Monday, December 26, 2016

Effective Altruism Career Guidebook

Download your copy of 80,000 Hours


And buy on Amazon.

Find a fulfilling career that tackles the world's most pressing problems, using this guide based on five years of research alongside academics at Oxford. 

You have about 80,000 hours in your career: 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, for 40 years. This means your choice of career is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. Make the right choices, and you can help solve some of the world’s most pressing problems, as well as have a more rewarding, interesting life. For such an important decision, however, there’s surprisingly little good advice out there. 

Most career advice focuses on things like how to write a CV, and much of the rest is just (misleading) platitudes like “follow your passion”. Most people we speak to don’t even use career advice – they just speak to friends and try to figure it out for themselves. 

When it comes to helping others with your career, the advice usually assumes you need to work as a teacher, doctor, charity worker, and so on, even though these paths might not be a good fit for you, and were not what the highest-impact people in history did. 

This guide is based on five years of research conducted alongside academics at the University of Oxford. It aims to help you find a career you enjoy, you’re good at, and that tackles the world’s most pressing problems. 

It covers topics like: 

1. What makes for a dream job, and why “follow your passion” can be misleading. 
2. Why the most effective ways to make a difference aren’t always the obvious ones like working at a charity, or becoming a doctor. 
3. How to compare global problems, like climate change and education, in terms of their scale and urgency. 
4. How to discover and develop your strengths.

It’s also full of practical tips and tools. At the end, you'll have a plan to use your career in a way that's fulfilling and does good.

What people are saying 

“Based on evidence and good sense, not platitudes” 
- Steven Pinker, New York Times bestselling author Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. 

“This incredible group is helping people have a greater social impact with their careers.” 
- Sue Desmond-Hellmann, CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 

“Every college grad should read this” 
- Tim Urban, creator of Wait But Why. 

Read more online 

This book is based on the free guide you can find on the 80,000 Hours website, where you can find many more articles and our most up-to-date content. All profits from the book are used to fund 80,000 Hours, expanding our research and enabling us to reach more people. 

About the authors 

80,000 Hours is an independent non-profit founded in Oxford in 2011. It performs research into career choice, and provides online and in-person advice. 

Benjamin Todd is the CEO and co-founder of 80,000 Hours. He grew the organization from a student society at Oxford to a non-profit that's raised $1.3m in donations, and has 100,000 monthly readers. He has a Master’s degree in Physics and Philosophy from Oxford; has published in climate physics; and speaks Chinese, badly. 

Ben is advised by the rest of the 80,000 Hours team, including Professor Will MacAskill, author of Doing Good Better, co-founder of the Effective Altruism movement, and the youngest tenured professor of philosophy in the world.

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 
More information below!

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. 


First, "I just feel this way . ." is rarely a good reason to believe anything. Emotions can lead us astray and sometimes they do. Emotions can contribute to poor reasoning and to mistaken beliefs. If someone believes something merely on the basis of their emotions, their belief is unlikely to be true. Anger, for example, can distort clear thinking and cause a disregard for fact-finding. So,
 just because someone feels a certain way about a topic, that doesn't mean that their thoughts about that topic are correct or that we should accept that thought. 

On the other hand, emotions can sometimes point to the truth of the matter. For example, the feelings of empathy and sadness about what happened to someone can serve as some indication that that individual was treated wrongly. And those emotions can be stifled by a dismissive thought concerning whoever did the harm, that "They had to do that," "They had no choice," "There was no other way." Insofar as thoughts and claims like these are often false, they can distort the positive influence of the emotion: the emotion was 'telling us' that something is wrong, and a thought - although a false thought - undercut that, which is bad. 


Thoughts, however, can correct mistaken emotions. Someone might, for example, see an action that they thought brought about intense suffering, and emotionally respond accordingly to that perceived suffering. If reason reveals that, contrary to initial appearances, there really was no suffering, then reason can correct that emotion.


In sum, concerning feelings there are:


·                     Feelings that are not supported by good reasons, i.e., feelings supported by beliefs that are false or unreasonable or contrary to the evidence. Here, the feelings are typically bad to have. 

·                     Feelings that are supported by good reasons, viz. true or reasonable beliefs. Here, someone isn't believing on the basis of "just their feelings," since there are, or could be, reasons supporting those feelings. This is typically fine, and often good, insofar as we really should have feelings and emotional responses to good and bad actions and events. 

And there are beliefs, held with good reason and without, and then with or without various emotions. What to say about these seems to very much depend on the particular belief, and particular feeling, and what, if anything, results from the combination: e.g., unreasonable beliefs, held in anger, can often lead people to feel and act badly. 

We are not Mr. Spock (not that there would be anything wrong with that? Or would there be?) and so feelings are appropriate for us to have. But this seems to be the case when, and only when, they can be supported by reasons also.

At least I think that's how I feel. (Sad trombone!). 

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

#PublicPhilosophy


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, your thesis, 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.

Here is an earlier post with some essay evaluation standards:

Philosophy Essay Evaluation Sheet

Here are some concerns for argumentative essays. How well does your essay address them?

1.      Introduction: do you have an introduction that explains the topic(s) you will address, or the question(s) you will answer?
2.      Thesis: does your paper have a thesis, that is, a conclusion that you try to support?
3.      Arguments: does your paper give an explicit argument or arguments in support of your conclusion?
a.      Do you explicitly state your premises, and why they should be accepted?
b.      Do you explicitly explain how your premises lead to your conclusions?
4.      Do you respond to any objections or counterarguments? Do you respond to questions that readers might have about your arguments?
5.      Does your paper have a conclusion that reviews what you discussed and what you argued for?
6.      Organization: could your paper be outlined to show its structure? Is it well organized?
7.      Paragraphs: does each paragraph focus on one, and only one, topic?
8.      Writing: is your paper written in plain, ordinary English? Do you use ‘fancy’ words – words that people wouldn’t use in ordinary conversation – only if it is absolutely necessary?
9.      Are there any grammatical and spelling errors?
10.  Are your sentences short and clear? Did you look closely at each sentence to ensure it makes sense?
11.  Did you proofread?
12.  Did you get someone else to read your paper and give you helpful feedback for revision?
13.  Did you revise your paper?
14.  Would someone who is unfamiliar with the paper’s issues, the relevant readings, and your course be able to understand and learn from your paper?

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

An Argument for Veganism, from 2005 or 2006

"Reasonable Humans and Animals: An Argument for Vegetarianism"

BETWEEN THE SPECIES. Issue VIII. August 2008



“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.
Summary:
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. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Questions, Answers and Evidence

I just saw that Moore's Principia Ethica is online. It has a great beginning, relevant to all writers and researchers, in many fields:
"It appears to me that in Ethics, as in all other philosophical studies, the difficulties and disagreements, of which its history is full, are mainly due to a very simple cause: namely to the attempt to answer questions, without first discovering precisely what question it is which you desire to answer."

Figuring out what exact question(s) about a topic one is trying to answer determines how one will answer those questions and what types of evidence is needed to answer those questions

Thanks, G.E.!


Textbook-in-Progress Presentation Handout


Saturday, July 16, 2016

Abortion and Animal Rights paper from 2000 or 2003

So I recently (summer, 2016) wrote an essay about abortion and animal rights. I realized that in 2000 I wrote a paper that I called "Abortion and Animal Rights: Related, but Importantly Different, Issues," that I apparently updated in 2003 (maybe I added the introductory paragraph then, since the paper works without it, and I couldn't have written that paragraph in 2000). By a fluke I found the file, which got lost and forgotten in a computer crash or change. That was a long time ago! The paper has a different tone from most things I write these days, but it appears that some of the basic points are the same. See below or the link above:

Monday, June 27, 2016

Book Review: Beating Hearts: Abortion and Animal Rights

SHERRY F. COLB AND MICHAEL C. DORF

Beating Hearts: Abortion and Animal Rights

Sherry F. Colb and Michael C. Dorf, Beating Hearts: Abortion and Animal Rights, Columbia University Press, 2016, 252pp., $35.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780231175142.

Reviewed byNathan Nobis, Morehouse College