Sunday, March 12, 2023


Someone asked me for a paragraph on some of my concerns about ChatGPT. Here it is, in case their article or post doesn't materialize:

Yes, I am concerned about ChatGPT, for many reasons. We know that some students cheat in classes, or try to cheat in classes, by plagiarism: by submitting work that's cut and pasted from the internet, or from files that they sometimes say they "borrowed" from other students, or even hiring someone to do custom work for them. This already happens (how much and how often? I don't know the details on that; and I don't know if anyone has reliable data; do they?), and ChatGPT is just another, perhaps better way to do that, since can create "custom" work for a student to submit that's harder to detect as illegitimate. 

So ChatGPT is basically just a better tool to meet current demands for not doing the work and not making a responsible attempt at effectively engaging in the learning activities a course presents. 

My long-term concern is that we are going to have more and more people who are credentialed as being knowledgeable and skilled in various areas, yet much of their credentials have been gained by this type of cheating and dishonesty, and so we are going to have even more credentaled, but incompetent or less-competent, people in the workforce and, worse, as leaders. Ignorance isn't bliss for the rest of us, and ChatGPT makes concealing ignorance harder, which is bad for us all.

Wednesday, January 04, 2023

"How to Write a Philosophical Essay"

1000-Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology has a new essay on how to write philosophical essays for philosophy courses, by the editors of 1000-Word Philosophy:

Thursday, December 08, 2022

2022 Public Philosophy Op-Ed Contest

2022 Public Philosophy Op-Ed Contest

The APA [American Philosophical Assocation] committee on public philosophy sponsors the Public Philosophy Op-Ed Contest for the best opinion-editorials published by philosophers. The goal is to honor up to five standout pieces that successfully blend philosophical argumentation with an op-ed writing style. Winning submissions will call public attention, either directly or indirectly, to the value of philosophical thinking. The pieces will be judged in terms of their success as examples of public philosophy, and should be accessible to the general public, focused on important topics of public concern, and characterized by sound reasoning.



Max Khan Hayward (The University of Sheffield), Eat, Drink, and Be Merry! No, Really.” (The Atlantic, 2021)

Milena Ivanova (The University of Cambridge), The Beautiful Experiment” (Aeon, 2021)

A. Minh Nguyen (Florida Gulf Coast University), When Your Daughter Is Told ‘Your Face Is Not American’” (The News-Press, 2021)

Nathan Nobis (Morehouse College) and Jonathan Dudley (Johns Hopkins), Why the case against abortion is weak, ethically speaking” (Salon, 2021)

Lisa Forsberg (Oxford University) and Anthony Skelton (University of Western Ontario)3 reasons for making COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for children” (The Conversation, 2021)

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Extremism and Losing the Ability to Listen

There are many problems associated with extremism. 

One is that extremists generally lose the ability to listen to people who disagree with them: they become simply unable to know what other people think. 

This is really obvious to people with a philosophical background since philosophy is all about definitions: it's all about how people use words in different ways, how they mean different things using the same words since they have different definitions in mind. That's why one of the most important philosophical questions is, "What do you mean?"

This is especially relevant to ethical topics about abortion, and other topics in bioethics, where many of the key words are used in different ways by different people, resulting in different arguments: e.g, "life" and "alive" have multiple meanings, as do "human," "human being," and related words. 

Here are some thoughts about why extremists are unwilling and unable to listen. 

Listening to understand requires patience. Extremists have no patience for anyone who disagrees with them. 

Listening to understand involves thinking that other people are somewhat rational and that other people's views make some sense, even they are mistaken. But extremists think everyone who disagrees with them is an irrational idiot. 

Listening to understand seems to require thinking that you might learn something from other people. But extremists think they know it all, even though they rarely study the issues in fair and balanced ways. They deny the value of expertise and/or mistakenly assume they are experts, when they are not. 

Extremists have no motive for listening: you might listen to seek a compromise, or a solution that will acknowledge all important concerns. But extremists have no interest in compromise. 

Listening to understand involves recognizing that issues can be complicated, which is why there are different perspectives on them. Extremists deny this: they think the issues are simple and that they are obviously correct. 

Extremism typically involves "grandstanding" or showing off in front of your "tribe", to show that you are a true believer to the righteous cause. But listening to people you disagree with is contrary to that: to be in a position to listen to someone -- and for that person to speak in an authentic way -- there has to be some kind of respectful, friendly relationship, even for the moment

Extremism is bad. 

What is extremist anyway? 

Spencer Case argues that "a person is an extremist just in case an intense moral conviction blinds her to competing moral considerations, or else makes her unwilling to qualify her beliefs when she should." Since there are moral considerations to understanding views contrary to your own (like what?), the label "extremism" fits here, and extremism can be characterized by the above considerations (and many, many more!).

What are other ways extremism is bad?

What can be done about it?

A related post: 

@nathan.nobis extremism, abortion extremism and losing the ability to listen. #extremism #extremist #abortion #prochoice #prolife #polarization #polarizationisproblematic #ethics #philosophy #criticalthinking #listening #listeningskills ♬ original sound - Philosophy 101 - Prof. Nobis
extremism, abortion extremism and losing the ability to listen. #extremism #extremist #abortion #prochoice #prolife #polarization #polarizationisproblematic #ethics #philosophy #criticalthinking #listening #listeningskills

Saturday, August 20, 2022

What is Philosophy?

What is Philosophy?

From 1000-Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology. 

Author: Thomas Metcalf
Category: Metaphilosophy
Word count: 1000

Listen here

If you’ve ever wondered whether God exists, whether life has purpose, whether beauty is in the eye of the beholder, what makes actions right or wrong, or whether a law is fair or just, then you’ve thought about philosophy. And these are just a few philosophical topics.

But what is philosophy? The question is itself a philosophical question. This essay surveys some answers.

'Philosophy' in a dictionary.
‘Philosophy’ in a dictionary.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

What Should Philosophers Do in Response to Dobbs? A Conversation With Ethicists

I was part of this interview/discussion, posted yesterday, organized and written up by Rachel Robison-Greene, with Jill Delston, Amanda Roth, and Jennifer Scuro, at the APA Blog:

What Should Philosophers Do in Response to Dobbs? A Conversation With Ethicists

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Abortion & Ethics Quiz

An Abortion & Ethics Quiz
People often think that they are very knowledgeable about ethical debates about abortion: they believe they deeply understand the arguments and why their arguments are sound and why people who disagree with them are mistaken. This quiz helps test that knowledge.

 Also available here.