May 7, 2021
Epicureanism: The Basic Idea
Is it so hard to satisfy our senses?
Ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270 BC) believes that the way to ensure happiness throughout life is to reduce one’s desires so that they can be easily fulfilled. (more...)
February 22, 2021
Hedonism, Pleasure and Happiness
Richard Taylor on what makes us truly happy
Hedonism is the thesis that happiness and pleasure are the same. But is that true? Does the enjoyment of pleasures like good food, chocolate, sex and a myriad other things that we consume everyday — do these things really make us happier? (more...)
January 25, 2021
Martha Nussbaum and the Capabilities Approach
What makes a human life worth living?
In the capabilities approach, philosopher Martha Nussbaum argues that a human life, in order to reach its highest potential, must include a number of “capabilities” – that is, of actual possibilities that one can realise in one’s life. (more...)
The Paradoxes of Zeno of Elea
Does an arrow really fly?
Zeno of Elea (490-430 BC) is famous for his paradoxes that seem to prove, among other points, that no movement is possible. If an arrow in flight is standing still whenever we take a photograph of it, when is it actually moving? (more...)
Is Stealing Always Immoral?
Utilitarianism, Kant and Aristotle
Whether stealing is immoral or not depends both on the context of the action and the moral theory used. In utilitarianism, stealing would only be immoral if it leads to bad consequences for the stakeholders. For Kant, it would always be immoral, because it does not respect the autonomy of the victim. (more...)
What is ethics?
Of means and ends
Ethics is the study of how we ought to behave, and why. There are many different theories of ethics, for example, utilitarianism (we ought to behave so that we maximise benefit for all), or Kantian ethics (we ought to treat all human beings as ends). Ethics only becomes relevant when our behaviour affects others and not only ourselves. (more...)
What Is Deontological Ethics?
Immanuel Kant and not looking at outcomes
The name “deontological” ethics comes from Greek “to deon” = “that which must be done”. So it is about actions that must be performed (or must not be performed) because the actions themselves are intrinsically good or bad. This is in opposition to consequentialism, which judges actions according to whether their consequences are good. (more...)
What Is a Stoic Person?
Learning to control one’s mind
A Stoic is an adherent of Stoicism, an ancient Greek and Roman philosophy of life. Stoics thought that, in order to be happy, we must learn to distinguish between what we can control and what we cannot. (more...)
The Ethics of Eating Meat
Four moral theories and their views
Eating small quantities of meat that was grown organically in a sustainable way might be morally justifiable. Utilitarianism would consider both animal suffering in the process of meat production and the environmental impact of animal farming. Most ethics theories would agree that large-scale animal farming as it is practiced today is morally wrong. (more...)
Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love
What is love made of?
Robert Sternberg thinks that we can best describe love as composed of three “primary” components that combine to produce all the kinds of love that we observe around us: intimacy, passion and decision or commitment. (more...)
Erich Fromm on Being Productive
Are we active, or just busy?
For Erich Fromm, true activity means to fully use one’s talents and abilities in order to grow as a person. The mere display of being busy is, in Fromm’s opinion, not a sign of productive work. Modern society, which relies on hierarchy and alienated work, tends to favour busy-ness over productive activity. (more...)
Is happiness all that counts?
Utilitarianism is a moral theory that states that the morally right action maximizes happiness or benefit and minimizes pain or harm for all stakeholders. Proponents of classic utilitarianism are Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) and John Stuart Mill (1806-1873). (more...)
Confucius on Loyalty and Betrayal
Would you send your father to prison?
For Confucius, one’s personal loyalties to family, friends, co-workers and superiors are more important than the rules of some abstract ethical theory. This has been called the “particularism” of Confucian ethics. (more...)
Thales of Miletus
A stroll through the history of philosophy
Thales of Miletus (~624–548) is generally cited as one of the first philosophers, although his contributions extended to many sciences and even to business endeavors. He taught that the first element, out of which everything else is made, is water, and that everything around us is filled with souls. (more...)
Kant's Ethics in 5 Minutes
What is a Categorical Imperative?
Kant’s ethical system is based on the value of one’s motivation rather than on the outcomes or consequences of our actions. Besides a praiseworthy motivation, a morally right action must also conform to a number of rules, which Kant calls forms of the “Categorical Imperative”: to only perform actions that can be equally performed by all and to treat all human beings as ends. (more...)
Do Unicorns Exist?
And what, please, is an ontological commitment?
A rant about the ontological commitment of the existential quantifier. (more...)
Kant’s praiseworthy motivation
Ethical behaviour can be demanding
A core feature of Kant’s ethics is his insistence on the value of one’s motivation for the morality of an action. As opposed to utilitarianism, Kant does not look at the consequences when judging actions, but only at what he calls the “good will.” (more...)