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.
I am currently at work on a (text)book entitled Making Moral Progress: A Moral Arguments Workbook. This 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.
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.
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 distractsand isn't necessary to your overall purpose.
“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
"It's a matter of
taking the side of the weak against the strong, something the best people have
-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.” 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.
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 precisemoral conclusions and make allthe reasons in favor of the conclusion explicit, leaving no assumption
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.
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.
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.
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
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.