sexual orientation as no more significant than differences in eye color. But, of course, those are intrinsically emotionally charged issues, so you might expect deep divisions in such domains. But Americans are also deeply divided over things like the environment, the economy, and education. We all profess to want clean air and water, good schools, and a thriving economy. But we don’t agree at all about how to achieve those things.
What is a self? Here’s is a really simple answer. I’m a self, namely, myself. You are a self, namely, yourself. A self is just a person, a living, breathing, thinking human being. We use the particle ‘self’ to form reflexive pronouns, like “myself” and “yourself”, and these pronouns, refer to persons. So there’s the simple theory of selves: selves are persons.
Developments in genetics – in particular the mapping of the human genome – are tremendously exciting. For example, if we can correctly identify the disease carrying genes, we may be able to eradicate cancer. But new knowledge gives us new abilities. And new abilities give us new ethical dilemmas. This is so true in the field of biology that a whole new discipline has emerged – bioethics.
Our topic this week is the linguistics of name-calling. This episode is sort of the linguistic companion of our episode on Forbidden Words. On that one, we talked to a philosopher about the semantics of slurs that are so offensive that decent people just shouldn’t use them. On this episode, we’re going to look more at words like ass-hole, that are offensive enough to pack a punch, but aren’t offensive enough to be always inappropriate.
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Philosophy Talk With Ken Taylor and John Perry of Stanford University is produced by Ben Manilla Productions, Inc.