Monday, February 13, 2017

How to Have a Philosophical Discussion

Someone recently asked me how to have philosophical conversations or discussions. Here are some quick guidelines, focusing on philosophical discussions about moral issues:

1. Topic?

You need to clearly identify a topic or issue. Sometimes that's easy, sometimes people "dance around" a topic -- raising related issues about a topic -- before getting an exact topic.

2. Conclusions?

You need to identify a conclusion(s) about the topic. Sometimes you need to think about what various words in those conclusions mean: ask, "What do you mean?"

3. Premises? 

You need to identify a premise(s) or reason(s) given in favor of that conclusion. For many moral issues, at least one premise is often an empirical or scientific claim, and at least one premise is a moral principle, that is, a claim about when an action is wrong or not. Sometimes you need to think about what various words in those premises mean: ask, "What do you mean?"

4. Unstated Premises? 

You need to identify an unstated premise(s) or reason(s) given in favor of that conclusion: these are part of the argument, but are sometimes not yet stated. (However, sometimes they are!) These premises need to be identified so the full argument is stated. Doing this is often called stating the argument in logically valid form. This handout and this video give guidance on doing that:



5. Soundness?

Once the full pattern of reasoning is stated, i.e., it is in logically valid form, you need to evaluate the argument as sound or not: are the premises true or false, supported by good evidence or not? If at least one premise is false, then the argument is sound and does not provide a good reason to accept the conclusion. You need to check the facts to see if any factual claims are true, and try to identify any strong counterexamples to any moral principles.

This process can and should be repeated with any and all premises given in favor of a conclusion, and for different conclusions and the premises given in their favor. You must focus on one and only one argument at a time.

Details forthcoming!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

CFOPT (Call for Outstanding Philosophy Teachers)

Open call for Philosophers in the Classroom: Essays on Teaching

We write to solicit names of outstanding teachers who might be interested in contributing to a volume of reflective essays on the teaching of philosophy to be published by Hackett Publishing Company in 2019. We are primarily seeking dedicated philosophy teachers who have received an institution-wide teaching award (or some equivalent recognition) for their work in the classroom.

Essays will be approximately 4,000 to 7,000 words and reflect upon some aspect of the philosopher's experience as a teacher. Essays might address:

  • the teaching of a particular class (e.g. intro, ancient, modern, logic or critical reasoning);
  • the teaching of a particular student population (e.g. first-years, advanced majors, pre-college students, economically disenfranchised students, religious students, graduate students, or prisoners);
  • the impact philosophy teaching can have in the world;
  • a specific experience that has come to have broader significance for the author; or
  • some other topic that will educate and inspire teachers of philosophy.

This will not be an anthology of SOTL (scholarship of teaching and learning) papers or "how-to" papers, but an anthology of literary, narrative essays on the lives of distinguished philosophy teachers and their love for teaching.

Please recommend your best philosophy teachers for this project by e-mailing their names, and, if possible cvs, to alexandrabradner@gmail.com with the subject line "Hackett teaching book" by Wednesday, February 8, 2017. If you've received an institution-wide teaching award (or some equivalent recognition) and have an idea for an essay, please send your cv, along with a paragraph or two about your idea, to that same e-mail address by Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Decisions will be announced sometime in May 2017. We plan to assemble our final list of contributors through our review of the submissions generated by this call and through some number of invitations. We are aiming for a list that is diverse in all respects: institutional affiliation, career status, philosophical orientation, gender, ethnicity, etc. Best, Steven M. Cahn, Former Chair, APA Committee on the Teaching of Philosophy Alexandra Bradner, Chair, APA Committee on the Teaching of Philosophy Andrew Mills, President, American Association of Philosophy Teachers

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Rulebook for Students

I am working on a college student-success book and am looking for collaborators. Information is below. Interested in contributing? Email me! It will be an open access book and also available on Amazon.
A Rulebook for Students 
Success in College

& Beyond

About this book

Some rules are meant to be broken and there are exceptions to many rules. For college students, though, there are rules they can follow that will contribute to success in their classes: they will learn more, have more enjoyable and rewarding class experiences, impress their professors with their involvement and quality work and, perhaps most importantly, get better grades.
College is an opportunity that can open the door to greater opportunities, and the more you make of your opportunities in college, the greater your chances for success beyond college, in many ways. Following these rules below will increase your likelihood of success, in many ways.
Below is first a list of rules, and below that list is a discussion of each rule. When any rule seems obvious, consider it a good reminder of what you should do. If any rule is new to you, think about how you can integrate into your practices as a student. And since a basic rule of college is to think critically, if you think some rule is a bad one, let us know why: you may be right!
With this all in mind, let us turn to the rules and the discussion of them.

++++

You can see what I am slowly up to here: http://rulebookforstudents.blogspot.com/ 

Thursday, December 01, 2016

J-Mester 2017

Many people say that violence is wrong, and that violence is only morally justified under extreme circumstances. But what about violence towards animals? On any common definition of 'violence', animals are treated violently when they are raised and killed to be eaten, or experimented on for medical research or used for other purposes that, arguably, harm them. What, if anything, then would justify this violence? What, if anything, would morally justify common, yet often very violent, treatment and uses of animals? In this course, we will explore a range of answers to these questions, given by influential philosophers, scientists and advocates on all sides. Topics include: theories of ethics, animal minds, and ethical issues concerning the uses of animals for food, clothing, experimentation, entertainment, hunting, as companions or pets, and other purposes. 
The course is organized Nathan Nobis's recent book Animals & Ethics 101: Thinking Critically About Animal Rights at www.AnimalEthics101.com 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Surveys about Animal Research

Ari Joffe, MD, has done a number of surveys related to animal research and the arguments given for and against it. I need to do more to share this research but here is a start. Abstracts are also below the fold:
1.
2.
Joffe AR, Bara M, Anton N, Nobis N.
BMC Med Ethics. 2016 Mar 29;17:17. doi: 10.1186/s12910-016-0100-x.

PMID:
 
27025215
 
Free PMC Article
3.
Joffe AR, Bara M, Anton N, Nobis N.
BMC Med Ethics. 2015 May 7;16:29. doi: 10.1186/s12910-015-0024-x.

PMID:
 
25947255
 
Free PMC Article
4.
Joffe AR, Bara M, Anton N, Nobis N.
Philos Ethics Humanit Med. 2014 Dec 30;9:20. doi: 10.1186/s13010-014-0020-7.

PMID:
 
25547734
 
Free PMC Article

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Moral Expertise

A paper plan, for a forthcoming volume on moral expertise:

“Trust Me, I’m a Moral Expert!”:
Moral Disagreements, Avoidable Beliefs and Unavoidable Actions


If you have a problem, you should often seek an expert for insight and guidance. Such is true in medicine, law, mental health, auto and home repair and much more. So, if you have a moral problem, a difficult problem beyond your ability to see what you should do about it, you might want to seek a moral expert, it seems.[1]   
            In this essay we discuss, first, how to identify genuine moral experts and avoid pseudo-moral experts and, second, theoretical and practice questions about what to believe and do when genuine moral experts disagree.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Animal Experimentation

Here is a 500 word essay on animal research, invited for an online magazine, for a "debate" on "whether animal testing should be banned." This was posted here.

Animal Testing Should Be Banned

“Animal testing” involves experimenting on animals to try to determine whether drugs and medical treatments are safe and effective for humans. It’s wrong and should be banned.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

On Philosophical Counseling

THE BIG QUESTIONS

Would you ditch your therapist for a “philosophical counselor”?


Instead of going to traditional psychotherapists for advice and support, growing numbers of people are turning to philosophical counselors for particularly wise guidance. These counselors work much like traditional psychotherapists. But instead of offering solutions based solely on their understanding of mental health or psychology, philosophical counselors offer solutions and guidance drawn from the writings of great thinkers.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Animals & Ethics 101: Thinking Critically About Animal Rights

Nathan Nobis. Animals & Ethics 101: Thinking Critically About Animal Rights. Open Philosophy Press, 2016. 

Buy the book on Amazon in paperback for $5.99 or Kindle for $2.99, or download the book for free

Available through www.AnimalEthics101.com



Thursday, September 29, 2016

Tweet, Tweet!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Philosophy and Feelings

Philosophy prizes reason and arguments, clear and critical thinking.

What, then, does philosophy say about emotions, about feelings?

Let's think, briefly, about feelings. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Recent Publications

Some recent publications (8/6/16):
I am currently at work on a (text)book entitled Making Moral Progress: A Moral Arguments WorkbookThis book evaluates moral arguments using basic formal logic and starts with common arguments, what ordinary people often say about the issues, before moving on to arguments from developed by philosophers. The book will be useful for a variety of audiences and contexts. We plan for it to be an open access book, freely available to all electronically, as well as a low cost paperback. 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Shaun King's ideas to Reduce Police Brutality and Violence

I saw the brilliant, wise, brave and inspiring Shaun King yesterday morning at Agnes Scott College. Here are some of his top ideas for reducing police brutality in the USA:
1. Change the police and prosecutors' population and 'demographic': if more different people, with different beliefs and experiences and values, had those jobs, that would make a positive difference in particular cases and to the overall police culture. (Almost all prosecutors are white men). So, consider becoming an officer or a prosecutor or getting another job in that culture, to work to change it from within.
2. More women police officers: women tend to be less violent and a critical mass of women officers changes the overall environment of a police force, for the better, in many ways.
3. Require police to have a 4 year college degree: this would likely expose them to a broader set of ideas and perspectives that would likely make positive differences. (Also, more training is required for a cosmetology license than to get a badge and gun, or to be a teacher, than to be a police officer: that should change).
4. There should be random drug testing for police officers (as there is for NFL players), since drug and alcohol problems are not uncommon.
5. Police should carry at least three less lethal weapons, such as pepper spray, a taser (90% less lethal), baton, etc., so it can't be that their only option is to shoot (and kill) someone.
6. Fire bad apples: bad cops should be fired, period. It sounds like almost all, or at least many, of the police who have been involved in these too many senseless killings are still on the job, with no consequences at all. And some of them had many needlessly violent incidents in the past that there were no consequences for.
7. There should be independent investigations of all (lethal) uses of force. These investigations should come with consequences, when appropriate, obviously.
8. Body cameras should be used at all times AND the footage made publicly available (currently there is no law and few policies that require that). Police have resisted both body cameras and independent review boards. There's a chance that police will be held accountable only if there is video footage. 
If you get a chance to see Shaun, I highly recommend it, and read his columns. I think everyone at the event was moved and educated more on these issues and came away with better ideas for how they can help.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Teaching Philosophy in Prisons

Lately I have been researching teaching philosophy in prisons (in Georgia, near Atlanta). Here is some very incomplete information about some of the programs I have found:
I will post more detailed information as I get more details, since I know that many instructors are interested in teaching in prisons.