Servant of Two Masters

burning letter

If I had a car, I suppose I could have a bumpersticker that read "My other Sunday obligation is the New York Times."  And part of the weekly ritual tends to be glaring at the Ethicist column, which frequently gives questionably ethical advice.A few weeks ago, a reader wrote in to say that she sorts mail for a group of homeless or at-risk American Indian people and, when she found that one new mother had been sent a free formula sample, wanted to throw it out, so that the woman wouldn't be t … [Read more...]

If the Phantom Tollbooth were a musical for grad students…

essence of hobbes

My friend Scott has published the full story from the second installment of his Dungeons and Discourse game Fermat's Last Stand.  Here's the prologue: Centuries ago, brilliant mathematician Pierre de Fermat came up with a proof so elegant that the God of Truth himself, mighty Aleithos, grew jealous. Taking inspiration from Fermat’s failure to fit his discovery in the margin of his notebooks, Aleithos afflicted the genius with the curse of macrographia: handwriting so large that his equations co … [Read more...]

When Coming of Age Feels Like Farewell…

frasier bar mitzvah

Since I grew up on Long Island, there were Bar and Bat Mitzvahs pretty much every weekend in seventh grade.  (No, although I'm descended from Jews on the correct side, I did not have one).  So I was interested in an article in The New York Times about the way the Union for Reform Judaism is experimenting with the ritual and the study that leads up to it.A cursory primer for the goyim: Bar/Bat Mitzvahs mark the transition to adulthood and take place at age 13.  For example, after a bar mit … [Read more...]

Video Game as Preparation for Death

Socrates Jones

I couldn't help but be charmed by Socrates Jones: Pro Philosopher, an in-browser game where you argue philosophy with a hit parade of great thinkers.  (That's Thomas Hobbes being rebutted by the protagonist above).  You, Socrates Jones, are trapped in a kind of limbo for philosophers, and you can only escape if you give the Arbiter an answer to the question of Morality.There's plenty of room to be frustrated with nuances of the philosophies being left out, or with philosophers being omitted ( … [Read more...]

Happy Labor Day!

Sorry for my absence, I've been traveling for work and family, being dramatically killed as my arc as a big bad NPC came to an end, and then being ill.  Regular posts resume tomorrow, with Turing Test results coming soon, once I do one more email blast to up the N.  In the meantime, I don't have the day off, but whether you do or not, I hope you enjoy songs from my favorite Union musical:   … [Read more...]

“I Must Not Tell Lies”

Crossed Fingers

Over at Strange Notions, I joined Deacon Jim Russell (a Catholic radio speaker)and James Croft (who blogs in the Patheos Atheist channel) for a symposium on the ethics of lying.  Deacon Jim kicked off the conversation with "Lying and Truth-Telling: A Question for Catholics and Atheists."  He explained that Catholics disagreed about whether a lie is only sinful if the target has a right to the truth.  Then, in James Croft's "The Ethics of Lying: One Humanist's View," he took a pragmatic approach t … [Read more...]

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Atonement?


Eve Tushnet visited “Atonement: Stories About Confession, Redemption and Making Amends” (a night of true stories told/performed in preparation for the High Holy Days) and she found that the stories touched on regret and error, but rarely on atonement and penance. I wonder if atonement is especially hard to talk about–harder than sin, rationalization, or realization of wrongdoing. I’m doing this series on portrayals of penitence and it’s easier to find examples of artworks which should include pe … [Read more...]