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...)
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 Memories of Our Experiences
Daniel Kahneman on the Happiness of Memories
Daniel Kahneman, economist, has studied the effects of memory on our perception of past suffering and happiness. He distinguishes experienced and remembered happiness, and emphasises that the two may be perceived very differently, even for the same individual and the same event. This is a crucial insight for the design of better subjective happiness surveys and, more generally, for our understanding of how we evaluate our own happiness. (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...)
St Augustine on the Function and Pleasure of Sex
The real cost of pure pleasure
For St Augustine, the pleasure inherent in any activity is good as long as the activity is performed because of its intended function. When we try to get the pleasure without the function of the activity, we are violating the order of nature and committing a sin. (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...)
Thales of Miletus
A stroll through the history of philosophy
Thales of Miletus (~624–548 BC) 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...)
Aristotle and the Roots of Deep Ecology
Modern ecological ethics, for example Deep Ecology, often reaches back to Aristotle (385-322 BC) and his idea that the flourishing of any one thing is dependent on the flourishing of everything else. Aristotle did not think that one can selfishly have a good life. Instead, a virtuous person would naturally benefit both themselves and others at the same time. This idea also applies to our relations with the environment. (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...)
October 2: Happy Birthday, Mahatma Gandhi!
Last Friday was the birthday of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, whom they called the Mahatma, the Great Soul. (more...)
Do Unicorns Exist?
And what, please, is an ontological commitment?
A rant about the ontological commitment of the existential quantifier. (more...)
Love is All Around
Eryximachos’ views in Plato’s Symposion
In Plato’s Symposion, the doctor Eryximachos says that love is the harmony of opposites. This resonates with beliefs in the traditional medicine of many cultures, as well as with our concept of a “balanced” person. (more...)