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That Intro to Ethics Course

I've just been reading a blog by a philosophy professor who discusses the attitude with which he approaches his Intro to Ethics course.

The practical upshot of the course should be to get students to reflect on the issues of morality in their own life in a systematic way, opening up reflection.

There are two distinct approaches possible, and they will depend on the teacher, the college and the student body it recruits. For some Intro to Ethics courses, this course will be a "primer for higher courses" in applied ethics or delving deeper into ethical theory. If a given department views the course in this way, the instructor has to concern himself with harmony within the curriculum. Is A in fact leading toward BCD etc.?

On the other hand, and especially given a "core curriculum," an Intro course may be taught with the presumption it is the only ethics (or perhaps the only philosophy) course that various of its students will ever take. In that case of course the …
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Doublethink

To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself – that was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word ‘doublethink’ involved the use of doublethink.

- George Orwell, 1984 (1949).

Just dropping it in here. 


England as a Raft?

In a lecture delivered in 1880, William James asked rhetorically, "Would England ... be the drafting raft she is now in European affairs if a Frederic the Great had inherited her throne instead of a Victoria, and if Messrs Bentham, Mill, Cobden, and Bright had all been born in Prussia?"

Beneath that, in a collection of such lectures later published under James' direction, was placed the footnote, "The reader will remember when this was written."

The suggestion of the bit about Bentham, Mill, etc. is that the utilitarians as a school helped render England ineffective as a European power, a drifting raft.

The footnote was added in 1897. So either James is suggesting that the baleful influence of Bentham, Mill etc wore off in the meantime or that he had over-estimated it.

Let's unpack this a bit.  What was happening in the period before 1880 that made England seem a drifting raft in European affairs, to a friendly though foreign observer (to the older brother…

The non-Football Parts of the Super Bowl

Big companies and big advertising agencies see the Super Bowl as a chance to break through the fog and set themselves apart. So the event has seen some very creative ads over the years.

This year the ads seemed mostly ... meh. The best of them was one of the first: Sprint had a very expensive looking ad with an 'artificial intelligence' theme. That's a still from it above. The robots who have come to full sentience mock their human inventor for the fact that he isn't smart enough to switch to Sprint. Well ... if you didn't see it, I can only say, you gotta be there. It is funny.
What makes it stick in my mind even more than its intrinsic humor is that two of its competitors in the wireless phone market ... dropped the ball, no pun intended. Verizon, at half time, wrapped itself in a saccharine way around the nobility of 'first responders.' And near the end of the third quarter, T-Mobile tried to make a point about human equality by showing us a lot of cute…