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," forthcoming:

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


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

Now available! Animals & Ethics 101: Thinking Critically About Animal Rights.

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

Check out for more information. 

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. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Babe the Pig

My chapter "The Babe Vegetarians" in the book Bioethics at the Movies was mentioned in this article:

From Babe to the BFG: how children’s stories promote vegetarianism

The story of a strange old man who wants to do nothing more than grow tomatoes in peace is just one in a long line of kids’ films with vegetarian messages at their centre.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016


I'm now an Associate Editor at 1000 Word Philosophy!

The page is currently being redone, but once it's done, I may be asking YOU to write some very concise and tightly argued essays for it!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Monday, August 08, 2016

Writing Tips

There are many excellent guidelines on writing philosophy: James Pryor's, Michael Huemer's, and more. I thought I'd offer a few suggestions also, as they come to mind:
  • Make an outline, with section headings. We've all been told to do this for a long time, but it is really helpful. And keep those numbered section headings in the paper so the overall structure is clear. A well organized paper almost writes itself: you just have to fill in the details of the various sections. These sections are the parts that form the whole, and if you've got all those parts in mind, your presentation (or paper), again, is really organized and easy to write, and read. 
  • Arguments: your arguments is just your main point(s), you conclusions(s) and the reason(s) you give in favor of those conclusion(s). Lay that all out in a step-by-step process. Stating the argument in numbered premises and conclusions is often very helpful for that, and that makes explaining the argument and objecting to the argument easier and clearer. 
  • Break up longer sentences. If a sentence can be broken up into shorter sentences, do it: that always improves readability. 
  • Make each sentence as short as it can be. Rigorously edit to cut words and be maximally concise.
  • Each paragraph should have one, and only one, main topic. You should be able to say, "This paragraph is about that." Short paragraphs are fine. 
  • Use ordinary words, unless you absolutely must use some special word. This helps you be concise and clear. Write so as many people as possible can understand you: do not alienate people with big words. 
  • Use "I": talk to the reader. This helps you be concise and clear. 
  • Make your introduction short, no more than half a page. Tell your reader your topic (which should be narrow), what you are going to say or argue about it (that is, your main point, which should be brief, e.g., "This argument is unsound," "This premise is false," "This isn't a good reason to believe that," etc., and what the structure of your paper will be. That's it and not much more. 
  • Generally, don't ask rhetorical questions. Make statements and support them. Don't ask questions and hope that the reader will respond how you hope they will: they might not.
  • Revise, rewrite, rethink. After your write, reflect and revise. What can you say more concisely? What can you cut? Cut what distracts and isn't necessary to your overall purpose.
See also these rules on op-ed writing

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

An Argument for Veganism, from 2005 or 2006

"Reasonable Humans and Animals: An Argument for Vegetarianism"


“It is easy for us to criticize the prejudices of our grandfathers, from which our fathers freed themselves. It is more difficult to distance ourselves from our own views, so that we can dispassionately search for prejudices among the beliefs and values we hold.”
-  Peter Singer
"It's a matter of taking the side of the weak against the strong, something the best people have always done." 
-  Harriet Beecher Stowe
In my 15 or so years of experience of teaching philosophy, ethics and logic courses, I have found that no topic brings out the rational and emotional best and worst in people than ethical questions about the treatment of animals. This is not surprising since, unlike questions about social policy and about what other people should do, moral questions about animals are personal. As philosopher Peter Singer has observed, “For most human beings, especially in modern urban and suburban communities, the most direct form of contact with non-human animals is at mealtimes: we eat them.”[1] For most of us, then, our own behavior is challenged when we reflect on the reasons given to think that change is needed in our treatment of, and attitudes toward, animals. That the issue is personal presents unique challenges, and great opportunities, for intellectual and moral progress.

Here I present some of the reasons given for and against taking animals seriously and reflect on the role of reason in our lives. I examine the common assumption that there is nothing wrong with harming animals -- causing them pain, suffering, and an early death – so they might be eaten. We will see if moral “common sense” in this area can survive critical scrutiny. Our method, useful for better understanding all ethical debates, is to identify unambiguous and precise moral conclusions and make all the reasons in favor of the conclusion explicit, leaving no assumption unstated.  

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Table of Contents for out of print "Ethics for Everyday," edited by David Benatar

David Benatar, ed.
McGraw Hill, 2002

Telling lies, gossiping, practicing adultery, gambling, smoking, using offensive language, corporal punishment of one’s children, copying copyrighted material – these are moral issues that affect, and often deeply affect, our daily lives. Everyday Ethics is a collection of readings devoted to ethical problems like these that confront ordinary people in everyday life. The anthology covers the areas of communication, sex, parents and children, animals, money matters, and body and environment. Nearly all selections are from the late 1980s and the 1990s.

Friday, July 22, 2016

On "Moral Status"

What is the moral status of animals? What’s the moral status of fetuses? What’s the moral status of the permanently comatose? While questions like these are sometimes asked (also about ‘moral standing’), I have written a few paragraphs where I argue that the term “moral status” shouldn’t be used.

A Review of "Philosophy Comes to Dinner"

Philosophy Comes to Dinner: Arguments About the Ethics of Eating, Andrew Chignell, Terence Cuneo, and Matthew C. Halteman (eds.), Routledge, 2016, 299pp., $33.95 (pbk), ISBN 9780415806831.

Reviewed by Tina Rulli, University of California, Davis

This book contains my and Dan Hooley's "A Moral Argument for Veganism."

Thanks, Tina!

Monday, July 18, 2016

On the "What's Wrong?" Blog: Abortion and Animal Rights - Animal Rights and Abortion

What’s Wrong With Linking Abortion and Animal Rights?

Nathan Nobis, an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Morehouse College, kindly contributed the following piece to What’s Wrong?  Professor Nobis is the author of many articles and book chapters on topics concerning ethics and animals (e.g., vegetarianism, experimentation) and the ethics of abortion, an unpublished 2003 essay on the relations between these topics, and a review of a recent book on these topics’ intersections, which inspired this essay.  What’s Wrong? is grateful to Professor Nobis for permission to publish this original piece here.
Should your views on abortion influence your views on animal rights? Should your views on the moral status of animals influence your views on the moral status of human fetuses?
        Generally, no. Most arguments against abortion have no implications for animal rights and those that might seem to be poor arguments against abortion. And arguments for animal rights only have implications for rare, later abortions of conscious fetuses, not the majority of abortions that affect early, pre-conscious fetuses.
On the other sides, though, a common of objection to animal rights does support a pro-life view and an influential feminist pro-choice argument does suggest positive implications for animals, though.
Overall, the topic of abortion presents with an inherent complexity never analogously present in animal rights issues – the perspective of the pregnant woman whose life and body the fetus depends on – and so the issues are importantly distinct.