A Semi-Practical Approach to Kant

Over at Slate Star Codex, Scott is discussing my first philosophical love: Immanuel Kant.  He likes that, in his words, Kant makes it easy for people to offer positive sum bargains without defection, but then brings up the problem of trying to figure out what maxims people are using, when you try to apply the universalizability test.  For an example, he picks a Brendan Eich-like scenario, where a businessman cans an employee who turns out not to be pro-gay marriage. Candice the Kantian condemns … [Read more...]

No ‘Healthy Outlet’ for Bad Habits

Remember you can vote once per day for the About.com Atheism Awards.  I'm one of five nominees for Best Atheist Blog.  More details here.This is part two of my response to Brian S. about my choice to give up free food during Lent.  The first focused on why I glommed on to Lent in the first place.  Now we're addressing the substance of the change I'm trying to make.  Brian wrote: I disagree [that the feeling of having cheated someone is a bad pleasure to cultivate], or at any rate don’t feel … [Read more...]

Stoicism is a Helluva Drug

While discussing Feser and First Mover problems with a college friend, he tried to pitch me on Deism (but mostly as a waystation to paganism).  I asked what he had read that he found compelling, and he recommended Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus.  "Sorry," I said, "I read Epictetus's The Handbook back in Directed Studies, and I can't touch the stuff.  It's bad for me."My professor in first term philosophy was great because, after we discussed the substance of our readings and he was sure we we … [Read more...]

The Trap of Numbness and Self-Satisfaction

I've still been thinking about some of the questions we've been picking over in the discussion of David Brook's new book and attempts to alter personality/moral character through pharmacology.  I'm sure some of my friends are delighted to find that there are transhumanist ideas I'm uncomfortable with, and I've been trying to nail down why.To refresh your memory, Tristyn asked: What if there was a drug that made you kinder, more charitable, more forgiving? Let's say even that it has some … [Read more...]

Other Thoughts on Prayer

 The pitch that prayer can change anyone's life, if you give it a try, is hard to rebut.  The obvious objection, as is often the case with religious experiments, is that the definition of success and the length of time required for a valid trial are never time.  But even ignoring that problem, the odds are already stacked in favor of religion.  There's plenty of reason to think that prayer could be beneficial even if God did not exist.If prayer is a way of setting apart a part of th … [Read more...]

“People as things, that’s where it starts.”

For an explanation of what Weatherwax Wednesdays are all about, read the introduction post.This week's Weatherwax quote, like last week's is from Carpe Jugulum. The first speaker is the Omnian missionary, the second speaker is Granny Weatherwax. The two of them alternate speaking throughout the dialogue. “There is a very interesting debate raging at the moment about the nature of sin, for example.”“And what do they think? Against it, are they?"“It’s not as simple as that. It’s not … [Read more...]