In 1906, the German sociologist Werner Sombart published an essay called, “Why is there no Socialism in the United States?” in which he tried to address a question that had puzzled political thinkers for decades: why did European labor movements adopt socialist goals (like the overthrow of the capitalist system and the nationalization of property, for instance) while [...]
“What Makes Life Worth Living?” reads the banner installed atop the East Hall atrium, still hanging in belated promotion of the Fall 2010 LSA semester theme. As I sat and pondered the daunting question (while I should have been studying), my mind began to drift to thoughts of what makes my life worth living, and what makes me happy. I [...]
Let’s play a game of two truths and a lie. I’m going to tell you three stories, and you need to tell me which one is a lie. Story #1: An all-powerful force spoke from the heavens and made a deal with a human man. The deal was that the man, and all of his [...]
Signs dictate action. If we see a green traffic light, we know that means we can go. If we see a “please seat yourself” hanging board upon walking into a restaurant, we know that we don’t need to wait for the maitre d' to assign us our table. Visual images, in this way, dictate the world [...]
Last night, I went to the men’s basketball game against Indiana. I had an amazing time, and we won! Attending the game with friends itself was really fun, but contemplating the environment and the rules and laws that governed the game proved a fascinating exercise. Within the walls of the stadium, there are many interesting [...]
If you haven’t already, check out Eddy Nahmias’ recent New York Times op-ed “Is Neuroscience the Death of Free Will?.” Basically, Nahmias takes on the arguments of some neuroscientists that our increasingly impressive ability to correlate brain activity with actions means that we can explain away free will or conclude that it doesn’t exist. Some experiments have [...]
I recently read “Eating Animals”, a beautifully written narrative by Jonathan Safron Foer in which he engages in a pseudo-investigative journalist quest to discover the origins of the majority of the meat we eat in the US and the functions and methods of the factory farming industry. Inspired by becoming a father, he explores the [...]
I was recently marked down on a paper for using the term “reality” instead of “truth.” The point here is not to complain about losing points but search for the practical implications of the differences and similarities between these two terms as I ponder how to approach this subject with my GSI.
A trolley is hurtling down the tracks. There are five workers on the track ahead of the trolley, and they will definitely be killed if the trolley continues going straight ahead ....There is a spur of track leading off to the side where another person is working. ...If you pull the switch, the one worker will surely be killed. What should you do?
Michael DeDora over at Rationally Speaking has a pretty interesting post about the essential differences between liberalism and conservatism, and he focuses his discussion on their respective attitudes toward tradition: The conservative mindset tends to value traditional institutions and values because they are traditional. If people believe institutions and values are wrong or outdated, conservatives tend to think [...]
Last week The Stone ran a piece by Sean Kelly on nihilism and how we deal with it. Besides fitting well with the current LSA theme semester, I thought this was a really good essay. Broadly speaking, nihilism is the philosophical position that life is without objective meaning or purpose, and Kelly argues that the [...]
In my recent adventures in the series of tubes, I keep coming across the idea that risk is essential to a good life—that in order for a person to really live fully, they need to experience the possibility of losing the good things in their life. I first ran into this idea while reading an [...]
Last night I read one of the best essays that the NYT’s current philosophy column, The Stone, has produced to date. In this piece, Andy Martin suggests that there may be some link between philosophy and autism--and here he uses the word "autism" broadly to mean the inability to communicate, to make oneself understood and to understand [...]
I don’t know how I missed it, but the NYT philosophy column The Stone ran perhaps its best piece to date a couple weeks ago. In it, philosophy professor Judith Lichtenberg, of Georgetown University argues that there is such a thing as pure altruism, i.e., that sometimes we may, in fact, act solely for the good of other people, [...]