July 1, 2022
What’s Wrong with The Passion Economy?
Adam Davidson’s “The Passion Economy”
Adam Davidson describes the “Passion Economy” in a book released in 2020. This article shows why Davidson’s proposal is not a sustainable solution to fix our current relationship with work. (more...)
June 1, 2022
The Principle of Double Effect
Philosophy and current affairs
Should we teach philosophy to young people when accounting would be better for them? Are we evil when we choose to drive a car? Is it right to accept the small risk that comes with mandatory vaccinations? And what if the fire department floods your home? Meet the doctrine of Double Effect. (more...)
March 10, 2022
Jeremy Bentham on Animal Ethics
Philosophy in Quotes
A history of philosophy in its most famous quotes. Today: Jeremy Bentham on the suffering of animals: “The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?” (more...)
March 6, 2022
The Ukraine Conflict: Conduct in War
Philosophy and current affairs
What are the laws that apply during a war? We discuss the jus in bello and the requirements of discrimination, proportionality and necessity. Just War Theory applied to the current conflict in the Ukraine. (more...)
February 26, 2022
The Ukraine Conflict and the Ethics of War
Philosophy and current affairs
What are the moral rules for war, how can wars be justified and are we obliged to help a country that has been attacked? Just War Theory applied to the current conflict in the Ukraine. (more...)
February 12, 2022
Immanuel Kant on Means and Ends
Philosophy in Quotes
Explore philosophy through its most famous quotes! Today: Immanuel Kant on how to treat human beings. (more...)
November 5, 2021
Is Lying Ethical?
Lying, deception and when they are justified
Lying is generally perceived as unethical behaviour. Depending on the moral theory used, lying in special circumstances (for example, “white” lies or lies that benefit others or avert harm) might be morally justifiable. (more...)
October 18, 2021
Retributivism and Uncertainty
Why do we punish criminals?
Why do we have a criminal justice system? What could possibly justify the state punishing its citizens? Retributivism is the view that we ought to give offenders the suffering that they deserve for harming others. (more...)
The hidden influencers
In a book published in 2008, Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein define nudges as “any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people’s behaviour in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives.” (more...)
What Are We Responsible For?
Intentions, consequences and character
How far does our responsibility extend? What can we rightly be regarded as responsible for? This matters because, looked at negatively it coincides with what we may be blamed or be held culpable for, and looked as positively it coincides with what we might be praised or given an accolade for. (more...)
Is Data Science Evil?
What does “Don’t Be Evil” really mean?
Computers have a long history of being associated with evilness. Machine minds without emotions suggest cruelty, unfeeling judgement, unflinching execution of inhuman orders. (more...)
Seven Reasons to Outlaw Recreational Drugs
The main arguments
Should we legalise recreational drug use? The main arguments against legalising recreational drugs are: 1. The escalation argument. 2. The argument from gateway drugs. 3. The “addiction is dangerous” argument. 4. The argument that the war on drugs is effective. 5. The ethical arguments against taking drugs. 6. There is a moral obligation to take care of one’s own health. 7. Drug users are not free to decide anyway. (more...)
Does size or shape matter most?
We’ve heard it all our lives — size matters and bigger is better. But David Velleman wants you to believe that shape can matter more! (more...)
Assisted Voluntary Euthanasia
The main arguments
This a systematic survey of the arguments and counterarguments that are most commonly in play when considering the ethical rights and wrong of euthanasia and whether it should be legally permitted. (more...)
Selling Happiness, One Chump at a Time
We are not water pills. We are highly scientific magic pills based on an ancient organic recipe. (more...)
The Utility Monster is... other people!
Imagine waking up every evening, putting on your happy face, walking over to your immaculately laid out recording studio and… Enthusiastically unwrapping that mysterious package someone just sent you… You have no idea what it is, no really! (more...)
Six Reasons to Legalise Recreational Drugs
The main arguments
Should we legalise recreational drug use? The main arguments in favour of legalising recreational drugs are: 1. Legalising or decriminalising recreational drugs will bring in additional tax revenue. 2. Prohibition of drugs causes crime and benefits criminals. 3. Legalising drugs would allow the state to control drug quality and access. 4. Other, legal drugs are more harmful (alcohol, tobacco). 5. In a free society, people should be free to choose themselves if they want to use drugs. 6. Drugs have always been used in human societies. (more...)
Friends with benefits
If you explain to a friend that Hedonistic Egoism advocates the pursuit of one’s own pleasure, the first reaction you may get is: “so why not kill a person, steal his money and buy a new phone?” If you do get this reaction, it may be time to get a new friend. (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...)
You Know You Want It
“Girls just want to have fun”, sings Cyndi Lauper. According to Psychological Hedonism, the same is true for all of us. Psychological Hedonism is a theory about motivation. It answers the question “what motivates human beings to act?” with, “only pleasure and the avoidance of pain.” (more...)
If it feels good, does it matter whether it’s real?
Nozick asked readers to imagine a machine produced by “super-duper neuropsychologists” that could give you any experience you could think of without you realising it was all a computer simulation. He called it the Experience Machine. (more...)
Is Pleasure Good?
Don’t forget your safe word
Hedonists believe that pleasure is the only thing that ultimately makes our lives go well for us and that pain is the only thing that ultimately makes our lives go badly for us. If that’s true, why are so many hedonists into BDSM? (more...)
Who Gets the Vaccine First?
Philosopher John Rawls on justice and privilege
How should the international community go about distributing a scarce resource like a vaccine? Philosopher John Rawls (1921-2002) formulated two principles of justice: The liberty principle and the fair equality of opportunity principle that we can use to guide our decisions. (more...)
Can the state force us to get vaccinated?
Vaccination ethics is a surprisingly rich field of philosophical inquiry, and it covers issues from all major moral theories, reaching into world politics, poverty, the role of the state and the morality of taxation and car seat belts. (more...)
Human Dignity and Freedom
Why restaurant menus may be destroying humanity
Erich Fromm and Richard Taylor on the perils of capitalism. (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 Fair Share of Life?
The Fair Innings Argument in bioethics
The “Fair Innings Argument” assumes that there is such a thing as a fair share of life. If someone has lived that much, then any additional lifetime is considered a bonus. While if someone still has to reach the limits of their fair share, then they seem to have a stronger claim to additional lifetime. The problem with the argument is that it assumes that the two lives being compared are equal in every other respect. And this is never the case. (more...)
Aristotle's Highest Good
In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle argues that we can recognise the highest good because we do everything else for its sake, while we never say that we pursue the highest good for any other thing’s sake. For Aristotle, the highest good is the happy life. (more...)
Is Abortion Ethical?
Judith Jarvis Thomson: A Defense of Abortion
Is abortion ethical? Judith Jarvis Thomson, who died five days ago, created one of the most well-known thought experiments in modern ethics. In her 1971 paper “A Defense of Abortion,” she presents the thought experiment of the unconscious violinist. (more...)
The Ethics of Organ Transplants
Can you kill one to save many?
Are we ever allowed to kill one in order to save many lives? Utilitarianism would look at the overall benefit and conclude that sometimes this might be permissible. Kantian ethics would consider every human life as infinitely valuable, so that we wouldn’t be allowed to “add up” the values of lives. (more...)
When Is It Right to Break the Law?
Ethics and law are not the same
Ethics and the law are not the same and it can indeed be morally right, and even indicated, to break the law in certain situations. (more...)
Which Social Media Site Is the Most Ethical?
A case for applied utilitarianism
Social media affect our society in many ways. We consider issues of addiction, democracy, the decline of journalism, privacy, surveillance, and effects on friendships and user happiness. Taking the most obvious problems of social media into account, it seems that LinkedIn, WhatsApp and Pinterest are more ethical, on the whole, while Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are least ethical. (more...)
Is Whistleblowing Ethical?
...and why Confucius might disagree
The ethics of whistleblowing exposes a deep difference between Western and Confucian ethics. While both utilitarianism and Kant would probably say that whistleblowing is morally right, in Eastern (Confucian) ethics (and perhaps in virtue ethics), whistleblowing might be wrong because it violates one’s obligations to one’s friends, relatives, co-workers or superiors. (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...)
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...)
Kant on Autonomy and Human Rights
Are humans meant to be free?
The theory of evolution changed our understanding of our own humanity by suggesting that we see ourselves as one with worms, cats and monkeys. But this overlooks the important aspect of human moral autonomy, which allows us to act against our instincts and to be truly free. (more...)
Life Is a Skill
Aristotle on living a life well through exercising one’s virtues. (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...)
Aristotle on moral development
The three types of human beings
For Aristotle, the moral development of a person progresses in three stages. From the child, which cannot resist temptation, through the intermediate stage of the grown up, who is tempted but resists temptation, to the final stage of the wise person, who is never even tempted and always, spontaneously, does the morally right thing. (more...)
Freedom is always the freedom to think otherwise
Rosa Luxemburg today
Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919), socialist revolutionary, once said: “Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently.” (more...)
Is it stupid to hoard toilet paper?
Sometimes, weird behaviours can be rational
It is too often assumed that hoarding commodities in a crisis is irrational and that everyone would be better off if nobody was hoarding things. But there are arguments to the contrary. (more...)
The Gift of Sinning. Autonomy, Surveillance and Freedom.
How surveillance undermines morality
Surveillance, instead of forcing citizens to behave more ethically, in reality undermines the essence of morality. According to Immanuel Kant as well as the Bible, the free human choice is the basis for all moral behaviour. (more...)