The Virtue of Steelmanning

One of my new best friends on Facebook, Chana Messinger has written a very good post about the reasons to “steelman” others’ arguments. I had never heard this word before but I love it. It means to figure out even better arguments for your opponents’ positions while arguing with them and to beat those arguments [Read More...]

After My Deconversion: Avoiding The Abuser’s Dialectic (Or “My Nietzschean Lion Stage of Indignation”)

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Usually when I lose my temper, I am not proud of it afterwards. But a particular pair of temper tantrums I threw in graduate school revealed to me something important about my own self-understanding and my sense of dignity.

But I also am very leery of falling prey to what I here dub “The Abuser’s Dialectic”. I would rather achieve a sort of Stoic overcoming of emotions that are reactive to others and, in that way, extensions of others’ abilities to control us, manipulate us, and make us into them. [Read more...]

Melissa Harris-Perry Responds To Richard Mourdock

Melissa Harris-Perry draws on her own experience to explain rape and its consequences to Richard Mourdock. [Read more...]

Fifty Shades of Grey Related to the Ethics of Romanticizing Abusiveness for the Sake of Fantasy

According to Laci Green, the book Fifty Shades of Grey celebrates an abusive relationship rather than healthy BDSM practices. This raises many questions for me about the ethics of art that eroticizes literal abusiveness. Is it bad in itself to enjoy the idea of abusiveness? Is it bad only if it creates, contributes to, or reinforces unhealthy attitudes, whether in oneself or in one’s broader culture? Can we indulge our dark sides at all morally through roleplaying? Can we indulge them even more in art than even through roleplaying? I have lots of questions. I need Your Thoughts. [Read more...]

Do Marginalized People Need To Be Insulting In Order To Be Empowered?

I believe that how we engage in debate with other people is an ethically serious matter. When I wrote my moderation policy for this blog this past summer, I did not just aim to lay down the rules for this blog but I also aimed to express my broader ethical judgments about the impermissibility of [Read More...]

I’m not against “dirty words”. I’m against degrading words that have malicious intent and functions built into them

Often my posts against using insult words or slurs as part of public debate about ideas are dismissed on the grounds that I am supposedly overly focused on mere words. There are several different complaints. One is that words do not matter but how we use them. There is of course an obvious truth in that statement taken by itself. There is nothing inherently wrong even with a [Read More...]

What are the Criteria for a True Morality or a True Moral Judgment?

A lot of people talk about whether or not morality is real and whether it is binding on people. Many of these discussions are more obscure and less productive than they should be because one of the most fundamental semantic questions gets unaddressed. Even to properly pose this question, I am finding one needs to [Read More...]

We Need Both Safe Spaces AND Philosophically Open Ones

I am answering objections to my comments moderation policy that asks for no insulting language and for slowness to make personal attacks. Familiarity with previous posts should not be necessary for new readers to understand the discussion below, which covers the topic of safe spaces and explains why even though I think they are a great idea, [Read More...]

On Dealing With Trolling, Banning, and Uncomfortable Disagreements

There have been many objections to both the wisdom of my comments policy and my general stand against the use of epithets and incivility and what I see as hasty personal attacks that derail philosophical discussions. I am writing 8 posts to address 8 major objections. I have already written my own summaries of all the objections I [Read More...]


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